“CONNECTED TO THE BODY OF CHRIST”
(Foundations Discipleship Series)
Session #1 Westgate Chapel
PROPOSITION: That the Christian life is not lived in isolation, but in the context of a local Body of Christ, a unit, made of many parts, living in mutual dependence and honor.
ii. One body
It is the Church of God
Jesus is the Head
Each one of you is a part of it (Biblical injunction)
Pattern of Acts
iii. YOu are baptized into that body (1 Corinthians 12)
By the Spirit
into God’s presence
Preferring one another
(One another passages….like spurring one another on to love and good works)
iv. Minister into maturity (ephesians 4)
Leadership functions (deacons/elders)
Works of service (gifts at work)
Maturity unto the whole measure
Exactly what is it that they should do?
Turn to I Corinthians 12.
I want to share a foundational truth of the Christian life that you can’t make it without the Body of Christ. I want to share the foundational truth of the Christian life that God has designed the Christian walk in such a way that we are to be interdependent in mutual relationship and ministry. The Lone Ranger Christian Life has no place in the Bible to support it. In fact, I don’t believe it exists. If by force of necessity, like the Apostle John, you are cast out on the Isle of Patmos and have no one around to worship with and be dependent upon and accountable to, then I know the grace of God will be sufficient.
I know that in preaching this sermon this morning I am going against the common cultural norm, that we Westerners have a certain philosophy about our independence: We are individuals and we have individual rights and are responsible for our own lives. We are told to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, make a way for yourself, your future is in your hands, no one’s going to do it for you, do it yourself, and grab all the gusto you can. These are all clichés that convey to you and me that your life is your own responsibility and you have to get hold of it and make the best of it yourself.
You and I in many ways do not realize that our culture has indoctrinated us to believe that the individual is held up high—higher than the community. If you don’t believe this, visit other countries, perhaps India. In monetary ways they may be impoverished compared to the United States but in many other ways far richer than we are. Richer because they prize community higher than individual rights or function, and that may seem un-American to us.
But the reality is that the Christian life is designed to be lived in an organic relationship with you and other members of the Body of Christ lived out in the local church. I know that if you’re visiting here this morning or perhaps if you don’t know me very well, you may be suspicious thinking, “He’s just the pastor and he’s trying to promote Westgate Chapel and involvement in the church, and he’s trying to increase attendance.” I believe I will show you from Scripture that the Christian life, while it may begin as a personal, individual response to the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, and while it may be something nobody can do for you, the Church can’t impart saving grace to you. A priest or a pastor cannot impart saving grace to you. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That is a personal choice and decision that you make. God’s Spirit convicts you. Outside of Jesus Christ you are cut off from God, even from society and are isolated and on your own.
I picked up my mom as I do every Sunday to bring her to church. As I drove her this morning she said, “Son, just how long can this world keep on going?” I think maybe she watches the news network too much. It’s hard to have faith when you’re watching the news. I know it’s difficult when you look at what’s going on—in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and our world today— you realize that we are in a very fragmented and divided world.
But in this fragmented world the Spirit of God singles you out for salvation. The grace of God comes upon you when he calls you to follow Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God brings conviction of sin into your life and convicts you of the reality of Jesus, prompting you on the promise of God to respond to the invitation and bring everything that is in your life across the bridge that is created by the Jesus work on the cross. You are faced with a choice, a God-given choice. By faith you cross over into the kingdom of God. I preached this in the First Steps Series and by the grace of God I’m going to move on to the next series which is the next area of discipleship. I believe we’ll call this Foundations. I want you to get this first foundation and even if it’s old hat to you it’s worth revisiting.
The first foundation as a follower of Jesus Christ is that life in the Body of Christ is an indispensable part of your Christian life. Yes, it’s not always a whole lot of fun. I heard about a church that’s in our own fellowship that is facing foreclosure, maybe as soon as nine months from now. I can’t imagine the emotion and turmoil that is going on if you are a member of that congregation. Yes, church life is sometimes not a whole lot of fun. Yes there are painful things to go through. Yes, sometimes people in the church of Jesus are a pain in the neck. Yes sometimes some of the people in this church are a source of irritation to you. But lest you feel too smug this morning, sometimes you’re an irritation to other people! So, yes, I know this is an imperfect thing—this church of Jesus. Yet, in spite of it’s imperfections and in spite you and I might feel awkward about it or feel it’s not exactly necessary, thinking that you’re living with a “Jesus and me” way of life. I’ve got to tell you that God is not waiting for your vote of the endorsement of your own principle. He has already established that when you are born again and cross that bridge, you are by faith crossing over and an individual decision is made. But in the family of God you are made to be organically part of His family. His family is every local expression of the Body of Christ.
