GOSPEL Dashboard: Apprentice (Romans 12:1-8)


A British musical conductor Benjamin Zander wrote a book titled, The Art Of Possibility. While he has been the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic since 1979, he is also known as a popular speaker on leadership, and shares messages during his concerts.[1] The book he co-wrote blended themes from the world of music with everyday life. One chapter was on the topic of passion, and Zander included a story of a piano student who played Chopin perfectly but without an essential quality that makes a performance great.
He writes,

“A young pianist was playing a Chopin prelude
in my master’s class and although we had worked right up to the edge of realizing an overarching concept of the piece, his performance remained earthbound.
He understood it intellectually, he could have explained it
to someone else, but he was unable to convey
the emotional energy that is the true language of music. Then I noticed something that proved to be the key:
His body was firmly centered in the upright position.
I blurted out, “The trouble is you’re a two-buttock player!”
I encouraged him to allow his whole body to flow sideways, urging him to catch the wave of the music with the shape
of his own body, and suddenly the music took flight…
a new distinction was born: a one-buttock player.

The president of a corporation in Ohio,
who was present
as a witness, wrote to me:
‘I was so moved that I went home and transformed
my whole company into a one-buttock company!”

The Art Of Possibility, Benjamin Zander

An aspiration of the church is to become “one-buttock Christians.”[2] That followers of Jesus were so vibrant in their faith relationship with Jesus, so compelled with the truth of God’s word, so passionate about the love of Jesus Christ, so boiling-over filled with the Holy Spirit, and in the words of Romans 12:11, “not slothful in zeal but fervently serving the Lord.”

If a collection of Christians operated with this perspective, then we would see the church no longer like a thermometer being conformed to the world but like a thermostat, the world would become transformed by the church’s good news of a risen Savior.

Thermometers conform and are a mirror image of present reality. However, thermostats are set to a specific standard and transform its environment. The room temperature adapts to the thermostat, not vice versa. Likewise, as Christians, we can grumble about the temperature of the culture, or we can grow to become like thermostats that make a difference in our communities. We need to live by designed values from God’s word rather than default values of the world. This is the motivation behind our GOSPEL DASHBOARD message series, to give us a greater and deeper vision for how to live and grow godly generations.

As Christians, we can grumble about the temperature of the culture, or we can grow to become like thermostats that make a difference in our communities.

EXAMINE Spiritual Growth: We are thermostats (Rom 12:1-8)

Romans 12:1-8
1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
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.
4  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,
5  so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
6  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;
7  if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;
8  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.

3 actions for spiritual growth

We must worship God fully (Romans 12:1-2)

Paul’s message appealed to the entire church – brothers and sisters. It wasn’t just for a hired paid staff but for every ordinary follower of Jesus. It was for those who are talented, and those whose only talent remains to be identified. The call of God’s kingdom is that little is much when it’s placed in God’s hands. God’s army is comprised of young and old, and even the very old. Senior saint, God is not done with you. He’s not! There are people on the brink of eternity that your testimony will be the most credible in the life of another. The Great Commission was given to the disciples of the past, present, and the church today. So, Paul’s message is for every believer to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to God.

You see, Christianity is remarkably different from every other religion. Other religions value you based on your merits – your performance, good conduct outweighing evil deeds. Worldviews and relationships are based on collateral – if you serve me, I will return support to you; but if you stray in a single area, then you’re canceled, abandoned, and forgotten. Not Christ.

God is a giver, and what He asks of us, He provides. Jesus gave His life and died in our place. His sacrificial death provided the full punishment and payment for our sin. There is nothing left for us to repay. As the old hymn says, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.”[3]

Paul’s appeal to the church is by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. So, in response to mercy, we live. We live, and move, and have our being (Ac 17:28). His breath in our lungs causes us to speak of His power, sing of His praises, and share His gospel.

While we addressed this first core value already in a previous message, it’s worth repeating. God is glorious, so He is the only One worthy of our worship. Nothing else. No one else. Even good things can become god-substitutes, and idols. And God destroys idols.

