27 Oct Every Christian is uniquely gifted
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Do you know that every Christian is uniquely gifted to play a part that only they can play? Every Christian has two kind of gifts: natural gifts and spiritual gifts. Let me talk about natural gifts first. Natural gifts are the gifts that we were born with. There are things that comes easier for us than others. If you have been following me on Instagram for few years, then you would know, that there were days that you just couldn’t bear to look at my Instagram posts. It hurt your eyes every time you saw it. I sucked at editing picture. Gosh, I even thought I was color blind few weeks ago. I was wearing a pants that I thought was creamy white but everyone told me it was baby blue. I don’t have the eyes to be a graphic designer for sure. Can I get better? Of course I can. But it took me 5 years of practice to finally post something on Instagram that does not hurt your eyes. The thing is, I am not gifted for that. Instead, I have different natural gifts. Instead of giving me the eyes for design, God wired my brain differently. He gave me the ability to understand new concepts and connect the dots from one information to another easily. He also wired me to have no fear of public speaking. In my elementary school, every student was required to sing national anthem in front of the whole class. I was one of those kid who sang extremely loud and out of tune in front of everyone. I was born with a loud voice. That’s me. And in giving me those natural gifts, God was not preparing me to be an Instagram blogger. So I should not envy those who are gifted for it. God was preparing me to be a public speaker. And when I encountered God and surrendered my life to Christ, God used my natural gifts for his purpose. If before I used my gifts to build my own kingdom, now I used my gifts to build God’s kingdom on earth.
However, spiritual gifts are different from natural gifts. Let me define spiritual gifts. Spiritual gift is a supernatural gift that the Holy Spirit gives to every member of the church for the good of the church and for the purpose of God in the world. Sometime they work in parallel with natural gifts, sometime they do not. One of my spiritual gifts is teaching. This gift work in parallel with my natural gifts. Another of my spiritual gifts is pastoring. And this gift is not in parallel with my natural gifts. There was nothing intrinsic in me that point me toward being a pastor other than my last name. I was a lot closer to being a devil than being a pastor when I was little. But when I was born again, God gave me the spiritual gifts of pastoral for the good of the church. And here is what I know about every Christian. Many of you might not realize it but on the day that you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God gave you spiritual gifts. Every single Christian, without exception, is given spiritual gifts, which mean that every single Christian has a role to play in building up the church. Some of you might have one gift, others might have two or three but everyone has at least one spiritual gift. And it is my desire to see every member of this church to play their part. Every member without exception. Let me sum up my whole sermon in one sentence. Every Christian is uniquely gifted to play a role that only they can do in order for the body to function properly. In order for us to be the church that God wants us to be, every member of this church must use their spiritual gifts. God has given us all we have in order for us to use it for the good of the others and to build the body of Christ.
Let me say few words about spiritual gifts before I begin. Different churches landed on different places in their understanding of spiritual gifts. Basically, there are two opposite spectrums. On one side, it is the cessationist. This position essentially believes that some ministerial spiritual gifts are still operative today but the supernatural spiritual gifts like tongues, prophecy, healing, and miracles are no longer operative. The supernatural gifts were for the early church and apostles and once we have the Bible, these gifts ceased to function. And they have solid reasons for their belief. They believe in the supremacy of the Bible and that the Bible is sufficient and enough for us to live out Christian life and we do not need other supernatural gifts that can undermine the revelation we already have in the Bible. Their fear is that if the supernatural gifts still operate, people will begin to seek the supernatural and neglect the Bible. And they are not wrong. Many churches today abuse spiritual gifts. On the other side of the spectrum is the charismania (hyper-charismatic). This position believes that all of the spiritual gifts are still operating today. But they take it to another extreme. Many times, instead of preaching the Bible, they say things like, “I have a fresh revelation from God. The Lord is saying to me that…” and they begin to preach a sermon that has nothing to do with the Bible. So their words carry the same authority or even more authority than the Bible. And this position put a high focus on demonstration of the power of the Spirit. They love to slay people in the Spirit. But they especially love speaking in tongue. They divide Christians into two groups: One who has the Holy Spirit and one who does not. If you do not speak in tongue, it means that you don’t have the Holy Spirit.
