July 6, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 12)

Submitted by Yumi K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

REFLECTION Questions

Romans 12:4-8

Reflect on the phrases “do not all have the same function,” “each member belongs to all the others,” and “have different gifts.”  Have I accepted these truths, or is there some degree of resistance to the way these truths work out in my life?

Over the years, I have learned to accept these truths a lot more, that we are all different members with different functions and gifts who belong to one another.  I have experienced a lot of joy and freedom in having a shift in my perspective of focusing on myself to understanding my identity as belonging to the greater body of Christ.  I think about my freshmen year in college, and there has been such a huge shift in my perspective and view towards my peers.  I saw each peer as a competitor, and while trying to put on a smile, was jealous of my friends for the different gifts/talents that they had which seemed so much better than me, and was constantly engaged in comparison.  I swung between feeling really jealous and insecure and self-conscious when I would feel that I wasn’t as disciplined as one peer, not as loud and fun another peer, not as deep and smart-sounding as so and so, etc. to then feeling proud and confident and arrogant if I felt that I was better in some other area.  My moods also swung according to how much approval and attention I got from my leaders in comparison to others.  But over the years, my entire view has shifted as I started to understand this truth that my peers and friends are not my competitors, we are not individual rolling stones, but rather, we are the body of Christ, all meant to fit together to build the church, all belonging to one another and complimenting each other’s strengths.  I think about my peers now, and they are each such a joy and blessing to me, such a source of strength and encouragement, and I feel a deep sense of need for them, needing to lean on them for their strengths and rejoicing in their strengths rather than feeling threatened by it because I understand now that we are all being used for God’s church.  Especially this past week, I had a chance to take pause and really take stock of all that God has done and be filled with a sense of awe and gratitude with all of our church plant friends coming to Berkeley for our one day all team retreat.  I am so grateful for one particular peer, and her responsiveness and surrender to God’s will – she was our first peer to go on a church plant, going to Taiwan as a missionary.  I felt strengthened by my other peer who has the gift of being relational and creating warmth and friendliness and lowering barriers, my other peer, who has the gift of hospitality and also really bringing brightness and a fun atmosphere.  I felt strengthened seeing my peer from Minneapolis church plant, who has the gift of encouragement, by another peer who works hard and serves through her ability to cook up a storm.  Each of these peers were on different church plants, serving faithfully through different up’s and down’s, and I felt so strengthened to see them again and to send one of them off to church plant at Austin.  They are each my precious, precious friends, and each members of one body with me, and rather than being threatened now, I feel an acute need for them, and rejoice in their strengths and how God is using them, and I feel very much spurred on by them when I feel down or weak because of my own sins or some struggles that I face in my own life and in the lives of those I minister to.

As much as I have experienced accepting these truths in my life, however, I still have a lot more to grow in understanding this truth.  I think the most clear way in which I still resist these truths about the body of Christ is that I get insecure and feel anxious about my weaknesses still.  I always want to still be a contributing member, want to contribute in some way and not be a burden in ministry – I want to be a source of strength and not discouragement and heartache for my leaders, and get stuck in self-pity and self-loathing when I see my sins and weaknesses come out in ministry and affect others.  To the extent that I have a hard time just accepting, admitting my weaknesses and sins and do not ask for forgiveness, I still have not accepted the truth that I am fully a part of God’s body with all my sins, weaknesses, warts and all. 

Romans 12:9-21

Read this passage several times and meditate on the life that I am called to live.   Imagine a church community seriously carrying out these commands. Pray for our church to become this kind of community and for my part in making that a reality.  Is there a truth that God is particularly convicting me of based on this passage? 

Dear Heavenly Father:

I pray for our church, that we together could become this kind of a precious community where we can love one another out of sincerity, serve one another in brotherly, sisterly love that is very real and concrete.  I pray that we can become a community where we do not just pay lip service to one another, and never become a place where our rhetoric outpaces our real, concrete actions.  Please be with us, guard us and help us to continue the pattern of teaching and life that has been preserved in our church.  Concretely, I pray that we can always be a church where every member puts forward others’ needs before their own, where we learn to be servants, serving by cleaning, cooking, giving to those in need, noticing needs and meeting them.  Personally, I pray for myself that rather than just doing things and good works out of my own guilt and anxiety, that I could learn to genuinely love out of sincerity, crying out in prayer, being faithful in prayer, and finding small ways to love those around me and meet their needs and not using the busy-ness of ministry as an excuse for not doing so.

