Radical is NormalPastor Jerry Gillis - January 24, 2016
Radical selflessness is fundamental to knowing God and serving people.
Community Group Study Notes
- What area of your life is God asking you to be radically selfless in? What steps will you have to take to obey what He’s asking?
- Is it possible to be both selfless and consumer at the same time? Why or why not?
- What will it look like for you to be a living sacrifice? How do you know?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)
Like maybe some of you this past weekend I was taking an opportunity to reflect - it was this past week, actually. Reflect on some of the thinking and words of Dr. Martin Luther King. And I was actually re-reading the Letter From a Birmingham Jail. So this was well over fifty years ago. It was in April of 1963. It was actually Good Friday, 1963 when Dr. King was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama. And he was in jail, and while in jail treated rudely, by the way, while in jail he was handed a newspaper. And in the newspaper there was an article taken out by a group of white clergy that were in opposition to him and to what he was trying to do, because they were convinced by the pervading kind of cultural spirit that was there, that was trying to shape everyone into a mold of at best segregation and at worst racism.
And he read this, and started writing - he had a pen - and started writing in the margins of the newspaper article some of his responses. Now it was brilliant because he didn't have internet, he didn't have any books with him and he was actually, he was quoting philosophers and other kinds of stuff if you've ever read the letter. This is coming from his head. He was brilliant. And eventually his an attorney, I think it was his attorney brought him a piece of paper or a pad of paper where he could finish writing a response to this, and that became known as the Letter From a Birmingham Jail. Well, in it he not only realized that it would take a sacrificial and a selfless spirit of love to be able to change the cultural mindset that was present, that was trying to press everyone and everything into the mold, but he knew that this would be a long and a hard task. But he also knew that the church had a responsibility in that task and in the church at large.
And his words from 1963 still have resonance to me, and I want you to listen to just a quick excerpt from something that he said. He said, "So often the contemporary church is a weak ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it's an arch defender of the status quo. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century." I mean, that's prophetic in nature.
And in fact, even though we're not in the 20th century anymore, and his words held true then, there is still obviously a truth to his words that resonates deeply with us when we begin to read them. Particularly when he talked about the nature of having a selfless and a sacrificial spirit as a church, because ultimately that's where transition and transformation can occur. Because he was willing to say, we need to break out of the mold that the world is trying to press us into, and his words were actually soaked in a realization of what Scripture teaches in terms of the nature of the church being selfless and sacrificial in the nature of who the church is.
And so, even though we began with some words from Dr. King from well over half a century ago, I'd like to pull us back even further than that, about two thousand years to where Paul is writing to the church at Rome, the book of Romans. Now the reason that Paul is writing to the church at Rome has to do with a lot of different circumstances and it's kind of a, you know a kind of a magnum opus of his writing, and it's incredibly rich and incredibly deep when you begin reading the whole of the book of Romans. But Paul was actually having to encourage believers that were in Rome not to be shaped into the mold that was trying to be cast for them in the way that they lived. And he knew that for the church in Rome, it was going to require a selfless and sacrificial spirit to see the message of the gospel be authenticated among such a vast empire and particularly the heart of the empire in Rome.
Now I want you to see what he begins with in Romans chapter twelve, beginning in verse number one, listen to the words that Paul writes. He says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your true and proper worship. So Paul begins right here and of course, whenever there's a therefore, you always ask what is it there for, right? In case you didn't know that. That means that something preceded it, and so all of this writing from chapter one through chapter eleven, Paul is summing up saying therefore, in light of God's mercy, I want you to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice.
Now it's really interesting that Paul chooses, he says, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. That word body, he's actually referring to the whole of you, not just your body, like I'm keeping my soul back, and I'm keeping my mind back but I'm going to offer like, you can have my hands, and you can have my right kneecap. It's not talking about that. He's actually talking about the whole of who you are, that everything that you are, you are being offered. And this is kind of a, it's certainly a distinctly Jewish metaphor from Paul's background, but there are other religions that would have understood sacrifice. You remember, like taking a goat or a bull or a ram and making a sacrifice and putting it upon an altar and sometimes it would be consumed by fire, and it was kind of a sacrifice suggesting that that God, there's an intermediary for us, you know that kind of idea. Well, Paul says in light of that, even though those kinds of things occurred in an Old Testament context, we're a new type of people now because of what God has done in Jesus Christ. And what I am calling you to, what he says God is calling us to, is to make ourselves - listen to this - make ourselves a living sacrifice.