So where do we stand as a church? In the middle. We belong to this minority position called Reformed Charismatic. It means that just like the charismatic, we believe that all of the spiritual gift is still operating today. However, unlike charismatic, we believe that speaking in tongue is just one of the gifts of the Spirit. You can be a Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit and do not speak in tongue. The sign of whether or not you have the Holy Spirit inside of you is not determine by the gifts of the Spirit but by the fruits of the Spirit, which is the characters of Christ. If you are growing in Christ-likeness, it means you have the Holy Spirit inside of you. At the same time, we also believe in the supremacy of the Bible. It means that everything we say and do in church must be governed by the Bible. The way we operate in spiritual gifts must be in line with how the Bible teaches us to use those gifts. So I can’t just stand in front of you and speak in tongue for 15 minutes and preach whatever I want to preach because “the Lord said to me.” Everything I say and do need to be based on what is written in the Bible. If it is not written, you have my permission to ignore what I say. Are we clear on that?
There are four lessons that we can see about spiritual gifts from this passage. The essence; the measure; the unity; the usage.
Romans 12:1-2 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
These two verses deserve a sermon on its own. It is extremely rich. But tonight we are just going to touch the surface of it. I know it’s a cliché, but it is an important reminder. Whenever we see the word therefore, we need to ask what is it there for. And in this case, the word therefore function as a conclusion to what happen in Romans chapter 1 to 11. In Romans chapter 1 to 11, Paul gives us a glorious portrait of the gospel. Paul essentially tells us that everyone have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The wrath of God is coming for all of us. But then Jesus came and lived the perfect live we could not and he offered himself as our sin offering. Jesus took the wrath of God on sin upon himself, died at the cross and resurrected on the third day. Now for those who trust in Jesus, they are made right with God by grace through faith. We don’t have to earn our acceptance in front of God. It is given by God the moment we trust in Jesus. And for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is therefore no condemnation. And Paul assures us that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God when we are in Christ. We are forever secure in the grip of grace. This is the gospel. And now in Romans 12, Paul begins by saying that if you are Christian, you are the recipient of God’s mercy. You do not deserve it at all. Your salvation is by the mercies of God alone. Therefore, in the light of God’s abundant mercies toward you, there is only one proper response. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” With another word, after all that God has done for us, there is absolutely no reason for us to hold anything back from him.
Get this right. We offer our bodies as a living sacrifice not to earn from God but out of gratitude for what God had already done. In the Old Testament, you bring an animal to sacrifice for God. In the New Testament, you are the sacrifice. You are on the altar. This is spiritual worship. It means that the way we used our bodies, the way we used our lives should be different after we experienced the mercy of God. Do you know that human history is divided into two eras? They are called B.C. and A.D. B.C. stands for “Before Christ.” A.D. comes from a Latin phrase, “anno Domini” which means “in the year of our Lord.” I love that. It does not matter how hard people try to deny it, Jesus changed the history of the world. But this is not only the story of the world but it is also your story and my story. Every Christian should have B.C. and A.D. There is who we were before Christ and there is who we are after Christ. And our A.D. should not be the same as our B.C. If before we tell lies with our tongues, now we spread the gospel with our tongues. If before we commit violence with our hands, now we serve others with our hands. If we before we lust with our eyes, now we look to Jesus with our eyes. Before Christ, we live to build our own kingdom. After Christ, we live to build God’s kingdom. Christ changes everything about us. We are a living sacrifice.
