Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Finding Your Place
Last time we talked about how to respond to God?s mercy?by making ourselves available to God by putting ourselves on the altar as a living sacrifice, shunning the molding of the world on our character externally, while embracing the transformation of our character internally by the presence of the Holy Spirit. So that?s all well and good theoretically, but how does that work itself out practically? That?s what Paul goes into next.
We all have a purpose here. It is outlined well in 1 Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32? Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to? the church of God, 33 just as? I try to please everyone in everything I do,? not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
Paul?s talking about how to work with weak believers or those outside the faith, especially when it comes to the sticky issue of the day with meat sacrificed to idols. But the principal can be universally applied. ?Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.? We are part of His story. And ?not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.? So the second part of why we are here is to make disciples, as Jesus told us to do in Matthew 28:19. It all starts with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Acts 1:6-8 So when they had come together, they asked him, \"Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?\" 7 He said to them, \"It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.? 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and? Samaria, and? to the end of the earth.\"
Witnessing, by the way, is not a technique that you master but the person you are. We nurture the Spirit?s presence and power in us as we have an active, ongoing relationship with God, and allow Him to transform us into His character so that we start thinking and acting like Him?and voila?we become His witness.
But there is a serious problem with two sides that can crop up and keep us from being effective. Either we see the transforming work and become prideful, or we are so down on ourselves that we cannot see the transforming work at all. Both of these will keep us from being an effective part of God?s plan.
So Paul addresses these, and sets our focus in the next six verses of chapter 12. It?s part of a larger discussion of how the Christian should live out their relationship with God. In the coming weeks we?ll talk about how to love others, how to be a good citizen, how to handle problems with other people, and how to deal with the weak. But it all starts with us?having an accurate self image so we can be most effectively used.
How to think of yourself (vs 3)
I like how Paul starts out by saying ?by the grace given to me.? He means his position as an apostle, but I think it?s also good as a preamble to the discussion about self image that he uses ?grace? ? that unmerited favor God bestows on us.
Jesus said ?apart from me you can do nothing? (John 15:5) but then Paul says ?I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.? (Philippians 4:13).
So he says ?not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment.?
We all have a self image?a way we think about ourselves. Paul adds a character to how we should exercise that self-thought. To the Greek word translated ?to think? (exercise the mind) he adds a prefix from the word ?Sozo? which means ?safe, sound, or whole.? Together the word comes to us as ?sober thoughts? ? thoughts not influenced by other factors?we are in our ?right mind? in other words.
What does this mean? In the context here, I don?t think Paul is giving us advice on self esteem. What he?s talking about is our place and purpose. By God?s grace we become a part of God?s story and plan. To accomplish that plan God gives certain people certain gifts. Some might seem more important than others and so if they see themselves as having somehow merited a ?more important? gift, then pride might set in.
Paul wants us all to know that we are nothing outside of Jesus but everything in Him. We can and should carve down the thoughts that say ?I deserve this because I?m great? and build up the parts that say ?God shouldn?t love me because I?m bad or weak.?
In fact, we all start out equally evil before God and end up equally holy ? all by His power. But He uses us differently?and that?s the point?not to get hung up on the differences in our gifts, but on our oneness as a body.
By the way, the measure of faith here is not salvation faith, but the spiritual capacity or power to function in the body of Christ.
How to think of yourself in the body of Christ (vs 4 ? 5)
Though you live in a culture and a nation, your citizenship has changed. Now you live in a body as part of a kingdom. It?s time to start acting like a citizen in God?s country (and I don?t mean Oregon).
When we begin to develop our gifts and move in the jobs God has for us as ambassadors of His kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20) there is a tendency to think that we are acting alone. Paul wants us to realize two things: 1) that we are part of a larger being, known as the body of Christ, which has as its head Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18). We are interdependent on one another in ways you cannot imagine. Secondly, each of the parts of the body has a different function?but that doesn?t make any part less or more important than the others. There are no Lone Rangers in the church. It?s macho to think we can just go it alone, but it is foolish and dangerous. We think we are so strong, but without the support of the body, we can be picked off by temptation, bad doctrine, or discouragement.
So if we are interdependent, how do we function within that organism to be most effective for the Lord?s story?
How to think of yourself functioning in the body of Christ (vs 6 ? 8)
Paul talks a lot about this in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. The general principals he lines out are:
1.????? You goal is to glorify God (vs 3). If? you aren?t then you aren?t using a gift given to you by God
2.????? All spiritual gifts come from God ?for the common good? (vs 4-11). God can take our natural abilities and apply supernatural power to them, but we must recognize the source and the purpose. They are not for a Spirit pool party; they are for the furthering of the gospel.
3.????? Each person has a part to play, and each part is just as essential as any other, even if by outward appearance it seems some gifts or roles are more ?important? or ?visible? than others (vs 12-31).
Paul says to use the gifts ?according to the grace given to us.? It is part God?s sovereign decision, and part our cooperation as to how effective we will be. Paul outlines two types of gifts: speaking and serving. No matter how public or private the gift, it usually involves one or the other of these two things.
Prophecy: truth telling. ?In agreement with the faith? ? prophecy must tell the true gospel. Each has a gift or gifts ? no one has them all. A prophet might not make a good cheerful mercy giver. A generous person might not make a good teacher. Don?t try to be something you aren?t. But in the area God is gifting you in, excel. Don?t just give stingily. Give generously. If you teach, don?t just meat out little bits of truth reluctantly, but focus on honing that gift (though the grace of Jesus).
Is your well being based on your sense of self worth?
In a very simplistic way there are two ways that greatly influence how we feel about ourselves?our conscience (who we think we are) and our environment (who we are compared to others).
Internally: We need to separate facts from feelings (use sober, light of day judgment). The fact is we are an evil people rescued from that evil by a powerful, loving man who now runs the universe. Without Him we are lost, hopeless, and enslaved to do evil. With Him we are washed and are being transformed into His image (so don?t despair, the internal part of self critique).
Externally: Not everyone is as far along in that process (so be patient) and not everyone will do the same types of things (so don?t compare?which is the external part of our self criticism).
Is your identity based on what you do for this age?
This age values wealth, security, good looks, physical prowess, intelligence (of a sort), and power. If you are wrapped up on one of those and you take it away, you take away someone?s identity. But what motivates us is to work for an internal transformation and external communication of God?s love, then we work for things that are eternal, and the impact of the loss of things in this age begins to fade.
Is your purpose based on what makes you feel important?
Often times we feel like we?ve succeeded if we feel important. That?s why the church had and has such a difficult time with differing gifts. Let?s try to substitute the word ?importance? for ?significance.? Importance implies a comparison with what others do. Paul says in
Phil 2:33 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Seek as your purpose to so reflect the character of Christ as a part of the body of Christ that you will have a significant impact for Christ on others.
How do you develop the gifts?
Is there an exercise program or a class? No. The best way to develop your spiritual gifts is to develop your relationship with Jesus. Find what you are naturally drawn to do, and pray for God to use it for his glory and his story. Do you like delving into God?s Word and then communicate what you find? Maybe you are a teacher in some capacity. Do you like seeing people helped when in need, perhaps you are a giver. It?s not an ethereal kind of ?spiritual? experience to have and use gifts, but part of everyday life and your everyday motivations that are ?supernaturalized? by the Holy Spirit. You may at some point see the miraculous, but often times the miracles occur but we simply don?t see them as they happen in the hearts of people we touch for God.