When I was a tiny child I had horrible tonsils that kept me sick with a sore throat for most of the first five years of my life. At the age of 5 I underwent surgery to remove the offending tonsils and suddenly I could eat. I ate and ate and ate. In fact, I gained no small amount of weight in a short period of time.
At that point, my sweet Mother, whose intentions were pure and good, began her campaign to make certain I did not become ‘fat’. ‘Fat’ became a word that eventually engulfed me like a disease.
“You cannot have that. It will make you fat.”
“Bread…corn…potatoes…dessert… is fattening.”
I adored food, but food soon became the enemy. By the time I was 18 I was in the throes of an eating disorder, and the demons of anorexia quickly took the message that my Mother had spoken to a whole new and devastating level.
Fat = unacceptable = unlovable
Suddenly love had strings attached to it which led me to do things that I should never have done in order to obtain ‘love’ from humans. I brought my strings-attached love into my marriage and that was disastrous on many levels. Thankfully, my marriage survived and I eventually understood that ‘I will love you if….’ is not genuine love.
In Romans 12:9 Paul speaks of the kind of love that should be part of the life of an authentic Christian.
Let love be genuine. (ESV)
Love must be completely sincere. (GNV)
Love must be sincere. (NIV)
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. (NLT)
Obviously Jesus is our model for this kind of love. He loved sincerely, without strings or hypocrisy. He did not pretend to love those with whom He came in contact. He loved them in spite of. He loved them…..
when they were fat.
when they were tall or short.
when they complained.
when they were filthy rich.
when they were dirt poor.
when they were sick.
when they were legalistic.
when they were dirty rotten sinners….like me.
Jesus loved sincerely.
Perhaps you, like me, have a history of love with strings attached. Guess what? Jesus can take that kind of love and turn it into a love in spite of. That is the kind of love Jesus has for you and me. Surely you and I can love other people in the same way.
So, tell me. What kind of love resides in your heart? Be honest now!
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Here a few links to some great books that go along with my post theme today.
Today in our Authentic Christianity series we are talking about spiritual gifts. This passage, along with three sister passages (1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Ephesians 4:7, 11 and 1 Peter 4:10-11) have been the sources of consternation and disagreement in the body of Christ. Much has been written and preached about spiritual gifts over the decades, so I’m sure I have nothing to add that would cause a light bulb to go off in your head. For that reason, I am choosing to focus less on the gifts themselves and more on Paul’s encouragement to use the gift you have been given.
Before we read the verses on which we are focusing today, I want give those who are new to the series links to past teachings so they can get the flavor of this series.
Authentic: Being a Stand-Out Christian in a Shut Up World
What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?
Will You Conform or Be Transformed?
Don’t Let Pride Take You Down
Stop the Fighting, We Are the Body of Christ!
My best friend, Cindy, and I have a long-standing joke between us. Cindy has the gift of mercy, among other gifts that are hers. Her heart breaks for those who are hurting and struggling. She has great compassion and feels things deeply. Me? Not so much. The joke is that when God was giving out mercy, I was in the ladies room! Once Cindy gave me a pack of tissues and on each tissue was a cartoon of a woman waving a Kleenex and saying, “Oh boo-hoo. Blow your nose and get over it.” Yep, she knows me well.
God gifted me with other gifts. I have the gifts of teaching and prophecy (no, I cannot foretell the future. That is not what prophecy means here). Because I do not have the gift of mercy I am not excused from being merciful. Cindy’s influence in the area of mercy has encouraged me to ask the Lord to help me be more merciful to those around me….to see them with the eyes of Christ. That does not mean I will suddenly be smacked with the gift of mercy, but I must be intentional about offering mercy when the situation requires it.
Let’s take a look at our focal verses for today. I’m giving Romans 12:5-8 to you in two versions…the ESV is first, then the Amplified.
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.
5 So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (the Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another [mutually dependent on one another].
6 Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is} prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith;
7 [He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching;
8 He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.
In these verses, Paul is encouraging the Romans to use the gifts they have been given.
If you have the gift of prophecy (preaching, speaking forth, proclaiming God’s Word), use it!
