Fifty Shades of Grey: The heart of the matter is more black than white

What makes ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ so popular?

It was the best-selling book of all time in Britain a few years ago, according to the Telegraph, and sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. Yet, this is certainly not because it is a contender for winning the Booker literature prize.  The novel by E.L. James has received mixed reviews, being negatively compared to Mills and Boons and described as appalling writing by Laura Barnett.  Don’t hold your breath either if you expect the film (released this weekend) to win any Oscars, since it has had mixed reviews already.

Neither is it breaking new ground in terms of storyline or art-form, since it has similar content to the mid-eighties erotic drama film, ‘9½ Weeks’.  Nevertheless, it has already taken in millions in advance ticket sales, in contrast to ‘9½ Weeks’ which was a box-office disappointment. In fact, at a preview screening of the mid-eighties film for 1,000 people, all but 40 walked out, and 35 of those who remained commented that they hated it.

In contrast, what makes ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ so popular now?  And how should we respond to its popularity?

[This article is intended partly to help at a pastoral level for those in our fellowship to have a biblical way to respond to this film.  It is also, hopefully, a Christian response which will help those who are enticed by it, to consider another response.]

Fifty shades of black and blue

For those who are fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the content of the book or film, some points may be helpful in understanding what all the fuss is about.  The story is between billionaire businessman Christian Grey and graduate student Anastasia Steele.  He is a broody, domineering sadomasochist, while she is a vulnerable virgin. It has been described as soft-core pornography, or ‘mommy porn’, due to its popularity among women.  Kaley Payne writes, “Pornography is about intent: an intention to elicit sexual thoughts and feelings. So there’s no question this film is pornography, just as the book before it. It is fantasy sex.”

Yet this film features not just explicit sex, but also bondage, domination, sadism and masochism (BDSM).  Although a large DIY store admitted that its memo alerting staff to expect increased sales of rope, cable-ties and duct tape was in jest and simply a PR ruse, this nevertheless gives an idea of what some viewers might copy in their bedrooms after watching the film.

While many filmgoers might be attracted by the erotic content featured in the trailer, it is concerning that this book and film can in reality encourage sexual violence towards women. Mandy Marshall (co-director of Restored, an international Christian Alliance to transform relationships and end violence against women) writes: “Fifty Shades of Grey is not a romantic love story, it’s abuse.”  Gail Dines (professor of sociology and women’s studies) goes further in her assessment of the impact that such relationships portrayed in the film have in real life; “The most likely real-world ending of Fifty Shades of Grey is fifty shades of black and blue. The awful truth in the real world is that women who partner with a Christian Grey often end up hightailing it to a battered women’s shelter with traumatized kids in tow.”

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realist that the reason that this film is so popular is because public opinion and attitudes towards sex, pornography, and even BDSM have changed over the years.  Decades ago, pornography was considered morally wrong, while BDSM was virtually unheard of.  Yet, over the years, a slow but persistently increasing exposure to immoral and explicit romantic films and TV dramas have not only fed public appetite, but have become expected as the new norm.  While opposition to such low moral standards in the arts would once have stifled such productions, public opinion in general has now shifted to the other extreme, with ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ almost sold out before opening weekend in some places.

The film industry is a business, and by and large operates on a supply and demand basis.  If there is enough demand, they will make and screen the films.  With some cinemas devoting most of their screens to just this one film, it is clear that the hearts of the public (in general, although there will be many exceptions) are drawn towards ‘mommy porn’ meets BDSM.  What makes this film to popular is the change of heart towards pornography which the public in general is demonstrating.

Sex is a gift from God, but sin turns it from light to darkness

Unlike the sex portrayed in this film, God’s plan for sexual relations is not centred on selfish personal gratification, and does not include inflicting pain or fear on others. It is the giving of oneself for the good and pleasure of the other in the relationship. It is the husband seeking to please his wife, and the wife seeking to please her husband.  When both are unselfish, both are fulfilled by the other, as they are not only pleased by giving pleasure, but by receiving it as well.

But sin distorts and corrupts what God has intended for good.  Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. has written, “The corruption of the gift of sex is, more than often realized, an assault upon that human dignity that is the Creator’s gift. The attempt to declare beauty at the expense of goodness and truth is at the heart of the problem of pornography.”  The problem is that we all naturally tend towards sin, because of the sinfulness in our hearts.

