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Grace, faith and work

by Pastor Chuck DeVane, Special to The Sentinel-Record | September 9, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

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. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

-- Romans 12:3-8, ESV

The wonderful thing about reading any work of Paul is that he never gets over grace. He was a man who once tried to work his way to Heaven. He climbed every rung on the pharisaical ladder. Just when he thought he had reached the top, a blinding light knocked him to the bottom.

The bottom is the place where we find grace. It is the place we go when we are weighed down by our sin, through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. It is the place we go to sit at the feet of Jesus, first at the cross to die, then to the empty tomb to live as a faithful follower of Christ. Grace begets faith, and faith is necessarily followed by works.

Faith is a gift and an assignment. "The measure of faith" mentioned by Paul is a marching order. If God saved you, He saved you to do some work, work that is faithful to Scripture, for Christ and the kingdom of God. The text tells us of some of the ways to work for God.

"Prophecy" is preaching, taking a revelation from God and bringing it to bear upon the minds and hearts of the people. It is more forth-telling than foretelling, and what we tell forth is the exposition of the inspired and inerrant revelation of God's word, the Bible.

"Service" is ministry, any work done on behalf of another to alleviate pain, suffering, or want they may be experiencing. The word used here is where we get our English word "deacon," and certainly deacons should be the leading ministers of the church.

"Teaching" translates into our word for doctrine, Bible doctrine, of course. Teachers have an intense interest in these things, and the ability to explain them to others. Pastors are supposed to be teachers, as well as those who lead Sunday School classes or small groups. Parents have to rely on this gift to raise their children. Every Christian at every level of maturity ought to be teachers to those still learning to walk with God.

"Exhortation" literally means to stand beside someone and talk. The precise posture and point presented are pivotal. You are not barking orders at someone from behind, nor lecturing them to their face, but talking to them as an equal, as an encourager, to help them is whatever difficulty they may be facing. We all need and need to be encouragers.

"Contribute" is putting your money where your mouth is, by making generous donations to church and charity. It is the duty of all to give, but this gift is generally granted to a few who find themselves adept at generating wealth. Why does God make some wealthy? To give large amounts of it away, of course.

"Lead" is listed near the bottom, for Christian leaders lead from the bottom up, from a servant's posture and perspective. It is an organizational and managerial gift, much needed, but blessed is the church with far more Indians than Chiefs.

"Mercy" is needed, in the words of Marvin Gaye, when "things ain't what they used to be." Mercy is a sweet mixture of love, empathy, understanding, and care. It should arise from every Christian's heart when we see sin and suffering, and it should offer forgiveness, compassion, and connection to Christ and His church. "Mercy, mercy, me," we need a lot of this today.

The church is our workplace. And, the world is or workplace, too. We must reach in, and we must reach out. Sharing the Spirit with those outside the body of Christ is the best way to bring them in. Then, they can saved by grace through faith in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and become true spiritual people engaged regularly in true spiritual worship and true spiritual work.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].

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