If you have the gift of serving, serve!
If you have the gift of teaching, teach!
If you have the gift of exhortation (encouragement), encourage!
If you have the gift of leading, lead!
If you have the gift of mercy, be merciful!
Use your gift in the way that Jesus would have used it…..in faith, with generosity, excitement, and cheerfulness.
What if you are not happy with your gift, or wish you had a different gift? Well, sister (or brother), you cannot re-gift what God gave to you. You cannot decide that because you do not like it, you can just give your unwanted gift away or choose not to use it. Nope! It is yours, placed within you and assigned to you by God Himself because He knows it is perfect for you. No re-gifting allowed! If you ask God to help you see the plan He has for you to use your gift and to enable you to use it, He will. I will venture to take it one step further and say that you will never be satisfied and joyful until you are actively using the gift God gave you.
I want to encourage you not to run from your gift. It is how you are uniquely fitted to operate within and bless the body of Christ.
So, tell me, what is your spiritual gift or gifts and how are you using them to walk out authentic Christianity? Share in the comments.
NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.
Want to learn more about spiritual gifts? Dr. Charles Stanley, known as America’s pastor, offers a wonderful study on them.
DISCLAIMER: Electronic media makes it difficult to convey emotion. Please, please know that there is not one smidgen of anger contained in this post. As you read it, I hope you will hear my heart of love for the body of Christ. I believe this is an important conversation to have, and I invite you to enter in.
Would you pardon me while I climb atop my soapbox for a moment?
Stop it with all the denominational fighting! Just stop!
I grew up in the Southern Baptist denomination, and I am grateful for (most of) that upbringing. I learned about missions and Jesus and amazing old hymns and the beauty of an organ and piano and the order of service and the Doxology and Girls in Action and Acteens and Summer Vacation Bible School and ‘raise your hand if you read your Sunday School lesson this week’.
I also learned that women are not to be pastors and speaking in tongues is not actually an accepted thing and, dear Gussie, exclusivity. I think my Grandma might have had to be revived with St. Peter’s smelling salts when she stepped through the gates of heaven and discovered that there were Methodists, Church of God, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and many other people who affiliated with non-Southern Baptist denominations, or no denomination at all, right there in heaven.
I am not here to bash the Southern Baptist denomination. I really am not. My ‘letter’ is housed at the Southern Baptist church where I grew up, and I love that church and pray for that church. Southern Baptist just happens to be the well from which I draw my experience. No denomination is perfect, and many of you might have a similar perspective about your denomination. But, our time in Romans 12 today prompts me to step back with you so we can take a 50,000-foot view of the body of Christ and the scene that will one day be around God’s throne in heaven.
Let’s read these two verses…..
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.
You have a body….head to toe, inside and outside…it is a body that houses all sorts of organs, cells, membranes, ligaments, and muscles. Bones are connected by ligaments, tons of miles of blood vessels run all over your body, your brain is the control central, and your muscles allow you to walk and run. Your body is not just your brain. If you were only one big brain, you could not move or eat or kiss your sweetheart. If you were made up of only a pinky finger, you could not stand up.
Every part of your body is necessary to your physical well-being. Just let one part of the body malfunction and the entire body suffers in some way. Don’t believe me? Have you ever broken your pinky toe? Yeah! I rest my case. That pinky toe is important, people!
The same is true of the body of Christ…..regardless of the denomination in which you choose to worship…..if you name the name of Jesus Christ over your soul, you are a necessary and important part of the Body. Now, you may not like the way your toes look, but they are your toes and you must accept that and care for them because they are part of your body. So, let’s pretend the Baptists are the toes, the Methodists are the fingers, the Presbyterians are the blood vessels, the Church of God folks are the muscles, and our non-denominational brothers and sisters are the eyes.
Y’all, I am dying at all the exclusivity and condescension in the body of Christ. We are THE BODY OF CHRIST, knitted together in Him. We need those muscles and eyes and blood vessels, and even those toes and fingers. We need everyone who professes Jesus as Lord and stands firmly on the gospel in order to be a strong and functional body. We may disagree with Church of God folks about speaking in tongues, or the Methodists about sprinkling, but that does not give us the right to look down our noses at our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said that the world would know that we are Christians by our L-O-V-E for one another in the body of Christ.