Now listen - a living sacrifice is different than a dead sacrifice. Thank you professor for sharing that with me, but it's different. Theoretically, a living sacrifice can crawl off of the altar. I wonder how many times that we have been called to be a people who offer our lives as a living sacrifice, that we place all of ourselves upon an altar of surrender to God, to say, God, everything you want from me, anything you want from me, I am yours completely and totally, I'm all in. This is all of me, here I am. We say it here, our yes is on the table, before you even ask the question. We've just written it down and settled it in our hearts that we are saying yes, whatever it is you ask of us, that's what we're willing to do, we are all in, we are here. But then, for some reason, something happens and we just crawl off the altar and we're like, well, I didn't know you were going to ask me that. I didn't know it was going to cost me that. I didn't know it was going to require that of me, so you know what, I've got some other things that I need to tend to and so we take ourselves off of the alter. I bet we've all been in that position before.
But Paul's call for us is a radical one in its nature and he says, actually, even though it's radical to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, that it's really actually quite reasonable when you think about it. He says in view of God's mercy, this is your only reasonable response. If you look back - as he has done in the book of Romans - if you look back on what God has done in creating humanity and even though humanity has a breach in its relationship with God because of sin, that God still cut a covenant with Abraham to form a people called Israel, that God would separate to himself, that God would speak directly to, that God would provide even words from heaven for them to be able to live by and to share with the rest of the world, so that through them the world might be blessed. And not only did he honor that in the lives of those people, but then he has incorporated those who were outside of Israel, people who used to be not citizens of the people of God, they were foreigners to the covenant, they didn't have the promises associated with them, the patriarchs weren't their natural ethnic relatives, people who are non-Jewish called Gentiles, that in Jesus Christ the perfect one who represented Israel, who was born of a Jew, he was an Israelite, who was everything the Israelites had failed to be, he perfectly sacrificed himself so that now Jew and Gentile can come freely and be reconciled to the Father through him that all of this demonstrates, ladies and gentlemen, God's mercy and through the Gentiles he is not now kicking the Jews to the curb, because he still has a plan for them and still will draw them to himself because he made a covenant with them as a people and a land that he is going to ultimately fulfill even though they are set aside for a time, he is still going to fulfill his purposes. Look at the mercy of God and here's your only reasonable response, get on the altar and offer everything you are to him. Because he has shown such mercy.
Now - thank you for the four of you who are in agreement with that, so glad you're here. Thank you. Paul then goes on to say this in verse number two. He says, so as a result of this, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."
So the first thing that we're called to is this radical act of selflessness, right? That we just say, o.k., I'm getting on an altar and I'm all yours. This radical act of selflessness he calls us to. Why? Because what Paul is saying to us and what God wants for us is that we are not conformed or pressed into the mold that this world is trying to shape us into, but instead we can be transformed by the renewal of our minds. That when we are completely radically selfless, we can then be transformed into the image of Jesus, as opposed to when we are self-seeking where we will actually be pressed into the way of the world.
You see, this is an incredible call, because the Romans were dealing with it just like we're dealing with that, right? For the Romans, what they were dealing with if I could say among many things, they were dealing with being arrogant and self-seeking. In fact, that was the cultural vibe. This was Rome for crying out loud. The heart of the empire. They kicked everyone's tails all over the world. This was about glory and conquest for themselves and so this was the cultural vibe that they were in. Plus, their societal pecking order gave them a sense of I'm better than you, who's better than you, who's better than you. This was kind of the way it was.