I pray that we could be a church that is never lacking in zeal, but that we could keep our spiritual fervor in serving the Lord.  I pray for the next generation of leaders, I pray that as we come in as the second generation, having reaped the benefits of those who have gone before us, we would refuse to just start settling down, becoming scattered because of our desire for comfort and because we start listening to the practical, worldly-wise voices of the world.  Please help each one of us to be vigilant, alert and desperate to guard this precious church that you have given us, where our leaders refused to slow down, kept growing in zeal and built this church up by their zeal and sacrifice.  I want to just really repent for Lord, so often I get caught up in doing things and do not cultivate this kind of spiritual fervor, and then pretty soon, I let things become a lot of tasks.  I want to grow in zeal, Lord, along with my brothers and sisters for this precious Gospel, and follow my leaders’ pattern of teaching, their lives that never slowed down but kept growing in zeal.

Lord, may we also become a community where there is this kind of sharing of life – sharing with those in need, practicing hospitality, sharing in other’s rejoicing and mourning, living in harmony with one another, and not being proud or conceited.  I pray that your love would continue to manifest in these concrete ways, of sharing our resources, time, lives, where generosity is lived out through concrete acts, and where every person’s ups and down’s are shared together.

And I pray also that we can become a church where we become a blessing to even our enemies, where each member could learn to bless those who persecute them, where we do not repay anyone evil for evil, but live blameless lives where we can do right in the eyes of everybody, to be able to feed, give water to our enemies, and where we can ultimately overcome evil with good.  I pray that we can learn to model the very love of Christ, love for enemies, that we have received to our own “enemies,” to those who criticize and persecute us, and that we can become that kind of a witness to the world around us.

In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

Based on this passage, I am convicted by the truth that I must never lack zeal, that I have a personal responsibility to keep my spiritual fervor.  Before I can minister to others, before I can be a leader to others, I need to first prioritize my relationship with God, to cultivate a heart of zeal and spiritual fervor, and not slow down, and not allow the lull of life and desire to settle down to dull my alertness in my heart.  As I get older, as I am about to have a second child, and life just gets busier and new challenges come during this season of life, I cannot slow down, but I need to increase in zeal, increase in my spiritual fervor.  I need to have that spiritual zeal and personal sense of clear calling before my God, and only then could I lead others.

What would it mean to become “overcome by evil”?  What practical approach is suggested by the exhortation to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good?”  Is there some area of life in which I can put this into practice?

To become overcome by evil would mean to respond to evil done to us with evil – to hate them, to judge them, to bad mouth them, to try and get back at them for doing wrong to us.  When we decide to respond to those who hurt us by hurting them back in this way, we are allowing ourselves to be overcome by evil because we are doing the same evil back, and allowing evil to reign.

The practical approach that is suggested by this exhortation to not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good is to respond to our enemies, those who hurt and persecute us with love – instead of lashing out and taking revenge, to instead feed them, give them something to drink, and love them, have pity on them and have compassion.  Then when love is shown, when this kind of mercy is shown, that evil can be overcome by friendship or even an impression about Christians as good, as something better, more.

I can’t say that I really have enemies in my life.  However, I do experience small hurts if I can call it that in ministry – when I try to love someone, but they twist my words that I was trying to speak truth through and accuse me of false things, when my well-intentioned actions are misconstrued or misunderstood by those who I am ministering to because I need to try and speak truth to them and love them.  When these ministry “hurts” and discouragements happen, this passage tells me that rather than retaliating in anger, or steeling my heart away and trying not to be hurt, I need to respond with good, with crying out for them and loving them in prayer, with continuing to have vision for them, and trying to minister to them and loving them in this way.

Submitted by Joe H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 12:4-8
·       Reflect on the phrases “do not all have the same function,” “each member belongs to all the others,” and “have different gifts.”  Have I accepted these truths, or is there some degree of resistance to the way these truths work out in my life?

When I think about these phrases in the abstract, I agree and it makes a lot of sense. We all have different gifts in the body of Christ. We do not have the same function. But somehow, I am not satisfied by this when it comes down into the specifics; when it comes down to the gifts that I have or don’t have, or the gifts that my friends have or don’t have.

God has given me everything, including all the gifts that I have. But there are also many gifts that my friends have that I do not have. Some of them can cook very well, and do so quite frequently. Some of them are very personable and amiable and can easily relate with other people. Some of them are great storytellers, and can keep a crowd engaged for long periods of time. Some of them are great at logistics. Some are very patient, and some are very encouraging. Some have great technical skill, or a great aesthetic sense. And so forth. My gifting is not really in these things. But I have been envious of all of those gifting in my friends. So while I can know in my head that we all have different gifts, when I see that actually being played out, I somehow feel diminished.

But why is that the case? It is because I am very selfish and egotistical. I want these gifts for my own benefit: to receive public adulation, and be known as someone who is very good at whatever-gift-it-is.  Even though I want to use these gifts for God’s kingdom, I also want to use them to puff up my own-self image. Perhaps this is why Paul says right before this passage to not think more highly of myself than I ought, but rather to think of myself with sober judgment.