Some people say, “All these denominations—God can’t be real, which one is true?” Probably none of us, because none of us have the perfect corner on the full revelation of God. So God has a variegated, multi-colored, wonderful fabric that he has woven together called the Body of Christ. There are some who could not stomach me or enjoy Pentecostal worship, or go to churches where there is not Pentecostal worship. Hopefully if the gospel is preached and Jesus is preached, they are drawn to Jesus Christ regardless of the name over the door. Denominations don’t matter a hill of beans. The local church means everything. So whether that local church is University Presbyterian, Shoreline Community, Edgewood Baptist, Esperance Baptist, Aurora Nazarene, or Westgate Chapel, is really irrelevant. What is relevant and absolutely essential is that you get your roots down in something called the local Body of Christ.
This is just the introduction. I’m going to establish this for you from Scripture so that you can know this is not just the rantings of a pastor who is looking to bolster church attendance or church involvement. My concern is that you make it to heaven. My task is to see that you don’t just limp in by the skin of your teeth, but that you go in gloriously, breaking the tape with your head held high because the grace of God surrounding you in a local Body of Christ has been the means whereby Jesus has ministered grace and peace and love and accountability and strength and joy. Yes, through the grist and nitty-gritty of good times and bad, in this wonderful thing called the Body of Christ. And even though America says do it by yourself I’m here to tell you that you can’t do it by yourself. You need me and I need you and we’re in this thing together.
Rita and I were in a business a couple of years ago, in a retail business and the lady overheard us talking and asked, “Are you Christians?” As we talked a while longer I was curious and asked, “Which Body of Christ to you belong to?” She said, “Oh, well I belong to all of them. I just travel around.” I decided I’m not going to agitate her or perhaps I was a little chicken. If I were my dad he would have said, “What! Are you crazy?” So I just let the conversation go because it is what John Wesley, in the 18th Century, tackled with the Roman Monastic order that was so prevalent in that day. It basically said that people contaminate and pollute; they are a nuisance and if you really want to get close to God, to know Him, and walk in victory, then get the people out of your life. Get up on a pole somewhere 30 feet in the air and see how many months you can stay on a pole and read the Bible, study, meditate and contemplate your navel. After 365 days up there you actually will have some spirituality. Folks, I’m not trying to trash a particular denomination but it’s a Christianity that is unknown in this book.
So the spirit of God is speaking to us and Lord willing this morning I am launching into a brand new series. The first is going to be #1, Taking Your Place in the Body of Christ. Foundation #2, Understanding and Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Foundation #3, Living in the Power of the Spirit of Christ. This lesson is especially important. I want us to get hold of what it really means to live the Spirit-filled life because this topic can be filled with so many clichés that we’ve heard before that it could be meaningless. I’m talking about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and way more, beyond even the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The 4th Foundation is Spiritual Warfare—there’s a real devil out there and you and I need to know how to be equipped to go one-on-one with him and come out victorious in Jesus Christ.
Let’s quickly get into I Corinthians and talk with you about the Body of Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 12:12-13. The Apostle Paul and other New Testament writers use several metaphors to talk about this thing called the Body of Christ, the Church, and the community of faith. In some of the metaphors its called God’s building. In other places it’s called God’s vineyard, but in most places the Apostle Paul calls us the Body of Christ. It’s a wonderful metaphor because it involves the metaphor of the physical body in which we can readily understand what members, sinews, function, coordination, mutual accountability, encouragement, and connectivity, and all the symbolism that goes with the body the Apostle Paul captures.
He says in verse 12, The body is a unit; and though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. Paul is writing to a group of believers and at this time there is just one church in Corinth. The New Testament is written to specific local congregations where the life of Christ was lived out. The epistle we are reading now is written by the Apostle Paul to approximately 75-100 believers in the first church of Corinth who met together regularly. They haven’t gotten to First United Methodist, Church of Reformed of Jesus What’s Happening Now. They haven’t gotten to all that breakdown; it’s just one church and one body of believers. So Paul is writing to this local assembly. There are very few places in the New Testament where the Universal Church is in view. It’s usually when somebody wants to talk about that they are not part of any local church, just a part of the Universal Church, it’s usually a cop out which really means: I don’t want to be accountable, I don’t want to be connected, responsible, and just do my own thing—which is the American way.
