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Sunday, April 26, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "How to Think of Yourself"

“How to Think of Yourself”
All Roads Lead to Romans
April 26, 2015 :: Romans 12:3-8 

Last week, we turned the corner from the indicative to the imperative. We turned the corner from Paul’s grand explanation of the gospel of grace into Paul’s deep application of that doctrine to our lives.

Last week, Paul gave us a great big “THEREFORE” that tied eleven chapters of Christian doctrine to these next four chapters of Christian living.

He said, “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”  (12:1).

We said last week that these next four chapters are going to be full of big great asks. Great big requests. Great big demands; but they are grounded in a great big gospel.

In view of the amazing mercies of God, God is now calling us to give our whole selves to Him and to allow Him change our whole lives.

God is asking everything from us and everything will change.

Now in verse 3, Paul starts to get into some specifics. Because of the great big gospel, we are to have our whole lives transformed.

And that includes our thinking. Verse 2 said, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Our total life change includes a change in our thinking; and that is our thinking about everything, including ourselves.

Today’s message is entitled, “How To Think Of Yourself.”

How should you think of yourself?

How would you answer that question?

Some of you, the more spiritual ones, might say, “You shouldn’t think of yourself at all.” And there’s something to that. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to escape from thoughts of yourself all of the time. Tim Keller calls that “Blessing of Self-Forgetfulness.”

But that’s not quite right or that’s not all there is to it.

I did a Google search on this phrase, “How to Think Of Yourself.”

And the first set of results changed the preposition.

They were all about “How to Think FOR Yourself.” And there’s something to that, as well. We need to be doing our own thinking and not just blindly accepting some human authority and drinking the Kool-Aid.

A number of the other first results were self-improvement projects. “How to think of yourself...as beautiful or how to think of yourself...as smart or how to think of yourself...as successful.”

There may be some good practical advice buried in there somewhere, but I don’t think that Google really had the answer of how we are to think of ourselves.

The gospel of grace has changed who we are, and it defines how we should think of ourselves.

In view of the mercies of God, how should we think of ourselves?

#1. SOBERLY.  V.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.”

Think of yourself soberly.

Now, notice that Paul directs this teaching at every one of us.

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:”

This is true for all Christians without exception.

It’s based on Paul’s apostolic authority (by the grace given him as an apostle of Christ Jesus) and applies even to him in his apostolic authority. Even though he’s an apostle, this teaching is for him, as well.

“I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought...”

No exceptions. It applies to every Christian in this room.

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought...”

Don’t get uppity. Don’t get full of yourself. Don’t get to thinking that you’re better than others.

Don’t be prideful.

Have we seen this kind of teaching already in the book of Romans. Yes, we have.

Paul has been going after human pride from the first chapter.  And he’s been applying it specifically to the problem that was apparently going on in Rome between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians.

Probably both of them thought on some level they had some reason to boast over the others. Jews for having the law. Gentiles for coming to Christ in greater numbers. Or a some other thing.

But Paul says to both of them and all of us, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought...”

But he doesn’t say “Don’t think about yourself at all. Just disappear from your own thoughts. He goes on to say (v.2), “but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Sober judgment.

That word translated sober judgment is difficult to translate.

It means “realistically, seriously, sensibly, in one’s right mind.”

I think that the best translation into English is perhaps “levelheadedly.”

Think levelheadedly about yourself.

Not too high and not too low. Don’t get a big head but also don’t decimate yourself either.  Decimating yourself is thinking too much of yourself as well. It’s just demeaning yourself and debasing yourself and degrading yourself.

When the Bible says to think of yourself soberly.

The opposite of soberly would be drunkenly. Sometimes we get drunk on ourselves.

Don’t we?

We get to thinking that we’re God’s gift to the world.
That everything should revolve around us.
We all do it at times. We are all narcissists at heart.
Drunk on ourselves.

But the gospel says that we should sober up about ourselves.

“...but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Now, I went round and round about that last phrase in my study this week. “The measure of faith God has given you.”

That could mean that God has given each of us a different amount of faith, some big and some small. And we shouldn’t get prideful about having a big amount of faith because it’s just a gift from God anyway.

And that’s true. If you have a big amount of faith then don’t get prideful about that.

But I tend to think that this is saying something different. It’s saying that the measure we should use to measure ourselves is the measure of THE faith that God has entrusted to us. The faith as in the faith once and for all given to the saints. The Christian faith. In other words, the gospel.

We should measure ourselves against the faith revealed in the gospel.

