Sunday, January 8, 2017

January 9, 2017

"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, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." Romans 12:3-8

If you ever participated in any sort of organized sport you no doubt have heard a coach say, "There is no "I" in team!" From a spelling perspective that is correct but really, the writer of Romans begs to differ.

Think about it, a team consists of a group of individuals who voluntarily come together to accomplish a purpose. Let's talk about what distinguishes a team from a group, or from a crowd, or even a mob.

Unless individual people come together there can be no teams, that's just common sense. But also, if those individuals who DO come together DON'T surrender their individuality it will only be a team in name. This portion of Chapter 12 denotes a change in emphasis because in the first two verses the writer is addressing His team - the Church. He is casting the vision of what they must look like in order to be winners. But with verse three he begins to address individual believers and how they can discover their places on the team. Do you know where you fit on the team? Would you like to? I will explore that with you during the week. But for now, let's think about what distinguishes a team from other groups.

First, a team has a purpose. In yesterday's message I mentioned that the purpose of God's team is to overcome evil in the world. Jesus detailed how that should happen in His Sermon on the Mount. You should check that out! But, one of the things that separates a team from any other group is a common purpose. And, of course, you need individuals who are committed to that purpose.

Second, a team has plan. A purpose is no good without a plan to implement it. These verses begin to lay out the plan for accomplishing God's purpose. That plan involves individuals taking responsibility to overcome the evil in their own life so they can defeat evil in their own team. The plan also involves individuals subordinating themselves to team unity. It also requires the team members to discover their place on the team and play that position.

Third, a team has positions. You don't have to know much about sports or teams to know that not every player plays the same position. There is only one quarterback on a football team and one pitcher on a baseball team. And when the quarterback or the pitcher throws the ball their has to be someone in position to catch the ball. On an effective team the players know and accept their position. Do you know your position on your team?

Fourth, a team has principles. A mob has mayhem. A crowd has strangers. A team has members who have volunteered for a position and are committed to execute the game plan for their position AND all the players submit to a set of principles that guide that team. Their principles tell the members what is expected of them in their personal lives, at their position, to the coaches, to the other players, to their practices and during the games. Also included in the principles is the accountability and consequences for violating the principles. Do you know the principles for your team?

The fifth and final characteristic of a team that I will mention is practice. A team has practice times when they come together to strengthen the team by working on their plan, strengthening their positions and building team unity. For the church, those practices could be Sunday worship, small group sessions, discipleship groups, ministry teams, outreaches, or training seminars. Practice is essential to the development of an effective team! Does your team practice? Do you go to practice?

So, these are some of the important marks of a successful team. By no means are these all the characteristics of a team, but these are significant ones. These certainly ought to help define a local church and the individuals who are members of that team.

Please allow me to close with this thought regarding the church as a team. I believe that healthy local churches are the only hope for our world. A healthy local church is one that understands and incorporated these team characteristics. And, these vitally important teams upon which the hope of the world rests, are manned by individual volunteers!

Will you volunteer to change your world? 

Will you gladly and humbly accept the responsibility of bringing the hope of holiness to a dying world? 

Will you submit to the purpose, participate in the plan, find your position, show up from practice and play according to the principles?

January 8, 2017

"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. Do not conform any longer 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." Romans 12:1-2

Fitting into God's purpose has great significance for time and eternity!

Step one is to consecrate your ego to God. Let Him become your source of significance. Allow His Word to define your reality and His will to decide your priorities.

The next step after you consecrate the ego is to conquer the evil.

How can you overcome the evil around you if you have not conquered the evil within you? And how can you conquer the evil within you if you yourself are evil? And how can you fit into God's purpose if you are evil? Those are pertinent questions that demand answers.

Romans 12:2 gives the answer - "offer your body as a living sacrifice".

So, how do we truly present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice? In a nutshell, we must die to our prior selves. This concept is wonderfully presented in this anonymous poem…

When you are forgotten, neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don't sting or hurt with the oversight, but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer for Christ; That is dying to self.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinion ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence;

That is dying to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any annoyance; when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus did;

That is dying to self.

When you are content with any food, and offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any solitude, any interruption by the will of God;

That is dying to self.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or record your own good works or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown;

That is dying to self.

When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met, and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and you are in desperate circumstances;

That is dying to self.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit, inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart;

That is dying to self.

When you give God your ego and you lay your evil nature on the altar before God, He will know you mean business and will do some serious business in your soul. He can cleanse the self-centeredness and the evil desires out of your heart. When you offer your will to Him and promise to do as He wills things will change for the better! God, through the blood of Jesus and by the fullness of the Spirit will cleanse you from sin!

Have you died to self? 

Are you a living sacrifice? 

What are you waiting for?

 Why not today?