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Worship Series: I’m In
Worship Theme: I’m Invaluable
Lesson & Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (EHV)
Gospel: John 17:20-26 (NIV)
Music: CWS 735 Speak, O Lord, CWS 773 In Unity and Peace, Your Grace Is Enough (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: I’m Invaluable
Where were you born? This is not some sort of deep rhetorical question. I’m actually asking. How many of you were born in Minnesota? Raise your hand. How many of you were born in Wisconsin? Raise your hand. Wow. And you two groups are willing to sit together? Just kidding. Ok. Do we have anyone from Michigan in here? Iowa? Illinois? I’m not going to name every location so is anyone from one of the states I didn’t mention? Anyone born in another country? So you are telling me that even though some of you come from different backgrounds, you all came to this same church? That makes sense because we know we are all one body in Christ. One family of believers united in faith. We are going to take a deeper look at this today, but first I want to talk about something that will flavor everything else you hear during this service.
Imagine you have five kids. Some of you won’t have to imagine. You may already have five kids. Now, imagine you came to this church service with five kids, but as you are leaving you realize you can only account for 4 of them. You wouldn’t just say, “Ahhh. Who cares!? I still have 4. 80% is pretty good. It’s above a passing grade.” Nooooo, even if the kid is being a major pain that day you go find them. You wonder where your sweet little baby boy or girl went. Your kids are valuable to you and you love them. This is how God works too. Jesus does not want anyone lost and everyone is valuable to him. So why doesn’t the church always act the same way? It should. Some of you may have gotten the impression from the church you are worthless. Some of you may think you are not valuable. But guess what? You are invaluable. God knows it, I know it, but I need you to know it today and so I’m going to ask you to say the words “I am invaluable” with me. Say it with me now. “I am invaluable.” Yes, you are invaluable and today I’m going to show you. Actually, that wouldn’t mean that much. God is going to show you in his Word that you are invaluable.
Let’s look at our text. The church at Corinth looked amazing on paper. They were blessed with so many spiritual gifts. Paul even writes at the beginning of his letter to them. “ I always thank my God for you because of the grace of God given to you in Christ Jesus. You were enriched in him in every way, in all your speaking and all your knowledge, because the testimony about Christ was established in you. As a result you do not lack any gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4-7).” They had so many gifts and talents. Plus, the church of Corinth was an epicenter of trade and so the church was filled with so many different families, with different perspectives and backgrounds and cultures. You had Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, males and females, and yet they were all united in Christ (Gal 3:28). Or at least they should have been. The problem was the members of the congregation didn’t quite see it that way. There was so much division among them. Factions were sprouting up left and right. And people were looking down on others for not having the same gifts and talents as one another. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians to quell this disunity and to show them how they all belong to the body of Christ. He writes: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we all were baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free people, and we were all caused to drink one Spirit (12-14).” When you become a Christian you find your identity in Christ. He’s the unshakable foundation. You can still lose your job, your money, your talents, your hobbies, and you’d still be you. Your identity wouldn’t be lost because it is secure as a child of God. There’s more to it though. When you become a Christian you don’t just have your identity as an individual, but as a group. I once heard this in a sermon as an example. When you look at animals, they have different names for when they are grouped together. For example, if you have a whole bunch of fish, what do you call them? Dinner? No. you call a bunch of fish a school of fish. What do you call a bunch of lions? A pride. Let’s try one more. What do you call a bunch of donkeys? Careful. Careful. It’s not what you think. It’s a drove of donkeys. These animals assume a new identity as a group. Christians too. I may be Jake Schram as an individual, but as a group, my identity resides in the body of Christ. All Christians belong to the identity of the body of Christ. This is a substantial point because we so often think of ourselves as simply just “me,” but now as a family of believers, it becomes “us”. The focus becomes less and less on what I want or how much glory I get. It instead shifts to what can I do that is going to be best for the good of the team? What can I do that is going further the kingdom of heaven? God has empowered us to think and act like this through the one Holy Spirit.
