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About this series
Becoming a Romans 12 Christian
Being a genuine disciple of Christ flows out of a relationship with Him. It's about experiencing God's grace, not earning His love through performance. A real relationship with Jesus Christ will produce a follower whose life looks progressively more like His life. Romans 12 provides a relational profile of an authentic disciple: someone who is surrendered to God, separate from the world's values, sober in self-assessment, serving in love and supernaturally responds to evil with good. Christians who live out this kind of lifestyle are what we call r12 Christians. God is willing to go deeper and grow you into a real disciple - are you ready?More from this series
Well, there are not a lot of things that psychologists and theologians agree on a hundred percent. But psychologists and theologians all agree that from the time we’re very small, actually, until the day we die, we begin to consciously or unconsciously try to ask and answer three questions. Question number one: Who am I? Question number two: Where do I belong? And question number three: What am I supposed to do? These are the issues about identity, about security, and significance.
And we are on a journey. You saw it. It’s about becoming a Romans 12 Christian, or True Spirituality. And at the end of the day, we can call it all kinds of different things, but Jesus made it very clear: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength; and love your neighbor like yourself.” And in Romans chapter 12, it just gives us a snapshot of what an authentic follower of Jesus looks like in everyday life.
And so in terms of loving God, he says: How do you love God? What does God want the most? He wants you and me, all that we are, all that we have, surrendered to Him. And then realizing that it’s a battle and the world system wants to seduce our heart away from our Savior. He wants us to be separate from the world’s values.
Well, now we’re going to move from verse 1 and verse 2 to verse 3 through 8. And here what we’re going to learn is: How do you come to grips with the real you?
You cannot and I cannot love other people if you don’t love you. I mean that not narcissistically. I mean in a very healthy way. How do you look in the mirror, not just physically, but in the mirror of your soul, come to grips with who you really are, and say, I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. I matter. God has a plan for me. I’m not too short; I’m not too tall. I have the right personality. I have the right gifts. I don’t need to be like anyone else.
Here’s the fact of the matter: Most of us, most people in all the earth, spend a great majority of their time and energy trying to be like someone else or wishing they were someone else.
And so we dress like someone else, we act like someone else, we have all these different models. And we spend all of our energy and time trying to be a copy of something that’s not nearly as attractive as the one unique person out of the almost seven billion people on this planet that have a unique DNA that’s yours.
And you’re made exactly like you were made by the Creator of all of life, because He’s got a plan for you, and He’s gifted you, and He wants to do something great in you, and then something significant through you.
So we’re going to roll up our sleeves and we’re going to ask and answer the question: How do you come to grips with the real you? So open your teaching notes, if you will, and let’s jump into those three questions.
Question number one: Who am I? When you’re real small, you say, well, like in my family, I learned early: It’s family. Who am I? I’m an Ingram. My dad made it very clear that that name was important, so you better not go out and do anything that would embarrass the Ingram name.
You get a little older and they say, “Who are you?” And we often give our profession or our work. Well, I’m a scientist, I’m a software engineer, I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’m a construction worker, I’m an electrician. And so who I am, my identity is around what I do.
As we get a little bit older or as life changes often, then it’s about our passion: Well, I’m a mom. I’m a surfer. I’m an artist. But it all goes back to from the time you’re small to those late teens to early adulthood, then especially a little shift in midlife, what’s our identity? You’re always asking this question. And by the way, for those of you who are parents, so are your kids.
The second big question we’re always asking: Where do I belong? This is about security. And so remember in school when there were cliques, isn’t it weird, at every school, you got the athletes, you got the nerds, you got the cool group, you got the in group, you got the really out group. And then there are clubs, so you join different clubs. Then sometimes where I belong, it’s my ethnicity, the people who look like me.
Or sometimes it’s around, or where we belong, I’m an IBMer, I’m an HPer, I’m a Googler, right? Other times where I belong is, Well, I belong to this country club and people like me go here. Or, I belong to this gang because I wear my pants down here and I got some bling. Or, I belong because in some gangs you have to kill someone to get in, and then I’ve got a tear tattoo right here to prove that I’m in that.
