Last week we began a new series called “Put me in, Coach.” It’s all about one of our core values as a church:
Put Me In, Coach
We will not sit on the sidelines when God’s Spirit is moving. We are activistic, engaged, and passionate about using our gifts and resources to heal this broken world in Jesus’ name.
Put simply, we want to be a church where every single one of us is living fully into our God-given passions and gifts, and investing in this spiritual family so we as a community can do what God has called us to do.
So for the month of November, we’re carefully exploring just a few verses in the book of Romans where the Apostle Paul talks about just this.
Last week we saw how Christ-followers are meant to be what Paul calls “a living sacrifice.”
In other words, if God truly has rescued us from sin and death, it is the logical and rational thing to do to dedicate not just a portion of our lives, but every breath to him.
We put our lives on the altar like a sacrifice. And when we do, God’s Holy Spirit begins to transform us into new people. We’re not copying the behavior and customs of this world anymore. We’re being turned into “weirdos” who look like Jesus.
I say “weirdos,” because as we become like Christ, our values look nothing like the violent, selfish, hate-filled world around us.
Instead, we become more and more generous, loving, peaceful, self-controlled, humble…
People who dedicate their time and energy, their resources, and even their desires to the purposes of our God. Living sacrifices. Weirdos to the world.
It’s a high bar, but that is what we are called to grow into.
“Put me in, coach. I don’t want an inch-deep faith anymore. This life is yours.”
Are you ready to dig a bit deeper? Please open your Bibles to Romans 12:3, Page 944.
So, last week we looked at verses 1 and 2. Today, we’re going to look at verses 3-5.
Now, just a bit of context for Paul’s chain of thought here. His primary concept in this whole passage is in verse 1: being a “living sacrifice.” This is the core of what it means to follow Christ. Complete surrender to God’s will, not our own.
In verse 2, Paul talks about the internal transformation - or sanctification - that happens to us when we do that. When we give our lives to God. Each of us has our thoughts and behaviors transformed to look like Jesus, as I said.
Now, that transformation begins in us as individuals, but in verse 3, Paul widens his lens and shows what that transformation looks like as a part of a bigger whole. Let’s read, and then we’ll talk about it.
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
We’re going to talk more in a minute about this metaphor of the body. But for now just remember Paul is talking about our place in a broader community - in the Church.
Paul begins with a comment about something that’s really important in a healthy community: having an appropriate self-image. He says, “be honest in your evaluation of yourselves.” “Don’t think you are better than you really are.”
Now this word “to think,” in Greek, is phroneō. “To be in a certain frame of mind.”
It’s not just a passive thought (“oh, I think this about myself”), but the kind of thought that shapes behavior (“because I think this way, I’m going to act this way”).
He says, when you think about yourself - phroneō - don’t be:
hyperphroneō - haughty, over-inflated thinking
That prefix hyper is where we get our English prefix “hyper.” You could almost say, “Don’t be hyper-minded” about yourself. Don’t think you’re better than you are because then you’re going to start living that way.
Instead, Paul says, be
sōphroneō - humble, sober-minded thinking
In other words, let your self-image be modest and right-sized.
This isn’t the only place Paul talks about this. In one of his other letters, he says,
You must have the same attitude (phroneō) that Christ Jesus had.
And in that passage he goes on to talk about how Jesus gave up everything. “Even though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.” “He humbled himself.”
The God of the universe hanging on the cross. That is our model for an appropriate self-image. Not full of ourselves but emptying ourselves. Humble.
So how do you know whether your self-image is hyperphroneō or sōphroneō? Over-inflated or sober-minded?
Well, this is where things get interesting. Paul says at the end of verse 3 that you have to “measure yourself.”
More literally, that you “think sober-mindedly, each according to the measure of faith God has assigned.”
What does that mean?
There are some scholars who think that Paul here means that there is some universal measure of faith that all believers are compared against. God has “assigned a measure of faith” that we all have to live up to.
Like, “how good of a Christian are you? Eh… D+.”
And maybe it’s that. But there are other scholars who see it differently. The way they understand it, every one of us is given a different “measure of faith” by God. And that is what we’re supposed to measure ourselves against.
I’ll use a dumb metaphor. Imagine the whole body of Christ is a giant pie of faith that God is baking. And each one of us has our own little slice of that pie. Millions of different slices and each one is a different shape and size.
Your slice of faith and my slice of faith are not the same. God has measured out faith to each of us uniquely.
Now, before you say, “well, that sounds unfair,” think about it for a minute.
Some of you were born into an incredibly healthy Christian family with parents who loved you and loved each other. Others of you have had to rely on God to redeem your broken upbringing (and maybe he’s still doing it).
Some of you have just begun your journey of faith and others have been walking with Jesus for decades.
Some of you have a passion for justice. Others have a passion for community.
Some of you have a disability. Some have trauma. Some are wealthy and some are not.
And every one of you is given a unique mix of God-given gifts.
The landscape of faith - what it looks like to commit our lives to God - is different for every single one of us.
So as we think about ourselves - our self-image - the question is not whether you are measuring up to some universal standard of faith. The question is how well are you measuring up to what God has given you?
This question changes the way you evaluate yourself because you’re no longer comparing yourself to others. You’re comparing yourself to yourself - to the person God is calling you to be.
Think about it this way: With all that God has done in your life - with all that God has given you: gifts and passions, unique experiences with him, grace and forgiveness - how close are you to the person He sees you to be?
Now that is a sober-minded question to ask.
I’ll give you an example of this: me.
I’m a pastor, right? So it would be very easy to just sit back and think, “yeah I’m doing alright with this whole faith thing. That person came to church for a few hours on Sunday. I’ve been here all week.”