And so, Paul is concerned that for believers that are in Rome, that they're gonna' get pressed into this arrogant self-seeking kind of deal and he does not want that to happen because it will greatly warp the body of Christ and will greatly warp people who will not look like Jesus because they're not being formed into his image, because you can't be a living sacrifice and be self-seeking at the same time. In fact, in the book of Romans itself when you start crawling through the book of Romans you see this idea of arrogance and self-seeking coming up all through the book of Romans. That's why you know it was an issue. Listen in chapter one where he talked about the people that were making it up. He said, "They have become filled with every kind wickedness and greed, evil, depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful." Then it goes on to say kind of all the other stuff they're into.
And then in chapter two you see this in verses seven and eight. "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger."
And then, although I won't chronicle it all for you in chapter three through chapter eight you see God through Paul speaking to Israel very specifically and helping them to understand, hey, this thing that God is doing, you need not be arrogant in thinking that you're the only thing going, because it is bigger than you. Even though you've got the prophets and the covenant and the promises and the Scripture and all the things that have come out of you Israel, you're not the only thing going because God's plan is bigger than just you. And so, he's reminding them not to be that way.
And then in chapter nine through eleven he's actually talking specifically to the people of Israel but then also locks in on the Gentiles in saying, hey, I know I've been talking to Israel here for awhile, but let me remind you of something, non-Jewish people. That you better not think that you're special - like you're kicking them all to the curb because you aren't the original people of God anyway. You're just getting grafted in. Listen to what Romans eleven says. He says, "If some of the branches have been broken off and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, don't consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You don't support the root, the root supports you. You'll say then, well, branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in. Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble."
You see, this is all through the book of Romans and then when you get to chapter twelve where we're reading now, if you read a little bit further, listen to what it says in verse number sixteen. "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."
Are you getting the hint here in the book of Romans? That this is an incredibly big issue for them, that would warp the life of the body of Christ because ultimately it was self-seeking and self-serving and Paul is saying I don't want you to allow that kind of thinking to press you in to its mold.
Do you know like when you're making pancakes, you know and you've got those cut-outs you know when you're making pancakes or waffles and you've got like, hey here's Mickey Mouse or hey here's whatever, and you pour the pancake mix in there and it forms itself around the mold that you've got and it makes the cool Mickey Mouse pancake, right? Well, everything about our lives is shaping us and ultimately we're either being shaped into the image of Jesus because we are living sacrifices who are having our minds renewed and we are being transformed as a result of that, or we are being shaped by the world we live in, and Paul says one of the biggest issues is that of being self-seeking which is why you can't be self-seeking and radically selfless as a living sacrifice at the same time. You can't do it. That's why this idea of selflessness is so important for us.
And in our day in age, so kind of crossing the bridge from what was happening in Rome to happening now, I would suggest to you that one of the things that we deal with when it comes to being extraordinarily self-seeking and self-serving in our culture, is consumerism. There's a lot of things that I could probably list in terms of other issues, but let me just touch on that for just a second because this wants to actually press us into its mold. The idea of consumerism, right? We want what we want, when we want it, how we want it, in exactly the way that we want it, right? You can go to the sandwich shop and you can say yes, no, that, this, yup, how, toasted, yup, wheat, yup, onions, never, right? That's what you can do. How you want it, when you want it. Does anyone remember the day when you actually went to a sandwich shop and you just had to get whatever they had? Like, you just went could I have that and they went yeah. Could I get this on it? Well, we don't have that. Alright, I'll just eat it like that then, and you had to pick the stuff off that you didn't like? Anybody remember that? Those of you who are older raise your hands right now. Alright, thank you. Those of you who are younger are going, I don't even know what you're talking about. In fact, I'm looking it up on line and it just looks like there's not even anything there, I don't know what you're saying. This doesn't make any sense to me. I do not have an app for that, I don't know what you're talking about. I understand.
There used to be a day where instead of when the phone call came and it telling you who it was and stuff, you had to answer it. And you couldn't put that ringer on silent. Brrring. Brrring. You had to get up from your chair. I know, I know, it's stupid. And you had to walk over. Honey, could you get that? No, I'm in the other side of the house, but we have one phone and it's in the kitchen, could you get it? Okay, I'll get it. Hello? You've won. Oh, it's a telemarketer, honey, I wish we had something that would make this go away, but we don't cuz' we live in an age of we can't do whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want, as fast as we want.