You need to understand that the same dynamics when you’re small or later, in every one of those is every person is made by the God of the universe to need to belong, to need to understand who you really are. And we go about it in some ways, sometimes, that are very dysfunctional. In fact, sometimes very dangerous.
The third question we’re asking is: Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? It’s fundamental. It’s so fundamental and so overwhelming, sometimes we blow past this one. When is the last time you actually stopped and said, Why am I on this planet? What is the meaning of life for me?
See, me left to me, and you left to you, that’s sort of like, “Well, yeah, yeah, I mean, I’m sure it’s the most important question in life, so I’ll get around to that, but I get a lot of voicemails, you know, and a lot of emails and, you know, there’s work and there are kids, I got to drop people off. And by the way, I got to get in and I got to get these good test scores and I need to…”
And it’s amazing how many people blow through life fulfilling all kinds of duties, responding to all kinds of demands that really are about identity and security, and you wake up thirty, forty, fifty years later and you realize your whole life has been a grind. Your whole life has been for something that’s going to happen someday some way out there. And you’ve never stopped to ask: What am I supposed to do with my life?
A big part of the whole midlife crisis is people looking in the rearview mirror and going, “I’ve not only not asked that question, when I start thinking about it very deeply, I don’t like the answer because I not only don’t know, but I haven’t given much energy or time or track record to what I think probably matters most.”
Now, before you get too down on yourself, right? Because, honestly, those are big, aren’t they? Those are so big, isn’t it interesting the biggest issues in life you can sort of shove down because they’re so hard to answer. It’s like, Well, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, who here would say, “Who am I really and where do I belong and what am I supposed to do? Come on, Chip, would you get to something serious?” Right? There are no bigger questions than that, and yet the great majority of people have not thought deeply or could give you good clear answers to that.
But let me tell you why. Let me explain why those are so hard to answer. Turn in your notes to page two. Something happened, something happened to our first parents that we’ve inherited from them that make these three questions very hard to answer. That’s why the world has such a pull on us. It’s why we settle for lots of superficial answers to those things, knowing down deep in our soul they don’t really satisfy.
The passage is Genesis chapter 3. The context is the cosmic coup has occurred. The most loving Being, the most generous Being, the Giver of all life, the Creator of the universe, Yahweh God, has created mankind and told them that, All that I have and everything’s available. There’s only one small limitation: Don’t eat from that tree.
And our parents, first by deception, then by act of the will, it was a coup, it was a rebellion, and sin entered the world. The theologians call it “the fall of man.” And we pick up the story and we find out what happened. And as we pick up the story, you’ll discover why for you and me, it’s really hard to answer those questions well.
“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” That’s the first time this has ever happened.
They ran to meet Him. They lived in a perfect environment. They were naked emotionally, they were naked spiritually, they were naked physically. Some theologians think there was radiation of light that came out from them before the fall even. There was absolute complete intimacy with God, intimacy and vulnerability with one another, unconditional acceptance. Life was perfect.
And now they hear God coming, and for the first time, they hide. “Then the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” By the way, this is not an informational question. This is diagnostic. God knew where he was. He’s going to ask a series of questions to help Adam discover where he’s really at. Adam said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden. I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.”
If you’ve got a pen, will you pull it out and circle afraid, naked, and hid? That’ll come back later. You’re going to find there’s a relational pattern in that that you have and I have and every human being has.
And God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I’ve commanded you not to eat?” And so he’s going to answer God, and it’s very interesting if you happen to be his wife, this is not a good moment. What you’re going to learn is you can’t trust this guy.
For the first time ever, what you’re going to learn, when the pressure comes, what he’s going to do, instead of own his stuff and be a man, he’s going to be passive and he’s going to blame you.
And so Eve is probably standing there, knowing the whole story, and she’s going to hear her husband say to God, “The woman that You gave me to be with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate it.” Translation: It’s not my fault, it’s her fault, and by the way, You’re the one who gave her to me.” So let’s do the math: Not me, it’s her, it’s Your fault really, God.
