Friday, January 18, 2019

Don’t Try To change God’s Standards

As ministries have more competitive for the support of the churches and individuals, the focus of their teaching has changed.  Increasingly, the church’s doctrines are changed to be more appealing to the people.  As we look back at Israel’s history we find the same tendency.  After the time of Alexander the Great, one group of Jews, known as the Sadducees became very liberal, adopting Greek standards in their efforts to be accepted by the popular culture while clinging to Jewish rituals to maintain their identity. 

A second group, the Pharisees were far more conservative, clinging to the Jewish traditions and beliefs of their ancestors.  Over the next three centuries, they would hold numerous conferences to discuss how the Old Testament law was to be applied.  As a result, people concluded that only specially trained rabbis or lawyers were capable of understanding the scriptures.  Although couched in traditional Jewish terminology, the teachings changed drastically, with some of the accepted teachings in Jesus’ day being exactly the opposite of what the scriptures commanded.  Both Pharisees and Sadducees developed highly educated groups of lawyers and Rabbis, the scribes to try to promote their positions. 

Jesus frequently challenged the beliefs of both Pharisees and Sadducees, making their best educated look foolish, but the problem had not begun with these two groups.  Almost four hundred years before, Isaiah dealt with the same problems in Isaiah 5:20-24.  “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!  Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!  Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.”

Those who have substituted their own standards for God’s would face God’s judgment, whether they were conservative or liberal.    One of the problems in Isaiah’s day was the acceptance of Homosexuality, as we see in II Kings 14:24.  “And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.”  The problem was that in Leviticus 20:13, God had commanded, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”  By ignoring the homosexual’s sin they were violating God’s command.  I Corinthians 5:11-13, Paul instructed the church, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.  For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?  But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”  Homosexuality is one form of fornication.    

Another problem was that parents were sacrificing their babies to Molech to obtain their own goals, as we see in Jeremiah 32:35.  “And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech…”   In those days, there was no safe way of having an abortion. But a woman could have an unwanted baby sacrificed to Molech and people looked on the decision as the woman’s right.  In Leviticus 20:2-3 God had said, “Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones.  And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.” 

Isaiah 5:23 describes another problem.  “Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!”  On the one hand, they were helping people get by with crimes for their own financial or political benefit, much like a lawyer trying to get a guilty client off or like a politician protecting an illegal alien to gain political support.   On the other hand they were accusing those who stood for what was right of being immoral and wiced and immoral, much like we see the political groups today accusing a person of being racist for demanding the wicked be held accountable. 

By their actions they indicate that they are smarter and mor e moral that other people and have the ritght to set their own standards.  Isaiah 5:21 warns, “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”   Their opinion will not prevent them facing God’s judgement.  In Romans 12:3 Paul advises, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”  We need to take a realistic look at ourselves, recognizing that our abilities and knowledge all comes from God, and that we are not better than other people.  Instead of being proud of who we are, II Corinthians 10:17-18 instructs, “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.  For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.”  God is the judge, not us.  When we try to change his standards, we are usurping his authority. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Supporting Ministries

Human beings tend to be quite competitive.  Unfortunately this competitive attitude frequently carries over into the church.  It becomes a special problem when pastors or church leaders begin to insist their way is the right way.   The problem is that we begin to compare ourselves to each other, focusing on the areas where we outdo others and minimizing our weaknesses.   Paul talked about this in II Corinthians 10:12-13.  “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.  But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.” 

Competition and pride go hand in hand, and if we are not careful, we begin to try to expand our ministries to make ourselves look bigger, instead of concentrating on what God has already given us.  In order to expand our ministries we reach out to others for support, as if we had never reached anyone, instead of allowing those we have won to take responsibility for supporting our ministry.  There is a tendency to exaggerate what we are doing to encourage people to give more in the process, sometimes even to the point of taking credit for what others have done.  Paul went out of his way to avoid doing this, as we see in II Corinthians 10:14-16.  “For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ: Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand.”

He wasn’t trying to make his ministry appear more than it was, but was willing to allow it to grow as the people in the church at Corinth were able to help him.  He had no regular support, as we see in Philippians 4:15-16.  “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.   For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.”  Even the church at Philippi only sent a few times.  Most churches today have a far different outlook than Paul, and as a result many ministries struggle to pay their expenses.  We are bombarded with requests to give to one ministry or another, with the result that many Christians complain that the church only cares about money.   