So you remember, right? Ha, ha. So do I. That's just how it is, right? You want to watch a television show? You're like hey, I want to watch that television show, but I want to watch it later. I got stuff to do. Bam. I just record it. I come back, I watch it, no commercials. I like it. I like it.
See this is the world that we live in, right? And here's the thing. There are some positives relative to that, right? That you can say, I don't have - this isn't controlling my schedule anymore. That now I can record a show and I can watch it whenever I want to watch it and maybe we were going to miss it because of work responsibilities or whatever but now my family can gather around and we can watch this little ball game that we wanted to watch and have a fun time. Great! That's awesome. And if you can control your schedule that way, okay, that's a great help. But here's the thing. We have to be careful that we don't bring in a consumer mindset when we start talking about the nature of the church. And I'm not talking about, you know, right at church, we want to do things well, we want to do things right, we want to do all those things, right, that's just trying to serve people well. You want to do all of those things but it's not about a consumeristic mindset.
Like on the television whenever you're watching things or you're at a movie, every marketer is trying to bombard you. Every marketer is trying to bombard you to tell you what you need. I mean, you've got to have it. If you don't have this your hair is going to fall out. If you don't have this your rear-end is going to be enormous. If you don't have this, that's what happens. This is exactly what happens, right? If you don't have this, then you're going to be ugly. If you don't have this, then you hate your children. If you don't have this, and they're trying to convince you of all of these things in your world because you've got to have it and it's a need that you have and it gets absolutely nuts, particularly when it starts bleeding into the church.
So I have a lot of conversations with people and sometimes they go this way. Hey, so good to see you. Glad you're here. You're here for the first time? Yep, sure am. We're just looking for a church that's going to meet our needs. Oh. Well then you might want to go to McChurch down the, down the street because that is the language of a consumer. That's the language of a consumer. Not, yeah, man we're glad we're here. We follow Jesus and we wondered if there were needs in the church that we could help meet. That's a different thing altogether. But see, the language of consumer, the language of consumer is, I want to see how you can meet all my needs. And then that gets all carried away because people start, you know, doing whatever. Start saying well, you ought to do this, this is what you ought to have, and it gets so specific that there's no one on the planet that could ever meet that particular need.
But that's what consumers think, right? It's kind of like in their heads they're thinking to themselves, hey could you start a class for like hammer-toed blond Geminis with a twin that meet at Holiday Valley every other Wednesday in February during leap year? And they look at you dead serious. Because that's what I am and I need one of those. O.k., um, sorry, but we don't have that. Huh! You don't have that. O.k., you don't have that. O.k., o.k. And so here's what happens. Those people, those people are the same ones after that request who walk away and talk to their friends this way. That church doesn't have anything for anybody. Really? You asked for a class for hammer-toed blond Geminis with a twin that meets at Holiday Valley every other Wednesday in a February of leap year. And we don't have anything for anyone. Are you serious? I know that's a ridiculous example but that's where consumerism goes. It just keeps pressing in and pressing in and pressing in and it gets absolutely crazy.
Consumerism is the idea of church hoppers. Let me straighten my glasses real quick so I can see everybody. Right? It's just bouncing around. Maybe this month Jerry's the flavor of the month. Wow, congratulations, Jerry. But next month? He's out. Hey, I got a new flavor of the month. And it's just bounce around, bounce around, bounce around - listen - with no commitment anywhere. All they're doing is consuming Christian product in every place that they go without making contribution.
Disciples, ladies and gentlemen, Paul is trying to teach us that disciples are not consumers. Disciples are actually suppliers. That's what disciples are. Not consumers - suppliers. God is the manufacturer, he's the producer. He produces in and through us that which we can offer and share with those that are around us. So instead of just being consumptive in everything we do we are actually supplying through the product that God places in our hearts, and we can help shape people's lives as a result of that.