And so God moves on with the progression of diagnostic questions. “Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’” And the woman, being a very quick study, says, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” In other words, It’s not my fault either. It’s the serpent’s fault, and who made this garden and who made serpents?
And you know what, all the problems in life are God’s. Isn’t it interesting a lot hasn’t changed? When there’s a tragedy, when there’s a difficulty, when something happens in the world, isn’t it interesting, as human beings, what I always hear is: How could God let this happen? How come every single day – listen, how could God let me breathe? How could God give me this? We don’t list every good thing that He’s ever done, but if anything goes wrong, I’ll tell you what, right?
Three obstacles you’ll see in this passage about why it’s so hard to come to grips with the real you, first is fear rooted in shame. Notice he says, “I was afraid.” Well, why? “I was afraid,” because now for the first time ever Adam realizes he’s naked. And of course, it’s physical, but well, well beyond that, he realizes is he’s exposed. What he realizes, when he meets the eyes of someone who sees absolutely perfect through everything, he doesn’t measure up.
There’s a self-consciousness that has occurred. And could I tell you that this is how we relate to God often and this is how we relate to one another? The primary means of relating to other human beings and God is fear, and it’s rooted in shame.
See, if we get all the superficial sophistication and all the pop psychology out of the way, if I could remove every ounce of veneer from your life and mine, and all the image management, and all the ways you frame things, and all the levels of denial that you have. Down deep in your heart and your soul, if someone knew all of you, I mean, all of you: the thoughts, the envy, the motives, the things that you’ve thought let alone the things that you’ve done, down deep in your heart, you’re pretty convinced you’d be rejected.
And so we relate to one another in fear and spend an inordinate amount of energy posing and image-managing. And since we’re not sure who we really are, we want to be liked by other people, so I call them personality holograms.
Because of your background, and your gifts, and the part of the country you grew up in, and all these factors, somewhere along the line, you learned that people in certain groups like this, and so you learn to act like that, and dress like that, and need to drive that, and your kids need to go to this school. And you have all these things that somehow, someway, if all that is lined up, because you get affirmation from that. You get approval from that. You’re admired by people.
Here’s the problem: What you know is this hologram that you’re projecting of this person that has it kind of together and is loving and is kind and is a good whatever. You know down deep in your soul that really doesn’t represent all of you let alone a lot of the real you.
And even when people love the hologram, you don’t get loved because you know that’s not you. And that’s why we find some of the people that are most beautiful and the most successful, and we find them doing things that we scratch our head and say, “How could someone that has all the things we all long for kill themselves or destroy their life with an addiction?” It’s that discrepancy in their soul. It’s fear rooted in shame.
Notice the second thing that happens. Not only did they say, “I was afraid,” he says “hiding” – rooted in insecurity. See, when you’re naked, you feel insecure. You feel inadequate. And so you hide. Not only are we afraid, but I hide the real me from you, and you hide the real you from others and from God.
Isn’t it amazing when you don’t feel like praying, especially if you, down deep feel that low-grade guilt in your soul? Maybe it’s not really big sins, but the little ones start adding up and you just don’t feel very motivated to pray.
I don’t know about you, but what I realize is, I don’t want to go talk to God right now because I know how this is going to go. Right? He’s going to cause me to be honest, expose me for who I am, and I don’t like that. And so I play this game, like, Well, if I don’t really talk to Him very deeply right now, He doesn’t really know.
But don’t you do that with your mates, those of you who are married? Don’t you do it with your roommates? Don’t you do that with your best friends? Don’t we play that game? We have fear that’s rooted in shame, and then we hide in our insecurity.
And can I tell you something? Here’s a great little message to learn. This is a freedom message for me. Everyone on the earth is desperately insecure. Desperately insecure. And if you’re saying, Oh, no, I don’t know if I really buy that one, well, let me tell you a little story that was a liberating one for me.
The first place that I had the privilege of pastoring, I was twenty-eight years old, it was – instead of a mega-church – it was a mini-church, it’s out in the country about thirty miles outside of Dallas. The whole town was about three thousand people, and then outside the town was this little white building and we had thirty-five people. And so it was my very first pastorate and I didn’t know what I was doing, but this was the place God called me to. And I thought it was a rural church because people had pickup trucks and guns in the back, and they all had their ranches and horses.