So this body is a unit, one, made up of many parts, and although all its parts are many it forms one body. For we were all baptized… and that baptism is not water or Spirit baptism. Paul is just using again rich language, talking about by the Spirit we are saturated, immersed by one Spirit into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks (this was a division that existed in Paul’s time) slave or free (there’s another division that was existent). We can translate whether we are Republican or Democrat, African-American or European-American, whether we are living with a view of Puget Sound or whether we’re living in government assisted housing, whether we’ve got money in the bank or we’re just rubbing two pennies together. and were all given the one Spirit to drink. Whatever the divisions are that divide the world—racial, economics, religious—Paul says here that all those divisions are done away and when you come to Jesus, cross over and bring the kingdom of your life into the kingdom of God by the Spirit and Word of God, as part and parcel of your salvation, you are baptized, you are saturated, immersed by the Spirit of God into one body.
So I ask you: Which local body are you immersed in? Which local church are you saturated in? And if Westgate Chapel is your home that is the body you are currently immersed in. I’m not saying that God doesn’t move people from time to time, just be careful how frequently you move and the reasons for which you move. But that’s another sermon for another time. I realize God moves people around in his season, but if this is where you are and where God has planted you then this is the body where you are to be saturated and immersed. That’s much more than just popping in her on Sunday and listening to some choir songs, hearing me preach and then popping out again to live your Christian life out there all alone. You can’t do it! I’m not saying that I’m the greatest spiritual giant that has ever existed. But I do thank God for his grace and mercy in my life.
Here’s where I’m going with this reasoning. I’ve said this to you before, but when I go away on vacation my Christian life is twice as difficult to pursue than when I am here with you. When I get away from this place, away from you, flitting away on vacation, visiting or putting my feet up in Hawaii, or whatever we do for vacation—the disciplines of the faith are twice as hard. Pursuing God is twice as hard. Keeping myself in his presence and going after him with everything that is in me—to go after him with all of my heart—which is what he has asked me to do, is twice as hard when I am disconnected from you. You may say, that’s because you’re the pastor and your duties keep your nose to the grindstone. And certainly that could be a part of it, but I feel the loss of strength and the loss of power when I’m no longer connected to you. If I feel that in my own life, how in the world do you think you can make it following Jesus Christ in this world, popping in here an hour and a half on Sunday and feel you’ve had your dose and poof you’re gone living to yourself the rest of the week with no connection with the body of Christ—no accountability, no immersion in the life of God, no listening to the voice of God together, no sensing and feeling what is God doing? There is strength and protection belonging to the body of Christ. This is not some cold, lethargic religion we are following. This is a vibrant, dynamic, living thing we are doing following God. We do it together and in that mutuality and saturation and immersed in the local body of Christ there is a strength that and we all receive from each other. This is how God intended it to be. And although we are many parts we have been baptized into one body and given one Spirit.
Drop down to verse 27 of I Corinthians 12, Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it. Now you are the body of Christ. “I attend Westgate Chapel.” Good, but are you are a part of the body of Christ? “I attend worship services.” Great, I’m glad because this place wouldn’t be the same without you. I mean that. Your presence here in worship is vital but it’s much more than just attending worship services. “I’m a member of Westgate Chapel.” That’s great and I encourage you to go to the class. It is a point of being connected but this is more than even being a member. There are thousands of people in America who have their names on membership roles of local churches and it means absolutely nothing. Now you are the body of Christ, verse 27, and each one of you is a part of it. You are a part of Westgate Chapel. And if you are visiting from another congregation you can just insert the name of your congregation in there. You are a part of this local body called Westgate Chapel. You are, even though there are many members of this body, you are the body of Christ. And as the body of Christ we are called together to move together in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. How this happens is found in Acts 2:42 when the very first church came together. What did they do when they came together? Every day in the temple and from house to house they devoted themselves—every day! They devoted themselves means “zealously attach yourselves to” the Apostle’s teaching; to fellowship—that’s just sharing life in common; sharing the life of Christ in common with others. They committed themselves every day to the Apostle’s teaching—they were together, to the breaking of bread—that can be both meals together as well as communion, and to prayer. And from that day on the pattern after Acts 2:42, the pattern for this thing called the body of Christ, the Apostles went out, Peter, Barnabas, Silas, Paul, as they went out they’d go to pagan cities and find people who were God-fearing and preach the Gospel. Sometimes it would be in the synagogue if there were people there or down by the river, to preach the gospel, get people saved, and the minute they were saved to bind them together, lock them together in that local body. That was all that city usually had—one body, the body of Christ. From these converts they would appoint the most seasoned ones they could find as elders and leaders. Then establish the leaders and teach them awhile and then the Apostles would move on to the next city, leaving this local church behind to grow and function, worship, be accountable, and be strengthened by one another. Occasionally they would come back and check up on them.
So from the very beginning this Christian life was about the church of Jesus Christ and this body functioned, Paul tells us in verse 12, as a unit. It was a single thing; that’s what comm—unity means. It functioned as a single entity. There was no division or separation—some saying I love Paul, I love Silas—there was no division even theologically even though there must have been disagreements which there were. These local bodies functioned as a unit. When the people come together in this unit wonderful things happened.