So it's no wonder that sometimes I'm having conservations with people who are being pressed into the mold of a consumer, who are always saying to me, I just can't figure out the will of God. Well of course you can't! Because the Scripture says that unless you are radically selfless and place yourself as a living sacrifice on the offering to God and basically say this: Everything I am for everything that you are - then God will not shape you into the pattern of this world, but will shape you into the image of his Son, and in so doing you will be able to test the will of God and understand what God wants from you.
You see the math is not hard, ladies and gentlemen. It's one of two things. You're being shaped. It's either into the image of the world, or it is into the image of Jesus, and you've got to make a choice. But if you want it to be the image of Jesus, you have to be willing to say I am going to radically and selflessly put myself as an offering, a living sacrifice, saying whatever you want from me God, I'm willing to do.
So write this down, write this down. Radical selflessness is fundamental to knowing God and to serving people. Radical selflessness is fundamental to knowing God and serving people. You see, we cannot be consumers and find this happening in our hearts. And we can't treat the church in such a consumeristic way. We even do that in terms of things we prefer and don't prefer. Well, I don't even come in there until after the music because I just don't like the music and I'm just going to come in there and listen to the talking part. Or, I'm just going to come in there for the music because I love singing and do all that stuff but I don't really care for the talking part. Oh, you mean the part where we actually teach the Bible so you actually know what you're doing when you're worshiping? You mean that part? Stop treating it like consumers. Like this is just about you. I'm going to go in and get my little fix you know and do all that stuff.
Some of you that are watching online - you're sick or you're traveling, or you're out of state and you just moved or whatever - thrilled that you're doing it! There's others of you that just want to hang out in your pajamas and you don't want any interaction with humans. You've gotten that all bungled up. That's why I'm looking right at you in that camera right now. I'm living in virtual world right now. I'm all in your wherever you're at. And I'm glad this doesn't go two ways where I can see you and ... you no make up on, whatever, right?
You've got to be involved with people because this isn't just theoretical, this is real. This actually happens in the working out with real people in a real world in a real way. This isn't just about, you know I don't really want to get up. I just want to drink my coffee and just you know kind of hang out and get my little fix.
I've actually had somebody say to me - it was the weirdest thing ever. I've actually had somebody say to me yeah, I just like checking you out online so I can get my Jerry on. And I just went, I don't even know what that means, but don't ever say that again, because as of right now your Jerry is off. Right now - it's off. Your Jerry just went off. That's weird, man! That's weird. Don't do that. I understand she's probably saying she likes listening to me talk. That's cool. I'm glad about that. I would rather that be the case than you hate listening to me talk. I would rather that. But ultimately, what I'm trying to say is that if we're building a church full of consumers I fear for what that means when I stand before Jesus and give an account. This is not what my desire is because I know this is not what God's desire is. He does not want a whole...man, Jerry, way to go. You built an incredible crowd of consumers. That is not the call. That is not the mission. The mission is that we see an army of disciples who are not consumers but who are suppliers of the grace of God everywhere that they go. That's what God's called us to.
Now, this lives out, and I'm running out of time, space, you know, hard drive, everything. This plays out and Paul shows it to us because what I said a moment ago is that radical selflessness is fundamental to knowing God and to serving people. And Paul begins that second part of serving people in verse number three. Notice what he says. "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment (selfless), in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each one of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We've got different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it's serving, then serve; if it's teaching, then teach; if to encourage, then give encouragement; if it's giving then give generously; if it's to lead, do it diligently; if it's to show mercy, do it cheerfully."
Here's what Paul's doing. Paul's saying that people who have offered themselves as a living sacrifice - they are having their minds renewed and as a result, here's what happens. They view themselves as they ought. Not too highly, not too lowly, they just view themselves as they ought to be viewed. They start to see themselves the way that God sees them. Not in some puffed up way, not in some self-deprecating way that says oh, I'm just a junky old this, you know. But we start to see ourselves the way that God sees us and how God wants to use us, and that's helpful and it's healthy. And then Paul brings in this metaphor of the body and here's what he says. He says that the body - we have many members but they don't all serve the same function.
