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January 14, 2024

Jesus Brings It All to the Table

Passage: Romans 12:6-16

I’m certain that most of you have heard this question or a variant of it asked to you during a job interview, “What do you bring to the table?” When an interviewer asks you, “What do you bring to the table,” they're asking you to provide information about yourself that show your strengths. It means, “What value can you add to our company?”. It's an opportunity to bring up what you want about yourself, and you can use the opportunity to point out you can bring to the table. But at the end of the day, an interviewer wants to find someone who can deliver as a new piece in their business.

And so, all of you have worked very different jobs, and you have entirely different skills from each other, yet you all were asked the same question, “what do you bring to the table?” Now imagine that interview question but imagine that all of you in the pews today are being asked that question by the same interviewer. “What? A rancher, a nurse, a teacher, a servant of the church, a banker, a civic engineer, a military man…what job is this?...” It’s not a job…it’s a calling, and in the case of the question, “what do you bring to the table?” the One asking is not trying to see if they should pay you, but rather He’s trying to teach you. Your Lord teaches you in His word by asking you a question that can only be answered by His Word, “What do you bring to the table?” By asking this question, He teaches you three things: first we learn that we bring nothing to the table…that we are not to be wise in our own opinions, our gifts are not our own, and we would be nothing but vile sinners if it weren’t for our God. Second, we learn what Jesus brings to the table. We learn that He brought payment for our sins and a perfect performance record for us. We learn that He brings all power and yet all humility. He brings the gift of changing water into wine, and yet the humility to condescend to a small town wedding to do so. Thirdly, we learn that Jesus brings us to the table, gifting us through His grace our various skills and employing in us the general actions and mindset that pleases God. So then, what do you bring to the table? In a sense, nothing, for as we will see today, Jesus brings it all to the table.

(We pray…)

So, first of all, when an interviewer asks, “what do you bring to the table?” He’s trying to see if you’ll be a good fit, a team player, and not an egotistical liability. Being an egotistical liability would not be beneficial for a business, and for God’s church, even worse. In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, you perhaps notice how Paul made this point. When it comes to the diversity of gifts among Christians in God’s church, Paul points out that these gifts have one goal: giving glory to God and showing love to one’s neighbor. If the gift of prophecy, let it be in proportion to our faith, our beliefs, not made up out in a spirit of arrogance. If it’s ministry, use it to minister...stay in your lane humbly. If it’s teaching, then stay in the teaching lane. If exhortation, then in the exhortation lane. If it’s giving in charity, do so with liberality, that is a spirit of sincere willingness and not a spirit which seeks attention. If it’s leading, lead in diligence and don’t slack off. If it’s showing mercy, don’t do it grudgingly but cheerfully. All these directives reflect a spirit of humility. Now, setting specific gifts aside and speaking of our actions in general, Paul still looks for a spirit of humility and godliness: “love without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” And finally, Paul even asks that our mindset reflects a spirit of humility and godliness, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” In your specific gifts, your general actions, and your mindset in life, you are encouraged as Christian’s at God’s table not to be egotistical liabilities, but humble assets working towards godliness.

So then, understanding our text, we are asked again, “what do you bring to the table?” Humbly, we say, “we bring nothing to the table.” To make the point more vivid, imagine if churches interviewed people by asking, “what do you bring to the table?” I don’t mean that you perceive it, I mean they ask you verbatim, “what do you bring to the table?” That would be downright disturbing. That would practically be saying that you can only belong here and come here if you earn it…that’d be horrifying. Thank God that’s not how He runs His church, yet why do we act like it is run that way? Let us not act as if we aren’t guilty of it and let us own up to our failures to strive towards loving God and neighbor. I’ll start first: have I always stayed in my lane when serving God, no…have you not as well? Have we given in a spirit of genuineness and not pettiness, led with a spirit of diligence and not slothfulness, shown mercy in a spirit of cheerfulness and not begrudgingly. Have we always loved without hypocrisy, always abhorred what was evil, always clung to the good, always shown brotherly love, never shown lagging in spiritual diligence; have we always rejoiced in hope, always remained patent in tribulation, always prayed, always shown hospitality to those within or without our church, always blessed those who persecute us, and, on top of that, never cursed them? Have we always been sympathetic. How long have we set our minds on high, prideful things. Can we call ourselves humble, or are we wise in our own opinions? How do you answer the question “what do you bring to the table?” If you think that you bring anything to the table, think again. If you said that you bring something to the table, and you said that to God at the interview table, He would, “thank you for your time…NEXT!”  Every gift you have then is from God, and they can just as easily be taken away…