God brings us together as a unit for several purposes:
1. For worship. Ephesians 5:19, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”
When the New Testament Church came together there was glorious worship. They sang together, and to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. They made music in their hearts to the Lord. It’s great to worship the Lord privately but it is way better to worship him together. One of the things I miss the most when I’m away from here—it’s not the house, motorcycle—bar nothing else is being together with you for worship. There’s something that happens when we come together. We’ve got African-Americans, people from Korea, Nigeria, China, Sweden, Norway, South Africa., the Islands of the world. We gather together and lift our voices to God and something happens in corporate worship of a spiritual dynamic that is greater than what happens individually—when we function as a single entity.
2. For instruction and the Word. I Corinthians 14:26: “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the church.”
We gather together for instruction in the Word, not just on a Sunday from the pulpit, but classes and small groups that gather all through the week in the life of Westgate Chapel for the instruction of the Word. Folks, listen to me: this Bible is not just simply a matter of private interpretation. What is it that keeps me from going off the wall on some bazaar teaching or theology and there is plenty of it in this country? It’s because I’m in this body. And even though, for a few moments, if my judgment somehow became impaired and I imbibed some wacky doctrine, the first thing I’d have Pastor Ron knocking on my door. Or Pastor Dave coming and asking, “Did you really mean A-B-C?” And if I did and said, “That’s my new belief and interpretation,” the next thing that would happen is I’d have some elders and Larry Chapman and Jacob Chacko would come knocking at my door. Then the next thing that would happen is I would have to come before you in a congregational meeting. There’s accountability here—this is not just private interpretation for me to start preaching about angels dancing on pin’s and needles or the weirdness that is going on in this country today. We’ve got the Word of God and we’ve got each other. We’re watching out for each other and listening to each other’s conversations concerning the Word of God because we come together for instruction. If you’re off on some weirdness, some strange doctrine that nobody else knows about and the church has not embraced—be careful child of God because I believe there is something to be said for 2000 years of biblical orthodox. There is safety when we come together for instruction in the Word.
3. For the exercise of your ministry gifts. I Corinthians 12:7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
The word “manifestation” means the revealed hand of God. We come together and we are a single entity for the exercise of your spiritual ministry gifts. We have done a lousy job and I’m pointing to myself. We’ve got places for you to sing, teach—I realize that, but I don’t think we’ve begun, in our understanding, how to adequately release God’s highest gifting in you. Frankly, from a management standpoint, when I think of all of your giftings, I say “Oh my word people!” When I think of all that you are capable of doing, and the concept of trying to figure out a system for deploying that and providing an avenue for that is mind boggling to me. But the alternatives are way too serious to ignore the difficulty because if we are a single entity, then God has placed within Westgate Chapel exactly the ministry gifts he needs to accomplish everything he’s set for us to do. This is the environment for you to exercise those gifts. I’m not saying that ministry doesn’t happen outside the walls, but if your ministry is outside of the walls it still needs to be underneath the covering and canopy of Westgate Chapel so you can go out knowing that your home church stands behind you. Jim and Kathy Speer are an example of a couple God is using in the national scene through Marriage Ministries International. They constantly come to me and the elders for prayer and covering because their ministry is out there but they want everyone to know that they’re from Westgate Chapel. I’m not lifting up Westgate Chapel but I’m saying this is the context for your ministry gifts to be deployed when we function as a single entity.
4. For mutual encouragement. I Corinthians 14:3, But the person who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding, encouragement, and comfort.
There’s way more references about encouragement that I could address. That’s why we come together. Yes, Rita encourages me. God has given me the best helpmate any pastor could want because sometimes I’m down, she’s up, and if I’m up, she may be down. We have a way of complementing each other. But it has to be even broader than that because our needs are greater than even within family. She could say, “Good sermon sweetheart.” Well she’s my wife! She has to say that—I pay her! We need encouragement that is more than patting each other on the back.
I remember going to the office on a Monday morning and for some reason totally discouraged and feeling somewhat down. I happened by one of the pastor’s office and they had no idea I was discouraged. They said, oh pastor, let me tell you about something that happened last Sunday. Someone was in the service but left and when they got half way home they turned around and came back again. God brought them back and wouldn’t let them go until they made a fresh commitment to the Lord. By the time I walked out of that office I was ready to take on the devil single handedly. Encouragement! The world beats us down and tells us in so many ways that we’re worthless, we don’t have anything to offer, and we’re not going to amount to anything. We need each other in the body of Christ as a single unit of encouragement.
5. For the ministry gifts of the Spirit can be ministered with proper accountability. I Corinthians 14:29, Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.