God prohibits all forms sexual immorality throughout the Bible, in both the Old Testament and New Testament (e.g. Deuteronomy 27:20, Hebrews 13:4). Sin takes what ought to be a blessing, and misuses it.  What ought to be enjoyed in good conscience before God is instead often distorted and done in secret, in darkness, resulting in guilt, pain and broken relationships.  But it is worse still when we don’t even have a conscience about sinning.  Al Mohler continues, “Now, we live in a society fast losing even a sense of shame about its pornographic obsessions.” 

Responses: Option 1, moralism; Option 2, gospel.

At this point, many people would simply say, “don’t watch it”, or “change your ways”, or “you should feel ashamed of yourself”.  But that is not what Jesus would have wanted to be known to say.  It is not that those are not legitimate responses, they are.  Jesus would agree with them.  The problem is that those responses are just moralism, telling people to do what they clearly do not have the ability to do. Telling an addict (e.g. a sex addict) to stop being addicted is not enough. It doesn’t work most of the time.  This is because people know that they are doing wrong, but they are powerless to do otherwise.  While it does not excuse the adulterer or the immoral, we need redemption, not condemnation.  We need to be set free from bondage to the darkness of sin, so that we can walk in the light of holiness.

Jesus didn’t come to condemn, but to set us free from sin (John 3:16-17).  He has told us that there is a time coming when judgment will be the order of the day (Acts 17:31).  All sin will be addressed, judged, condemned and punished on that day.  But precisely because of that, God wants to free us from condemnation, from receiving what we are due for our sin.  As the perfect judge, he cannot let us off the hook by simply turning a blind eye to sin, without committing a miscarriage of justice.  So, he has another way of letting us off the hook, by taking the punishment for sin himself, in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21).  That is why we need the cross, that is why we need to trust in Jesus ‘alone’ for our salvation (Romans 6:23).

But there’s more.  When we simply ask God for forgiveness, trusting, believing, that Jesus has done what it takes, we also receive the Holy Spirit into our lives. The Holy Spirit (as his name implies) reverses the degeneration towards darkness, and leads us into the light of holiness (Galatians 5:22-23).

The gospel is what we need to hear, not mere moralism.  But once we hear the gospel, we are freed and enabled to live a morally upright life.  “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:7)

To enjoy sex, live a godly life in a restored relationship with God

Finally, God is not against enjoying sex.  After all, he created it.  Sex was God’s idea to give us pleasure.  But, only within strict boundaries of a loving married relationship.  If we want to enjoy sex without the guilt of immoral pleasure, without the impact of broken relationships, without the enduring aftermath of abuse, we ought to live according to God’s plan for sex.  We ought to turn to him, firstly for forgiveness and to have a restored relationship with him in general, and then to have our emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual needs met.  He is the giver of all good things (James 1:17).  Fulfilment comes from turning to him, and centering our lives on him, and receiving blessings from him.  Anything else might offer or promise fulfilment, but doesn’t deliver.

Instead of turning towards the darker shades of grey, turn towards the light, through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

There are a number of good biblical responses to books and films such as ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, such as ‘Pulling back the shades: Erotica, intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart’  which is reviewed here.

The Goodness of God

The goodness of God - Randy Alcorn

This is a little gem of a book! It is full of practical insights and observations as it tackles the serious and challenging question about God, who is infinitely good, and yet who allows suffering and evil to exist, even prosper.

Randy Alcorn shows us that there are no quick fix explanations to this problem of evil and suffering in our lives and in the world. Ultimately we have to have faith in the goodness of God and hold tight to our deeply rooted beliefs found in Scripture. Randy points out:

“God Himself doesn’t offer any explanation…maybe because evil defies explanation.”

Tackling the problem of evil from different angles, Randy makes some very valid points, here are just a few:

“Yes this hurting world has truckloads of evil, but it also has boatloads of good.”

“If a good God doesn’t exist, what’s the source of good?”

“Man’s freedom to do good …cannot exist without the freedom to do evil.”

“God limits sin all around us all the time.”

“ The fact is that no matter how much God reduced world suffering, we’d still think He did too little.”

The question is often asked “why  doesn’t God do something about evil?”  God did something about it when He gave His beloved and only Son to die on the cross for us. Randy writes “whenever you feel tempted in your suffering to ask God “why are You doing this to me? Look at the cross and ask “why did You do that for me?”

