Last week we ended with a proposal: as a follower of Jesus your gifting by God is the primary way in which you are being called to live in that place of wholesome tension between faithfulness to our God and relevance to our Culture.
If this is true, how do each of us discern our gifting by God?
What follows are four factors distilled from Romans 12:1-8 that point each of us toward our gifting. Paul writes:
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers [and sisters], by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he [or she] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
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.
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.
1. The deliberate presenting of yourself as a living sacrifice to the God revealed as Jesus Christ (12:1). This entails the on-going process of being transformed by the renewing of your mind (12:2a). We dealt with what this means in an earlier blog: Three empowering stances for living faithfully.
When you engage in this deliberate act and the on-going process there is a divine guarantee: “Then you will learn to know what God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (12:2b, NLT).
2. The honest evaluation of yourself. In particular, “don’t think you are better than you really are” (12:3 NLT). In the context, the larger part of the church was composed of non-Jewish people (i.e., Gentiles) who seemed to view themselves as better than their Jewish brothers and sisters.
A common basis for an inflated self-opinion in our Western Culture is education – and in the Christian-context, theological education. We may have a higher opinion of ourselves than is merited in other areas too: ethnicity, finances, social status, self-sufficiency … the list goes on.
The benchmark standard by which we are to evaluate ourselves is “each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (12:3). Does that mean God has apportioned faith out to each of his children in different amounts – so find out what amount you have received? Many commentators lean in this direction – but that position is not without its difficulties.
Perhaps a better way of understanding this is that “our faith is the measure.” In other words, our faith in Jesus Christ is the great leveler; each follower of Jesus is on the same ground. Of course, there are differences of spiritual maturity and (as we’ll see) differences in our gifting – but none of us is better than any of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Reflection: Do I hold tightly to any attitudes that cause me to think I’m better than others in some way?
Lord, my sufficiency is in You and You alone. Everything that I have is yours – even if I’m not convinced fully of that yet.
3. The deep-seated conviction that you are a part of Christ’s body.
Paul says that “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” (12:4-5 NLT).
This contradicts any idea that we are self-sufficient, rugged individuals that can go it alone. Each of us needs to function within an organic community in the same way a body part needs to function within a healthy body.
This also contradicts any idea that any of us lack unique, individual qualities. There is no one else like you. You are a unique, necessary, and useful part of Christ’s body – whether you’re a hand, an ear, or a toe.
Paul’s metaphor of a human body recognizes the reality of our individual diversity, and the necessity of our corporate inter-connectivity.
Reflection: How am I unique, necessary, and useful as an individual who is part of Christ’s body? How do I function with others in Christ’s body?
Father, I thank you for how you have designed and equipped and called me to serve as part of Christ’s body – the Church of Jesus Christ.
4. The intentional use of the gifting of God’s grace given to you.
You might reply, “But I don’t know what my gifting is. I thought you were going to help me discern that.”
Fair enough – but you’ve got to do something. Let me illustrate.
When I was a boy of eight or nine, I used to sit in my father's parked car pretending to drive. I would twist the steering wheel, push the pedals, and turn the knobs. It kept me entertained, but I wasn't going anywhere.
I wonder how many of us have a Christian experience that is a lot like pretending to drive a parked car. We go through all the motions but we're not really doing anything.
Here’s my suggestion. Do something.
It doesn’t need to be a big thing – but it needs be an act of serving someone else on behalf of Jesus.
As you move more fully toward serving others, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Answers to these questions only come as you are actually doing something – actually using the gifting of God’s grace that has been given to you.
Being INcarnational in an EXcarnational culture calls followers of Jesus to:
Be encouraged. Your gifting by God is the primary way in which you are being called to live in that place of wholesome tension between faithfulness to our God and relevance to our Culture.
Until next Friday,
John, a brother
 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 1996), 761.
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