But after about two months there, when I started visiting the people in their homes, not only did their homes have the Southern Living magazine on the coffee table, their homes were Southern Living magazine. And, you know, there were only thirty-five people, but this guy owned the Honda dealership, the Yamaha dealership, apartments in downtown Austin and oil and gas. And this guy owned, not worked at, he owned an insurance company. I don’t know how you do that, but someone has to own them, I guess. And this guy over here had one of the major CPA firms downtown.
And all of a sudden I realized from my very middle-class, my dad through the Depression roots, both parents schoolteachers, all of a sudden I realized I’m pastoring thirty-five people, but they’re mega-wealthy, at least they’re mega-wealthy from where I came from. And I’m intimidated to death. Have you ever been around someone who makes you feel really insecure?
And I would say things, and I would feel small, and I would think I’m dumb, and I don’t know about that, and I know they’re smarter than me, and they’ve got all this stuff. And, well, “Chip, we’re not going to be in church because we’re going to go out of town. You know, it’s skiing season, so we’re going to Vail.” Oh, wow, that’s in Colorado. “To our cottage, and then we’re going to go to our condo in Corpus Christi.” And it was like…
And for the first year and a half, I was, I literally, I remember being awake, I mean, not sleeping at all the first full six or seven nights before the first message once I found out who these people were because I was so uptight about what they thought of me.
And then God put a book in my hands by a Swiss psychologist, a Christian psychologist named Paul Tournier. You don’t even have to read the book. It’s probably out of print. It was translated from French into English.
Paul Tournier, the title of the book is The Strong and the Weak. And he had counseled people for thirty or forty years, and the thesis of the book is real simple: Everyone on the face of the earth is desperately insecure. Some people express their insecurity with strong reactions. They power up. They tell you who they are, where they’ve been. They dress flashy. They tell you how many people report to them, how many letters behind their name, what their kid’s SAT scores are. You start to cross them and they get angry and they power up, and all of a sudden you feel small and you back away.
And people who are desperately insecure who power up, guess what they do? They power up with strong reactions to create distance, because down inside they’re a scared little boy or a scared little girl, just like everybody else. And they hide behind it. They just have different fig leaves than other people.
And over here, you have people have weak reactions. And they have weak reactions and they stare at their feet a lot and, “I can’t do anything and I’m unworthy. I had a very terrible experience. I’ve been through a lot and you probably can’t understand it.”
And when you first meet them, you try to help them. Then you try to help them, and then you meet them. And then they have this recorder: I’m a victim, I’m a victim, I’m a victim, life’s terrible, I’m unworthy, I’m a terrible person, no one would ever love me. And after five meetings, you go, “You know what? You might be right.” Right? You know what I mean?
And so what they’ve done is, they don’t really want help. They want sympathy and attention, but when they act like that, it creates distance. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. They figure a way to act in ways where people say, “I won’t get close to you.” It works. But there are not a nickel’s worth of difference between the two, the strong reaction and the weak reaction.
Well, I was around mostly people who were powering up and I was scared to death, and I read that book and it was literally like, you know on those cartoons where, bing, a light bulb goes off? Bing, a light bulb went off. And I still remember the first time I’m meeting this guy for breakfast, and he starts telling me about this and, I’m investing in that and I’m going to do that.
And I just leaned back and I thought, Man, this guy’s desperately insecure. And then I got to know his marriage and his problems and started counseling some of his kids. And I still remember thinking, Man, these people are as messed up as me. In fact, I think money can make you even more messed up than me.
And I just decided, You know what? I’m going to stop pretending, and I took my mask off at a new level and befriended them. And I watched God do a miracle. He did a miracle in them, but He did a bigger miracle in me. And it was like that early journey, you know what? My new radar became, for years and years and years: Everyone’s desperately insecure.
And you cover it one way, I cover it one way, some people cover it with what they’ve done and their performance and their success, and other people with their story that they tell. But you know what? It’s called “the fall.” And you relate and I relate by hiding. And we hide because we’re insecure.