This book serves to strengthen one’s faith in our almighty and loving God. Maybe we cannot understand certain things about His ways any more clearly and maybe we have to hold on tightly to Him by faith, but the insights we have been given here are very helpful in many  and various ways.

Note: This book ‘The Goodness of God (Assurance of purpose in the midst of suffering)’ (96 pages) by Randy Alcorn deals with a subset of the topics in his larger book ‘If God is Good (Faith in the midst of suffering and evil)’ (over 500 pages).

Church (8): Loving our neighbour

Years ago Gordon MacDonald flew to city to speak at a conference. Near the city centre, his taxi stopped at a red light. he noticed a homeless man lurching between the cars in the middle of the street. [He writes:] When he got to the front of my taxi, he fell and landed on his chin. His chin split open, and there was blood all over the place.

As I looked at this man six feet away, … and these thoughts went through my head:

  1. I have a brand-new suit on that Gail just bought me. I can’t afford to get messed up.
  2. I have to get to the conference to speak in fifteen minutes.
  3. I’m in a strange city, and I don’t know what to do.
  4. I don’t have any medical training. I wouldn’t know how to help.

[He writes:] I wonder if underneath there wasn’t a fifth thought: If you’re dumb enough to get that drunk, why should someone stop and help you?

For a few seconds those thoughts militated against any movement on my part. Before I could come to better senses, other people came rushing to this man’s help, and I was able to get back into my taxi and go on to the convention center to speak about sensitivity and caring for the needs of other human beings. Isn’t that stupid [he writes]?

—Gordon MacDonald, from the sermon “Pointing to Jesus: Generosity,” Grace Chapel, Lexington, Massachusetts (February 22, 1998)[1]

Click image for Sunday's service sheetHow many times have we been in that kind of situation? Probably not too many—we don’t often see people in dire need come straight across our path, where we are the nearest person able to help, and if we don’t help them it appears as if no-one else will.

But instead of such an urgent situation where we are the nearest person, what about situations where no-one seems to be the nearest person, where the need is just as great but where it doesn’t fall on one individual in particular? What about the less ‘in-your-face’ ongoing needs of others? What about the people we pass every day, but because there isn’t blood on the street we don’t see the need as big enough for us to do something?

Who’s responsibility is it to care for others?

It is everyone’s. Especially those who love and serve the Lord God.

I’d like us to consider three reasons as to why we ought to love others, which will hopefully encourage us to do more than we can, to be more fulfilled in doing so, and give much glory to God.

  • We love others because they are in need, just like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37):

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36–37, NLT)

  • We love others because that is what we are made for! Being fully human means being fully loving towards others:

“The man answered, “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” ” (Luke 10:27, NLT)

  • We love others so that they can see the love of God and turn to him:

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. ” (1 John 4:7–9, NLT)

 

[1] Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 185.

A future and a hope! (4 Jan 2015)

A future and a hope at the start of a new year. Yet, for many people, this is just the start of another year of the same life, the same problems…

But there is hope. God has given us days, months, and years as the structure of our time, our calendar, our lives. Each new year is a reminder that God is the God of new beginnings.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetEven when we have sinned, God is the God of hope and a future. He has plans for his people:

“This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:10–11, NLT)

Even God’s discipline can work out for good. As Paul says:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ” (Romans 8:28, NLT)

Our current situations are working together to bring about good.

Yet, this promise of a future and a hope is conditional. It is not guaranteed for everyone who ends up suffering because of their situation. It is conditional on turning to God, seeking him, and finding him.

“In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:12–14, NLT)

The Lord says through the prophet Isaiah says similarly:

“Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. ” (Isaiah 55:6–7, NLT)

Up to this point the Lord has helped us! (28 Dec 2014)

Ebenezer Scrooge is the focal character of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol.

In the beginning of the story, Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly old man who despises Christmas, and is well known for saying “Bah, humbug!”, especially to his very low paid employee clerk Bob Cratchit.

Dickens writes: “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice…”

The story has been portrayed on stage, film, TV, radio, by many actors, including Orson Welles (1939 on radio), Albert Finney (1970), Walter Matthau (1978), Henry Winkler (1979), Rowan Atkinson (Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, 1988), Patrick Stewart (1999), Ross Kemp (2000), Jim Carrey (2009), Michael Gambon (2010) and many others.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetEbenezer Scrooge becomes a transformed character, after meeting the ghost of his previous business partner Jacob Marley, then the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas yet to come.