  • It is quite possible that God is destroying things in your life right now because you have misdirected your worship & misplaced your affections for the Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ.
    • The only appropriate response is to repent and renew your faith. And let’s not try to play games with God that you will “really follow” Jesus if He definitively blesses you. My friend, if you do not understand that God has already blessed you with rescue from an inescapable Hell and an unfading salvation in Heaven, then you will never be satisfied with Jesus. And by the way, only Jesus satisfies and will give you the peace and purpose you seek.
  • We worship God fully when we stop offering sacrifices to idols and trust and cherish His sacrifice on the cross far above anything else this world has to offer. Your faith is the only holy and acceptable act of worship to God (cf. Rom 12:1; Heb 11:6).
  • We worship God fully when we are not just trusting His sacrifice, but we are allowing the cross to transform our mindset. In other words, we view every relationship through the gospel. We transform and don’t conform.
    • Am I influencing others to trust and treasure Christ?
      • Am I impacting places that I frequent with my faith?
  • We worship God fully when we submit to biblical community.

The command of offering our bodies is in the plural, to remind us that we worship God not only as individuals but in the context of covenant community. When we treat faith solely as individualized, apart from committed church membership, then we are short-circuiting what God wants to accomplish in and through us.

We must worship God as family (Romans 12:3-5)

The great apostle Paul, perhaps more than anyone but Jesus, the Son of God, had reason to boast about closeness to God. Paul was born a Jew, from the tribe of Benjamin, the same as Israel’s first king Saul. Additionally, Paul was educated as a Pharisee, a strict religious fundamentalist. His intense commitment to the religious cause led to him persecuting and murdering Christians. If someone had accomplishments to boast, it was impeccable Paul.

Grace has a way of wrecking smugness or superiority.

Yet, after Paul met Jesus, his pride was pummeled. Grace has a way of wrecking smugness or superiority. After Paul begins to follow Jesus, we see a man marked by humility and community.

  • Humility: “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” (Rom 12:3).

Humility is not thinking less value of yourself but of yourself less often.[4] Having the transformed mind of Jesus results in the heart of Jesus for others. So… also this marks Christians:

  • Community: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though man, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another. (Rom 12:4-5)

People do not grow spiritually because of pride.

  • Pride is present and persistent in each of us, whether we admit or not. Paul describes this sin from the opening chapters onward in Romans. People reject God because they think they are wiser and better than their human limitations.
  • Pride has two dangers: 1) It causes you to be less dependent on God. You pray very little. You randomly read the Bible, haphazardly pray, and treat church with lukewarmness. 2) It causes you to not to love and serve others. Pride demands you to look down on others rather than look out for them.

We miss God’s intended good and our growth when we are not involved with the diversity of people whom God surrounds us to sanctify us. We are many members but not all members have the same function. We are different for a reason, so that together we can be whole, and one body.

Interestingly, the opposite of being a member of the body is to dismember – a graphic picture of division, damage, and death to
a body. Instead, God’s church must be a united and loving family.

Key identifiers you are part of a family is
1. You share dna (genetics inside, appearance outside).
2. You share the responsibility of the welfare of the family.

Likewise, if you are part of the family at SPBC, then we must commit to reflecting this GOSPEL dna, and part of that is serving others with time, talent, and treasure. The mindset that faith is private and never public, or that church is to only satisfy your needs and not also you helping to serve the needs of others has driven North American Christianity toward the edge of a cliff. And if we do not get out of that vehicle, then we will fall to our destruction.

SO… before we examine some specific spiritual gifts that Paul lists, it would be helpful for us to first commit to an area of service, however you are gifted and wherever you see a need in our church family.

  • Take GOSPEL Dashboard & reflect on list of service areas.
  • B&G
  • CM/YM
  • Finance (budgets, tellers, fpu & benevolence, etc.)
  • First Impressions
  • Music (platform/a&v)
  • Office Admin & IT
  • Outreach
  •  Apprenticing someone in faith, vocation, skills (occupational or ministry leadership)

We must worship God freely (Romans 12:6-8).

In this last section, Paul describes specific gifts that the believer has. In other NT letters, there is confirmation that every believer has a spiritual gift for use in the church body.