Even when I attended a denominational church, I did not label myself according to that denomination. If you ask me which denomination I belong to, I will tell you that I am a Christian because that is the label that I want others to associate with my life. My ministry is a non-denominational ministry. I have spoken at churches from many denominations. I seek to write from a Jesus perspective rather than a denominational perspective because I believe it encourages unity in the body of Christ.
So, friends, let’s use grape juice and wine. Let’s use the KJV and the NIV. Let’s use musical instruments and sing a capella. If we are going to choose a hill on which to die, for the love of Pete, let’s let that hill be the gospel of Jesus Christ, not whether to sprinkle or dunk. Let’s show love to our brothers and sisters in Christ and unity of Spirit to the world, so that the world will see Jesus.
I’m off my soapbox now! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The year was 2007 and God had just confirmed the call to ministry that He had placed on my heart. With a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I shared that confirmation experience with those closest to me. I received great encouragement from everyone…..except one. One person looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You will just make it all about you.”
Whoosh! I felt like a 50-gallon barrel of iced water had been poured on my spirit. I was crushed and I might have shed a few tears. What in the world was I supposed to do with that bomb?
I had to journey quite a few miles down the ministry road to realize that those words would serve as warning flags to my heart. You see, I can be very prideful and all about Leah. In fact, it is my nature to be prideful and self-serving.
What? You, too?
When my ears heard those words from my loved one, my heart immediately recoiled from the thought of making ministry all about me. With everything in me, I wanted ministry to be about Jesus. In and of myself, I have nothing worthwhile to offer. BUT, because of Jesus and the transforming work He has done in my heart and life, He can minister through me to touch heart and lives, if I will put Leah aside and let Him shine.
Today as we continue our examination of a true believer in Jesus, we come to Romans 12:3 and it is a doozy of a verse. Here it is:
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. (ESV)
Let me set the scene. Paul has just told the Roman church, in verses 1 and 2, that they must offer back to Jesus their very lives and bodies, AND they must say no to the world’s standards while taking on the standards and life of Christ. Verses 4-8 will be all about the various gifts that Jesus gives His followers for the purpose of encouraging and serving the body of Christ. Smack in the middle we find Romans 12:3.
Here is my very loose paraphrase of verse 3: Do not get on your high-horse! Remember Whose you are and Who has called you. You did not get these gifts…you do not offer yourself….you do not have the mind of Christ…because of anything you have done. It is all Jesus. Don’t get too big for your britches!
Y’all, pride should be conspicuously absent from the life of a Christian. We should never lose sight of who we were before Jesus saved us. We should never forget that without Him we would be in the ditch of horrendous sin in two minutes flat. We must never underestimate the depravity of which we are capable if we do not keep our eyes focused on Jesus. I must never….!
Paul tells us that it is absolutely imperative that we judge ourselves soberly and rightly, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we should. Seems to me that Paul is using a metaphor that suggests one must be careful not to be intoxicated on themselves. Let’s not become egoholics, friends!
May I close today with a quote from John Calvin that I believe is an astute reminder to seek humility for our hearts?
For so blindly do we all rush in the direction of self-love that everyone thinks he has a good reason for exalting himself and despising all others in comparison….There is no other remedy than to pluck up by the roots those most obnoxious pests, self-love and love of victory….This the doctrine of Scripture does. For it teaches us to remember that the endowments which God has bestowed upon us are not our own, but His free gifts, and those who plume themselves upon them betray their ingratitude. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2:10)
(I had to look up the word ‘plume’…it is a verb that means pride or congratulate.)
Every day my prayers include a plea for God to show me any pride in my heart. Let me tell you, friend, that is a prayer that God will answer, AND the answer may not always be jolly and glad. He has shown me some big uglies that have resided in my heart over the years, but He has always given me what I need to get rid of them. I am NOT saying it has always been fun, however. Satan wants us to stay mired down in pride. But, it has always been for my good. I want to challenge you to begin praying that same prayer. I promise if you do it will transform your Christian walk. Pinky swear!