In I Corinthians 9, Paul had stressed that it was God’s plan that the church support those who did the ministry.   However, he was concerned that it is easy for ministers to abuse that right.  Rather than take a chance, Paul chose not to take any support from the local people for himself.  I Corinthians 9:18 explains.  “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.”  Because he was not depending on the churches for support, th3 offering from the Philippians was especially appreciated, as Philippians 4:18 explains.  “But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”

It is right for the churches to support those who are in ministry, and as Paul told the Philippians, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” in Philippians 4:19.  It is also important that those in ministry not abuse their power and privilege.  When ministries are having to beg for money something is wrong.   They have the same responsibility to live by faith as do those they minister to, and Philippians 4:19 applies to them as well.  In Psalms 37:25, David said, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”   If God is not supplying what they need, it may be because they are misusing what he has supplied.  As a ministry grows it ought to become less dependent on outside support, not more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Paul, The Missionary

Paul had been called as the apostle to the Gentiles, as he explains in Romans 15:15-16.  “Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.”

The Jews had had God’s law for about fifteen hundred years, since Moses’ day.  Even the Sadducees, who didn’t really believe in any kind of spiritual life and just believed the law was a myth had been taught what the law required.  The Pharisees were fanatical about obeying the law and there were other groups between the two extremes, much like there are in the modern “Christian” society.  As a result even those who were not Jewish were familiar with the teachings and had a basis for understanding the gospel.

The Gentiles had not had the same teachings or contact with what God’s Law demanded.  As an evangelist or missionary and the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was focused on reaching people who had not had that teaching, as he describes in Romans 15:17-22.  “I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.  “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,  Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.  Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.  For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.” 

The persecution under Herod Agrippa starting with the martyrdom of Stephen in Acts 6 and 7 had resulted in the Christians being driven out into other areas where they started churches.  Paul had deliberately avoided going into those churches and communities, trying to reach areas which had no gospel teaching so that he wasn’t just taking over somebody else’s work.  Some of those Christians had settled in Rome, and because the need was so huge in other areas, and they already had teachers there, Paul had not yet made it to Rome

When Paul left Timothy to pastor the church at Ephesus, he directed him to “…do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry,” in II Timothy 4:5.  Part of the ministry is reaching out to people from other areas with the gospel.  Once churches had been established in the various countries that could continue to spread the gospel, there was no longer a need for evangelists or missionaries.  This left Paul free to visit Rome, and to go to other areas as we see in Romans 15:23-24.  “But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.” 

Before he could go to Rome. Paul needed to finish up a project for the churches in Macedonia and Achaia, as he describes in Romans 15:25-27.   “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.  It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.”  T was important that the churches in foreign lands be recognized as full-fledged churches and not considered as missions.   They have the same responsibilities as other churches.

The growing tensions between Rome and Israel was causing inflation and economic instability in Israel, leaving many of the Christians struggling to survive, caught between the Jewish and Roman forces.  The Churches in Macedonia and Achaia had collected money for the Church at Jerusalem to help alleviate their struggles, entrusting it to Paul and his associates to see that it got to the people who needed it. 

When he finished this mission, Paul intended to go on to Spain.  On the way he intended to stop in Rome for a little while in hopes of encouraging them and getting to know them, as he describes in Romans 15:28-32.  “When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.  And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.  Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.”

Paul had two concerns about going to Jerusalem.  First, the anti-Christian faction in Israel was playing on the political unrest to gain power, and his coming might be seen as an opportunity to increase their power.  Secondly, because of the pressure, the Jewish Christians might resent his coming and not accept the gifts the Gentiles had sent.  As we see in Acts 21, both concerns were legitimate.   Paul was advised to follow Jewish customs in an attempt to placate the Jewish Christians, but was arrested anyway.  When he went to Rome, it would be as a prisoner, but he was allowed to contact the church in Rome. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Christianity is About What Christ Has Done

In Romans 14, Paul warned about judging other Christians and trying to get them to live by our standards, reminding us they don’t answer to us, but to God.  We need to make sure we do not drive them away or distract them from serving God by imposing our own standards on them.  As he points out in the first part of Romans 15, the stronger Christians should be able to understand and overlook the mistakes of those who are less mature, and help them learn rather than getting angry with them.  Though Paul had not yet been to Rome, he believed the Christians there were mature enough to help weaker ones through the Holy Spirit’s power, as he states in Romans 15:13-16.  “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.  And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.  Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.”