  • Jacob Marley reminds Scrooge how living a selfish, greedy, unprincipled life here and now will have eternal consequences of suffering and never resting.
  • The ghost of Christmas past reminds him of how kind he used to be, and how much he has changed into the miserly old man he is.
  • The ghost of Christmas present shows him how much wealth there is, but how it is not properly shared out, with the poor being kept in poverty so that the rich can be richer.
  • The ghost of Christmas future shows what his fate would be if he doesn’t change. He realises that he needs to care for others, for them to be well cared for, for him to be cared for in response, and for his eternal future to be brighter than it would be if he kept living the way he was living.

Ebenezer Scrooge reminds us of the past, present and future

The character of Ebenezer Scrooge is not only a familiar Christmas tale—it is also one which reminds us to consider the past, the present, and the future.

At this time of year, as we are about to start into another year ahead, it is timely for us also to consider our past, our present, and our future.

While we don’t have to wait until the end of the year to consider our future, it is helpful to do so at the end of one year, and the beginning of another.

How have we lived for the Lord this past year? What will be our eternal future because of how we live? And what can we do to improve our situation? If we are pleasing the Lord, what can we do to please him even more?

Ebenezer isn’t just a Dickens’ character!

In the Bible, Ebenezer is a word which means “(which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the LORD has helped us!” (1 Sam 7:12).

It is very likely that Charles Dickens was aware that the word Ebenezer was used in the Bible to note a point in time in the present, which looked to how the Lord had helped in the past, and which anticipated the Lord’s help into the future too.

Certainly, his choice of forename for Ebenezer Scrooge would have resonated with many of his readers at that time, who would have known the name Ebenezer from the Bible, from 1 Samuel.

This name was popularised by the Puritans in the 17th century as a title for some meeting houses or churches. It later became used as a forename among devout believers.

While Dickens undoubtedly made it more well known, in the long term he also probably contributed to its decline in use as a forename for boys. However, there are still some people today who are given this name at birth.

This morning, I’d like us to consider the Ebenezer in the Bible, looking to the past, considering the present, and also anticipating the future.

We have regrets about our past, maybe our whole lives, or maybe just how we should have served the Lord in the past year, but didn’t.

We have concerns for the present, how we ought to live, because our eternal future is determined by whether we live godly lives as God’s children, and whether or not we have returned to God by asking for his forgiveness for sins, through faith in Jesus Christ, so that we can have a glorious future guaranteed for eternity with God.

Let us consider our past, our present, and our future, and see whether we too can say; “Up to this point the LORD has helped us!” (1 Sam 7:12).

Jesus – Light in our dark world (21 Dec 2014)

There is much good in the world. Yet, there is so much evil too. In the Bible, evil is portrayed as darkness, and holiness and life are portrayed as light.

Into our world of darkness, God promised a Saviour who would come in the future:

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. (Isaiah 9:2, NLT)

In God’s timing, Jesus came into our world:

Click image for Sunday's service sheetThe one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:9–12, NLT)

Jesus said later:

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. (John 12:46, NLT)

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12, NLT)

A few centuries later, the testimony of one man who believed he was close to death is moving. Cyprian moving worlds express what countless Christians have experiences after having trusted in Jesus for salvation:

When the persecution began again, in 249, a lawyer and even a senator in the government of the Roman empire, a man named Cyprian (200-258), believing that he was on his deathbed, wrote a letter to his friend Donatus. “Donatus,”—he said, in effect,—”this is a cheerful world indeed as I see it from my fair garden, under the shadow of my vines. But if I could ascend some high mountain, and look out over the wide lands, you know very well that I should see: brigands on the highways, pirates on the seas, armies fighting, cities burning, in the amphitheaters men murdered to please applauding crowds, selfishness and cruelty and misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a company of quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not: they are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians,—and I am one of them.

Joseph and Mary – faithful servants of God (14 Dec 2014)

Mary, and then Joseph, trusted in God’s plan, despite the fact that their plans for marriage and life together didn’t turn out the way they had expected.

In Luke 1:26-38, Mary found that she was to give birth to Jesus, but she would be pregnant before being married. Yet, despite her fear, she trusted in God’s plan.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetSimilarly, Joseph found that his fiancé was pregnant, not by him (Matthew 1:18-25). But instead of breaking up quietly and not making a public spectacle of Mary, having had a dream in which an angel spoke to him, he married her and brought up Jesus as his own son.