The third relational implication and why it’s so hard to answer these questions is blaming rooted in denial. The man says, “It’s the woman.” The woman says, “It’s the serpent.” But ultimately, they both, they blame God. Now, before we go on, because we’re going to talk about Romans chapter 12, verses 3 through 8, is actually going to help you discover – the tipping point of discovering who you are, where you belong, and what you’re supposed to do.
Verse 3 will tell us in just a minute who you are, verses 4 and 5 will say where you belong, and verses 6 through 8 will be the beginning of you getting really clear on your role and what you’re supposed to do.
But I want to tell you a follow-up story, because it’s one thing to say, Okay, everyone’s desperately insecure. What do you do with that?
It must have been ten, fifteen years later and I’m on this journey, in fact, on a 3x5 card, I wrote shortly after that, just my desire cards to renew my mind: Lord, I long to be more authentic in every relationship by Your power and Your grace.
And I was invited to, I found out later, a very exclusive dinner. It’s called the National Religious Broadcasters, and they had probably the top, maybe, twenty or thirty communicators in America with their wives, and these people put on this dinner. And I had no idea. Like, we’re on ten stations, or I don’t know. It was not, I mean, Chuck Swindoll is on every station, has written twenty-five or thirty books, and he’s the voice of America. And still going strong.
And so I come to this dinner with my wife. It made when I was intimidated before seem like just baby steps. And so of all things, they go around and they have a little nameplate. And so I sit down, and the nameplate next to me is Chuck Swindoll. And I’m going, “Oh, no.”
And so I have time and I’m sitting there, for me too, I’m from California and I’ve got a tie on and a coat, and I’m totally uncomfortable just in how I’m dressed. And it’s real fancy and it’s in a real fancy place. And he sits down, I sit down. I’m sitting there thinking, What am I going to do? Because I’m not thinking I’m insecure. I’m feeling very insecure.
And so I go through my mind about, How should I do this? Maybe I’ll take the, “Hey, Chuck, how’s it going, man?” Nah, I don’t think that’ll work. How about the real, “Excuse me, Dr. Swindoll, how’s the ministry going?” Nah, I don’t think that’ll work. Literally! Don’t you all do this, like, What am I going to do in this situation?
And I remembered this: Everyone’s desperately insecure. I can’t really believe he is, but I’m thinking the Bible’s true. So I just thought, I’m going to keep applying what I’ve been learning. And I tapped him on the shoulder, he turned, said, “Excuse me, Mr. Swindoll, this is my first time here, and I just have to tell you, I’m way over my head. This is very intimidating. We’re not on very many stations. I don’t not only know how to act; I don’t know how to do this whole broadcasting thing. Could you give me a couple of tips?”
And I’ll never forget, he pulled back his chair, put his arm around me like this, we got back, “Chip, call me Chuck.” And for the next half hour, he began to explain the journey.
And then for the next six or seven years, I went to that dinner, “Chip, come here.” And he would kind of say, “Well, tell me what’s happening,” and then he would coach me. And why? I could have posed. I could have said, “Do you understand? We were only on one station. We’re on seven stations now. What do you think? Oh, yeah, worldwide, well, that’s pretty good.”
But do you understand what happens when you take off your mask and you’re just real and you’re honest with where you’re really at? Do you know what it is? You know who’s coming out? The most attractive person on the planet that God made: The real you.
Now, look in your notes because here’s what I want, I want to take you on a journey to the beginning points of discovering who you really are, where you really belong, and then what you’re supposed to do.
God’s answer to the dysfunctional pattern of hiding, and shame, and fear, and denial is this: Who are you?” Verse 3, “For by the grace of God given to me, I say to everyone among you, do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but rather, think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
If you have that pen, pull it out, underline the word think, then when you get to “then you ought,” underline the word ought. “But rather think,” underline the word think. And then underline sober judgment.
So you have think, ought, think, and sober judgment. You underlined ought because in the original language, it’s how you ought to think, but as they translated it for just a smoother reading, they omitted that word.