However, the trouble with a living sacrifice is that it is living. It keeps crawling off the altar. Every day we are tempted to follow the patterns of this world and neglect Christ. But here Paul tells us, “Don’t do it. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world. Say no to the world’s way to live your lives and say yes to God’s way.” And the way to do it is to let the Bible renew your mind. In order to know what God’s will is, you first need to have God’s mind. In order to have Christ’s like conduct, we first must have Christ’s conscience. You cannot live like a Christian if you do not think like Christian. We must present our bodies as a living sacrifice. It means that every day, every hour, every moment, we have to deliberately and consciously offer ourselves to God. To live a Christian life is to put to death the right to live as we choose. We no longer live for our sake but for God’s sake. To be a living sacrifice means that God get to choose and decide how he wants to use your life and your gifts. This is the essence of the gifts. God has given you gifts and he wants to use your gifts in his own way and in his own term.
Romans 12:3 – 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Before Paul talks about the importance of using our gifts, Paul gives us a warning first. We must avoid a wrong estimation of ourselves but to think with sober judgement. The word sober judgement means to think accurately, in your right mind. Let me explain. There are two mistakes that we often make in regard to our spiritual gifts: self-elevating and self-deprecating. And they both have the same root which is thinking too much about self. First mistake is to think “I am awesome.” This problem is the problem of feeling superior. What happen in this problem is that we compare our gifts with other people’s gifts and conclude that we are better and more important than others. We think too highly of ourselves. So I can look at my gifts and say, “Ha! Looks at me. I preach almost every single week in RSI. I have the microphone every week. I can interrupt the hosts anytime I want. I can change what I want to preach at any time and cause headache for the hosts and everyone else have to adapt to me. I must be very special. It does not matter if we have ushers or not, as long as I am the pastor of this church, it is all that matters. People come to hear me. I am amazing!” I look at my spiritual gifts and I conclude that I am more important than others. If we use the analogy of a body, I would think that I am the brain or the heart. It is impossible for the body to function without me. By the way, this is just an illustration. Some of you are already thinking about moving to different church.
The second mistake is to think “I am useless.” So what happen in this problem is that we compare our gifts with others and conclude that because we are different from him or her, we are useless. We are convinced that if we are to disappear, no one would know. In fact, this type of people often think that it would be better for everyone if they are not around. They think too little of themselves. So, if we go back to the analogy of the body, they would often position themselves as wisdom teeth. Their presences do not make any difference at all and getting rid of them would be a good thing to avoid pain in the future. Have you ever meet this kind of people? I meet this kind of people a lot. I consider myself a patient person but this kind of people test my patience. They would come to me and say, “Yos, I am a nobody. I can’t do anything. I am useless. I’m like a grain of sand in the ocean. I am so insignificant. You do not need me. If you are like the father in this house, I am just a chopstick in the drawer. Whether I am around or not it does not make any difference.” And lots of times I’m really tempted to reply, “You know, I think you are right. You are just a chopstick in the house of God and one cares about you.” But I’m a pastor so I can’t do that. But listen. What they want from me is actually to make them feel important. “No brother, you are not a chopstick but you are a toilet paper. You might be cheap but life is very difficult without you.” And this is how our culture build self-esteem. We want to be praised and we want to be told that we are someone important. But that is not how Paul deal with the problem. Paul says that the problem is not with your gift but the problem is with your mind. You are not thinking rightly. You are not thinking with sober judgment.
