SI:† This fall and winter weíre looking in detail at one chapter in the Bibleó
†† Romans 12.† As I told you last week, I chose this chapter because of
†† conversations over past months several members have talked to me about their
†† burden to be more generous, hospitable, and compassionateó
†† that whole area of Christian service that we usually refer to as mercy ministry.†
Meeting the needs of people, particularly physical needs, in the name of Christ.
†† What does the Lord call us to do, and how are we to do it?†
INTRO:† After church a woman said to her pastor:† That was a wonderful sermon.
He was very pleased with himself but wanted to appear humble so he said:
†† It wasnít me, it was all the Lord.
She said:† Noóit wasnít that good!
After church a pastor and his wife were driving home and he asked her:
†† Honey, how many truly great preachers do you think there are in this town?
†† She said:† Dear, one less than you think!
A pastor noticed to his surprise one Sunday that the bishop was in congregation.†
†† After the service he asked him:† Bishop, what did you think of my sermon?†
The bishop said:† It was like the peace and mercy of God.
†† Like his peace in that it passed all my understanding.
†† And like his mercy in that I thought it would endure forever.†
In the paragraphs that follow the opening verses of chapter 12, Paul shows us
†† specifically what it means to present our bodies as living
†† sacrifices and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Itís both interesting and important that Paul begins by telling us that the first
†† specific thing about the Christian life is humility.†
He says be transformed by the renewal of your mind.†
And then he tells us that the first thought of the renewed mind is not to think
†† more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but to think of ourselves with
†† sober judgment.
Humility is the first thing.† This is where practical Christian living begins.
What a strange concept in our age.†
†† American culture has institutionalized pride to such a degree that many people are
†† incapable of recognizing it when they see it or hear it or speak it themselves.
People donít notice self-congratulatory speech unless it slaps them in the face.
†† Usain Bolt and Michael Phelpsí statements about their own greatness in the last
†† Olympics got some negative attention, but not much.
Most people donít give a thought to touchdown dances or bumper-stickers that
†† proclaim: †ďMy child is an honor student at such and such school.Ē
Although you would roll your eyes if someone whispered to you in church:
†† My child is an honor student at such and such school.
But for some reason, people think it is virtuous when you put it on your bumper.
Scripture extols humility as mother of all virtues.† Love is the greatest virtue.
†† But you canít love unless you are first humble enough to look outside yourself.
And Scripture condemns pride as the foundation of all vices.†
†† Pride goeth before the fall.† And God resists the proud.
All the great Christians of history have understood this.
†† CS Lewis said that impurity, anger, greed, and hatred are mere fleabites in
†† comparison to pride.
Pride made the devil the devil.† Pride is the lie behind all of our vices.
†† Itís the lie we tell ourselves about our own virtue and importance.
†† Itís the lie we tell ourselves about how much we deserve from God and others.
†† Itís the lie we tell about how wrong it is for other people to fail to appreciate us,
†† or serve us, or fear us, or obey us.
Itís so basic, so much a part of our thinking, that we mostly donít even see it.
St. Augustine famously said that our basic problem is that we are
†† homo incurvatus in seóman curved in on himself.†
Mankind was made to look up and outóto look at God and other people.
†† But weíve twisted that so that we look almost entirely at ourselves.
†† We are fixated upon ourselves, we worship ourselves.
We are so used to doing it, that we donít find anything strange about it.
Remember what Paul is doing in Romans 12.
†† He is describing the life that responds to the mercy of God.
†† And that life is upward and outward focused, other-focused.†
Without humility, you will never be properly grateful to God for his underserved
†† mercy to you in Jesus.† The mercies of God will never motivate you.
†† You will never be deeply moved by them if you think too highly of self.
And, even more to the point of this chapter, without humility, you will not be able
†† to serve other people.† Paul describes the Christian life as one of service in the
†† body of Christ.† Here is a church, a real church, with real people in it.
When a person is born again, he doesnít lose his pride overnight.
†† But the Holy Spirit makes you aware of it, and you know you have to fight it.
So how do you become humble?† How do you pop the pimple of pride?
Paul gives us two instructions:
†† 1.† By working the Gospel out in your thinking.
†† 2.† By exercising your gifts in the body of Christ.†
Both are Letís look at each and then an example.
