Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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.

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 judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For 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, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a]faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:1-13)

If someone were to call you a ‘dreamer’ you’d probably feel a bit insulted. There were countless times at school my teachers told me to stop dreaming and concentrate on my work! However there are times when it’s good to dream. Martin Luther King made a famous speech in Washington in 1963 featuring the refrain, ‘I have a dream’ in which he laid out a vision – springing from his own Christian faith – of a society without racism and injustice. Around 1950 years earlier Peter addressed a massive crowd in Jerusalem, declaring that these words – from the Prophet Joel – are now being fulfilled:

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’

Acts 2:17

Whilst I wouldn’t put myself in the same league as Peter or Martin Luther King I have a dream too!

The dream is that we become people who are living for God’s Kingdom in our community.

We do this through:

Engagement

  • Working together with people of goodwill to build a kinder, safer community.
  • Coming alongside people in our community especially those who are vulnerable and needy.

Evangelism

  • Spreading the good news of Jesus in word and action.
  • Leading people to Jesus and helping them grow as his disciples.

Encounter

  • With God: growing closer to him, experiencing a deeper work of the Holy Spirit and becoming more like Jesus.
  • With one another: growing together as God’s family.

God has brought us together as ‘the dream team’ and by that I mean that we work together – under God – to bring this vision into reality.

How do we become ‘the dream team?’

Fix our Eye on the Ball

There are many things that could distract us from achieving what I believe God has set before us so it’s vital to stay focussed. This is going to require radical commitment to Jesus. In Romans 12:1 we are given a powerful image from the Old Testament to press this point home:

‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.’

In Old Testament times there was a system of sacrifices. Lambs and bulls were presented to God to bring about forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ death and resurrection made these sacrifices redundant: we are forgiven through him. But one sacrifice remains – we need to offer up every part of our life to God. We don’t do this to make ourselves right with him, it’s a response to his mercy. Have you noticed that it is described as ‘this is your true and proper worship’? We tend to think of worship as singing or praying but Paul makes it clear that true worship involves us living for God 24/7. In verse two we are given two simple steps to do so. Firstly there is something to stop – ‘do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world’. J.B Phillips translates this as ‘do not let the world squeeze you into its own mould. The world – in the New Testament – describes the mind-set that is in rebellion against God. Now we are part of God’s Kingdom we don’t subscribe to that way of thinking. Secondly, there is something to start – to be ‘transformed by the renewing of our minds’. We need to let our thinking be shaped and informed by God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. The natural consequence of this is that we’ll be living for God: ‘’Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’.

Keep our Feet on the Ground

A ‘dream team’ is made up of people with all sorts of gifts that complement each other. Some are more visible than others so there can be a danger that those of us who have more visible roles can get an inflated opinion of ourselves.

‘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 judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you (3).’

This is more than a friendly warning, we are given a strategy that will help us avoid falling into the trap of a big ego.

We should take a realistic look at ourselves, or as Paul puts it ‘think of yourself with sober judgement’. At the end of the day we are just sinners who have been rescued by God, everything we have is from him. That’s why he goes on to say ‘in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you’; everything we have comes from God.

 

Get with the Team

Paul uses the image of the local church as a body to describe the kind of team God has made us.

‘For 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, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others’ (4-5).

Just as with a human body each part – the hands, feet, eyes etc. – have different functions that work for the common good we complement one another to move the local church forward in God’s mission.

Once again, we are not left in the dark about how this happens. In verses 6-8 we are given a list of gifts that the Holy Spirit has given people in his church.

 

Prophecy

‘If your gift is prophesying, then prophecy in accordance with your faith’

When someone prophecies they receive a word from God and pass it on. Wayne Grudem once described it as ‘telling something God has brought to mind’. Paul literally says ‘in accordance with the faith’, which is a description of the revelation God has given through the apostles which we find in the New Testament. In other words every prophecy must be tested by scripture.

Service

‘If serving, then serve’. The word describes practical tasks.


Teaching

‘If it is teaching, then teach’

That includes every kind – one-to-one, small groups and the kind of teaching I’m doing this morning.
Encouragement

‘If it is encouraging then encourage’

This is a great gift. The word Paul uses describes one person coming alongside another. One of my favourite characters in the Bible is an early Christian called Joseph who was given the nickname Barnabas which means ‘the son of encouragement’. We can never have enough of this kind of person!
Giving

‘If it is giving, give generously’. Moving towards this dream is going to be costly so we’re going to need to give financially. But there’s more to it than that – we need to have a culture of generosity.
Leadership

‘If it is to lead, do it diligently’. The real test of leadership is when the excitement wears off and the work is tough


Mercy

‘If it is to show mercy do it cheerfully’. Mercy is all about caring for people who are in need and distress and the word translated ‘cheerfully’ carries the idea that we do it as well as we can. There should be no reluctance or resentment, after all Jesus said, ‘What you do for the least of one of these you do for me’ (Matt 25:39).
Well, there are seven gifts to be getting on with, there are also lists of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.

 

Discerning our Gifts

We will be looking at this in more detail in our house groups next year but for the time being here are four questions that will help us discern what our gift mix is.

  • What am I effective at?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What do other people recognise my gifts to be?

 

Overflow with love

 

The most important mark of a dream team is love. After all in that famous passage on the subject Paul said

‘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.  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.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing’ (1 Corinthians 13:1–13).

 

The word Paul uses is ‘agape’ which describes a distinctly Christian form of love. This love should be sincere (9), which means ‘without hypocrisy’, discerning, we must ‘hate what is evil’ and ‘cling to what is good’. The emphasis is on actions that are evil and not people. Relational, being ‘devoted to one another in love’, selfless, ‘honour one another above yourselves and practical ‘Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality’ (13).

 

When we show this kind of love towards other members of ‘the team’ it will overflow to the way we interact with people in our community.

 

I hesitate to equate myself with the great man who famously spoke these words in 1963 but I have a dream: that we are a church who are living for God’s Kingdom by engaging in our community. Let’s dream of an exciting future and make it a reality together. Let’s be the dream team!

 

Think it Through

  1. How do we present ourselves to God as living sacrifices?
  2. What does this tell us about worship?
  3. How does it look in everyday life?
  4. What do you think is your function in ‘Team WRBC’?
  5. Think about the gifts described in v3-8. Use the three questions (see above) to discern your own gift. Ask the group if they agree.
  6. We should all seek to have the gift of encouragement. Talk about ways in which you can encourage people and avoid discouraging them.
  7. How can you use your gift to help us be a church that is living for God’s Kingdom in our community?

 

Pray it in

Ask God to help you worship him as you live out the reality of your faith in every-day life.

Pray for one another as you seek to discern and use the gifts God has given you

Spend some time bringing our leaders to God.