February 17, 2011 David Balzer

Romans 12: 40Days of Purpose 3: Fellowship: Formed for God’s Family

Groucho Marx was famous for saying he wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would let HIM in.

 

What he was saying was that he had a fairly realistic view of himself. He knew his faults. But that he wanted to be part of a group of people BETTER than him. And if they actually thought he was good enough to measure up to their standard, then it can’t have been a very high standard. And therefore, not a club he wanted to be part of.

 

The sad thing is there are lots of Christians out there who have the same sort of view about CHURCHES. They’re always on the lookout for a better bunch of people. Better programs. Or bigger. Or friendlier. Or better preaching. Or a youth group that’s more exciting.

 

They’re church-shoppers. Steeple-chasers.

 

There’s a saying, “Don’t bother looking for the perfect church. Because when you FIND it. And JOIN it, … it won’t be PERFECT anymore.

 

But the reality is that’s not what church is about. God didn’t save us to become part of an exclusive CLUB. A spiritual elite. Not even a pretty ORDINARY sort of club.

 

He ADOPTED us into HIS FAMILY.

 

There’s a few different ways the Bible describes a group of Christians. And no, it’s not a gaggle of Christians (that’s geese). Or a choir of Christians. (that’s ANGELS). I sometimes wonder whether a PRICKLE of Christians isn’t appropriate. Like a prickle of hedgehogs.

 

But the Bible doesn’t use any of those. The most OBVIOUS one is CHURCH. Church just means GATHERING. We’re also called A VINEYARD, or A VINE. And we’re A TEMPLE. And we’re A BODY. Which we’ll think about in a few minutes. But the title I want to BEGIN with this morning is the one of FAMILY.

 

We saw that idea a couple of weeks ago when we looked at Eph 1. Eph 1:5 says

In love 5 he predestined us TO BE ADOPTED AS HIS SONS through Jesus Christ,

 

God, our HEAVENLY Father, ADOPTED US INTO HIS FAMILY. He made us his SPIRITUAL sons and daughters. And He signed the adoption papers with the blood of his son, Jesus.

 

A bit further on in Eph. Ch 2 v19, it puts it like this.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and MEMBERS OF GOD’S HOUSEHOLD,

 

The word for HOUSEHOLD is the same one the Bible uses for FAMILY. We used to be orphans. Aliens. Foreigners. But NOW, because of what Jesus has done for us, God’s made us FAMILY.

 

Which means, among other things. That you’re STUCK with the people here who are PART OF YOUR SPIRITUAL FAMILY.

 

There’s a saying, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Or “Blood is thicker than water”. In other words, you stand by your family. Even if they ARE a little unusual. Sometimes you’ll fight, but you’d never abandon them. You LOVE them. You’re committed to them. Through thick or thin. Because you’re CONNECTED.

 

And it works the same with church. Let’s be COMMITTED to each other like FAMILY. Because the reality is we’re STUCK with each other. We’re CONNECTED to each other. Because we’re all connected to Jesus. WE’RE family because Jesus is the LORD of us all. And God’s the FATHER of us all.

 

You can’t be joined to Jesus. But not joined to the REST of the family. The two go together. Being a Christian is a team sport. You can’t say you love Jesus, but not the OTHER’S who love him.

 

The church is Jesus’ BODY. You can’t say you love someone, but hate their BODY.

The church is Jesus’ BRIDE. You can’t say you love someone, but not their WIFE.

 

God’s made you part of HIS FAMILY. So stick with each other through thick and thin. Be Committed because we’re connected as family. That’s what families DO.

 

Over the years I’ve heard all sorts of reasons for why people stop coming to our church. Some of them are fair enough. Like moving to Townsville – that’s not bad. But most of them are just SOFT. People not willing to stick it out. Or not committed to this group of people. Or they don’t like something, and they’re after something better. I just have to bite my tongue, and hear them out.

 

I guess I’m preaching to the choir, because you’re all HERE. But perhaps you’re thinking about it. Let me encourage you to be COMMITTED to this group of God’s people. And SHOW that by working hard to overcome differences, fill-up shortcomings, and correct misunderstandings.

 

Be committed because we’re connected as family.

Family responsibilities

And when you’re part of a family, there are RESPONSIBILITIES that go with it. We could look at plenty of passages, but I thought we’d look at the first part of Rom 12.

 

I hope some of you noticed this was the same reading we had last week. If not, you’re all asleep! We looked at v1 last week, this week, we’ll look at the NEXT part. Because THE REST flows out of v1.