Do you know that when Paul uses this metaphor of body, what he's helping us to understand is that the body and the members of the body are inherently selfless? That the actual members of the body serve the whole, not themselves. I don't have like a rogue kneecap. I'm just all about me, man. It's all about my kneecap. I don't care what you're doing ligaments. I don't care. I don't care. I don't care about you, femur. I don't care about you, tibia. I don't care. Foot, you're on your own! Especially big toe. You're on your own. You get stubbed, I'm not taking the weight off. I'm just my kneecap. I'm all about me. That is not how the body works. The body is inherently selfless.
The body actually, each of its members actually functions for the sake of the whole. And Paul says this is how you are wired because every one of us is gifted by the Spirit and God the Spirit gifts us so that in our functioning we are not just serving ourselves, but we are actually serving the whole of the body. This is inherently selfless. Now, when I read this idea, I also see it come to light in some of Paul's other writings, like when he was writing to the church at Corinth previous to writing the church at Rome. And in first Corinthians twelve, he actually says this: "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."
Now, when you start putting these things together - what's being said in Romans chapter twelve and what's said in first Corinthians chapter twelve, you start seeing that even - listen to this - even in the usage of our spiritual giftedness, here's what God is teaching us: selflessness.
In fact, let me offer it to you in a series of questions and I'll see if you can get the answer even though the answer's also going to be on the screen. So don't be like the first service when I asked them the answer and they all sat there silent even though it was staring at them on the screen. Don't be like that. Here's the first question. Who gives the spiritual gifts? Your answer? (The Spirit) There we go. You're on top of it, right? This makes life much easier. We all feel smarter. We've got the answers on the screens.
Spiritual gifts teaches about selflessness. Here's why. Who gives them? The Spirit. Now, why is that important to us? Because of what the ministry of the Spirit is like. Listen. Do you remember when Jesus was talking about sending the Spirit in John fifteen and John sixteen? Listen to what he said in John fifteen. "When the Advocate (or the Spirit) comes, whom I will send to you from the Father - the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father - he will testify about....himself? No, he will testify about me." Listen to John sixteen. Jesus said, "I've got much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you."
Do you realize, ladies and gentlemen, that the ministry of the Spirit is selflessly pointing to Jesus? That's what the ministry of the Spirit is. It is not bringing attention to himself but bringing attention to magnifying Jesus. This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So, if the Holy Spirit is the one who gives spiritual gifts and the Holy Spirit is the one who activates spiritual gifts, how do you think those will be utilized? Selflessly. Why? Because that's a reflection of the nature of the Spirit who gave them to us. Fundamental to the Spirit's nature.
A second thing that we learn from the gifts that teach us selflessness is this: Who are the gifts given for? And your answer? Others. Others. That's why when Paul wrote in first Corinthians twelve, he said this - the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. In other words, ladies and gentlemen, spiritual gifts - of which we all have some - some of you are going I don't know if I've got any. You do. If you have been born from above, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have been given at least one spiritual gift. And this is not just a competency, you know, like I'm good at math. Is that a spiritual gift? No, it's a spiritually empowered grace that God has distributed in your life that will bear fruit in the lives of others and serve his mission well. That's what it is. And everybody has one or more. And they're not necessarily static. They can grow. They can change. You can get others. That can happen.
But listen. Spiritual gifts are given to you but they're not for you. They're for others. The goal is not, oh, man. I've got this spiritual gift. Look how great this is. I get to just bask in this. That's not the gift. It's for others. You see, this is where the church at Corinth got confused, and where the church at Rome could potentially get confused and so, we need to make sure that we don't get confused that we've been given gifts so that we can demonstrate selflessness. They're actually for the good of the body - the edification of the body. That's what they're for. Now, don't get me wrong. When you utilize your spiritual giftedness and it bears fruit, spiritual fruit in the lives of other people? There's definitely a satisfaction and a joy that comes in that. There definitely is. But the point of the gift is that it's for others. That's the nature of the giver that gave them.