Because they had not been raised in the same scriptural traditions as the Jews, many people, both Jews and Gentiles tended to think of the Gentiles as being less spiritual.  Perhaps because he had been so deeply involved with Jewish religion and tradition, Paul was more aware than most that those things had nothing to do with people’s spiritual state, as he explains in Philippians 3:3- 11.  “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.  Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.’

If anyone was qualified to think they were spiritually better because of their background, it was Paul.  He could trace his family tree back for hundreds of years, and his family had followed every tradition for years, including the circumcision and dedication ceremonies.  Paul himself had been one of the most dedicated members of the strictest religious group, even killing those who did not follow those principles exactly.  In order to be saved, Paul had had to forget about all his religious traditions and activities and trust Christ to save him, just the same as any heathen Gentile.  While his training might help him in understanding what God expects, his salvation and spiritual state was entirely dependent on what Christ had done in his life.  The Holy Spirit was able to teach any believing Gentile the things they needed to know even though they had not had the same background. 

Because of his understanding of this, Paul was especially equipped to reach out to the Gentiles.   He realized there was no point in imposing Jewish customs and traditions on Gentile Christians, and as we see in Acts 15, the other apostles agreed when it was brought to their attention.   While the Gentiles should maintain a good moral standard, they were under no obligation to keep the Old Testament Law, because as Galatians 3:13-14 tells us, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” 

Even today there are groups who believe Messianic Jews have a spiritual advantage over other Christians.  Romans 10:12-13 denies any such distinction.  “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  No church or group of Christians should feel either superior or inferior to other groups.  After all, being a Christian is about what Christ has done, not what we do. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Experience Produces Maturity

People who have been Christians for while often forget what it was like when they first got saved, when everything was new and exciting, but they really didn’t know what they were supposed to do.   Like a little child, their lack of coordination and experience resulted in a lot of mistakes and bad decisions, but eventually they learned what they could and couldn’t do.    While they were learning this, their parents and siblings had to learn to put up with their mistakes and try to help them learn, recognizing that if the children don’t learn they will be held responsible for what they do.

In the church, we have a similar responsibility toward those who are not as spiritually mature, as Romans 15:1-3 tells us.  “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.  For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”  Even our perfect Lord and savior had to work with his human followers to help them learn.  If they did not learn, it would reflect poorly on him that they didn’t do what was right.   The scriptures spelled out what they should know, as Romans 15;4 tells us.  “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” 

Learning takes time and effort, and sometimes we despair of the students ever catching on.  We are not perfect, and we need God’s patience to teach others.  If we allow the Holy Spirit to direct us, he will enable us to do the job, according to Romans 15:5-7.  “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.”

We have to realize that God isn’t just interested in those with a Christian background.  We have a responsibility to teach those who don’t have a solid background and teach them so they can serve God just as completely as those who have grown up in a religious background, just as Jesus reached out to both Jews and Gentiles to bring them both to the same spiritual level.  The Jews had had nearly two thousand years of teaching about God, from the time of Abraham.  Most of the Gentiles had had none, and would require more teaching than the Jews.  Romans 15:8-12 talks about how Jesus reached out to the Gentiles to bring them to the same knowledge of God.  “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.  And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.  And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.  And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.”

Romans 10:11-13 makes it very clear that salvation is the same for the Gentiles as for the Jews.  “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Many times those with no Jewish or Christian background are left feeling inferior to those who have such a background.   Since they have the Holy spirit to teach and guide them, they are not inferior.  Romans 5:13-14 tells us, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.  And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” 

In I Corinthians 1:4-8, Paul said, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Thanks to the Holy Spirit, No group or individual is inherently better than another.  Any differences are the result of their personal choices.   