I won’t belabor that because I’ve already addressed it, but there’s a protection and safety. I’m not saying that the gifts of the Spirit can only be ministered in the context of the congregation, but with about 800-1000 in these services, when there’s a prophetic word or tongues and interpretation, as there was in the 9:00 service—we’ve got about 800-900 of us here listening. And what Paul is saying: that’s our job, not to be critical but to weigh is the Spirit of this thing right? Is the context right? Does it match with God’s Word? There’s a safety that happens when the spiritual gifts are ministered in the context of the local body rather than off in somebody’s living room telling you what you so desperately want to hear.
6. The leadership gifts provided by God’s ministry gifts. Ephesians 4:11-12, It was he (Christ) 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.
I’m not saying this because I’m one of the pastors here, but if your are not connected—I mean really saturated in the life of the body, you miss this leadership. If you’re outside of the church you’re outside of the protection of the leadership gifts. Jesus gave it; I didn’t say that I’m the pastor and you better listen up. Jesus gave some to be apostles, prophets, and pastors—and if you’re just flitting around like that lady on the Eastside who said she belonged to all churches…oh bologna!
7. We need each other for growth. Ephesians 4:12, Until we all reach unity of the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
I’ve already addressed that in the body of Christ. It’s not always pleasant. When somebody comes with a criticism or a concern, it’s not always pleasant but we need it. When you start living above accountability you’re heading for trouble. If I start living above accountability because I’m the head pastor and think you better not question what I’m doing or you’re messing with God. No, I’m just one member of the body of Christ who happens to function in the role of pastor. There’s not a pastor on this staff who can afford to be above accountability to the body of Christ. But the reverse is true as well. And one of the greatest gifts we give to each other and ourselves is to be teachable in the body of Christ. We need to allow somebody—I’m not talking about someone ripping your head off, because the Bible is very clear about that. If there’s been some fault, disagreement, or sin, the Bible is eminently clear that you are to come with gentleness and humility lest you be the next one that goes down. So I’m not talking about what happens sometimes with people who may get an egomaniac concept and run around ripping somebody’s head off. That is straight from the pit! If you go to somebody, you go with love and gentleness. But when you do they need to respond with a teachable spirit even if they have to say, as I have said sometimes, “Let me take that to the Lord in prayer.” I may not agree with that but one thing I sometimes do is I will, if you’ve brought something to my attention that may not be a fit for me, I will take it to the elders just to make sure. I’ll give what has been said and ask what they feel about it. If they say yes you need to listen then I better listen to it. And the last thing we need here is a group of people who are too high and mighty to be addressed.
Accountability, Saints, is the earmark of the body of Christ and the reason why we are one unit. That lady that is popping around from one church to the next will never be accountable because she’s never landing long enough at one place to be accountable. Usually it’s the hard stuff that brings about accountability. As long as we’re all loving God and one another, and angels are all around—that’s glorious and wonderful. But it’s usually when the chips are down and something’s going wrong that accountability becomes an issue. We need each other for safety and protection from weirdness, corporate witness to the love of God and the reality of freedom in a divided world. We need to demonstrate the unity and love of God. We are a unit to accomplish together what none of us can do individually.
Listen to this in the concept of the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22 we read that the fruit of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They make no sense whatsoever outside the context of the body of Christ. The operation and manifestation of the fruit of the spirit is expressed among the church body. How are you able to demonstrate love, joy and patience in isolation? As long as I’m living by myself, pleasing myself, and as long as my ministry is unto myself and I’m not accountable to anyone else, what do I have to be patient about? If everybody does what I want and as long as I’m happy—if daddy ain’t happy then nobody else is happy. Then there’s no need to be patient. But put us all in some kind of relationship where I’m irritating you sometimes, put us into a situation where you irritate me sometimes, or we’re in a ministry where we’re getting on each other’s nerves, and your giftings are bumping up against my nose and my giftings are irritating you…isn’t it interesting that our giftings are the most loving, acceptable and wonderful, but it’s the other person’s giftings that are so irritating? In the New Testament there was no escape. If you and brother Jones weren’t getting along in Corinth, oh well. You couldn’t say, I’m going to Shoreline Community Church and forget you buddy! You couldn’t do that because that was it. In fact, when they cut you off from the body of Christ which was what happened in Corinth, it was such a catastrophe that it wasn’t long before that brother was fully repentant and was brought back in because he missed so much what it was like to be with the Body of Christ.
So the fruit of the Spirit, all those things that are evident and at work in you are absolutely meaningless outside the concept of relationships. Sometimes they are difficult and sometimes they are painful, or hard to get along with and stubborn. All those things that require the fruit of the Spirit happen only within the body of Christ. We come together for fellowship, the care of those who are needy among us. We actually come together as a unit to fulfill Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John’s gospel, chapter 17, where Jesus said, “I pray that they may be one as you and I Father are one.”