To me that fits better with what we’ve been learning in these last 25 sermons on Romans.

The gospel destroys our boasting.

When you truly understand the Christian faith, you can’t live in pride.

How should I think of myself?

I’m a sinner.
I’m an object of God’s just wrath.
And whatever I might have tried to do to make up for my sin, I would always fall short. Even my good works were sinful.

And then the gospel came!
Then I heard the good news of justification by faith.
Nothing that I contribute! By faith.
God did everything to save me.
That’s pride-destroying truth, isn’t it?

Prideful Christians are not acting like Christians at all.

Even after I believed the gospel, I still find myself sinning. Right chapters 6 and 7.

The gospel changes how I think of myself.

But it doesn’t leave me in the dust, does it?

Thinking soberly about myself isn’t thinking malignantly about myself.

The faith given to me also says that God loves me. So I’m beloved.
The faith given to me also says that God has called me. So I’ve got a purpose.
The faith given to me also says that God has plans for me. So I’ve got a future.

I shouldn’t be full of myself but I should be happy about myself and my situation.

Not better than other Christian, not uppity. But blessed.

I think that’s what it means to think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure (or standard) of (the) faith God has given us.

Do you need to hear that today?

Maybe you need to repent of pride and trying to get the world to operate around you.

Are you drunk on yourself?

We can all think of someone else that is drunk on themself, but apply this to yourself first.

Think of yourself soberly in accordance with the standard of the gospel.

Number two.  Think of yourself:

#2. AS BELONGING.

To the body of Christ.

Verse 4 proceeds directly from verse 3. There is a little Greek connector word that doesn’t show up in the NIV that makes it clear that they are linked. For (v.4)

“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.”

Think of yourself as belonging.

Now, I admit that I didn’t get this very quickly this week.

I admit that when I read these verses, I didn’t see how they flowed out of Romans 12:1-2 very well.

And that’s because I tend to think very individualistically.

But Paul doesn’t want us to think that way. He wants us to think corporately.

He wants us to think communally.

All of this transformation of verse 2 is supposed to be done in community.

Transformation is a community project.

We don’t just give our whole selves to Jesus. We also get grafted into the body of Christ.

We aren’t just supposed to not think highly of ourselves, we are to think of ourselves as belonging to others. V.4 again.

“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.”

Now this is one of Paul’s favorite metaphors. He uses it here in Romans 12. He also uses it in 1 Corinthians 12, and he elaborates on it more there.

The picture is pretty obvious but also profound.

How many bodies do you have?

One, right? Anybody here have 2 bodies?

Now, how many body parts do you have? How many members?

A bunch, right?  And are all of your body parts the same?

Anybody here who his all eyes or all ears or all left hands?

I’ve heard about people who say that they’re all left feet, but I think that just means that they can’t dance. They actually do have heads.

Paul says that Christ has a body, too. How many bodies?  Just one.

But many body parts. And they are different from one another yet belong to one another.

Isn’t that a great illustration?

The church is AMAZING.

It is both unified and diverse. Unified and diverse.

God values both unity and diversity, and it’s obvious from the church.

Unity. God desires unity among His people. He hates sinful disunity. The pride of verse 3 has to go. The self-drunkenness of verse 3 gets in the way of the church functioning the way its supposed to. Unity!

But God also values diversity.  We are not all alike.

We are all different from one another.

Look at the people on either side of you right now.

Are they the exact same as you or are they different from you?

Look across the aisle at those folks!

Paul says that we do not “all have the same function.”

We’re diverse.

We’ve got both males and females. Is there a difference between men and women?

You bet there is.

We’ve got both old and young.

We’ve got folks with money and folks without.

We’ve got folks from different ethnicities and different backgrounds.

We’ve got folks from different political persuasions. Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians and Independent types.

We’ve got blue collar and white collar.

We’ve got folks who are married and folks that are single.

And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

The church is supposed to be diverse.

Yet also unified around Christ.

Paul says that we belong to each other. V.5

“...in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

I belong to you and you belong to me.

Which of us is more important?  That’s a ridiculous question!

I belong to you and you belong to me if we belong to Christ.

Unity in diversity through community.

The church is US.

Do you think of yourself as the church?

I think that some people think of me as the church. What does the church say or think or do?

We’re all the church. The church is US.

Do ever think about whether this church is friendly or not? Or prayerful or not? Or generous or not?

And do you answer that by saying whether or not you are friendly or you are prayerful or you are generous?