The Corinthians were having a lot of problems with this concept. The Corinthians were proclaiming some gifts and talents to be useless and not needed, even though that was a straight-up lie. It’s a lie we still hear in the church today. The lie that if you weren’t here, it wouldn’t matter! That someone else’s gifts aren’t needed because they don’t receive as much credit or glory. That’s not true at all! No one’s service is insignificant. Paul compares the unity of a church to a body. You need all sorts of different parts to make it work. Sure, the hand might get more glory. It can pick things up, shake hands, be placed on someone’s shoulder to offer comfort, but you still need your other parts. Think of your liver. It often doesn’t get a whole lot of glory, but it is still needed. Think of your nose hairs. Does anyone rejoice at their nose hairs? “YES. I have the best noise hairs of the Midwest!!!!” Probably not, but they serve a purpose. You might be able to get by with a missing part or two, but you probably won’t function as well. Let’s take a closer look at what this looks like. Let’s say everyone wants to be an eye and everyone gets to be an eye. Everyone in the church is an eye. So you are this blob with the ability to see. You can’t move. You have no legs. You can’t hear. You have no ears. You can’t act on what you see in any way. Your functionality is shot. Your efficiency is gone. The only thing you’ve managed to accomplish is a giant bill on contact lenses. Can you imagine what our church would be like if we only had everyone filling one role? Let’s say everyone wanted to be a pastor because that’s the role you get to see every week. Everyone is a pastor. What would happen? Nothing. We’d just be telling everyone how to live all the time. Our church building would fall apart. Our worship services and music wouldn’t be quite as good. Things wouldn’t be as organized. Simple yes and no answers would turn into long-winded hour-long sermons. Ok, maybe not that last part, but we certainly wouldn’t function well. Don’t get me wrong, Pastors are important. We need pastors to study and preach the Word. To guide us according to God’s will. But just as we need pastors we need everyone else too. Guess who that includes? You. Your story matters. Your voice matters, your words matter. Your gifts matter. Your generosity matters. Your encouragement matters. And while your abilities are important, it’s more about your availability that matters. Are you willing to help? Because you are invaluable. Let’s say “I’m invaluable” again together. “I am invaluable.”
Paul shows this as he launches into the next section. He paints the picture of the body parts at war with one another and how ridiculous that situation would be. If the eye starts trash talking the hand, thinking it’s more important, who would clear the eye when something got stuck in it? Or if the head says to the feet that they are useless. The head isn’t going to be able to go anywhere without the feet. Can you imagine that? Your hands are refusing to cooperate with one another. Ones doing one thing, the other one another. It would be a mess. Nothing would happen because every part would be doing it’s own thing. Nothing would get done, because without parts working together, you wouldn’t be able to function.
That’s how some churches look. Some? Ok, more than some. What about ours? We have so many, so many abilities at Salem, but are we fully applying ourselves to the body of Christ? Unless a congregation comes together, it will eventually crumble, despite how many gifts they have. Even though we are the same body, we often war against the other parts of the body we belong to. We think just of ourselves. “I’m not going to help because I didn’t get my way!” That’s the thing about teamwork. I don’t think anyone ever gets their way 100% of the time on a true team. That’s just part of being a team. Can you take the focus off yourself to support the team whether a wrong choice was made or not? Will you be pointing to all the mistakes in the past or will you be part of the solution, trying to take steps forward in faith? What if Jesus did to us what we so often do? He’d be so busy pointing out wrong decisions and mistakes, he’d never have time to get around to helping us. Instead, he put the good of the team ahead of himself. And asks us to do the same.
Whether you are ashamed of your gifts or worried about your past, If not using the gifts you’ve been given, you are hurting the body. You are paralyzing it. You are slowing it down and hurting the kingdom of God. Someone who needs to hear the message of Jesus may not hear it. Sometimes, for the good of the kingdom of God, that means doing the less honorable jobs, or the unseen work without glory. When we do this, we get to rejoice together. We are on the same Team. We are winning together. You may not have gotten the credit, but you supported the person who did. You may not have gotten the credit, but you may have helped in saving a soul. You may not have gotten the credit, but you brought glory to God. Think about it this way. If someone compliments your face, all of you rejoices. You don’t scream, “How come you didn’t say anything about my toenails, you jerk?!” It’s the same with the body of Christ. If someone compliments a teacher and you are on the Board of Education, you rejoice with the teacher and the whole rest of the body of Christ. If someone compliments the sermon because it helped them get closer to God, that’s a win for everyone to rejoice in.
Think about this. If you are moving, can you lift heavier things with more people? Can you lift more things with more people? Yeah. Some will lend their strength. Some will lend their expertise and make the moving experience more efficient. Some will get refreshments for those doing the lifting to keep them energized. What would happen if everyone worked together? Look at the people around you. Think of the things that would be possible working together. Now add God’s Word to that. The power source of everything we do. Now, nothing is impossible in Christ. We can spread the good news of Jesus across the world. We can show the rejected and hopeless of the world that they are loved, not just by us, but by a Savior who loved them so much he was willing to live and die for them for the forgiveness of all sins. He has prepared a place for them in heaven much different from the pain and sorrows known here. We can build relationships with one another and strengthen bonds, which are firmly entrenched in the secure foundation of God’s Word. We can continue to grow with one another.
This is why we are starting something called “growth groups” at church. It helps us understand the body of Christ by allowing us to be part of little bodies of Christ at the same time. You can use your gifts and talents as part of the team while at the same time they are using their gifts. Together, you can take the gospel to places it hasn’t been, hearts it hasn’t yet worked on while at the same time the gospel will take you places you were never able to go on your own. You can start recognizing the unity of the church, accept the diversity in the family of believers, and appreciate the interdependence between members. It won’t be a smooth, perfect journey. There will be bumps in the road because we’re not perfect. But we can still journey in the right direction. You are important in this journey we are trying to take. You are invaluable, but remember you are also part of a team. You are the body of Christ, and individually you are members of it. And if Christ is the head, how can anything stop us from furthering the kingdom? Amen.