MP#1† You kill pride and grow humility by working the Gospel out in your†
In verse three, Paul mentions thinking four times.†
†† This is obscured by the English translation.† A more literal translation is:
ďDo not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think,
†† but rather think of yourself with sober or serious thinking.
Think, think, think, sober thinking.† Paul wants you to think about yourself.
Then the standard:† ďIn accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.Ē
†† What does that phrase mean?† Lots has been written by Bible scholars because
†† this phrase could be taken in two different ways.
The word measure could mean measurement.† The idea would be that they way you
†† think about yourself rightly is to use the measurement of faith, in other words,
†† measure yourself by the Gospel, by the faith.
In that case, Paul would be pointing back to all he has said in first eleven chapters.
Or, the word measure could mean an amount.† The idea would be that God has
†† given each individual Christian an amount of faith.† Not to say you canít grow.
But God ultimately the giver of faith, he gives each Christian a different measure,
†† and that measure of faith shows itself in particular gifts and callings.
In that case, Paul would be pointing forward to the subject of the following verses,
†† which is, the exercise of particular gifts in the body.
I think itís entirely possible that Paul meant both.†
†† Because both are significant for thinking of yourself soberly,
†† both are powerful in crushing pride and growing humility.†
Letís start with this first concept, that you think soberly about yourself by the
†† measure of faith, the measure of the Gospel message.†
So the question is:† How should the Gospel shape the way you think about yourself?
Iíve always found Tim Kellerís answer to this question helpfuló
†† (actually Keller got this from his professor Jack Miller).
The Good News is this:
†† I am more wicked and sinful than I ever dared to admit, and at the same time,
†† I am more loved and accepted in Christ than I ever dared to hope.†
If you believe that, it humbles you and lifts you at the same time.
Letís think about that first statement.† I am more wicked and sinful than . . .
†† Paul pounds this home over and over in Romans.†
There is no one righteous, not even one.† No one who understands, seeks God.
†† He says our hearts idol-making factories.† Even as believer, donít do what want.
†† That is not the way people naturally think about themselves.†
People will admit to doing all sorts of terrible things but then they will insist:†
†† But Iím a good person.† Iím not a bad person.† What is that?† Itís pride.
It takes the Gospel to be able to think rightly about yourself, to see that your sinful
†† nature is corrupt, proud and self-worshipping.† You arenít deep down good.
St. Francis of Assisi, was one of the most godly men of the Middle Ages.
†† He was a blessing to so many people, that he was constantly complimented.
He knew his own heart so well, understood the depth of pride,
†† that he had a brother monk at his side at all times.
And whenever anyone would compliment Francisópraise him for his sermons and
†† teaching, his kindness and generosity to the poor, his missionary workó
†† this monk would criticize himóhis failures, weaknesses, and sins.
That sounds like a joke, but itís true.†
And perhaps one of the reasons Francis was the spiritual giant that he was.
He took seriously:† Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think.
Hereís the practical application:† How do you respond to criticism?†
†† What if somebody at work criticizes you?† Somebody in the church?
†† What if what they say is not entirely true, what if they say it in a harsh way?
If you get upset, if you get angry, defend selfóitís your pride that is being poked.†
†† Criticism is a blessing.† God uses it to expose your pride so you can fight it.
But letís get back to that Gospel definition by Keller and Miller.
You are more wicked and sinful than you ever dared to admit, but at the same time,
†† you are more loved and accepted in Christ than you ever dared to hope.†
That second part of Gospel is in Paulís letter over and over.† Romans 8.†
†† For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present
†† nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will
†† be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul says, think of yourself with sober judgment.†
†† That means thinking of yourself in the fullness of biblical revelation.
†† That means God loves you because he made you and has redeemed you.
Itís incredibly affirming and humbling at the same time to think of this.†
Ray Stedman, former pastor of Peninsula Bible Church, Palo Alto, California
†† said that every morning when he got up, would tell himself three things.
1.† I am made in the image of God.† I am not an animal and I donít have to behave like an
†† animal.† I have an ability within me, given to me by God himself, to respond and relate to
†† God.† Therefore I can behave as a man, and not as a beast.
2.† I am filled with the Spirit of God.† Though I donít deserve it in the least, I have the power of
†† God at work within me.† I have become, in some sense, the bearer of God, and God himself is
†† willing to be at work in me through the problems and pressures I go through this day.
