EVALUATING YOURSELF AND YOUR GIFT/S
1 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. 2 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. (NIV)
Paul began this section with a call to give ourselves wholly to God – body and mind. What we are to do is to no longer think of life in terms of this world – the realm of sin and death – Christians have been transferred into the realm ruled by righteousness and life. The way we are to live in this new realm – the realm of the Spirit – the essence of successful Christian living is by having a renewed mind which, says Paul, will help us to know and to understand what the will of God is.
This renewed mind will not only help us to know what God’s will is BUT it will also be active in evaluating ourselves and our gifts! We need to know who we are and we need to have a balanced self-image!
We know from other passages that the kind of ‘mind’ we are to have is the mind of Christ – a renewed mind is a humble mind —
Philippians 2:5 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (KJV)
Philippians 2:5 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: (NIV)
We must never forget that when sin entered the world it didn’t only effect us from the neck down – our ability to think and reason was also affect – so our minds/thinking needs to change because our thinking/attitudes clearly affect our behaviour.
In these verse [3-8] Paul is saying to his Roman Christian readers that they need to apply their minds to evaluating themselves and their gifts.
It seems apparent that the Christians in Rome were having a few problems, not only from outside the Church but also inside. There appears to have been a certain amount friction amongst those from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds – probably a certain amount of snobbery and ethnic superiority. Paul has made it quite clear in his letter so far that we are ALL sinner – the means of salvation is the same for ALL viz. by faith in Christ — God has a plan for Jews and Gentiles but ultimately all these plans have there fulfilment in and through Christ.
In view of all God’s goodness to his people [chapters 1-11] – we then as his people should offer ourselves to God and think of ourselves in an appropriate way – there is no room for snobbery or feelings of superiority!
How then are we to evaluate ourselves and our gifts and abilities??
1. WHAT TO THINK ABOUT YOURSELF.
3 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. (NIV)
1.1 Look at yourself NOT your neighbour!
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: ……………..
It is human nature to point fingers – it started in the Garden of Eden!! the blame culture is not a modern phenomenon.
We are guilty of it in Church – we hear a sermon and think “I hope So-and-so is listening to this!!”
Paul pre-empts that here! As if he is saying to each individual “I am talking to you – this applies to you!” So this today “This applies to you – not only the person sitting next – to you!!”
1.2. Look as your self soberly!
: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
Sober in this sense has nothing to do with not being intoxicated with alcohol.
It means “being rational — free form exaggeration and speculation” [Oxford English Dict.]
We live in a society where there is much talk about self-esteem; self-image; self-evaluation … Much of the opinion we develop about ourselves comes from the way others treat us and what they say about us — the problem is of course that others often esteem us too highly so that we become conceited or they criticise us so that we develop a poor self-image or built walls for self-protection.
Paul urges us to neither think too highly of ourselves –don’t think of yourself as MR.BIG!!
— nor [which he doesn’t say but could have and may imply] too lowly /disparagingly!
Our opinion of ourselves is influenced by what others think/say AND by what we can do / our abilities. Paul is not saying that we shouldn’t have an opinion about ourselves or that we shouldn’t have a self-image or self-esteem.
In fact he is encouraging us to have an opinion of ourselves BUT in accordance with two things : the measure of faith given and the gifts of grace given.
We are to develop a sober judgment of ourselves by reference to our faith and by reference to our gifts.
1.3. Look at yourself according to the standard of the faith.
…… …….. rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
What does measure of faith mean?
- Does it mean the amount of faith each individual Christian receives – being different for each one? If this is true then it refers to the amount given us by God and we are to be humbly grateful as no one has control over the amount given.
- Does it mean the standard of faith against which we are to measure ourselves? In the context this seems to be the more likely meaning and so ‘standard’ rather than ‘measure’ seem preferable.
i.e. our common Christian faith against which each one of us is to measure ourselves. This is the same for ALL Christians – a saving faith in a crucified and risen Christ. It is only in the light of Christ and his cross that we are able to measure ourselves soberly.
Compared to God’s standards we all stand condemned and unworthy – on our own none of us has anything to boast above before God – at best we are sinner even when saved by grace. So we are all on an equal footing in our standing before God – we have no right to think we are better than anyone else!
On the other hand we are not to consider ourselves worthless! We are not! We are of infinite worth because Jesus Christ died to save us from sin and judgment and to make us sons and daughters of the living God. Therefore we each have great value because of what God has made us by faith!
So on the one hand I am not a worthless worm but on the other hand I am not intrinsically better than my fellow believers.