And Paul gives the same solution to those who think that they are awesome and to those who think that they are useless. The answer is “to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Let me make a confession first. For many years, I misunderstood this verse. I assumed that this verse is saying that God gives us our gifts based on how much faith we have been given. So if God gives you 4 star faith, then you will have 4 star gift. If God gives you 1 star faith, then you will have 1 star gift. At the end of the day, our gifts is dependent on how much faith God has given us. So suck it up and stop complaining. But oh no, I was totally wrong. When I study this passage, I realized that the word measure is the Greek word “metron” which means a standard of measurement. Paul is not referring to how much faith we have but to the standard of measurement of our faith. Let me give you an example. I recently made my long awaited return to the gym. And I rejoined my favorite class, body combat. But because I had not been to the gym for almost 2 years, my body was rusty and I ran out of breath really quick. That’s not good. So I figured out a way to motivate me to keep going in class. I am a creature of habit. That means that in every single body combat class, I am always in the same spot. I called it my happy spot. Most people in the class have their own happy spot. Because of it, I always have the same girls in front of me. There are five girls within my line of sight. And this is what I did. True story. I chose the fittest and nicest looking girl out of the five and made her my rival. Fittest so that she challenges me to be stronger and nicest looking so that my eyes don’t get bored easily. She does not know it but I am always competing with her in my head. I tell myself, “If she can do it, I can do it.” On Monday, she was absent from class and I lost my energy very quickly in class. I did not have my standard of measurement. But she was back in class on Thursday and I was like, “Bring it on. Hayah! Upper, upper, hook!” What happen is she became my standard of measurement.
But Paul is not telling us use other people’s gift as our standard of measurement. Paul is saying to us, “If you want to know who you are, don’t use your gifts to compare yourself with one another. The measure of who you are is not in your gifts but in the content of your faith that God has assigned.” With another word, if we want to measure ourselves rightly, we measure ourselves by our faith in the gospel. Christ is the standard of measurement. And when Christ is the standard of measurement, we will have sober judgement of ourselves. For us who think that we are awesome, nothing can humbles us like the gospel of Christ. The gospel declares that there is absolutely nothing good in us that worth saving and nothing we can do to save ourselves. All of us are wretched sinners who are saved by God’s mercy alone. For us who think we are useless, nothing can exalts us like the gospel. The gospel declares that Christ loves you, died for you, put his Spirit in you and nothing can separate you from his love. The gospel both humbles and exalts us at the same time. It keeps us from both self-elevating and self-deprecating. We are equal in the eyes of God as all of us possess the same standard of faith that looks to Jesus. Each of us possess the same righteousness of Christ, we are part of the same body and we have received the same Spirit. This is how we are to measure ourselves. Not in how capable we are but in what Christ has done for us.
Romans 12:4-5 – 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Paul is extremely clear. Just like a body has many members, we all have different gifts and functions. Get this. God is creating a body not a monster. Just think about it. Imagine a body of a person where every part of the body is an eye. Would you date him or her? Of course not. It’s not a body but a monster. There would be no body if everybody is the same. The body consists of many different parts. It is your differences in the body that makes a body, a body. With another word, you are useful to the body precisely because you are different from everyone else. If you have your way and you become like someone else, there would be no body; there would be a monster. A body cannot exist without diversity. Each parts of the body is unique and irreplaceable. God has designed each of us to be different so that in our differences we can function together. We are not different by accident but by design. And it is only when we understand that we are different from one another that we can function together as a body.
One of our problem is that we often compare our gifts and functions with other people and we want their gifts and functions. We look at other gifts and say, “I wish I can lead worship like Kimmy and Sarah. I wish I can preach like Timmy, Edrick and Ellis. I wish can shake hand, smile and laugh like Cathline. I wish I can hosts like Joshua Tie.” We look at the gifts and functions of other people and wish that we are like them. And Paul says, “Hold on a second. Do you realize what you are saying? If the whole body has the same function, there is no body. If all were an eye, how can you hear? You can’t hear with your eyes.” Paul is saying that the reason we are useful is because we are different. If we want to be like other people whom we are not, then we are going to have a problem. It is our differences that make us important to the body.
But we are not only different, but we are also united. Paul says in verse 5, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” We are one body and we are dependent on one another. This truth is evident to me when I started body combat class again. It is a 60 minute class. Anyone want to guess how long I survived in my first class? 35 minutes. I need to confess my sin. I told people I lasted for 45 minutes because it made me sound stronger than saying I barely pass half of the class. And the night after my first class, I was fine. But the next day when I woke up, I was sore all over my body. It’s that feeling of when one part of the body hurt, the whole body hurt. And I don’t know if it’s an age thing or not, but it took my body almost a week to recover from 35 minutes of body combat class. You and I know this to be true. If you don’t, just remember it next time you have toothache. One thing wrong with your teeth and your whole body suffers. It means that when you are hurt, I am also hurt. When you are happy, I am also happy. God has designed that we belong to one another as one body in Christ. And for us to be all that God has desires for us to be, it requires both you and me to use our gifts to build up the body.