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Respect The Standards Of Others

In Romans 14:13, Paul warned, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.”  When we begin to set our own standards, we often forget one can go too far in either direction.  We can be too strict, or too liberal.  In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Solomon stated, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” 

Life is easy when we don’t have to think about things to make decisions about what is right.  It seems pretty straight forward, when Exodus 20:13 commands, “Thou shalt not kill,” but few things in life are that simple.   As Solomon says, there is a time to kill.  Genesis 9:6 states, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”  Numbers 35:15-31 give specific instructions about how to determine whether a person was to be put to death or not.  Clearly there are times when it is right to kill people, even though most of the time it is wrong. 

The same is true in other areas of life, and many times we are not in position to know the circumstances and make a valid judgment.  With that in mind, Paul wrote Romans 14:14.  “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”  The action may or may not be right, but if a person feels it is wrong, he ought not do it even if others insist it is okay.  We are not to impose our standards on other Christians.. 

We are to respect their standards, as Romans 14:15-20 tells us.  “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.  Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.  Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.  For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.

It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.  Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.  And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  
When we impose our standards on others, we risk driving them away  by being too strict, or encouraging them to violate their own moral standards, leaving them with a guilty conscience that will interfere with their serving God.  We ought to be more concerned with helping them gro spiritually than with making them like us, as Paul explains in Romans 15:1-6.  “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.  For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.  For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.  Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.”

We are not to allow our own standards to cause conflict with other Christians.  As Romans 14:1 says, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.”  If the scriptures are not clear about a certain thing, we must not insist they follow our opinions, but to be considerate of their spiritual state.  If the action is truly wrong, we can trust God to show them what is right when they are ready to receive it.  If God does not make it clear they are wrong, they have the liberty to do it if they choose.   They must answer to God, not to us. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Let God Lead

A major problem in the United States today is that people are determined everything has to be their way.    People insist they have a right to express their opinion, but you do not have the right to even have a different opinion, much less express it.  Sadly that same attitude is making its way into the church.  If things are not done exactly like someone else does them we are wrong.  

Paul addressed this attitude in I Corinthians 12:27-30.  “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.  And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.  Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?”   Jesus only chose twelve apostles, so obviously not everyone was called to be an apostle.  Only a few people received special messages from God, so obviously not everyone was called to be a prophet.  Not everyone was able to perform miracles or to heal people.  Not everyone was able to speak various languages or interpret so others could understand. 

I Corinthians 12:7-11 explains why.  “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.”  The Holy Spirit gives different people different gifts so that the needs of the church can be met.  Not everyone has the same gifts because they have different jobs to do as Paul explains in Romans 12:4-5.  “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”   

Instead of trying to be like someone else, we need to focus on doing the Job God has given us.  Romans 12:6-8 instructs, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.”  If God has given you a talent or gift for prophesying, we need to make sure we are using it properly as God gives us special messages.  If we feel we have to express a prophecy every time we meet people we begin to make things up and may direct them in the wrong way.  If he hasn’t given us a special message, we can trust him that one isn’t needed.

If he has given us a job ministering to people’s needs, we need to make sure we are doing it God’s way, not just following the world’s philosophy.  For example, God has given specific directions about charitable activities.  Ignoring those directions may well result in us enabling people to go on in their sin without experiencing the consequences of it.  If one is given the job of teaching he should take the trouble to study and plan his own lessons, not just use someone else’s lesson or sermon.  If he is counseling and encouraging others, he needs to make sure he is following God’s standards, and not substituting psychological principles or trying to manipulate the people. 

If a person is giving to the church, it should be a simple gift, not an attempt to get God to give him something in return or to get some special benefit such as a tax write off.  If a person is an administrator for the church or in position of leadership, he needs to do his job diligently, not taking advantage of his position.  If he is in a position to administer discipline, he needs to be willing to forgive fully, without reservations, if the person is repentant. 

Quite simply, serving the Lord is about doing what he wants rather than about what we want.  As Romans 14:13 says, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.”  When we begin to impose our ideas and standards on others, we may well cause them to stumble or even to turn away from the gospel.   II Corinthians 3:17 tells us, “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”  When we begin to insist people follow our standards, we are not walking in the Spirit of God.    God’s stasndard is perfect, and any deviation is less than perfect, whether more or less strict.  Our standards are not higher than God’s, despite what we may think.