3.† I am part of the plan of God.† God is working out all things to a great and final purpose in the
†† earth, and I am part of it.† What I do today has purpose and significance and meaning.† Even
†† the smallest incident, the most insignificant word or relationship is involved in his great plan.†
Stedman said this set him on his feet and gave him ďconfidence without conceit.Ē
Stedman himself has given us a perfect application.†
How do you talk to yourself in the morning?† It is all about what you must do?
†† Or is it this:† Iím a beloved son of God.†
I think thatís Paulís idea here.† Humility comes not just by admitting you have
†† a pride problem, it also comes by finding your value and identity rightly in the
†† love and purpose of God.
But Paul doesnít stop there.† And this next part is very interesting.
†† Because it shows us just how deep is the problem of pride.
See, this is the problem.† If you try to deal with your pride just by thinking
†† about your sin and Godís grace to youóyouíre still think about yourself.
We are so proud by instinct, that we can actually use this Gospel exercise Iíve
†† described and think we are tearing down our pride, really building it up.
Iíve seen this in myself.
There have been times Iíve shared something personal from the pulpit or even
†† in a pastoral meeting with somebodyó
†† a personal struggle or temptation or failure that Iíve had, or personal victory.
And guess what happens?† People say to me, I really appreciated that.
†† I really admire your willingness to share your struggles and be open.
†† That really encourages me in my own walk with Christ.†
Do you know what I do with that most of the time?† I get a big head.
†† I think, Wow, Iím so effective.† Iím so genuine.†
Itís fashionable in some Christian circles, some particular circles in our little
†† denomination to talk about your brokenness.† Some pastors make a point of it.
†† Saying they are the greatest sinners in their congregation.†
Itís hard to resist the impression that we are to admire them for that.
†† Hereís the fundamental problem, any time itís about you, pride can get it.
So Paul gives us another way of killing pride and growing humility.
MP#2† Exercising your gifts in the body of Christ.
In other words, specific actions on behalf of other people.
Very often the Bible teaches us and shows us that the best way to combat
†† temptations of every kind, not just pride, but every kind of temptation,
†† is proper, decisive action.
Paul says to think of yourself according the measure of faithó
†† and then right after that he says that God has given to each Christian gifts.
†† Not just the church officers, but every church member.
They are his present to us and enable us to be useful in his service
†† and blessing to other people.
Obviously, gifts can also be a source of pride, but not if they are being used rightly.
†† If you actually put your gifts to use for other people, it humbles you.
Listen to the way Dr. Rayburn puts it:
†† ďThe gifts have humility in them if only they are used as God intended them to be used.† To be humble one can attempt to bring his heart and soul into a humble frame, to attempt to cultivate a self-effacing and Christ-honoring state of mindósurely this should be doneóbut to be humble one can also act in humility.† The simplest definition of humility in the Bible is a life lived for God and others . . . act often enough in this way and your behavior will wonderfully settle your spirit.Ē
Isnít that Paulís main concern in these verses?† God has given you a gift.† Use it!
†† Your gifts are callings from him.† Callings to be fulfilled.
Here is this list of gifts:†
prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing, leading, showing mercy.
†† Itís not exhaustive, there are other gift lists in New Testament.
†† In coming weeks we are going to work our way through this list.
Sometimes Christian wonder, what are my gifts?† How do I discover my gifts?
†† Paul doesnít seem to be concerned with those questions.
†† He has you have them, God has given them, use them.
In other words, every Christian has a measure of all of these giftsó
†† your particular gifts are simply those that you do with the most freedom and joy.
What Christian doesnít have some measure of the gift of mercy?
†† How can you be a follower of Jesus Christ and not have at least some sensitivity
†† to the needs of people and some capacity for showing mercy?
Well, when you have opportunity to show mercy, do it.† Cheerfully.
A person at school or work says something mean or irritatingóshow mercy.
†† Respond with a kind word.† The very doing it will humble you.
What Christian canít contribute to the needs of others?†
†† You may not be able to contribute as much as some people, but you can give.
†† And if done rightly, as Jesus says, so right hand doesnít know what left hand
†† doing, few things that humble more than giving money.†
What Christian canít serve?† There are simple opportunities to serve people daily.
