16th September 2023
Read (Romans 12v7-8)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
I remember standing at the bottom of the Bloomfield Road waiting for the number seventeen bus to take me to work. There was some sort of commotion in the church beside the bus stop and as I watched I realised that Ian Paisley had arrived to cast his vote on election day. He left the church hall with his wife by his side and stood for a few moments to have his picture taken. Politicians still do this sort of thing - it is important to be seen on election day.
It is quite the opposite when it comes to our Christian service. Even if our gifts are "up front" and visible, we should always seek to exercise them without the need for personal glory or having our picture on the front cover of the Presbyterian Herald.
Paul states that the prophet is to engage in prophecy or in our day, the preacher is to preach. Additionally the one whose gift is service, is to get on with serving (v7a). Service doesn't sound like a very glamorous gift but it is bestowed upon us by the grace of God and therefore we are to serve happily. What does it look like? Those gifted in service will gently minister to and serve their fellow Christians. They will do the unseen work of praying with the lady suffering from dementia in the nursing home, they will ensure the chairs are put out and put away for the Bible study and they will bring a pot of stew to the man who has just lost his wife. Nothing glamorous but gracious and substantial nevertheless.
In the same way, the one who teaches is to get on with his teaching (v7b). This is fairly self-explanatory. There are individuals in every church with the ability to open up the Scriptures and explain correctly what they mean. Once more this isn't an excuse for arrogance but with humility the teacher draws alongside his fellow Christian and says "Let me help you understand justification." or "Here's what was going on at Pentecost."
Finally, the exhorter is to exhort (v8). What is exhortation? One of the finest men I have ever known was Rev Noel Agnew and he was a master exhorter. I would meet him for coffee and he would urge me to keep going, he would correct my sinful attitudes and he would encourage me to lift my eyes to Christ. Exhortation is when we speak to our fellow Christians and we encourage, incite or advise them. I would leave my meetings with Noel feeling ten-foot tall, well encouraged and exhorted.
On the day that Ian Paisley voted, there was such a fuss that a photographer was accidentally pushed over and broke his leg. Paisley didn't mean for that to happen but the need for public recognition and a photo for the paper ended with a call for an ambulance. Within the church we don't strive for such publicity. We are to serve and draw alongside those who are struggling in the dead of winter, we are to have coffee with a weaker brother and gently explain for the fifth time the nature of sanctification and we are to send the private text which says "Florence, I'm thinking about you today. Keep going! Look to Jesus!"
Let the server serve, the teacher teach and the exhorter exhort, for the sake of Christ and His church.
Q46 What is required in the first commandment? The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God, and to worship and glorify him accordingly.