 

Remember last week, we talked about how we were made for WORSHIP. And that worship wasn’t just the songs you sing. Or what you do in church. But it was how you use your whole life, in response to what God has done for you in Jesus. That’s worship. V1. In view of God’s mercy, offer your body as a living sacrifice. That’s what worship is. Giving back to God because he’s given to you.

 

And then it goes on to talk about what that sort of sacrifice LOOKS LIKE. V2 says that if you want to find out what God’s will is, you need to TRANSFORM YOUR MIND. Change your way of THINKING.

 

And then in v3, it talks about HOW your thinking needs to change. “Don’t THINK OF YOURSELF more highly than you ought.” Be REALISTIC about where you fit.

 

And it’s here that we come across THE OTHER title the Bible uses for a group of Christians. A BODY. Look at v4.

4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ WE WHO ARE MANY FORM ONE BODY, AND EACH MEMBER BELONGS TO ALL THE OTHERS. (literally: individually members of one another)

 

In other words, part of what it means to think REALISTICALLY about yourself is to recognise that you’re just ONE PART of something BIGGER. You’re not the HEAD, the most important – you’re just PART of the body. It’s not all about YOU.

 

The word “MEMBER” is a biblical word. It means BODY PART. So we talk about being members of the church BODY. Which makes sense when you’re USED to the idea, but I wonder whether the MEMBERS of the local Labour party, or the local RSL club, or footy club, think of themselves as JUST BODY PARTS.

 

But the argument in this paragraph is that it’s A REALISTIC way to be thinking about yourself. Just a body part in the total body of the local church.

 

And what’s more, it’s right thinking like THIS that’s the START of offering yourself to God in WORSHIP. You need to see that church ISN’T ALL ABOUT YOU before you can begin responding to God as a living sacrifice.

 

If you come home, and say, I didn’t get much out of church today YOU MISSED THE POINT. It’s not ABOUT you. It’s about offering yourself TO GOD. And TO OTHERS.

 

So, in a way, Worship DOES happen in the context of church. But not in the way you might think. Offering yourself as a living sacrifice, in view of God’s mercies, happens as you live out being simply a body part in the body of the church.

 

You were MADE to be joined to the rest of the members of the body. It’s as unnatural to be a Christian on your own, as it is for a kidney, or a hand, or an ear, to exist on its own. God designed you to be connected to the other body parts of the body. It’s how you work best.

 

We don’t like to think of ourselves NEEDING other Christians. We like to think we’re rugged individuals. We’re fine on our own – thank you very much. But that’s the way God’s designed the Christian life.

 

Perhaps you’ve been burnt in churches before. Or it’s just too much hard work dealing with people. Or perhaps you don’t agree with the preaching, or you don’t like the singing, or the kids don’t stop squirming. There’s a thousand reasons why people stop coming to church.

 

But it’s UNNATURAL. Because you’re part of the body.

 

And the flip side of that is it’s WORTH IT to be in the body. It’s WORTH the time, and the energy, and the emotion, and the hassle, and the boredom. Because the body of believers is GOD’s way of FEEDING and ENCOURAGING you. Of supporting and nurturing you. Of strengthening and keeping you alive.

 

You were made to be part of the body. You were FORMED for God’s family. And if that’s true then there’s a few things that FLOW OUT of that.

 

Unity

The first is the idea of UNITY. It’s there in v5. “We who are MANY form ONE BODY”. Many parts United into ONE WHOLE.

 

But UNITY doesn’t mean UNIFORMITY. That’s what you get if you’re a member of the Holden Owner’s Club – you all drive Holdens. Or the Bromeliad Society – everyone likes growing bromeliads.

 

In the church, our unity doesn’t come from common interests, or common backgrounds. We are joined to each other, simply because we’re joined to Christ. WHATEVER OUR BACKGROUND, we’re UNITED because we all have the SAME Holy Spirit. That’s what 1 Cor 12:12 and 13 says

12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-WHETHER JEWS OR GREEKS, SLAVE OR FREE-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

 

Every nation. Every colour and age. Every educational background. Every footy team. Married and single. Attractive and … interesting. God, by his SAME Spirit, lives in each one of us. That makes us united.

 

Eph 4:4 gives us a few MORE areas in which we’re united.

4 There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one HOPE when you were called- 5 one LORD, one FAITH, one BAPTISM; 6 one GOD AND FATHER OF ALL, who is over all and through all and in all.