I’m pretty much done even though you could write a book on I Corinthians 12—there are all the “one another” passages and a lot that Paul talks about. Remember that the foundation stone of your Christian life is wrapped up in Westgate Chapel. I’ve been in places where we weren’t on paid staff, so I’ve been in the pew as well as on the platform in leadership. But I’m here to tell you there is nothing to the Christian life that’s lived outside the Body of Christ because you are the Body of Christ and each one of you is part of it. Forgive us for the ways we’ve made you feel like you are just an attender. I mean that—forgive us for the opportunities we have missed to get you adequately connected because it’s the most important thing we do. Just being a pew sitter on Sunday is not enough because you can’t get accountability there and nurture and encouragement in the way you need it. So, I wrap up with this thought this morning: Where are you saturated and immersed within the Body of Christ? Not just the outside dabbling, but are saturated. If God has called you to Westgate Chapel then let it be here. Roll your sleeves up and don’t wait for someone to be unduly friendly—we’ve got to do that better than we are. But I think one of the devil’s traps is to get you to wait on somebody to be friendly to you and he sees to it that those kind of people walk around you. Please don’t wait for somebody to invite you. You’ve got lists in the bulletin and Westgate Window of ministry places where you can plug in. The best way you can become family is to get plugged in somewhere.
I’m not saying this because this is my wife’s ministry but I’ve watched people in the choir support one another and carry each other’s burdens and run after each other when they’re hurting or chase after the one that is missing, cry through the night when one is wounded. I’ve watched College-20s care for each other, pray for each other and run after one that has fallen by the wayside. I’ve seen it happen in many ways but the best way to let that happen is to get plugged in. Don’t just be a Sunday attender. The Christian life is intended to be saturated and immersed. Yes, it’s time consuming but in the scheme of eternity it would be best if you laid some things aside and made a place to be saturated in the Body of Christ because you are the Body of Christ and each one of you is a part of us.
- LAST December I wrote and preached a four Sunday sermon series called “First Steps,” which our Discipleship Department developed as our curriculum for brand new believers.
- FIRST STEPS included what we believe to be the most important four lessons of the Christian life:
1. Stepping into the Kingdom of God (salvation).
2. First Steps in the Kingdom of God (water and Spirit baptisms)
3. Walking in the Kingdom of God (disciplines of the faith)
4. On Mission in the Kingdom of God (how to share your faith)
- TODAY I would like to start a new four-Sunday series that will, Lord willing, become the second set of lessons for the Discipleship Department . . . called Foundations.
- WHAT are the four most important foundation stones for the Christian life?
- WE believe they are . .
1. Taking your place in the Body of Christ.
2. Understanding and surrendering to the Lordship of Christ.
3. Living the Spirit-filled life.
4. Spiritual Warfare.
- THIS morning I would like to focus our hearts on the Biblical priority of you and me finding and living out our place the Body of Christ, the local church, the community of faith.
- YOU see, when you got saved, born again, through faith in Jesus Christ, you crossed over from death to life and brought the kingdom of your life (range of your effective will) into the Kingdom of God.
- THAT was a personal, individual decision you made under the conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- A CHURCH can’t do that for you. A priest or pastor cannot administer saving grace. Romans 10:9 says,
“. . . if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
- RECEIVING God’s gift of salvation is a personal choice, by God’s free grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
- BUT the minute you cross that bridge into the Kingdom of God, something happens that ceases to be just “Jesus and you.”
- WHEN you enter the Kingdom of God you are inseperably connected to other Christians to live your new life out in the context of what the Apostle Paul calls the Body of Christ, the local church.
- THE true Christian life is lived out, not in isolation . . . but in the nitty gritty, through the joys and sorrows, in the exhilaration and discomfort of relationships and fellowship in a community of faith, the local church.
- THE hermit or monk who isolates himself or herself from the interference or contamination of other people to live close to God knows nothing about New Testament Christianity.
- THIS is because God IS a community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
* In perfect love.
* In perfect harmony.
* In perfect unity.
* In cooperative function.
* In fellowship . . . and we are made in His image and as believers are to reflect His nature to the world.
- SURE, we all need time away with God . . . but that is so that when we return we will have more of His grace and power to help and nurture God’s most treasured possession . . . the church of Jesus.
ii. the church:the body of christ
- THE New Testament uses different metaphors for the local church . . . God’s vineyard, God’s building . . . but the most frequently used is the Body of Christ.
- THIS is the visible expression of the Body of Christ, filled by God’s Spirit and left on earth as His ambassadors.