If you’ve been coming to this church on Sundays for any length of time, it’s up to you to make this church what it’s supposed to be: friendly or prayerful or generous or whatever. Because the church is us.

Can I encourage you to consider church membership as step in this direction?

Many of you are already active members, and I appreciate that and am thankful for you. Today is our quarterly church family meeting where the official members of the church gather to make decisions for the future. We are unified yet diverse. In fact, we often have different perspectives and opinions about things, but we work hard, really hard, to maintain our unity. Thank you, members, for belonging.

But to those of you who are not yet members, I’d like you to consider it as a step towards living out Romans 12:4&5.

Yes, you belong to the Body of Christ whether or not you belong to a local church if you belong to Jesus.

But one sweet and important way of expressing that belonging to the body of Christ globally is belonging to the Body of Christ locally.

One of you came to me this week to talk about church membership.

I’d like to see 10 or 12 of you do the same thing in the next year.

Think of yourself as belonging.

To something unified yet diverse.

Because we need you. We need each other.

Christianity is not a solo sport.  It’s a team sport.

“Each member belongs to all the others.”

And Number Three. Think of yourself:

#3. AS GIFTED.

For the body of Christ.

That’s a surprise, isn’t it?  After verse 3 said that we shouldn’t get too full of ourselves verses 6, 7, and 8 are going to tell us that we’re gifted.

We are God’s gift to the body! V.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 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.”

Think of yourself as gifted.

Remember this is directed at all of us. This isn’t for some special class of Christians.

All Christians are gifted by grace. V.6 again.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”

The are grace gifts. Nothing to get all proud of! They come by grace just like our salvation did. We didn’t earn them.

But we are supposed to use them.

Do you think of yourself as gifted?

You are.

God has given you special abilities for you to use in serving the body of Christ.

Paul lists seven of them here.

But it’s a different list than the one he gives in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and different from the list he gives in Ephesians 4.

I think that means that these are not a comprehensive list of the gifts available but a representative list.

The point is not pick which one of these is yours but to get to work using yours in ministry.

Isn’t that how it feels? Verse. 6

“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.”

Now, we could get caught up in defining each of those gifts, and that would be a good use our time.

But the main thrust here is that Paul is urging us to use our gifts in ministry.

To work in the area of your giftedness. And to do it with a good attitude.

He’s not saying that we will never do anything in ministry that isn’t our gift, but that we should focus our energies in the area that we are gifted for.

So, you should never elect me to the Facilities Team.

I’m just not gifted that way.

I could do it if there were no other qualified guys. I am on the facilities team at home.

But it’s not my area of giftedness. And Heather would say, “Amen!”

You’ve got me in a leadership role here. That’s more like it.

And you’ve got me teaching. That’s definitely in my gift set.

But nobody has all of the gifts. That’s why we need each other.

The focus here is to use your gifts in ministry, but it’s also to value the gifts of others in ministry.

We have a great church for people using their gifts in ministry.

I could go down verses 7 and 8 and put names to each one of those. Who is good at what, and I’d bet that you could, too.

The question is, “Are you using your gift, your gifts for the good of the body of Christ?”

Do you think of yourself as gifted?

And what are you doing about it?

For some of you, that will be a real transformation.

The world has told you (or some bad Christian teacher has told you) that you aren’t gifted. That you’ve got nothing to offer.

But the gospel says, “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.”

The gospel says that you are gifted for ministry and that you belong to the church.

And don’t get a big head about it but get busy using your gifts in ministry to others with a good attitude.

You don’t have to do it like I do. There is diversity in the church. Tons of diversity.

But you should do it like you do it.  Because there is unity in the church.

One purpose, one calling. To bring people into a life-changing disciple relationship with Jesus Christ to the glory of God.

That’s how to think of yourself:

Soberly.
As Belonging to body of Christ.
And as Gifted to help build up the body of Christ until He returns.


***

Messages in this Series:

01. All Roads Lead to Romans
02. I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel
03. The Bad News
04. Hope for Holy Sexuality
05. The Even Worse News
06. The Worst News
07. Justified
08. Father Abraham
09. The Blessings of Justification
10. How Much More
11. New You
12. Slaves Of...?
13. A Life-Changing Relationship with Jesus Christ
14. No Condemnation
15. If the Spirit Lives in You
16. The Spirit of Sonship
17. We Know
18. For Us
19. Who?
20. God's Word Has Not Failed
21. Israel Stumbled
22. God Raised Him From the Dead
23. God Always Keeps His Promises
24. Therefore

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