Romans 12:6-8 – 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
It does not matter how old you are, you could be 8 or 88 years old, it does not matter where you are in life, all of you have been given gifts to build up the church. No Christian is without a gift and all Christian has different gift. God did not save you to set you in his antique collection. God saved you to use you for his service. In this passage, Paul lists out 7 different gifts. Prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership and mercy. But in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, you also find different lists of spiritual gifts and some of these gifts are repeated. They are not meant to be the spiritual gift check list. Paul’s purpose in giving us list of spiritual gifts is not, “Here you go, this is the list of all spiritual gifts. Good luck in finding your gift from this list.” But rather, “You have been uniquely gifted by God. So whatever gifts he has given you, use it!”
The thing about a gift is that we don’t get to choose what we want. Gift is not necessarily something that we want but something that is given to us. We all have different gifts according to the grace given to us. God arranged each member in the body as he chose. We don’t get to choose. God in his sovereign wisdom has given us spiritual gifts as he sees fit. For us to say, “I do not like my gifts. I want his or her gifts” is for us to deny the goodness and the wisdom of God. For some of you, you understand that for a body to function properly, then the body needs different parts. You get it. The problem is you do not like your gift. You don’t want the whole body to be the same. You just want you to be different. You just want you to be like someone else. And Paul says that if you are thinking like that, you are actually defying God. You are accusing God of making mistake when he designed you. The truth is, God did not make mistake when he designed you. Whatever gifts and roles that God gave you, it was his decision and not yours. And do not think lightly of it. In order for the whole body to function properly, you are irreplaceable. If you decided to switch off and not play your role, it affects not just you but the whole body. God has designed every part of the body to desperately need one another not only for the health of the body but also to enable the body to operate at full potential.
You are not designed to be me. You are designed to be you. One of the common mistake that I see happening a lot of time is that we try to operate in gifts that is not ours. Let me just put it out there for you. You can get better at anything by working really hard at it. But it does not mean that it is your gift. Let me use an illustration that will resonate with all of you. Anyone love to watch the first few episodes of Australian Idol? I know it’s cruel but it is painfully funny. Right? Some of them are very convinced that they are the next Australian superstar. It is their dream and gift to be a singer. But when you hear them sing, you can’t help but think, “Does anyone in their life live love them enough to tell them that they can’t sing? How much does his family and friends have to hate them to let them contest for Australian Idol?” I mean, I love Joshua Fernando. He is my MC leader. But if he tells me that he wants to try out to be the next Worship Leader in RSI, I would slap him in the face and tell him, “You ain’t doing it! People are going to make fun of you. Don’t do it. You will ruin the reputation of MC City 2. I won’t let you. You would not lead people into the presence of God. You would lead them to the presence of hell.” “But this is my dream Yos, it is my gift.” “No, it is not. It might be your dream but it is not your gift. You can’t even carry a tune but you have quick fingers. Go and run multimedia instead!”
I am not saying that you cannot become better at it. If you work really hard, you can get better at anything. But it is also not true that you can be whoever and whatever you want to be. That’s the lie of our culture. The truth is that God has a specific gifts for each one of us. Our role is to be faithful and grow in that gifts. We need to stop comparing our gifts and start using our gifts. If God has designed you to be a chopstick, then be the best chopstick in the drawer. Don’t try to be a coffee mug. “But no one sees me if I am just a chopstick.” People may not see you but God does. You may not be praised by people but God will reward you. The point is that you need to play your part. If you do not, then the body can’t function properly. There should not be passive unemployed Christian in the church. There should be nobody who come to church once a week just to recharge your battery in order to use all your energy for your own purposes. You have been gifted by God with spiritual gifts for you to use it to serve one another. You don’t come to church just to be served but also to serve.