1.4. Look at yourself according to the gifts of grace!
Romans 12:6 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us….
Paul uses the analogy of the body to drive home the point that no one member is more important than another – all are different BUT each belongs to the whole and all belong to each other. Each part is useful and necessary for the health and function of the whole.
So no matter what your gift is – you can never say that your gift [spiritual] is more important that another’s. Further all gifts are God-given anyway.
The recognition that God is the giver of the gifts is indispensable if we are going to form a ‘sober estimate’ of ourselves.
NB that the gifts are according to grace given us thus I have no room to boast.
I cannot look down on a fellow Christian because I think my gift is superior NOR should I be jealous or think myself inferior because I consider another’s gift better.
2. WHAT TO THINK ABOUT YOUR GIFTS!
Romans 12:6-8 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to THE [his] faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 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. (NIV)
Gifts – a cause of much division / confusion partly due to misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of spiritual gifts and partly due to an over-emphasis and elevation of some gifts [esp. sign gifts] over other gifts.
2.1. Four things about Spiritual Gifts:
* not to be confused with counterfeit gifts.
It is quite clear from Bible and History that Satan can and does counterfeit God’s work – not all of course !!-
ILLUS> in Exodus we see Pharaoh’s magicians performing many of the signs and wonders that Moses did!
Jesus warned of Satan’s opposition and trickery:-
Matthew 24:24 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible. (NIV)
Jesus also spoke of those who claimed miracles and prophecy in his name but turned out to be workers of wickedness.
Matthew 7:22-23 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (NIV)
ILLUS.: I have attended Muslim festival and hear them speak in tongues and perform miraculous tricks – clearly not the work of God’s Spirit among a people who deny Christ’s deity and crucifixion.
This is why as Christians we need to be discerning – as we said last week – because a Christian has an experience it doesn’t automatically mean it is a Christian experience.
EXPERIENCE has become a standard by which to measure authenticity – THIS can’t be right —
ILLUS> Sunday Programme BBC4 [25/7/97] Gay Activist, Nic Hollaway, written and open letter to Cardinal Basil Hume – He will present himself with, wearing a rainbow scarf at Westminster Cathedral to take the Eucharist – he knows the RC’s std against homosexuality. He wants to spark a debate about ALL sexual experiences – for everyone to come together and share their experiences in order to arrive at a consensus!!
So too, with gifts and miracle-claims!! We need to be discerning!!
Hebrews 5:13-14 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (NIV)
1 John 4:1
1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (NIV)
TWO tests re: gifts:
- does it square with the teaching of the Bible
- does it edify the body of Christ
ILLUS.: someone claims to have gift of teaching – Q> Is the Content Biblical? Q> Are other edified through the teaching?
*not to be confused with natural talents.
Every human being has ability – because we are ALL made in God’s image – there are many talented and gifted people in the world – sport – academics – music – business – BUT only Christians can have Spiritual gifts because only Christians have the Spirit of God in them!
Spiritual gifts are not merely sanctified natural talents – there is often a relationship between the two BUT not always! God does often take a natural gift of an unbeliever and turn it into a spiritual gift when that person becomes a Christian. BUT spiritual gifts are not just souped-up natural talents.
ILLUS.: a school teacher doesn’t always make a good SS teacher – or and accountant a good Church treasurer –
BUT of course often they do because the God brings us into the body of Christ is the same God who made us and he doesn’t waste his work!
*not to be confused with the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. …
The fruit is for ALL Christians – ALL of it!! – NOT all the gifts are for all Christians! The Fruit of the Spirit is the expected outcome of Christian growth, maturity, holiness and fulness of the Holy Spirit. ALL Christians are expected to develop this fruit as they walk with Christ and yield their lives constantly and continuously to the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Corinthian Church was very gifted but very immature – lacking spiritual fruit – thus Paul says to them:-
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (NIV)
Love is the supreme fruit of spirituality!!
* not to be confused with Christian roles.
What do I mean by this? best illustrated.
Hospitality – seems that it was a gift – some are very good at it and enjoy it! Does this mean that if you don’t have this gift you should not be hospitable? NO! Every Christian is to be hospitable!!
Celibacy – a gift – not one many desire – every Christian who is not married or is for whatever reason away from their marriage partner has a Christian responsibility to take on the role of celibacy!!
v.8 encouraging – a gift – does that mean that those who don’t have this gift should never encourage another? NO! but some have a God-given and extra ability to do so!!
2.2 The source of Gifts.
The are 3 passages that deal with Spiritual gifts — Rom.12; 1 Cor.12; Eph.4.
It is God who is the source/giver of the gifts.