So then what do you bring to the table…nothing…but Jesus brings everything we lack. All the aforementioned exhortations which Paul writes of, all of these things which we naturally lack, Jesus brings for us and to us. To the table, at the interview with God, Jesus drops the most impressive, whopping resume, a portfolio so thick that it smashes the interview table when it hits the surface. I’ll give you just a glimpse of what Jesus brings for you to this proverbial table. Did He prophesy according to the truth? Most certainly, He was the Word incarnate after all, and He did it for you to save you. Did He minister? Yes! How many sick people did he not only visit, but healed…Did He teach? The answer there is obvious…and He did that for you to teach and save you. Did He exhort? Yes…to quote Him, Jesus says many times, “be of good cheer, ______, your sins are forgiven you!” Did He give liberally? He gave His life and His blood for you! Did He lead with diligence? Yes, for He had a kingdom to build, one in which you now belong. Did He show mercy with cheerfulness? Jesus is cheerful mercy incarnate. Jesus loved without hypocrisy. He abhorred what was evil, sending Satan away at His temptation. He clung to the good, being about His Father’s business in the temple. He showed honor and affection, washing Peter’s feet. He did not lag in diligence, but fed and preached to thousands. He rejoiced in hope, “blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you!” Was He patient in tribulation as He took the scourge of whips? Was He steadfast in prayer? How often He went away to pray, especially in the garden on that doleful night. He blessed those who persecuted and cursed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He rejoiced and wept, celebrating in Cana while also weeping for Lazarus. He did not set His mind on high things, but associated with the humble…

Jesus, who had every right to be amongst the high things, was very God Himself: Proverbs 8 shows us that, as Jesus speaks about Himself and the Father, “When He prepared the heavens, I was there, When He drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 When He established the clouds above, When He strengthened the fountains of the deep, 29 When He assigned to the sea its limit, So that the waters would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him,” and this very God came to earth in human flesh to perform for us every task that was necessary for our salvation. He did this, slapping His resume on the table as everything we need to answer the question, “What do you bring to the table?” As you open this resume, you see that Jesus showed Himself as the Son of God sent to be the humble Savior of us all. The Son of God, who was there with the Father creating the very world we walk on, came down from Heaven. He left the highest of places and associated with the humble. The Son of God became incarnate, leaving the highest realms of heaven, to help a small-town wedding that was out of wine. Christ Jesus came down to draft your resume and bring for you your salvation, taking away all the sinful blemishes of your spiritual work history and giving you all the accolades needed to be at the table of our Lord.

And so, yes, we bring nothing to the table, but Jesus brings it all. He has brought His resume to the table so that He could bring you to the table. Christ brings you to the table through His grace so that you can live under Him in His kingdom. He calls you by His grace to leave the high and mighty thoughts behind so that you can also help at small town weddings. No, not by chemically changing the elements of water into wine, but by following the aforementioned criteria given to us in Romans and elsewhere in Scripture. It’s important to know that everything that Paul exhorts the church to do, everything that is in our morning sermon text, was first preceded by Christ’s resume, the grace given to us by God. Without Christ’s work, we can’t do it. With Christ’s work, we are more than conquerors. With Christ’s grace we can use our God given gifts, bringing to the table preaching, ministering, teaching, leading, giving, showing mercy, exhortation, and whatever Christian gifts He has given you. With Christ’s resume before us, we are given through it the ability to love without hypocrisy, abhor evil, cling to good. We are given kind dispositions to our fellow man. We are given further the gifts of fervency in serving the Lord. We are given hope in Christ’s resume. We are given patience, the gift of fervent prayer, and the gift of hospitality. And, with this resume, we are given the right mindset—the right mindset towards our enemies, a mindset of sympathy, a mindset of humility.

So then, what do you bring to the table? Nothing, for Jesus brings it all. At the interview table, we can say to our Heavenly Father when we are asked ‘What do you bring to the table:’ “I’m here, O Lord, at this table because Christ brought me here. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”