 

We ALL hope for heaven. We ALL serve the Lord Jesus. We ALL trust the work of Jesus alone for our salvation. We ALL were baptised. We are ALL children of our heavenly Father. And so we’re united in PURPOSE AND DIRECTION AND GOALS. To live obedient lives, seeking to honour and proclaim the Lord.

 

But as strong as those ties are. The reality is, because we’re sinful people, sometimes those ties aren’t strong enough to KEEP us united. And we’re tempted to GIVE UP. We’re united in PRINCIPLE. But not always in PRACTICE.

 

In the verse immediately before those ones, Eph 4:3. Paul pleads with them MAKE EVERY EFFORT to KEEP the unity of the Spirit. In other words, just because we’re all Christians, doesn’t mean it’s going to BE EASY to stay united. And all pulling in the one direction.

 

So don’t let little niggling things DRIVE US APART. Work hard at being patient and kind. Speak the truth in love.

 

Belong

The FIRST thing being part of the body means is that we’re UNITED. The SECOND point Romans 12 makes is that since we’re all part of one body, we all BELONG TO EACH OTHER. See it there at the end of v5? It literally says

We who are many form one body, and INDIVIDUALLY MEMBERS OF ONE ANOTHER.

 

WE affect the members around us, and THEY affect US. For good or bad. You can make a difference to the other parts of the body. In fact, more than that. You are INDISPENSIBLE. The other members NEED you.

 

There are no useless members. Each one has a part to play in the health of all the rest. In 1 Cor 12 Paul plays around with the idea of different body parts, and how every part has a role. V14.

14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

 

Unity doesn’t mean uniformity. In fact, variation is GOOD. Differences are part of God’s plan. Because, that way, everything gets done.

 

You may think “I can’t sing”, or “I can’t lead”. “My knees knock together whenever I stand up the front”. Or “my hands shake at the thought of teaching kids church. Nobody will notice if I’m not here”.

 

But we need people to do ALL sorts of things. God has designed THIS CHURCH at MARAYON exactly the way he wants it. This group of God’s people has everything – every ONE – we need  to be doing the job God wants for it.

 

You’re HERE for A REASON.

 

If you reckon our church should be doing … SOMETHING. “Wouldn’t it be great to run an after school kids club, or a homework club, or organise letterboxing, or run a church library, or coordinate meals for people, or teach Scripture, or run a young adults Bible study?”

 

And you look around, and there’s no one who can DO it. Perhaps that’s because God is tapping YOU on the shoulder. Even though you don’t think you’re up to it. Maybe he’s giving you the DESIRE first. And then he’ll give you the ABILITY. And THE CONFIDENCE.

 

And even if it’s not doing something OBVIOUS. Something you’d immediately label as ministry. You can make a real difference in the lives of people here by SHOWING you CARE. Showing you’re interested. By LISTENING to people. By asking questions.

 

The coffee break is a really valuable time at church. It’s MINISTRY time. It’s not REALLY a break. If anything, it’s where there’s a break from the up-front stuff, and where everyone ELSE BEGINS their work.

 

You BELONG here. Because you MAKE A DIFFERENCE. There are people here who don’t even realise they’re encouraging to ME. When I can see Diane concentrating on what I’m saying. When I see Jo Steele scribbling down notes. When I see Jason or Ruby following along in their Bible. When I hear Jacob up the back belting out a hymn, or I see the kids standing on their seats, singing along, or I hear people say AMEN at the end of a prayer, they’re encouraging to me.

 

When I see Rob turn up at Doonside high to teach Scripture every week. Or Dean and Di and Josh and Rob and Jason turn up to Youth Group every week. That’s encouraging. Or Sue spending hours every week preparing KYB  – even though I know she doesn’t find it easy. That’s encouraging.

 

When I see everyone turn up to the Doonside Festival, and chip in. When I see Ann and Kelly and Nicole painting hundreds of faces. Or Dionne making hundreds of juggling balls, or Daphne and Mary making cups of tea. That’s encouraging.

 

When I see Steve or Andrew, or Bob turn up at 9 am with a smile on their face to set up church. That’s encouraging to me.

 

Whatever it is. In countless ways, we can SHOW that we’re CONNECTED to each other. That we’re COMMITTED to each other. And that we BELONG to each other.

 

Gifted to give

The third thing the Romans 12 passage says about being members of a body is that we’re GIFTED TO GIVE. The WAY we show we belong to each other is by USING THE GIFTS God gives us to build each other up.

 

If we think about the human body, every part has a job to do. They’re all different. And they each contribute in a different way. But there’s no one part that can do without any of the others. And there’s no part that’s USELESS. They’re all mutually beneficial. You have two eyes for a reason. And one heart. You have toenails, and knuckles, and elbows for a reason. You have HAIR for a reason (or LACK of hair as the case may be).