However, not too long after the birth, things took a turn for the worse. Herod was after Jesus, so to avoid the bloodbath that to occur soon, Joseph, Mary and Jesus became refugees in Egypt, until King Herod died (Matthew 2:13-15).

Despite their world being turned upside down, both Joseph and Mary trusted in God’s commands, even though they didn’t fully know the significance of what they were doing at that time.

We too can trust that God is in control, working out his purposes in our lives, even if it appears that things have gone terribly wrong.

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:4–7, NIV-84)

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  (Romans 8:28, NLT)

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  (Psalm 37:7, NIV-84)

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

Worship Jesus as King (7 Dec 2014)

Some people seem to love royalty, whether it is royal weddings or royal births, whether it is the fantasy princesses of Disney films, or the House of Windsor in Britain.

In Matthew 2:1-12, we see not three wise men or three kings, because the Bible doesn’t tell us how many there were.  But we see three kinds of royalty. (i) The kings (maji in Greek) from the East, (ii) King Herod of Jerusalem, and (iii) King Jesus.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetDespite being high on the social ladder themselves, the maji recognised that Jesus was someone much more significant, and worth travelling a long time to bow and worship before him. Herod’s calculation of how long they travelled since his birth, and how old Jesus might be by then, meant that he killed all up to the age of two years old, indicating that Jesus wasn’t just a newborn child, but an infant possibly around one year old.

Yet, Herod’s response, like all despots who eliminate contenders for their position, was to try to kill Jesus instead of worship him.

While many people today might be more ambivilant than wanting to outrightly kill Jesus, they nevertheless don’t fall into the category of going significantly out of their way to worship Jesus.

Jesus came this first time to save and atone for the sins of all who will trust in him (John 3:16-17). But he is going to come again, not to save, but to judge.  And everyone will acknowledge that he is King of kings and Lord of lords (Philippians 2:9–11).  For those who have trusted and depended on him for forgiveness and salvation, that day will be welcomed and they will not fear his return.  But for anyone who had resisted his forgiveness, or who remains in their sin, that day will be greatly feared.  Even Jesus’ opponents will bow the knee and acknowledge that he is King of kings and Lord of lords, even if they do so reluctantly and without being saved.

It is far better to bow the knee to Jesus now, and worship him as the maji did, than to acknowledge him later as King, but without eternal salvation.

Worship Jesus as King, today, while we still can!

Church (7): Can we build it? Of course we can!

Jesus said: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, ESV)  That is, the plans of the evil one will not win over Jesus’ plans to build his people and bring them to an eternal home.

Jesus is building his Church.  As his followers, he is using us… just us… Can we do it? Yes we can! Of course we can!

Here are nine reasons we can be confident that God will build his Church:

1 We can do it through the different abilities/gifting we receive from God

Click image for Sunday's service sheet

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service,” (Ephesians 4:11, NIV-84)

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. ” (Romans 12:6–8, NLT)

2 We can build the church through the gifts of the Spirit, which are given for the common good

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NIV-84)

Paul is more specific in his letter to the Ephesian church regarding spiritual gifts:

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. ” (Ephesians 4:11–15, NIV-84)

Don’t seek personal glory, but the common good:

“A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church. I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church will be strengthened. ” (1 Corinthians 14:4–5, NLT)

3 We can do it because the same God is working in each of us in different ways

Paul’s point in 1 Cor 12:1-11 is that the diversity of gifts is through the same Spirit

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. ” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7, NLT)

4 We can do it if we all work together – no-one is indispensable

“Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. ” (1 Corinthians 12:14–26, NLT)

5 We can do it at the discretion of the Spirit of Christ

“It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. ” (1 Corinthians 12:11, NLT)

6 We can do it through the power that comes from God

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. ” (Ephesians 3:14–21, NLT)

7 We can do it because we have been entrusted with the responsibility to do so

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: ” (1 Peter 4:10, ESV)

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:3–8, NIV-84)

8 We can do it if we walk in humility and love

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. ” (Ephesians 4:1–3, NIV-84)

9 We can do it because of Jesus victory over sin and death

“There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: [quoting from Ps 68:18] “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” ” (Ephesians 4:4–8, NIV-84)

 

Serving God as part of his Church is a glorious privilege, and a blessing. Albert Schweitzer said:

“One thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”