By doing this, I am violating that second phrase in the list: “each member belongs to all the others.” When I am envious of others, I am separating myself from the other members of the body of Christ. I am drawing a line between us, saying that my gifts benefit me, and your gifts benefit you. But God calls me to a completely different understanding of my place in the world. I am not alone. This is the world’s philosophy–that I just need to look out for number one. That ultimately, I can only trust myself. But Paul says not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world, and to be transformed in the renewing of my mind. God’s description of the church is that we are all members of one another. So my gifts are for the body and for everyone else; others’ gifts are for the body and for me too. In this way, being envious of another’s gifts doesn’t make any sense at all. These gifts are not about me at all. In fact, God calls me to offer my body (and my gifts) as a living sacrifice!

And of course, I have experienced this one-ness in the body. As I engage more and more in ministry, my friends become less of my competitor, and more of my teammate, my co-laborer. On a team, it doesn’t matter how the individual components and contributions work out – it’s more important that the team completes its objective. When my focus shifts away from myself and towards the body of Christ, and trying to engage in this incredible call of loving other people with the love of Christ, then I really begin to understand that “each member belongs to all the others.”

So then, when I feel the ugly head of jealousy rising up, or when I am disgruntled because I may not have all the gifts that I want – I have to take a step back and think, what am I really trying to do here? Am I trying to exalt myself so that I can think highly of myself? I know the emptiness and hollowness that leads to. Rather, I am trying to do God’s will. I am trying to love people as much as possible and build his kingdom. And with this as the primary goal, the details of the individual gifts or contributions fade away. What matters most is that we do this together as a church.

Romans 12:9-21
·       Read this passage several times and meditate on the life that I am called to live.   Imagine a church community seriously carrying out these commands. Pray for our church to become this kind of community and for my part in making that a reality.  Is there a truth that God is particularly convicting me of based on this passage?

Wow, this is such an incredible list. If our church fully became this kind of community, we would be such an incredible witness for Christ. People inside our church would experience the transformative power of the Gospel and the love of God. People outside of our church would marvel at how different our community is and would yearn for it. When I read this description, it’s so clear how wonderful this is, but this is not how the world operates. In secular communities, people are not devoted to each other – they are devoted to themselves. They honor themselves above others. They hoard resources for themselves. This is our natural state, when we are slaves to the sinful nature.

But when we are slaves of righteousness, this is the kind of community that is born. And while our community is not fully there yet, I have experienced this love and devotion many times in the past 10 years. It’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted to stay here after graduating. I saw people devoted to God and devoted to one another.

Yet I also recognize that there is a lot of room for me to grow as a member of this community. One exhortation that stood out to me is: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. This made me think back to this past Sunday when one of my friends needed help moving. Initially, I was weary of his request. It was a pretty packed weekend, and I just wanted some rest and downtime on Sunday night. But I thought about our community and our friendship and thought about what kind of community God called us to be. If all of us always gave in to our own insular tendencies, what kind of community would I be a part of? We would not be able to do setup every Sunday morning. We would not be able to rally and put on evangelistic presentations like new student welcome night, GLIVE or Joyland Christmas Celebration. Parents would not be able to partake in ministry because of child care needs. I would be part of a community that meets every Sunday and Friday for worship, but does its own thing on the other days of the week. That’s not the way that God wants me to live! As I went over to help my friend move, it was actually a strengthening experience to just live life together, and to have all of our peers gather and just be there for each other. Sure, maybe I didn’t get the time to get some of my own errands done, but the gift of a community devoted to one another is so much more precious than that. It was a reminder to me not give in to my selfish tendencies.

·       What would it mean to become “overcome by evil”?  What practical approach is suggested by the exhortation to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good?”  Is there some area of life in which I can put this into practice?

I think to be overcome by evil in this context would be to give in to our natural states of desiring revenge for maybe some wrong that I have experienced. And maybe I won’t even repay evil with evil, but will just remain at an icy distance towards someone. This passage even warns against that when it says to live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on me. Because if I don’t initiate, then maybe nothing will happen! In general, I don’t think I would go far enough to repay someone with evil. But I definitely know the feeling of wanted to just remain distant towards someone and not taking that step to restore the peace. That’s the easiest thing to do. I reason with myself: if that person is the one who did the wrong, then he should be the person to bring it up and apologize. But doing so would be to become overcome by evil. Rather, I should overcome that evil with good. I should try to make peace. I have to be active in loving others, being devoted to others, living in harmony with others, not being conceited, etc.

Submitted by Steven C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 12:4-8

·       Reflect on the phrases “do not all have the same function,” “each member belongs to all the others,” and “have different gifts.”  Have I accepted these truths, or is there some degree of resistance to the way these truths work out in my life?