 

And it’s the same with church. V6 of Rom 12.

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. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 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.

 

All different sorts of gifts. All contributing to a healthy body in different ways. This is one of a few lists of different gifts in the Bible. But there’s two things I like about this list;

 

First, how many UP-FRONT gifts are there? Prophesying (probably), and teaching, possible leadership.

 

But what about the rest? Serving, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, showing mercy. These are all things even the most TIMID person can do. You can even do them WITHOUT ANYONE KNOWING.

 

No matter how ungifted you feel. Or how unable to contribute. This list has something for YOU to do.

 

Serving. Turn up early and help set up the chairs. Bring a slice for morning tea. Help organise the mission dinner. Offer to pick up someone who can’t make it to church. Invite a family over for lunch. Why not offer to babysit so some parents can have a night out alone?

 

Encouraging. Why not resolve to make one phone call a week to someone from church? Or write a card. Even send an SMS or email. If you notice someone’s not at church, give them a ring to ask if they’re alright. Tell someone you appreciate the job they did.

 

Contributing to the needs of others. There’s obviously the financial side of that. Supporting ministry by giving. But there’s OTHER ways you can contribute to the needs of others. Give up YOUR TIME. Daisy had her garage sale last week – I know Dionne did some ringing around to help Sallee chase up some things. Perhaps someone needs a hand with the garden, or a lift to the airport. Or a hand practising music, or preparing their kids church lesson.

 

Showing mercy. Jodie and Pam are going to be run off their feet in a few weeks. Perhaps there’s something you can do to help them. Doing a bit of vacuuming, or shopping. Cooking a meal. Can you look after the kids while THEY get out for a couple of hours?

 

There’s much more to using our gifts than just the obvious showy gifts. And they’re all for the building up – the encouragement – of the body.

 

The second thing I like about this list is that it emphasises the ATTITUDE BEHIND the gifts. Did you notice that?

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

 

It’s not encouraging to have someone use their gifts for you, but to do it with the wrong attitude. You don’t want someone helping you setting up chairs if they’re going to GRUMBLE about it all the time. Or drop hints about how BUSY they are.

 

You don’t want someone offering to be on a committee, and then never turn up, or not do the jobs they’d promised. Or offering to play music, then not turning up, or turning up late, or not bothering to practice.

 

We encourage people by THE ATTITUDE we have as we do things just as much by the actual things we DO. When you serve people, do it GENEROUSLY. Do it CHEERFULLY. Do it DILIGENTLY.

 

 

We’ve been formed for God’s family. We’re members of his body. We’re UNITED to each other. We BELONG to each other. God’s gifted us to give to each other.

 

Let me give you TWO challenges in closing.

 

I’ve talked today about being a member of the body. Is that something you’ve OFFICIALLY done. By making a public commitment?

 

We’ve got TWO sorts of members in the Pressie church. Firstly there are ADHERENT members. That’s anyone who comes to church. If you’re in our address book, or you’ll be in the new version. You’re an adherent member.

 

Secondly, there are FULL members, or COMMUNICANT members. That’s people who’ve made a public declaration that they’re a Christian, and that they’re committing themselves to this group of God’s people. Committing themselves to serving and giving, and doing what a member does. And that gives them certain rights, as well as responsibilities. Many of you are communicant members.

 

But perhaps you’d like to make that declaration. That commitment. Perhaps you’re NEW. Or perhaps you’re a young person who’d like to TAKE OWNERSHIP of the baptism vows your parents made. To make a stand for yourself – that Jesus is your boss.

 

There are some brochures on the back table that explain more about that. See me if you’re interested.

 

The second challenge I want to make is for you to tick the boxes on the news sheet. Simply for YOUR BENEFIT. Not for anyone else to see. They’re Nine characteristics of biblical fellowship. Taken from the Purpose Driven Life book.

 

Will you commit to;

sharing your true feelings (authenticity) – 1 Jn 1:7-8

encouraging others (mutuality) – 1 Cor 12:25-26

supporting others (sympathy) – Col 3:12

forgiving others (mercy) – Col 3:13

speaking the truth in love (honesty) – Eph 4:15

admitting your weaknesses (humility) – 1 Peter 5:5-6

respecting our differences (courtesy) – Titus 3:2

not gossiping (confidentiality) – Prov 16:28

making meeting together a priority (frequency) – Heb 10:25

 

That’s what it means to be a member of the body of Christ’s church.

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