- THIS is the metaphor for the church that most closely expresses the fact that your active participation in the life of a local church is not an option but is intrinsic to living your new Christian life.
- TAKE your Bibles please and turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (page 1137).
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized (immersed, saturated) by one Spirit into one body (salvation)—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
- EPHESIANS 5:23 tells us that Jesus is the Head of the church, but what is your relationship to the church?
- DROP down to verse 27 of 1 Corinthians 12,
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
- PAUL is writing this principle of the Christian life to a local church of new believers in the 1st century city of Corinth.
- IF you are a Christian you are organically connected in Christ Jesus to His Body.
* Which church is it?
* How much do you value your relationship there?
* In what ways are you living out that organic connection that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12?
- I TALK to people frequently who are willing to talk about God, or the “man upstairs,” or even Jesus....but because of some issue or another from their past have no time for the church of Jesus Christ.
- THEY are convinced that they can serve God out there on their own as a lone ranger.
- YOU will hear them say things like.....Jesus I can take, but not the church.
- OR, I am just as near to God out on the golf course, drinking in nature.....(which is what I do a lot when I play golf in the trees, the rough, the sand).
- OR you hear them say, the weekends are my time for myself.
- RITA and I met a lady a mall on the east side one time...and she overheard us talking about God in her store, so she asked if we were Christians....which she admitted that she was too.
- WE chatted for a while and then I asked her which body of believers she was a part of and she said, “Oh....all of them. I visit one here and one there.”
- I DIDN’T want to get into an argument, and as a pastor my motives could be suspect, so I said nothing. But I can’t find her version of the Christian life anywhere in here (hold up Bible).
- WHEN the Holy Spirit first started the Church of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost, the pattern of their new life for those 3,000 believers is found in Acts 2:42. Every day in the temple courts and from house to house.....
“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
- AND from that day on, the pattern in the Book of Acts was for the apostles was planting churches. Paul or Barnabas or Peter would. . .
* Go to a pagan city.
* Preach the Gospel of Christ in the demonstration of God’s power.
* Gather the new converts and form a local church.
* Meet regularly for worship, teaching and fellowship.
* Select and appoint leadership for that church from the new converts.
* Leave and move on to the next city, returning from time to time for encouragement.
- AND that is what God has been doing for the last 2,000 years . . . He has been building His Church.
- JESUS said,
“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)
- TO show the importance of the Church in God’s plans for the universe, look at what Paul writes in Ephesians 1:22,
“And God placed all things under his (Jesus) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church . . .” (Ephesians 1:22)
- LOOK at Ephesians 3:10,
“His (God’s) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms . . .” (Ephesians 3:10)
- THE Christian life is not an individual life lived in private meditation and reflection and worship, with the local church as an option for those who are so inclined.
- THE reality is that we are together, in community, the Body of Christ. That is a collective reality, birthed and sustained by the Holy Spirit.
- AS a follower of Christ you cannot afford the risk of being “out there” in some private orbit.....
* .....answering to no one.
* .....committed to no one.
* .....involved in no on-going ministry to others.
* .....taking care of no one but yourself.
- WE are in this thing together.
- YOU or I may not like that at times, but God isn’t waiting on our vote on the matter.
- YOU can’t have Jesus without being a vital, connected, responsible part of His body, if which He is the Head.
- THERE is no separation between your vertical relationship with God and your relationship with those around you in your local church.
iii. the church: a unit of many parts
- SOME of the problems that Paul was correcting in his letter to Corinth are similar to the rugged individualism of our culture.
- THE context of I Corinthians 12 is a discussion of the gifts of the Spirit.
- AND it appears that in Corinth the ministries and gifts that God was releasing in Corinth had caused some of the people to get arrogant and independent of each other.
* So, if God used you in a prophetic word you thought it was because you were something special and a cut above the others.
* And those that considered themselves spiritual separated themselves from the not-so-spiritual.
* And as a result of something God intended for mutual edification there was a lot of envy and pride and division.
- SO, back in I Corinthians 12:12, Paul writes,
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. (I Corinthians 12:12)
- THE dictionary says that the word, unit, means “a single thing.”
- THAT is simple yet profound.
- IT means that the local church of Jesus Christ is a single thing....a unit.
- AND since the New Testament only speaks of and to local churches.....this means that,
* University Presbyterian is....a single thing.
* Aurora Nazarene is....a single thing.
* Edgewood Baptist is....a single thing.
- WESTGATE Chapel is....a single thing, though it is made up of many parts (verse 12).
- WHAT parts? You, and you, and you and me.