- In Romans it is God the Father who is the giver.
- In Eph. it is God the Son – Jesus.
- In 1 Cor. it is God the Spirit.
These are gifts of grace from a triune God!!
2.3. The purpose of the gifts.
This is to glorify Christ – we do that by using the gifts given for the good of the body – Q> “How can I best use my gift so as to benefit each and all?”
Using my gift selfishly – or not using it – is an insult to God and damaging to the body!
The purpose of the gifts is for the building up of the body
Ephesians 4:12 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (NIV)
We are to evaluate our gifts to the degree to which they edify the Church –
1 Corinthians 14:12 12 … Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. (NIV)
2.4. The variety of Gifts.
When we speak of Spiritual gifts the tendency is to focus of the more spectacular and controversial gifts (tongues, interpretation, miracles, healing, prophecy) – in these verses, with the exception of prophecy, Paul focuses on the general / practical gifts – a random list it would seem!!
Can’t look at all 7 in this list – focus briefly on prophecy.
– a charisma – grace-gift. Definition is ‘speaking under divine inspiration’.
In Eph.2:20 prophets is mention along with APOSTLES as one of the foundation upon which the Church is built. [Cf. Eph.3:5 – apostle & prophets linked again].
In this category would come people like Paul and John who had divine and universal authority and they were to be believed and obeyed – they had apostolic authority – what they taught was then written down in the Bible and became the authority for the Church’s belief and practice.
In other places it is quite clear that prophecy has a secondary position —
1 Corinthians 14:37 37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. (NIV)
In this sense these secondary prophets’ speaking was not to be accepted without testing —
1 Corinthians 14:29 29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. (NIV)
1 John 4:1 1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (NIV)
Another difference for the secondary prophets’ seems to be that they spoke to local situation whereas the biblical authoritative prophets spoke universally.
In the light of these difference it is important to note the restriction that Paul places on the exercise of this prophetic gift –
Romans 12:6 6 …. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to [his] THE faith. (NIV)
THE faith – there are no longer Apostles and prophets in the sense of Paul and John – any prophetic gift in the secondary sense, which also applies to today, must ensure that any message does not in anyway contradict the Christian Faith as revealed in scripture.
Prophecy is not standing up and saying “Thus says the Lord” – Nor is it necessarily an extemporaneous, spur-of-the-moment utterance. Most prophecy today , I believe, is through the preaching and teaching of God’s word applied to local and current situations – Those who are gifted to apply God’s word this way are fulfilling a prophetic ministry! Any prophetic speaking/teaching/preaching must be in accordance with/ and authenticated by the Bible!!
We must all evaluate ourselves and our gifts in a sober minded way.
No one is immune to exaggerated self-esteem NOR to undervaluing God’s grace gifts to us.
If we consider ourselves to possess gifts that we do not have then we have an inflated opinion of our place and our function.
If we underestimate our gifts then we are refusing to acknowledge God’s grace and we fail to exercise that which God has given for our good and for the good of the Body.
We are to each appreciate and use and develop the gifts God has given – not hide them in the hall cupboard of our lives to collect dust.
ILLUS [Chuck Swindoll] A group of animals decided to improve their general welfare by starting a school. The cirriculum included swimming, running, climbing and flying. The duck, an excellent swimmer was deficient in other areas, so he majored in climbing, running and flying, much to the detriment of his swimming. The rabbit, a superior runner, was forced to spend so much of his time in other classes, that he soon lost much of his famed speed. The squirrel, who had rated “A” as a climber dropped to a “C” because his instructors spent hours trying to teach him to swim and fly, And the eagle was disciplined for soaring to the treetops when he had been told to learn to climb, even though flying was most natural for him.
Any parable has its limits so don’t push this illus. too far but the point is clear – God wants us to do what we are gifted to do while at the same time fulfilling our Christian duties, developing the fruit of the Spirit with his help, walking daily with Jesus SO THAT the body of Christ may function in an orderly manner and be built up!!
EVALUATING YOURSELF AND YOUR GIFTS
1. WHAT TO THINK ABOUT YOURSELF!
– Look at yourself, not your neighbour
– Look at yourself soberly
– Look at yourself according to the standard of the Faith
– Look at yourself according to the gifts of grace
2. WHAT TO THINK ABOUT YOUR GIFTS!
– Four things about spiritual gifts:-
* not to be confused with counterfeit gifts
* not to be confused with natural talents
* not to be confused with the fruit of the Spirit
* not to be confused with Christian roles
– The source of the gifts
– The purpose of the gifts
– The variety of the gifts