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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
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 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.