- SO, whether you are Jew or Greek, Scandinavian or Indonesian, Chinese or African American...or Heinz 57....you have to be a functioning member of the body of Christ because the Holy Spirit put you there.
- WE all need that comm-unity.
* For worship.
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord . . . (Ephesians 5:19)
* For instruction and the Word.
“When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:26)
* For the exercise of your ministry gifts.
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” ( 1 Corinthians 12:7)
* For mutual encouragement.
“But the person who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding, encouragement, and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:3)
* For the ministry of the gifts of the Spirit with proper accountability.
“Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” (1 Corinthians 14:29)
* For the leadership provided by God’s ministry gifts.
“It was he (Christ) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up . . .” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
* For growth.
“ . . .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.” (Ephesians 4:12)
* For mutual accountability (correction is in the context of the community of faith).
* For safety and protection from weirdness (especially as you see the day of the Lord approaching).
* For corporate witness to the love of God and the reality of God’s Kingdom.
* For accomplishing together what none of us could do individually.
* As the context for the growth of the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control make no sense whatsoever outside of the context of mutual relationships in the Body of Christ.
* For fellowship.
* For care of the needy.
* To fulfill Jesus’ prayer from John 17.
iV. THE CHURCH: not all one part but many
- THE apostle Paul also tells us that the body of Christ is not ALL one part but many together in function, in the operation of the body.
- A BODY without function is a dead body.
- A BODY with a significant number of its members atrophied from inactivity is a handicapped body.
- SO, the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:14,
“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
- ONE of the problems in Corinth was that the ones in the church with more visible charismatic gifts were acting as if they were the only ones really being effective . . . and others were backing off and doing nothing.
- SO, in verses 15-17, Paul writes,
“If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. (16) And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. (17) If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?”
- IN fact it is God Himself who designed EACH local church, with JUST the right mix of gifts and ministries to bring Him the glory and advance His kingdom in the region and around the world.
- VERSE 18,
“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (19) If they were all one part, where would the body be? (20) As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” ( I Corinthians 12:14-20)
- SO, the church of Jesus is not all ONE part, but many parts in one body in all of the living color and diversity that God alone could create . . . working together in divine harmony, under the direction of the Head (Jesus Christ) for the glory of God.
v. THE CHURCH: mutual dependence and honor
- THEN in the next few verses Paul digs a little deeper on the issue of division based on an over-inflated opinion of ones own role in the body of Christ.
- VERSE 21,
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don't need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don't need you!’”
- YOU can’t tell another member of the body of Christ that you don’t need what they have to offer for function.
- WE need each other.
- IT is in the fellowship of the local church that you and I find encouragement and the accountability that comes from walking with God TOGETHER.
- HOW foolish and arrogant to think otherwise.
- THEN Paul goes on to tell us about those members of Christ’s body that many of us would just as soon dump along the way.
* These are the ones who are always struggling and never seeming to get the victory.
* These are the ones who seem to be feeble....or sickly...not so robust.
* They are the ones in the body that you want to say, “Get a job, get a life, get on with it!”
- VERSE 22 says about them,
“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable....”
- NOT just tolerated, or welcome...but indispensable. We need the weaker ones....
* They keep us from running on ahead of God. He always stopped for the weaker ones.
* They keep our feet on the ground.
* They keep us calling on God.
* They keep us from thinking our strength is in ourselves.
* They are indispensable.
- VERSE 23,
“....and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty...”
- THERE are some members of our body that we don’t want exposed....it would be immodest to have all of our body on display.
- SO, those members get special treatment.
- THEY are not exposed for all to see, but treated with modesty.
- IN another place the Bible says this is that love that covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8)
- INSTEAD of exposing the unseemly, less honorable members of the body of Christ....since they belong to us and us to them...we cover them. And the Greek words used in verse 23 refers to the clothing that we use to cover the immodest parts of our human anatomy.
- PAUL is not saying that sin isn’t dealt with. He is saying there is a difference between dealing with sin and exposing the member of the body of Christ.
- THE latter is usually reserved, in the New Testament, for those who refuse repentance.
- VERSE 24,
“....our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,
- GOD has put the body together the way He has seen fit...in the combination He has chosen. It is not by chance that you have been placed in this body.
- AND the variety and diversity is from Him....verse 25,
“....so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (26) If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” ( I Corinthians 12:21-26)
- WE are to live together and minister together in mutual dependence and love.
- LET me go over the points that Paul makes in this passage...
1. The local church is the Body of Christ
2. The local church is a unity of many parts.
3. The local church is not one part but many.
4. The local church is mutual dependence and honor.
- HOW connected are you to the body of Christ in some local expression?
- HOW committed are you to the diversity in the body of Christ....so unlike who you are?
- HOW united are you with all other members of the body of Christ?