The same root word: think, think, think, and sober judgment, is all the same root word. The words sober judgment gives us the best idea. It’s: Don’t think of yourself like someone who’s drunk. When a person’s drunk, what do they do? There’s an external influence that gets inside of them that causes them to look at life in a way that’s not accurate.
So he says, “Don’t be drunk by the world system, don’t be drunk by whatever we think, don’t be drunk by what your family tells you.” You need to have a sober self-assessment. You need to think accurately about yourself. That’s the first command.
You need to come to the point where physically, relationally, spiritually, emotionally, your soul, you can look in the actual mirror and say, “I’m fearfully and wonderfully made.”
And come to the point where, these are my strengths, these are my weaknesses God-given, this is how He’s given me, but where you think accurately about yourself. Notice, “Don’t think too highly of yourself, don’t think too lowly of yourself, but to think of a sober or accurate judgment.”
And then this little phrase. Notice it says, “According to the measure of faith that God’s given you.”
Newell, in his commentary on Romans, really puts it well. He says, “Faith in this situation is not a subjective faith.” In other words, it’s not faith in Christ; it’s the faith. He says, “It’s the standard by which we’re to evaluate ourselves. This objective faith is the Biblical view of ourselves. It’s who you are in Christ. It’s how God has gifted you. It’s understanding His plan for you.” It’s like the first three chapters of Ephesians.
It’s: You need to see yourself as loved, adopted, sealed by the spirit. You have a purpose. You’re His workmanship. Everything you need you possess in Christ. You’re a son, you’re a daughter, you’re forgiven, you’re loved. That’s who you are.
Most of us don’t think that way about ourselves. That’s why the world has such pulls on us. I’ll be accepted, I’ll be significant if I look like that, or if I act like that, or if I make so much money, or if people think this, or if my kids do that. And it’s a losing proposition.
First and foremost, we need to think accurately about ourselves because this is who God says that we are. We all know people who think too highly of themselves, right? It’s called arrogance or pride. And they kind of strut in, “Have you seen my new shoes? You know, I was at Nordstrom’s the other day.” Or, “You know, I just hate it when it’s just, it’s so busy this time of year in Cabo, you know?” “The Lexus dealership gave me such a hard time. I am just absolutely frustrated with…you know, I think I’m going to go with a Bentley next time.”
It doesn’t take long for us, and by the way, those are mild, funny illustrations. Believe me, we’ve figured out how to do that spiritually with verses and posing just as well. But that would be too convicting, so I don’t want to go there. But we’ve all been around people, right? The superiority. And everything in you goes, I don’t want to be around that person. They think too highly of themselves. See, but actually, they’re a scared little boy or a scared little girl that’s afraid you won’t like them, and they’ve learned that’s how to hide.
And then there are other people who, you know, they think too lowly of themselves. God could never use me. I’m worthless. I don’t have any gifts. I know the Bible says there are gifts, but, like, He went through the whole human race and he got to me and goes, “Oh, I ran out.” I don’t have any gifts, I don’t have any value, if you knew where I came from, there’s no hope for me.
Now, get this: If you think too highly of yourself or too lowly of yourself, who are you thinking about? You. See, humility isn’t thinking too high or too low. Humility isn’t thinking of yourself at all. The apostle Paul would say, “Consider others as more important than yourself.”
It reminds me, I haven’t done a lot of this, but if you’ve ever gone bowling, sometimes I go bowling, not very often; once every three or four years. You know, those guys on TV, they make it curve, so, I’m going to try to make it curve.
And I’ve done research on this. I can curve it into the left gutter. And just as an experiment, how many pins, if you curve it into the left gutter, do you get? Zero. Well, then I try and overcompensate and I try and throw to the right, and if it goes in the right gutter, how many pins do you get? See, it doesn’t matter if you think too high or if you think too low, you miss. Those are gutter balls.
God commands – by the way, this is a command – He commands you and He commands me to think accurately, clearly, biblically about who you really are. It starts with understanding that command, and then it takes a journey and a process of renewing your mind because people and the media and the world have been telling you who you are your whole life, and you’ve got to break out of that.