Let me just give you two applications. First, find your gifts. There are many personality quiz that you can do online. However, I think there is a better way to find your spiritual gifts. It is to find the sweet spot between affinity, ability and affirmation. I am stealing this from the Summit Church. Affinity is what you are passionate about. What kinds of ministry feels satisfying to you? What specific needs are you drawn to? Maybe this is something that is related to your past experience. Maybe you experienced rejection before and because of it now you are uniquely gifted to minister to those who experiences rejection. Or maybe you see a specific need in the church that others don’t see and you have the longing and desire to meet that need. If you think “I don’t think our church is welcoming enough to new people” then stop complaining about it and be an usher. Cathline would love to have you on board to welcome new people. That’s affinity. Ability is what you are good at. So if you know your affinity but you don’t have the ability, here is four words for you: do not do it. So if you see the need in our church that we need a drummer and you have the passion to be in Praise and Worship team but you don’t even know what a tempo is, then don’t do it. You are not serving the church but hurting the church if you do it. And last, affirmation. Affirmation is the area in which people around you tell you that God is using you. You need people around you to affirm your gifts. That is why you need to be planted in a community. Without belonging to a community, it is hard for people to affirm your gift. But if you are planted in M.C. people around you will notice and affirm your gift. You might not know this but this is how we discovered Ps. Achien’s gifts. He was planted in an M.C. and one day Ps. Lydia happened to visit his M.C. and heard him taught and went, “This dude can teach.” The rest is history. As you are planted in a community, you start to explore your gift and it won’t be long before you discover your gifts. Affinity ability, affirmation. When you have all those three, you find your gift.
Two, use your gifts. If you are members of this church, then the church needs you to use your gifts. Every member of this church has unique gifts and unique roles and for us to thrive as a body, we need everyone to play their part without exception. We might be able to function without you but we cannot operate at full potential without you. God has designed it so that we need each other and that we are incomplete without you. Do you hear that? It does not matter how insignificant your gifts seems, without you this body cannot function the way it supposed to. Your gifts are absolutely essential for RSI to flourish. And if you are part of the body of this church, stop showing up once every two weeks. Be here every Sunday. Imagine your hand decides to function only every other day. The church can’t function properly without you being present and play your part consistently. “But Yos, I still don’t know what is my gift.” Listen. You are free to explore different areas of the church to discover your gifts. I tried all different sorts of ministry before I settled with teaching. The only ministry I did not try was usher because people told me that I was not friendly enough to be an usher. The local church is a safe place for you to discover your gifts. The point is you need to start somewhere. Don’t just focus on finding your gifts. Start being the body and your gifts will manifest. God did not save you for you to remain in the sidelines. He wants you to play your role in the local church. To accomplish God’s purpose for this body, we need all parts of the body to work together, each with different gifts. Listen church. We have no idea what God will do in and through us when every part of the body is functioning the way God has designed it to be. The church needs you. And I am not trying to guilt you into using your gifts. Guilt won’t last. But I appeal to you by the mercies of God. The greatest incentive for us to use our gift is to contemplate on the mercies of God. Look at his mercy for you and present your bodies as a living sacrifice.
- What is the difference between natural gifts and spiritual gifts?
- Explain the importance of Romans 12:1-2 in our understanding of spiritual gifts.
- Two mistakes in regard to our spiritual gifts: “I am awesome” and “I am useless.” Which mistake you tend to make and why?
- How can we have a sober judgement of ourselves?
- “Gift is not necessarily something that we want but something that is given to us.” What does it say about the way we ought to think about our gift?
- Why is it important for every part of the body to play their part? What happen when you do not play your part?
- What is your gift and how can you use it to serve your local church? (Affinity/Ability/Affirmation).