Let me ask you a third question to get at selflessness here. How are the spiritual gifts to be used? And your answer? In love. In love. Now why do I say that? Listen carefully, because there are three primary places in the scripture - in Romans twelve, first Corinthians twelve, and in first Peter - where it is mentioned about spiritual gifts. They're not all the same gift list, by the way. So that reminds me that these gifts are representative rather than exhaustive. In other words there are other gifts than this that God has given. But when they are all represented, do you know in every one of those contexts love is taught in every single one of those contexts.
In fact in our context, Romans chapter twelve, listen to what it says in verse number nine. "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Love is being taught in the midst of a conversation about spiritual gifts.
And then in first Peter chapter four it says this. "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."
And then when we were reading a moment ago, you remember just a moment ago where we read in first Corinthians twelve of where the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good - it talks about all of that? Well, then there's a chapter that comes after chapter twelve, after it talks about all the gifts, and it's chapter thirteen. Many of you know it because when you got married, your pastor read out of it. It's the love chapter. It's the love chapter. I love that love chapter. Just read it to me pastor, right? But the love chapter is there not just so it's a cool thing you can have at your wedding even though that's perfectly acceptable. But it's there because it's teaching us of how to function with our gifts. And listen to what it says when it starts defining love. First Corinthians chapter thirteen, verse four and five. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking." Love is not self seeking.
You see ladies and gentlemen, when we finally start to understand what Paul is unpacking here for us, what we see is this: radical selflessness is fundamental to knowing God and to serving others. Because he's calling us to be a living sacrifice. One that in light of his mercy it seems reasonable to do, so that our minds and our hearts and our lives can be transformed and we are pressed into the mold of being shaped into the image of Jesus, rather than being shaped into the image of the world that is self-seeking and self-serving. And we cannot be radically selfless and be a living sacrifice at the same time because radical surrender is what yields itself in radical selflessness. And this is fundamental to knowing God and it is fundamental to readily and radically serving other people.
So what do you do with that? Well, here's a couple of things. First of all, there's some of us here who need to start at the very beginning point and that is this. You need to be willing to crawl up on the altar as a living sacrifice - of your own will and volition - and say, whatever you want of me God, you can have. Because it is in that moment where you start to become and understand what it looks like to be a disciple, not a consumer. And maybe you need to begin by actually engaging with other human beings, instead of buying in to the world that we live in that says who needs human beings.
I watched this commercial. It's that guy who like - it's for one of the rental car places. And he talks like this. You know what I'm talking about? That guy? He's his own boss. I like working for myself. Hey, could I have a raise? How about 20%, how about 30? Done. I like that. And then he talks about when he's walking into the parking lot of the particular car place and he's like, even when I come through here, I don't even have to have any interaction with human beings if I don't want to. And I don't want to. You know that commercial? Maybe you don't. Good, I'm glad. So I just infected you.
Here's the thing. That will begin to rub off on us because we don't want to get involved in human interaction. But here's the thing. Obedience and life change and discipleship only happens in human interaction. It doesn't happen in a little laboratory where you're all by yourself and you just cart yourself off and live in the land of theory. So some of you need to graft yourself into some kind of small group of believers where you can grow and help be shaped in your own discipleship and your own growth. Maybe you just need to check in at the information center or whatever and just say, hey, how do I get involved in a small group? And we can connect you and contact you. And that's just one thing. Right? But maybe that's where you need to start.
Or maybe some of us need to ask the question whether or not we are actually a consumer or not? Am I acting like a consumer in my heart? Would you be willing to put that in front of Jesus and say, Jesus, am I acting like a consumer in my heart? And maybe some of the answers to that will be, well, are you serving him anywhere? Because if not, maybe it's just a, I show up, I take in Christian product, and then that's that. And I feel good about it. And I just like leaving feeling uplifted, Pastor Jerry. Well, here's the thing. You're not always going to feel uplifted. Sometimes you're going to feel irritated when you leave. And that's good. Not because I'm mad at you or want to stomp on your feet or do any of that kind of stuff. But because the Spirit of God will take his word and start searching and piercing all into your heart. And in so doing he'll start exposing things about your heart that are being shaped into the wrong place. And he wants something different for you. He wants you shaped in the image of his Son.