  • 1 Cor 12:6-7 “Now there are different gifts but the same Spirit. There are different ministries but the same Lord. There are different activities but the same God activates each gift in each person. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial.”
  • Eph 4:4-7 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all… Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift”
  • 1 Pet 4:10 “each one has received a gift to serve others as good stewards of the varied grace of God”

The emphasis on each passage is diversity of gifts for the unity of the church body. We are not independent members but interdependent members; we need each other to speak truth in love, and have iron striking iron – though it may wound at first, it sharpens at best. We are not to use our gifts to manipulate or trample on others, but to improve.

In this passage, Paul lists 7 different spiritual gifts. The list is not exhaustive as others can be found in 1Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, 1Peter 4. The spiritual gifts are as follows:

  • Prophecy: speaking revealed truths of God to build up the church (1 Cor 12:28; 14:6, 30; Eph 2:20; 4:11). Doesn’t carry weight of Scripture, but if aligns then likely applicable.
    • Some people with a critical spirit [“God put this on my heart”] think they have the gift of prophecy, and this is the fleshly use of it.
  • Service: (διακονία=deacon), identifying undone tasks, however menial, and gather resources to meet needs.
  • Teaching: instruction for understanding / [Elders must be able to teach (1Tim 3:2)]
  • Exhortation: coming alongside to encourage, comfort, cheer, motivate.
  • Contribute/Giving in generosity, sharing liberally and cheerfully with what God has blessed; blessed to bless.
  • Lead with zeal: organizing and guiding others for spiritual growth and personal maturity.
  • Mercy with cheerfulness: one whom is sensitive to others suffering & feel genuine sympathy to speak words of compassion and share deeds of comfort to alleviate distressing circumstances.

Imagine we are all sitting around a table eating a chocolate-pb pie. I take the pie to the table to slice up but drop it on the floor and spill on my clothes. How each of you respond reveals part of your spiritual gift:

  • Prophecy: I knew he was going to spill that pie, he’s that kind of person.
  • Teaching: Friends, there is a better way to transport pie. Step 1: Get four people. 2: Each person holds a corner. 3: Slowly walk pie to table. 4: Locate a warm knife to slice pie.
    5: Locate plates and place pie gently. 6: Distribute to all.
  • Exhortation: Picks up some pie from the floor and smears on own clothes. Everyone starts laughing and the mood lightens with the negative attention off me.
  • Giving: Here, let me buy another pie. In fact, what’s everyone’s favorite flavor and I’ll buy several.
  • Lead: Hey you two in the kitchen get some towels, you over there get a mop, let’s all work to clean this up.
  • Serving: Quietly, without being asked, is cleaning up the mess.
  • Mercy: Aww (teary eyed), I’m so sorry this happened to you PD. If you need a friend to talk about this, I’m available.

Seriously, what is important to know is that each Christian has a gift and no one person has them all. Therefore, we need to utilize our gifts or we will severely lack all that God intends for us to be and do. This is why people who say, “I believe in Jesus but I don’t attend church,” are lacking in their spiritual growth. You can never mature or grow beyond the level of your commitment to God’s church.

You can never mature or grow beyond the level of your commitment to God’s church.

Supremely, God steers moving ships.[5] If our boat is in the harbor, then we may feel safe, but that’s not what for what God made us. Ships that stay anchored in the harbor for too long will eventually rust and rot underneath. You see, while we have a long list of spiritual gifts, there are many tasks that are unlisted.

  • All are called to pray.
  • All called to serve, help, and give.
  • All called to love!!!
  • All called to tell others about Jesus! (coming in 2-weeks)
  • So, get moving and let God steer and navigate your spiritual journey.


As a church, we need to set sail in our spiritual growth and take on new adventures God has for our next season.

[1] One example: https://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_the_transformative_power_of_classical_music

[2] Illustration adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Romans, vol. 6, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2016), 287.

[3] Isaac Watts, When I Survey The Wondrous Cross, 1707.

[4] Quote slightly adapted from Rick Warren, PDL Day 19.

[5] From here forward, some application thoughts from J.D. Greear sermon on Romans 12:3-8.

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