Tell me what you are thinking? What have these Authentic posts planted in your heart thus far? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or via email at email@example.com.
I scribed the entire book of Romans in my Journible a few years ago. It was a wonderfully enriching experience to write the ancient words on a page in your own handwriting. I encourage you to get your own Journible and try it.
Hello, y’all! In case you are just now tuning in with me on Wednesdays, I am offering a series that the Lord laid on my heart late in 2016. It is called Authentic: Being a Stand-Out Christian in a Shut-Up World. What does authentic Christianity really look like? I truly believe this is one of the most important series the Lord has ever given me the privilege to write.
Is an authentic Christian one who always has a smile on her face and never seems to be shaken by problems?
Is a real Christian one who is in church every Sunday and whose children never fight?
While any of those things might be true of an authentic believer, they are not the things that characterize authentic Christianity. Our Wednesday journeys will take us deep into the book of Romans, to the twelfth chapter to glimpse of ‘mug shot’ of a stand-out Christian.
Here are links to the first two posts in the series:
Authentic: Being A Stand-Out Christian in a Shut-Up World
Authentic: What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?
Last week we considered the idea that a true follower of Jesus is willing to offer everything they are to Him. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for you and me, and that means we must be willing to offer our entire self, our living-breathing-walking-around body, back to Him. Oh it sounds nice and churchy, but sister (or brother), it is about as easy as jumping to the moon when we try to do it in our own efforts. We may succeed for a time, but eventually we crawl off that altar of sacrifice and decide it is just too hard, unless we allow the Holy Spirit to do it through us. Offering ourselves to Jesus for Him to fill and use CAN be done, and when we do it we reap amazing rewards and benefits.
Once we have offered up our bodies on the altar, what then? Let’s take a look at Romans 12:2. I have to say that I am partial to the NIV rendering of this verse. Check it!
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.
I shared with you last week how God harassed me with Romans 12:1 a few years ago. Well, verse two was also included. As I meditated on these verses in those days, it became very apparent to me that one thing was for sure….I had a choice in whether or not I CON-formed to what world wanted me to look like. Conforming to the world’s ways happens with little effort. Our human-ness does it naturally. Satan makes sure of that. What is tougher is making a choice to be TRANS-formed into the likeness of Christ. To be honest, there is only one way that will happen, and that is by allowing our minds to be renewed.
Renewing our minds is a bit like wallpaper. In 1996, Greg and I purchased our first home together. It was a lovely ranch in a northern suburb of Atlanta and we were tickled pink to get it. What we were not so tickled about was the wallpaper in the house. To use the word ‘hideous’ to describe the wallpaper would be kind. The master bedroom was floor to ceiling huge burgundy and green floral print…circa late 80s. It made me dizzy to walk into the room. If that were not painful enough, the kitchen and breakfast room had another pink/burgundy/green floral paper that extended from the chair-railing to the vaulted ceiling, about 20 feet high. Needless to say, job number 1 was to do something about that hot mess of wallpaper in those rooms.
The world plasters its wallpaper all over our minds through television, books, movies, music, and the influence of others. We take it in and soon our thoughts and actions are no different than the world. When we seek to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, we must tear off the world’s wallpaper and replace it with something new that will transform us. What we MUST replace it with is GOD’S WORD. Scripture is the only thing that will transform us into the likeness of Christ. Just as we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, we must also offer our minds up for transformation.
In those days when God was planting Romans 12:1-2 deeply in my heart, I would throw my arms wide open and tell Him that I was His…body, mind, and spirit. I would spend time each day in the Scriptures because I desired to be more like Jesus. I wanted to please Him and be obedient to Him. It did not happen overnight, and the offering of myself to Him is something I still do daily. So is the immersing of my mind in Scripture.
I want to challenge you, dear reader, to take these two verses very, very seriously. IF you are serious about looking like Jesus to a lost world, would you commit to praying these verses back to God with me? Let me offer a prayer for you to use.