And so sometimes you'll leave and you'll be like, I'm irritated. I'm just, I'm irritated, I'm irritated. I've got to go deal with this. I've got to go wrestle with it. I've got to go do whatever. You know, there's some people that say I like coming. I just feel so good when I leave, you know? And I'm thinking did you listen? Did you listen at all? Because I don't even feel good about it and I'm talking. That's a part of what will happen. Ask yourself, am I a consumer. Are you actually just showing up and consuming product or are you actually investing and serving and supplying?
And by the way, don't wait for the perfect fit. I'm just waiting until I find that perfect fit for me before I'm going to serve. Stop it! Stop being weird. That's just weird. You're not waiting for the perfect fit. You're just making an excuse. You're just staying on the sideline. And you need to get in the game. I don't care what it looks like. Find something. Do something. Somebody says, what if it's not the perfect fit? Well, and then somebody over here says, well I'm doing this but it's not the perfect fit. I like what they're doing better than what you're not doing, even if it's not the perfect fit. And if it's not the perfect fit, guess what that gives you an opportunity to do? You might actually be able to identify some of your own giftedness in the process and what you're not gifted in. You start serving and then you realize, wow! I am so bad at this! Great! That just eliminates that as your particular spiritual gift and now you're on to something else that might identify it. I don't care where you are in the continuum. Just start serving him somewhere. In our church, outside of our church - wherever. Find a place where you can serve and grow and develop.
And then maybe an application point is this. Stop hopping around for crying out loud. Land somewhere where God wants you and put all the weight of your service and all the weight of your giving and all the weight of your investment in that place. Because you are a member of a body and a body is not using members to serve itself. It is serving the whole of the body.
Or maybe - there's a million of these we could talk about, isn't there. You can determine whether or not - what is it that's causing you to climb off the altar? Maybe there's something over and over and over again is the very thing that pulls you off. You know, you're on the altar. Everything you want from me. Everything you want from me. You guys ought to pray about giving by faith to Kingdom Come. Whoa! Whoa, whoa, whoa. Just a second. Maybe your stuff causes you to walk off the altar. I don't know what it is. The only antidote to stinginess or greed is generosity. That's the only antidote. You can't just think yourself out of it. You just got to start doing it. So for some of us, we just need to take that step by faith and begin participating in our regular systematic giving and maybe even in our Kingdom Come giving. Phew, there's a lot we can talk about.
Some of you may be actually serving. You're selflessly, radically selflessly just saying everything for you, Jesus. That's awesome and I want to thank you. Let me ask you a question. Are you helping others to do the same thing? That's something for you to think about. Because it's bigger than even just you and your service. It's actually about helping and encouraging and discipling others to be able to engage their giftedness and to use it and to serve and to follow Jesus in that way as well. So there's plenty for us here. Here's the thing: radical selflessness is fundamental to knowing God and to serving people. And I want you to do whatever God asks you to do as a result of that.
Let's bow our heads together. Before we're dismissed, if you're here and you've never entered into a relationship with God through his Son Jesus, then when we dismiss in just a moment, we'd love for you to come by the Fireside Room for a moment or two. We've got some pastors and some other friends and prayer partners in there who would love to talk to you about what that looks like. Because the most important decision you'll ever make is turning from sin and receiving Jesus and acknowledging what he's done and being born from above. Nothing more important than that. So I encourage you in that. And for the remainder of us, I just hope that we'll do whatever God says we do.
So, Father, I trust that you speak to us and that by the power of your Spirit, that you would lay claim to every area of our heart that is being molded and shaped by the world instead of being molded into the image of Jesus. And I pray that you would help us. That you would call us to places where we repent and we release that kind of thinking or that kind of mind set. And that you would call us into places that help us to act as a living sacrifice. Whatever that looks like for whomever is under the sound of my voice, I pray that your Spirit would make that application in their hearts and that they would do it. Because, God, what you've called us to do is to listen to your voice and to do what you say. So may we respond in understanding what it means to act on being a living sacrifice whose minds are transformed because we know that radical selflessness is fundamental to knowing you, God, and to serving people. Help us to do this so that we can help fulfill your mission. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Love you folks. God bless you. Have a great week.