Gifted in the Body, Gifted for the Body

Romans 12:1-8

August 23rd & 24th, 2008


            In his 1961 inaugural address John F. Kennedy uttered what is arguably one the most famous lines in all of his presidency “and so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.” In this message, given at the beginning of his presidency, Kennedy asked Americans to look away from themselves, and focus on sacrifice.

            We are at the beginning of a school year. This weekend we are doing “beginning of the school year stuff”.    Teachers are being rededicated, High School surveys are being taken, children are singing in church some for the first time of this year , and bibles are being given to the 7th and 8th  graders.  God’s Word from Romans 12 also sounds a strong note of sacrifice, and   the reasons we are called to sacrifice.   “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship”.    The first question is why sacrifice?  Why,   as a teacher, as a student, as a parent, as a worker, a spouse, or whatever God has called you are we called to use our God given gifts for the sake of one another.  Some might say, it is because of the need of others.  While this is true, there is another reason.  A reason that goes beyond the simply the needs of those around us. It is a reason that remains even if the sacrifices given are not received well.  It’s a reason why this message applies to us, even if our old nature (our sinful nature) wants to says it’s much easier living another way.   That key phrase is “By the mercies of God”.  In the book of Romans Paul   carefully and deliberately conveys the mercies of God like almost no other book of the bible.  The first few chapters in Romans are devastating blows to religious and non religious folks alike as he carefully shows how each group fails miserably in doing what God desires.  As a result of these failures, they come up short when it comes to connecting with God. .  “There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified “freely” by the grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.  This is mercy, like never seen before, this is God centered.  Succeeding chapters illustrate that Abraham also totally relied on God’s mercy.  Chapter 8 says that  even through the most awful   this side of heaven in Jesus Christ our God will not leave us or depart from us.     In view of all this, live a life of sacrifice, not because God has to have it in order for you and I to be saved,   but because this is now how you are to live. 

            This is different than the world.  So through this living he says in verse 3 “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think”. One author writes,  To himself, every man is in a sense the most important person in the world, and he always needs much grace to see other people.”  “Alex Haley, the author of ROOTS, has a picture in his office, showing a turtle sitting atop a fence. The picture is there to remind him of a lesson he learned long ago: ‘If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he had some help.’ “Says Alex, ‘Any time I start thinking, WOW, isn’t this marvelous what I’ve done! I look at that picture and remember how this turtle—me—got up on that post.”.  Or this quote from Winston Churchhill Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” “It’s quite flattering,” replied Sir Winston. “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.”   Crowds can be kind of fickle.  What ever gifts we are given, and let there be no mistake, we all have been gifts they are because of the mercy of God, and so our identity is ultimately not even in the response of others, but ultimately in his mercy.

            Secondly we notice that this sacrifice is done with in the context of a body.  As believers in Jesus we really do not choose to be part of the body of Christ, just as a hand doesn’t dangle separately and say you know I’d really like to be attached to something, oh there’s an arm.  That’s silly talk, we are part of a body, whose head is Christ.  In other words, especially for those doing works in the church, you need to know that the church doesn’t rise or fall, because of you.  We are interconnected, and whether you like it or not or believe it or not, as a Christian you belong to Christ and his body.  “”So we, though many, are of one body in Christ, and individually members one of another”.  It is only in this context that our God given gifts in the body, and for the body of Christ, have their significance.

            What are these gifts?  They are described as serving, teaching, exhorting, contributing to the needs of others, leading, and acts of mercy.    However, our old nature twists even this.  We like to look at someone, and wonder why he or she has five of the gifts listed, and we only have one or two.  We ought to get this measurement, comparison approach out of our mind.  For whatever gift, it is given to us and the world by grace, and so use it whole heartedly.  Use your body.   sacrifice your being.  Why?  Because people will always respond, no. .  Because you will always feel fulfilled, no?  Because you always serve with noble and pure motives, no.   Rather, because of God’s undeniable, unbelievable mercy, that takes you a sinner and makes you a saint.  That mercy, that promises Jesus   will carry you, body and all,  to heaven.  That mercy, that works through our weakness, and in spite  of our weaknesses. 

            To rephrase John Kennedy “Go ahead, ask what your Lord can do for you, and through his mercy live a life of sacrifice toward those he has called you to serve.  Amen.