Dear God, I thank you that you do not just save me and leave me as you found me. Your desire is for me to look more and more like Jesus. Today I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice. Take me, clean me up, and use me in any way you will. Lord, I do not want to conform one minute longer to the pattern of this world. Transform me and renew my mind with Your Word as I read it every day. I am yours. Change me, mold me, make me more like Jesus. In the mighty, transforming name of Jesus I ask these prayers. Amen.
If you would take my challenge and pray Romans 12:1-2 over your life and mind, would you let me know so I can be praying for you? Leave me a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although I cannot sing very well, I do love the old hymns of our faith. I thought I would share a link to a CD that is playing on my iPod A LOT right now. It is Selah’s ‘Greatest Hymns’ CD and it contains so many of my favorites. Perhaps you would enjoy it, too?
Linking up today at Grace & Truth:
It all began in 2008. Somewhere…perhaps in a Bible study or a sermon…Romans 12:1-2 floated into my heart like an autumn leaf twirling to the ground. It was not an unfamiliar pair of verses, but neither were they sealed into my memory….yet.
Before long, these verses began popping up everywhere. In a sermon, in whatever Bible study I was doing, devotionals, on the radio…flitter, I fully expected to walk into a bathroom stall somewhere and find them scrawled on the wall. Seriously, it was comical how God was using repetition to force me to pay attention to these verses. The more I heard them, the more I realized that there was a message, a life message, in them for me.
In the eight years since, I have tucked these verses deeply into my heart and made them into an almost daily prayer for my life. I believe they are the key that opens the door to the authentic Christian life. Let’s start with verse 1.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (ESV)
As we think about authentic Christianity, about being a stand-out Christian in a world that tells us to shut-up, what possible help could this verse be? Sacrifice? Holy? It all sounds very antiquated, doesn’t it?
Paul is doing a little bit of what I like to call ‘guilt trippin’ his brethren. He is saying something like this: “Look at what God has done for you. How in the world could you not give your all for Him? It really is what you should do.”
One thing that is important for us to understand is the context in which Paul wrote Romans. In that day there was a prevalent philosophy that said that the soul or spirit was inherently good, while the body was inherently evil. Because the body was considered to be evil and would die eventually, it didn’t matter what you did with or to your body. Your soul/spirit was what mattered. For this reason, many people participated in immorality, believing that as long as their heart/spirit was right, they were good. There was a huge disconnect between the body and the spirit. Might sound a bit like today, huh?
So, back to how this verse impacted me. One day while I was exercising I was deeply impressed by the Holy Spirit to begin praying this verse back to God. So I did.
Lord, I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice. I am yours. Change me. Use me. Make me into whatever you desire.
Now, this is not a prayer to be prayed flippantly, because sacrifices in the Old Testament did not remain alive. So, what I was saying to God is take whatever does not please you and crucify it, kill it, so that all that remains is holy and acceptable to you.
Vance Havner once said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they tend to crawl off the altar. This required an intentional, deliberate act of my will. I had to be willing open the doors of my heart completely to the Holy Spirit, holding nothing back….NOTHING BACK! I had to be willing to allow Him to clean out impure thoughts and selfish desires. I had to be serious about crawling up on that altar and allowing my flesh to be crucified so Jesus could live through me. What Jesus has done in my heart since I began praying this prayer is stunning. He has given me an intense desire to be more and more like Him.
Authentic Christianity requires that we give God the ultimate sacrifice of self….body, mind, and spirit. The world needs to see Christ-followers who are walking out holy lives because they have offered their bodies as living sacrifices for the cause of Christ.
MEDITATION MOMENT: What would you need to do in order to make Romans 12:1 a reality in your life? What is hindering you from offering your body as a living sacrifice? I would love to pray for you in this regard. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at email@example.com.
Have you heard about Journibles? They are a series of beautiful books that offer space for you to write out that specific book of the Bible. I love my Romans Journible. I scribed the entire book of Romans in it. The Word comes alive even more when you write it out. Here is my Amazon affiliate link to the Romans Journible. Order your copy today and begin writing out the book of Romans.
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