And you say, “Well, why is that so important?” Because if you don’t understand who you are, you’ll never understand where you belong.
Notice the very next verse, verses 4 and 5, it says, “Just as each of us has one body,” speaking of the physical body, “and many members,” like eyes and hands and feet, et cetera, “and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we are many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
Now, in your notes, right above “just as,” I want you to write the word, for – F-O-R. There’s a little preposition in Greek that when it comes it means “reason.” And again, to smooth out translation sometimes, “just as” sounds good, but the reason, he’s saying, “The reason you must understand who you are and think accurately about you is for, just as the human body has many parts and all don’t have the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ and you fit.”
And if you didn’t know you were an eye, you wouldn’t know where you fit. If you don’t have a sober self-assessment of you, you don’t know where you fit.
If you asked the average person, “What are your top three strengths?” “Um…” “What are your top three weaknesses?” “Oh, three? I’ve got nine.”
But here’s what he’s saying. Imagine these fingers coming out like this are your strengths. God gives you strengths that build your confidence and allow you to understand you have a unique contribution to help other people. Now, we live in a world where we’re not even supposed to have any weaknesses, and so we avoid, lie, deny, pretend.
But God gave you weaknesses to create dependency and humility so there’s interdependency, so other people’s strengths meet your weaknesses, so they do for you and in you what you couldn’t do. So you need people. You know what that creates? Interdependency or humility, and it creates beauty.
Your assignment is I want you to really think and pray about: What are your top three strengths? Not what people think, what you think, what does God say? Maybe go to a few close people who know you well who will be honest. Some of us want to write strengths because we think it would make us a somebody. But what are your strengths? That’s a journey.
And then actually write down: What do you think your top three weaknesses are? And when you get those, what you understand is, instead of all this energy of covering them and acting like you don’t have them, you just realize those are invitations by the God who made you to let people come into your life and love you in ways that you desperately need it.
I had two kids in college at one time, two kids in Christian schools, and at that little window of time, I remember reading the paper. Santa Cruz was the most expensive place to live in America, more than Manhattan, more than San Francisco, and it was just crazy. And just trying to make it was just very difficult.
And so when something broke down in our house, calling the repairman wasn’t an option. I didn’t have any money to call the repairman. And there was an elder in our church, a very godly man, a retired schoolteacher, but he was a shop teacher. He could fix anything. And so when the dryer would go out and we bought a really older home that had lots of repair, and when it rained, the rain came in through one window, and every time the dishwasher – I didn’t know why, my wife, it upset her so much, but we just put a towel under the dishwasher so it would catch the water, take out the dishes. It seemed to work fine to me, but she really didn’t think that was a good plan.
And so Dick would come over, and on my day off, about sixty percent of my days off, Dick and I, that’s what I called it, Dick and I would fix things, which meant I drove to Home Depot with Dick, I bought the parts, and then I would kneel down next to Dick and hand him the tools and ask a few questions. And finally he said, “Chip, you’re never going to understand this anyway, but it’s okay.”
I learned more about being a man of God – he had grown kids; he was about twenty years older than me – about how to be a dad and how to be a pastor from Dick than probably anybody in that church. Why? Because I had a need. I can’t fix anything. I literally, I can’t fix anything. The iPad came out, I can hardly get around an iPad, I’m so un-technical. And you can fall off a truck and use one of those. But that need created a relationship.
What would happen if you came to grips with the real you, took off your mask of projection and holograms, and recognized that God would want to bring people into your life? And what if you would take away your false humility and realize some of you are really good at some things instead of going, Well, I don’t want to say anything like “I’m good at that” because they might think I’m trying to…They might think you’re just trying to love them.
I’ll tell you what, it’s God’s design. It’s powerful. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing.
What I just described can’t happen unless you’re relationally connected, and people know you, and you open up, and you take those baby steps of trust.
Being in a small group will not make you deep in relationship, but it’s the container in which it happens most often, where you really share your life and your heart.
And so who are you? You need to think accurately about yourself the way God sees you. Why? Because you have a role to fulfill. You have a role to fulfill. And you can’t know what that role is unless you know who you really are.
