Sunday, February 17, 2013

On Being The Body

"For just as the body is ONE and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are ONE BODY, so it is with Christ.  For the body does not consist of one member, but of MANY."  1 Cor. 12:12,14

During my time in the Word recently, God gave me some insights on the body of Christ.  This is a truth I've been slowly learning over many years.  I used to be a lone ranger Christian.  I have the type of personality that processes things inwardly, so I really like my down time! When facing a crisis, I feel the need to get alone with God and pray and think things through.  There is nothing wrong with moderation.  My problem was that I kept it all inside.  I didn't want people to know I was struggling.  I thought that my issues, especially in my spiritual walk, were between me and God.  He could certainly handle anything I threw at Him, so I should be able to work through it with Him alone, right?  Not so much.  It is true that ultimately, God is all we need.  He has the answer to every question.  He sees all and knows all.  He can and does carry us through every circumstance of our lives.  But I think what some of us tend to overlook is that God has not just given us the gift of relationship with Himself....He also gave us relationships with others.  And He chooses to do a lot of His work in our lives through those horizontal relationships. 

Go back with me to the beginning of Creation.  How did God set things up to function on the earth?  He fashions Adam, the first human being, and then He says, "It is not good that the man should be alone.  I will make him a helper fit for him."  Was Adam alone?  He had God, His Creator, to fellowship with!  So why would God say that he needed someone else?  Quite simply, God created us for relationship.  He created us to know Him.  But God is so high and holy and complex that He knew we would be overwhelmed by a full revelation of Him.  So He put pieces of Himself in every part of Creation, so to speak.  Do not misunderstand me; I am not saying that nature is God, or that God is in all things.  But He displays different aspects of His character and glory in nature.  And He put the greatest part of His glory on display in the crown of His creation....Man.  So I think that God gave us marriage, family, and community so that we could see Him reflected in each other, and thus better come to know Him whom we cannot see.

A year ago, I walked through a season of depression and anxiety.  At first I thought it was a spiritual issue, and that if I could just get things straight with God, everything would be better.  I was already in a situation where I was far away from my family and my closest friends, and I was feeling lonely and isolated.  The worse I felt, the more I isolated myself.  Still, there were people around me who cared and with whom I could find safe relationship.  When I did choose to seek fellowship, I found that my spirits were uplifted and my emotions lighter.  I have learned that the times when I least want to be with people are usually when I most need it.  But during the darkest part of that season, I usually defaulted to wallowing in my misery alone.  This is a pattern I have followed many times in the past.  But this time it became too much for me to handle.  I finally came to the point where I knew I had to start talking to people I trusted and bring my private pain to light.  Destructive emotions and thought patterns, when kept hidden, are like a slow-moving poison filling the soul.  Left too long, they will destroy you. 

Stepping out the first time to expose the darkness in my soul was incredibly hard.  But when I took that plunge, I felt an incredible weight lifted off me, just because someone else now knew what I was dealing with, and they assured me that I was not alone!  There was still a hard road ahead, until the Lord brought full healing, but knowing that my brothers and sisters in Christ had my back made a huge difference!  And one of the major lessons I learned through this time was how much we need each other in the body of Christ.  Not one of us was designed to be a lone ranger. 

Sin royally messed up God's relationship structure in the world.  We are all broken.  We are imperfect.  We hurt each other, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.  And usually the ones we love the most are also the ones we will hurt the most, and who have the greatest potential to hurt us.  But when God sent redemption for our souls in the form of Jesus Christ, and reconciled us to Himself, He also redeemed our human relationships.  We call it the Church.  Everyone who comes to saving faith in Christ is part of this new family, one that spans the entire world!  But it's more than a family...Jesus took it a step further....He said, "Abide in me, and I in you."  John 15:4
In His prayer to the Father before His death, He asked for all those who would believe in Him...."that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you have sent me."  John 17:21

Jesus' intent for His church is that we will be one with God and with each other.  This speaks of a deep a man and his wife are to become one flesh, so the followers of Christ are to be one body!  Paul expounds further on this mystery in his letters to the church.  He tells us that just as in our physical body we have different parts with different functions, so we are one body in Christ, and we are joined together as members of each other, just as our body parts are joined together.  We each have unique functions, or gifts, and not one can function apart from the others!  As a whole, we display the full glory of God to the world! 

Think about this: how much good is your eye going to do by itself?  Or your hand?  Or your foot?  Every part of your body depends on all the other parts to be successful in your daily life.  It is the same in the body of Christ.  Joined together, we are a mighty force that Jesus said the very gates of Hell will not be able to prevail against!  (Matt. 16:18)  But on our own?  I'd say we're pretty powerless!  We're like a coal cast out of the fire....separated from the combined heat of all the other coals, it quickly burns itself out and dies.

So here is the Scripture I just read that really made me think.  Hebrews 10:24,25.  "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." 
I am seeing in my own history, and in the lives of others around me, the terrible price of isolation.  It tears us apart inside.  It leaves us vulnerable to enemy attack.  And it renders us ineffective in the service of our King. 

I am sharing a house with a few other women.  We have our own rooms, our own jobs, our own lives.  We come and go at will.  It's easy to keep to ourselves.  But we have decided that we need to build and maintain fellowship as sisters in Christ, so we set aside one night every week to sit down and share dinner together and talk about things in our lives.  The house we live in is also used for various ministry, including ladies' Bible studies.  Sometimes this brings in a large group, but we've had some nights when only three or four were there.  But whether it's a Bible study, a family, or just fellowship as housemates, I realized that we are still the Body of Christ, and we need to stay together if we want the power of God to be manifest in our lives!  In the church of America today, most people think they're doing good to make it to the worship service once a week.  But this is not what Jesus intended for His body!  If you read the book of Acts, you will see that the first believers at the birth of the Church met together EVERY DAY to break bread, to fellowship, to hear the teachings of Christ, and to pray!  I don't think this was a formal church service.  It was part of their daily lives.  They met together because they needed the encouragement, the accountability, and the perspective of their fellow Christ-followers.  They knew that the will of God and the mission of His kingdom could be accomplished only through a unified body of believers.  What soldier single-handedly wins a war?  What athlete wins the Super Bowl alone?  The Body of Christ is the most important team, the greatest army in all of history!  We are here to be the salt and the light in this dark world....together!  So what are we doing, separating ourselves in our individual lives?  You will find so much in the Bible telling us how the Body of Christ is supposed to function.  We bear each others' burdens.  We build each other up in love and faith.  We challenge one another to greater holiness and good works.  We confess our sins and struggles to one another and pray for each others' healing.  We steer each other back to the right path when one has strayed.  We share whatever we have that another needs.  The list goes on!  How can we ever hope to gain all these blessings and benefits if we neglect to come together, and if we allow our differences and the distractions of life to divide us? 

Brothers and sisters, we are far from the unity that Christ envisioned.  But we have hope!  Christ, our Head, is with us and is still building His church!  His Word declares that He is preparing a pure and spotless bride for Himself.  We are that bride!  He knows what it will take to make us one, and He is able to do it!  He WILL do it!  So don't lose heart.  Purpose today to do what is in your power to cultivate unity in the Body.  Stop hiding behind your wounded pride, your critical spirit, your fear, your unrealistic expectations, your secret sin, your private pain, or whatever it is that keeps you from real fellowship.  Come together with your brothers and sisters.  Let us rise up and be the Church!