You could see how that mindset is hyperphroneō, right? Over-inflated thinking.
But if I flip things around and consider what God has given me: experiences of meeting him around the world, a wonderful Bible education, a strong support structure, gifts in communication, and let’s not forget ongoing forgiveness for my brokenness and sin…
My life is piled high with all God has given me.
When I think of it that way, suddenly my responsibility to steward well all he has given me goes through the roof and I am sobered.
Am I really giving him everything he deserves? Does my commitment to God’s kingdom in all aspects of my life truly reflect his investment in me or am I sitting back on the bench and putting my feet up?
These are sobering questions. And they’re convicting. Because I don’t know that I always am a “living sacrifice” when compared to what I could be.
Again, each one of us have been given different gifts by God. Each one of us has a different story. The question is: How are you measuring up to yours?
“Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
THE BODY OF CHRIST
Now, let’s imagine (just for the sake of argument) that, with some sober-minded thinking, you are not entirely satisfied with how you are measuring up to what God has given you.
Let’s imagine (just for the sake of argument) that you feel you could more deeply surrender your life to Jesus.
Let’s imagine (just for the sake of argument) that you would not yet describe your life as “all in” for Christ. That you don’t yet feel like your life is a “living sacrifice” to God.
Where do you even begin?
Well, let’s read verses 4 & 5 again and we’ll find part of our answer.
“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”
I said we’d come back to this body metaphor. Paul uses it a lot. This is another way of describing that giant pie I was mentioning before.
Each one of us is a part of a larger whole.
But here’s why this metaphor works better than mine. Because, not only are we uniquely shaped slices of a bigger pie (with our own “measure of faith”), we also, as Paul says in verse 4, “have a special function.”
In other words, we each have a job to do. I’ll quote Ephesians 2:10 again:
We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
The body of Christ is another way of talking about those good things - the work God is doing in the world. Jesus is even now healing broken lives and demolishing injustice and restoring communities… but he’s doing all of that through us - through you and me: the Church.
And each one of us has a unique role to play.
“We are many parts of one body” and “each part has a special function.”
I love this. When we follow Jesus we are not just cookie-cutter Christians who all look and act and think the same.
No! Exactly the opposite. When you surrender your life to God, he shapes your unique mix of passions, gifts, social location… even your past brokenness… to do the good things he has prepared just for you.
So where do you begin if you want to be a “living sacrifice”? You begin by starting to do those things. Use your gifts. Join God in the work he cares about as an integral part of the body.
For example, imagine you are someone working in the corporate world who has a God-given passion for healing isolation and the spiritual gift of encouragement. Maybe you were also raised in a broken home. Let’s imagine that’s your story.
As it happens, you are surrounded by isolated co-workers who have plenty of brokenness of their own.
It could very well be God’s plan to work through you and your story to demonstrate the encouraging love of Jesus to those co-workers. You might be the reason they begin their own journeys of redemption with him.
I can’t do it. I don’t see your co-workers day after day. And frankly, the gift of encouragement is not high on my list. My story is different than yours. It would be “hyper-minded” of me to think I could do what you were made for. The same is true for everyone else here at Grace.
It’s your role to play to love and serve those co-workers as a part of the body of Christ. This is the faith God has measured out to you.
We could do the same exercise for any number of unique life circumstances.
You could be a stay-at-home parent with the spiritual gift of discernment.
You could be a high school student with a passion for justice.
You could be a recovering addict with a story of hope to tell.
“We are many parts of one body” but “each part has a special function.” You are God’s masterpiece.
Again, the question is not whether you are some kind of super-Christian. The question is:
Are you measuring up to the person God has called you to be?
And if you’re not, maybe now is the time to get into the game.
“Put me in, coach.” Let me be an instrument in your healing of the world.
GETTING IN THE GAME
Yet again, Paul is pulling no punches as he calls his readers to engage.
It’s intense stuff. But it’s also kind of exciting, isn’t it? Because imagine if everyone one of us began living into our purpose. If we were all “living sacrifices.” If we each began to measure up to the tremendous gifts God has given us.
We’d start changing the world. Our community would start to heal. And the love of Jesus would give hope to our neighbors, even in this anxious and divided time.
So let’s get practical. If you are at a place where you’d like to take deeper steps of faith and get in the game, I’ve got an activity for you.
I want you to take some time today or this week, get a journal and a pen, and then answer these questions.
Where has God placed you?
Who has God put in your path?
How has God redeemed your brokenness?
What passions has God given you to heal the world?
How has God gifted you uniquely?
By answering these questions, you will get a better sense of the faith God has measured to you. As you say, “Put me in, coach,” you’ll have a better idea of the game he’s calling you to play.
Oh, and by the way, for that last question, we’ve designed a tool for you to use. It’s a spiritual gifts assessment. www.gracechurch.us/giftstest
It’s kind of like a personality test. You answer a series of questions about what comes naturally to you, and the results will show you how God has gifted you uniquely.
Plus (and I love this), the results will also give you some ideas for ways to use those gifts out in the world and even here at Grace.
Next week we’re going to dig in to this concept of spiritual gifts.
But for now, do some journaling with those questions. Take the spiritual gifts assessment. And take your next step into the very reason you were made.
It’s time to get off the bench. It’s time to get in the game.
Because you were made for more.
INTERVIEW - LAURIE HARTMAN
In my message I spoke about measuring up to what God has given us. You have so graciously used your unique mix of skills and gifts to serve the people of Grace for many years. How would you describe your unique role in this community?
What thoughts do you have regarding the unique role and function each Christ-follower has to play as a part of the body of Christ?
Is there anything on your heart for the people of Grace when it comes to being “living sacrifices” for God?