What Christian canít encourage?† Of course you can say something positive to
†† a person to built him up.† You can talk to someone this morning.
†† Listen to him or her, not say anything about yourself.† Speak gracious words.
What Christian canít, on some level, teach?† You donít have to stand in front of
†† a Sunday school class to teach.† You teach your children.† You teach when you
†† tell someone a verse of Scripture that might help in some way.
As I said just a moment ago, there are particular giftings.†
We can even look at particular Christians and say:†
†† She has gift of encouragement.† He has the gift of giving.
†† You can tell by the way they do those things with such freedom and joy.
Thatís the way to find your particular giftsóhow do I most enjoy serving the body?
†† But that is not to say that you are walled off from all the other gifts.
Put them to work.†
And when using your gifts for the sake of the body of Christ becomes
†† the intention of your heat, then humility grows and pride withers.
It has to.† Because all of the gifts have to do in some way with serving other people.†
†† And that causes you to think about other people more and moreó
†† which is the very heart of humility.
You have to love CS Lewis for his genius for explaining things.
This is how he describes a humble person.† From Mere Christianity.
†† ďDo not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call Ďhumbleí nowadays:† he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always tell you that, of course, he is nobody.† Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.† If you dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily.† He will not be thinking about humility:† he will not be thinking about himself at all.Ē
Years ago Allison and I were I a restaurant in Clearwater, Florida, on beach.
It was a little seafood restaurant, it was late in the evening.†
†† Our waitress was young and pregnant and had obviously been on her feet hours.
Well, the food was bad.† I canít remember what the problem was, but there
†† was a table near us and the people got very angry.† Began to make quite a fuss.
†† How this food was unacceptable, send it back, etc.
It was almost funny, to see how upset grown up people could get about foodó
†† especially when they were eating right across the street from beautiful beach.
But it wasnít funny, because this tired waitress took the brunt of it.†
Now letís think about that for a minute.†
Pride is not just patting yourself on the back.†
†† Itís not just Usain Bolt saying that he is the greatest Olympian of all time.
†† Itís not just, My child is an honor student.
†† Thatís pride, but itís almost a caricature of pride.†
Pride is usually hidden behind other vices.
Anger is one of the most destructive forces in human life.
What does anger do to other people?† It makes them cringe.†
†† It shrinks the souls and deadens the hearts of those who are its focus.
Wives and children who live in homes with angry men almost always
†† develop a deep and abiding bitterness that they spend rest of life trying to escape.
I had a friend who grew up in a home like that.† He left as soon as he could.
†† But is mother stayed.† Years with that angry man turned her into a shell.
†† Anger chills, sadden, corrupts.† It accomplishes nothing good.
Itís the exact opposite of doing mercy, serving, contributing generously to needs.
The angry person must face the fact that his anger is simply a vicious form of pride.
And it reveals what a selfish and arrogant fool the person really is.
†† Why should a person who harms other people with his anger think that he has
†† a right to be taken seriously?† Why does he think he should be served?
His main achievement is making people miserable.
†† And people heave a sigh of relief when angry people are gone.
†† If you are an angry person, if you make people cringe with your verbal attacksó
†† you need to hear the truthóYou think more highly of yourself than you ought.
So how do you even begin to deal with this particular form of pride?
†† The answer is that you serve people.† Nothing diffuses your anger more quickly
†† than to focus on this other soul.
I remember that restaurant episode because I remember what Allison did.
The food was bad, I wanted to send it back.† She wouldnít let me.
†† When the waitress came over to apologize, Allison said it was fine.
†† Asked her when her baby was due.† Asked her how long worked, when off.
†† Told her that she admired waitresses that it seemed like a hard job.
And then, Allison twisted the arm of the tightwad of the family and made him
†† leave this waitress a generous tip.†
She served that waitress, she waited on the waitress.
Thatís what a person who is not thinking too highly of himself or herself does.
†† Thatís how you kill pride and grow humility, but what you do.
And thatís how it should be in our church.
†† This should be a community in which we are often talking about ourselves,
†† our sin and Godís grace to us in Jesus.† Talking about the Gospel.
But this must also be a family where we are making it a habit of serving
†† each other with words and deeds with the gifts God has given us.
And if we do, the wonderful virtue of humility will grow, to the glory of our
†† humble Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.