“…Each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function…”  This is a true statement, and the human body is a very good example.  There are arms, there are legs, there are different ligaments, tendons, muscles and a variety of other types of tissues in the human body, and each part, each member of the body has its own designed function in the body.  How absurd would it be, if the body was made up of only eyes and no feet!   Only hands, but no shoulders!  That’s a pretty useless and helpless body.  Instead, the body is comprised of numerous parts and members, that each have their own set of actions and functions, and when in combination and synchrony with other parts of the body, there is meaningful movement, and complex, coupled action.  Even walking itself, is a combined, complex interaction of so many moving components of the limbs themselves, with communication between the brain and nervous system to the peripheral nerves that innervate the muscles, which then produce complex physiological reactions to contract, and finally produce movement.  In the same, way, this is how the body of Christ functions. The church is comprised of a collection of believers, who “do not all have the same function” and who also “have different gifts”.  Each person has his and her own strengths and weaknesses, gifting and talents, skills and what not, but we are not all the same.  And fortunately, we are not all the same!  How plain and boring and not effective would the church be if everyone was the same.  Instead, each member and each person in the church is uniquely different and “each belongs to all the others.”  The church has been given a mission and a grand calling to share God’s love and the gospel, and collectively we are to rely on one another in the church to do so.  Instead, of envying and comparing our talents and gifts with others in the church, instead of striving to out do and out perform one another, we, in the church are to support one another and work together to do God’s work.  As I think about my own life, I can affirm this truth and know the goal and role of the church, but at the same time, I recognize my own envies and comparisons, noting how I recognize other people’s gifts and skills, and that causes me to somehow feel diminished or lessened.  Or worse yet, I think about some of my own strengths and gifting, and use them to boast or boost my self-confidence and ego.  Instead, the right and proper way to see myself, as one member of God’s larger church and body.  I am situated in the church to further God’s mission, and I am to use my gifts and my all towards that end.  Not for any personal gain or vain recognition, but all for God’s glory.

Romans 12:9-21

·       Read this passage several times and meditate on the life that I am called to live.   Imagine a church community seriously carrying out these commands. Pray for our church to become this kind of community and for my part in making that a reality.  Is there a truth that God is particularly convicting me of based on this passage?

-Cling to what is good

-Be devoted to one another

-Honor one another

-Keep your spiritual fervor

-Be joyful in hope

-Faithful in prayer

-Share with God’s people

-Practice hospitality

-Bless those who persecute you

-Rejoice with those who rejoice

-Live in harmony with one another

-Willing to associate with people of low position

-Do what is right in the eyes of everybody

-Live at peace with everyone

This list is the positive directives from v. 9-21, and what an amazing picture the church would be if the community chose to seriously carry out these commands.  Such a place would be a refuge from the selfish and competitive nature of the world.  This picture of the church is awe-inspiring and captivating, but the chilling notion, is that this can be the reality in our church.  This was God’s plan and vision for His church, but our sinfulness and selfishness corrupted God’s plan.  As I think about this vision of the church, and this text I was struck by v.11 “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord.”  When all God’s people are focused on serving the Lord and doing his work, there is no room and space for competitiveness, pride and selfishness.  A collection of people, sold out for the gospel, naturally converges towards a picture of the church as described in verses 9-21, and matches the description in Acts 2.  These visions push me to serve the Lord that much more, in hopes that the Romans 12 church and the Acts 2 church can be realized in college towns throughout the land.

·       What would it mean to become “overcome by evil”?  What practical approach is suggested by the exhortation to “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good?”  Is there some area of life in which I can put this into practice?

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The world’s mentality and philosophy leads people to expect retaliation when they have wronged another person.  But, to respond instead with kindness, forgiveness and goodness, to show love when it seems uncalled for, can melt the even the hardest heart.  Why not rather be wronged, but so often it is man’s ego that cries out in outrage when wronged, and refuses to forgive and be wronged.  Even as I think about my own heart, I can think of times when I retorted with sharp comebacks, biting words, frustration and impatience when I was slightly wronged or treated improperly.  These words were directed to some of the closest people in my life, my friends, fellow staff and even my wife.  I recognize this aspect about myself, where I grow so frustrated and impatient, when things don’t seemingly go my way, when mistakes are made or breakdown in communication happens.  What happens next is I look for the person to blame and I try to point out how they were wrong, until they see clearly the mistake and the certain consequences.  This fault-finding, hyper-critical way of viewing situations and people is so evil and wrong, especially because I am just as prone to make mistakes and incorrectly communicate.  Instead, when these situations happen in life, and undoubtedly they happen all the time, I need to know how to quickly forgive.  I can’t brood and ramp up over such silly offenses, but learn to quickly forgive and air out any grievances.  This impatience that I see and recognize in my own character, needs to be overcome with gentleness, kindness and forgiveness towards all.  In this way, the evil in me, the poor character in me, is overcome by the goodness of God.

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