This year we are going to do something a little different in our effort to grow together in the faith of our Lord Jesus. We are going to have teaching theme, which is not new. But the teaching theme is going to spread out over the year. Each month we will have one lesson on our theme. This year, for 2017, the elders have decided that our teaching theme will be Together. There are so many passages that teach us that we are to do things together. There are so many passages that tell us to do things with “one another.” We are going to look at these passages throughout 2017 to encourage us to be more of the family in Christ that we have been called and commanded to be. In the foyer you will notice that we put up two signs to be a reminder to us each week about this theme of being joined together and functioning one with another. So I am not only excited about this series but also the way we will carry out this series through the year to keep our minds on this theme. You will also notice in the bulletin the planned teaching series here. We hope you will look at them, pray about them, and be excited to participate in these series from God’s word to have your faith strengthened and encouraged. Open your Bibles to Romans 12:3-5.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:3–5 ESV)
The apostle Paul declares that we are members of one another. The idea of being members of one another means that we are connected. It is the equivalent of family. Family members are individuals but they are members of one another. This is the picture that is given to us. Though there are many members, we are members of one another. This family picture in regards to the church is also given to us in Ephesians 2:19.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…. (Ephesians 2:19 ESV)
Being members of one another means there must be a dramatic change about how we think about each other in this room and how we think about the church. We are not a social club. This is not like Costco. You do not come, pay your dues, and leave with what you were looking for. This is not a hobby. We are a family. We are members of one another. We are to be connected together. Notice that this is the picture given to us in Romans 12:3-5 as well as in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:25.
Being members of one another means that we are to be interdependent, not independent. No individual Christian can function effectively or properly in isolation. We were not meant to function alone as a Christian. We live in a time and culture where we are fiercely independent. We do not need anyone else. We do not want anyone else. We do not want people in our lives. We do not want to be joined to anything. The closest friend we want to have is someone online on Facebook who gives you a thumbs up when you make a witty comment. But the New Testament knows nothing about the idea of independent Christians. Christians in the New Testament are always pictured as being joined together and as members of one another. There are so many scriptures that press us to see that we are members together that we cannot ignore. Let me show you a few of them. Notice the very first picture of Christians in the New Testament:
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44–47 ESV)
They were together and had all things in common. Having all things in common is a stunning picture of their togetherness. They spent time together in the temple worshiping God as well as spending time in their homes eating together. The apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that they were called to be saints together (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul told the Christians in Rome to live in harmony with one another so that with one voice they could glorify God (Romans 15:6). When Paul wrote to the Corinthians told them four times that they were to come together when they take the Lord’s Supper. Paul told the Ephesian Christians that we were made alive TOGETHER with Christ, not separately (Ephesians 2:5). A few sentences later he told them that we were all be joined together and built together into a holy temple to the Lord (Ephesians 2:21-22). We are constantly pictured as the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16) which again demands us to be together. Paul twice told the Colossians that we are to be knit together (Colossians 2:2; 2:19). The scriptures have no concept of self-sufficient, disconnected Christians.
Come back to Romans 12:4 where Paul describes us as one body with many members. Can you imagine a self-sufficient body part? Can you imagine a disconnected body part? Disconnected body parts is a very bad situation. You do not want a disconnected arm. You do not want a disconnected foot. Nor do you want your body parts to work independently. The body must work together and be connected together to function properly. This is why if I or the elders do not see you connected and participating, we are going to ask you what is wrong because a disconnected body part is a really big problem! We are not invading your privacy. We are telling you that you are disconnected and this is a problem! The body cannot be disconnected. So what can we do so that we will be the connected, interdependent body that we are supposed to be? Our series throughout this year is going to help us grow to become what God has called us to be as a church. But here in Romans 12 Paul tells us how this will begin to change in us.
New Thinking (12:3)
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:3 ESV)
You will notice that Romans 12:4-21 all flow from verse 3. Paul says to not think about yourself more highly than you ought to think but think with sober thinking. We need to think rightly about ourselves. We need to think properly about who we are and, in particular to the context, who we are together. In fact, it is only when we think rightly about ourselves that we can thinking properly and soberly about others. Jesus sets our minds to right thinking in the Sermon on the Mount. Those who are poor in spirit, mourn over their sins, and hunger and thirst for righteousness are those who belong to Christ’s kingdom. Christ is always our standard for measurement in how we are to think about ourselves. Notice how Paul put these same concepts together to the Philippians.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:3–7 ESV)
Paul says to have this mind: think about others, not yourself, just like Jesus did. This is how we can be members of one another. There is no way for us to be the family of Christ that God has called us to be if each of us thinks only about ourselves. The work of the Lord cannot be accomplished in this city and county if all we think about is ourselves. When we think about ourselves, then we do not make decisions for the Lord and for each other. So we do not go to Bible studies, we show up late, we miss services, we do not teach, we do not evangelize, and we do not participate together in this work because we think about ourselves: we are tired, we are busy, we don’t want to, it’s inconvenient, etc. Can you imagine if your left hand needed the assistance of your right hand and your eyes, but those body members decided to think about themselves? They would not act, help, or participate because they did not want to. It is ridiculous to think about. Yet we are the body of Christ and this happens and it must not happen.
Think properly about ourselves. We are members of one another. We belong together. You are not here for you. You are here for everyone else here who needs your encouragement, display of faith, work of love, and support. Being members of one another means we do not neglect each other. It means that we do for each other even when we are tired or it is uncomfortable or inconvenient. We must not think about ourselves. We must think of ourselves as a body that is joined together, one with another. Let us make choices on Sunday that reflect that and make choices on Mondays through Saturdays that reflect this truth. I look forward to this teaching theme for 2017 so that we can grow together, one with another.