And third, then you say, Well, what role is it? Where do I fit? Show me, God. He’s going to say, I have deposited in you a primary spiritual gift – are you ready? A primary spiritual gift so that you can know you can do a lot of different things, but I want you to take the lion’s share of your energy in the body of Christ and focus here.
Look what he says in verses 6 through 8. What are you supposed to do? He says, “We have different gifts” – according to what? “According to the grace given to us.” So what they are were given by God. There’s no room for pride. Then he says, “If a man’s gift is prophecy, let him use it in the proportion of his faith. If it’s serving in his service; if it’s teaching, in his teaching; if it’s encouraging or counseling, let him encourage; if it’s giving or contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it’s leadership, let him do it diligently; if it’s showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
Now, we could go through and we have, on the back of your notes, there’s: Your Divine Design. And we can help you learn and discover what those gifts are and discover what yours are.
The point of this passage is not explaining the gifts. What’s the point? If you’re gifted to teach, no trick question, what are you supposed to do? Teach. If you’re gifted to counsel and encourage, what are you supposed to do? Counsel and encourage. Come on. If you’re gifted to lead, do it diligently, right? The point is there are a lot of things you could do.
You are gifted and you have a unique something to bring to the body of Christ. This is how you make a matrix of where to spend your time and life and energy and priorities. You don’t have to be on every committee and help everything in the community and everything everywhere all the time. You need to have a matrix where, These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses, primary spiritual gift, these are my priorities, this is the season of life that I’m in, okay, Lord, line me up. And when you do that, you discover more and more who you are, and you’ll discover that you deeply belong and you’ll be doing what He made you to do.
And so the practice here, put very simply, is to discover and deploy your spiritual gifts. Discover and deploy your spiritual gifts. You answer these questions by thinking accurately about yourself, getting relationally connected, discovering and deploying your spiritual gifts.
And as you turn to the last page, I want to remind you, sometimes you can dig down into these questions, I just want to remind you, remember what Jesus said? True spirituality, don’t get caught up in the Rs or, surrender to God, separate from the world, sober self-assessment.
Those are great, but all those are what? Those are just a profile so that you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You love others as the way you’re learning to begin to appreciate and love you. And you’ll never love you until you begin to remember and grasp how God sees you, not how you see yourself, not how your mom saw you, not how your dad who wasn’t around did or didn’t see you, not how your peers see you.
And so there are three things I want you never to forget, okay? You can look up the verses. These are ones, if I was you, I would memorize. In fact, I have. I want you to never, ever forget who you really are. God uniquely created you. You are eternally valuable. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. This passage will go on and talk about: When you were in your mother’s womb you were being fashioned in the embryo by the Creator of the world because He had a plan for you and He made you special just the way you are.
And He not only loves you, are you ready for this? God likes you. I meet people all the time that are convinced, “Oh, I think God loves me, I just don’t think He likes me.” He’s proud of you. He sings over you.
The second thing to never forget is that God placed you in His family. You are unconditionally accepted. Ephesians 3, Paul prays, “I pray that you might grasp beyond understanding the height and depth and length and breadth and know the love of Christ.” He loves you. He loves you regardless of where you’ve been, regardless of what’s happened to you. He loves you no matter what’s happened. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, His death that paid and covered your sin, if you’re a follower of Jesus, He’s redeemed you and He loves you and He takes your sins as far as the east is from the west. You’re the object of His affection. If no one else cares about you, He does.
And third, never forget that God gifted you to fulfill His purpose. You are irreplaceably significant. You’re significant. “You’re His workmanship created in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:10 says, “unto a good work that no one can uniquely do just like you.”
When you think accurately about yourself, and it is hard work, it’ll change you.
It’ll change your marriage, if you’re a parent, it’ll change your parenting. These are the kind of things that you do with your kids. These are the kind of things with all the pressures, that you renew their mind, that you – at bedtime and sit around the table. These are the kind of things you do with a roommate realizing that you need to be the right person, not find the right person. And when you get an accurate view of yourself, you’re the most beautiful, attractive, winsome person on the face of the earth because there’s no one like you.