What is the Body of Christ (Part 3)

Today, we finish our study of the fruits of the body of Christ.  Please make sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 where we looked at the first ten fruits that are evident in the functioning body of Christ.

The body of Christ is…

  • MOTIVATING (“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” – Hebrews 10:24)  I have gone through many stages of maturity of faith in my years as a Christian, and one of the key factors that has led me to where I am today is the motivation I’ve received from others.   I have had brothers and sisters in Christ stir me to grow in my knowledge of God.  I’ve had people who’ve encouraged me to write and preach more and told me how beneficial my work was for the Lord.  Christians should be in the business of motivating one another to work for God.
  • PRAYING (“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.– James 5:16)  I’ll be the first to admit that my prayer life has some room for improvement.  I imagine most of us feel the same way about our ability to pray consistently.  We don’t give the power of prayer the respect it deserves, but God teaches that a righteous man’s prayers have the ability to affect great change in our lives.  The body of Christ should be known for its desire to turn to God in prayer for our every need.
  • TEACHING (“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” – Colossians 3:16)  This fruit in the active body of Christ is near and dear to my heart.  As an educator for the past 12 years, I see the effect that good teaching has on the minds of the children in my care.  It is the same for Christians as well.  While many people would shy away from opportunities to teach, it is a sign of spiritual maturity when God’s word so richly dwells within us that we can passionately and coherently pass along that message to others.  I believe God calls all members of the body of Christ to be working towards teaching others about Him and his saving grace.
  • WEEPING/ REJOICING (“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15)  Let’s just get right to the point.  Life sure has its ups and downs doesn’t it?  One day we’re on cloud nine, and the next we’re walking in the valley of the shadow of death.  What better way to walk through life’s victories and defeats than to have others along for the ride.  As the body of Christ, we should be that shoulder to cry on when times are tough, and we should cheer one another on when times are good.
  • RESTORING (“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:1-2)  I don’t know a single Christian who hasn’t been challenged by the lies of Satan.  Sometimes, we’re strong and persevere through the temptations that we face.  Other times, we stumble and succumb to our sinful nature and the challenges that the Devil presents.  We must gently help one another to pursue righteousness and pick up the faltering Christian who falls into sin.  If not, we may be led away by the Great Deceiver and lose our opportunity of an everlasting life with Jesus in Heaven.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed and been challenged during our study of the body of Christ and how we can reflect Jesus in our daily walk with him.  Make the effort to put these things into practice and encourage other Christians to do the same.  It can only help in growing the church in our lifetime and honoring God in the process.

The body of Christ is…

  1. Caring
  2. Loving
  3. Accepting
  4. Giving
  5. Serving
  6. Instructing
  7. Forgiving
  8. Encouraging
  9. Honoring
  10. Comforting
  11. Motivating
  12. Praying
  13. Teaching
  14. Weeping/ Rejoicing
  15. Restoring

-Joe

What is the Body of Christ (Part 2)

*Be sure to read What is the Body of Christ (Part 1) as we are examining the fruit evident from a church working for the Lord.  Part 1 contained the first five fruits.  Today’s post will look at the next 5.

The body of Christ is…

  • INSTRUCTING (“I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” -Romans 15:14)  One of my favorite acts of service within the body of Christ is teaching.  All Christians should pursue wisdom so that they may instruct others in the knowledge of Christ.  We all should take every opportunity to study God’s word, not just for our own spiritual growth, but for the benefit of the whole body.
  • FORGIVING (“ bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. ” -Colossians 3:13)  Part of being in a family is learning to live with one another.  The harsh reality is that it’s not always easy.  Just as Christ has borne with our difficulties, we should bear with one another.  Just as Christ has forgiven us through the shedding of his blood, we too should forgive others of their trespasses against us.
  • ENCOURAGING (“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11)  How do you feel when you are encouraged?  How much more determined are you when people are cheering for your success?  My guess is that you’re greatly uplifted by the encouragement from others and others find strength in the encouragement you provide them.  The body of Christ was made for circumstances such as these because we will always be more effective together than apart.
  • HONORING (“ Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:10)  Christianity is not about bringing honor to oneself, but striving to bring honor and glory to God.  One way to make that happen is by loving and honoring one another and treating the needs of others as greater than our own.  Jesus himself exemplified the heart of a servant, and we too should be zealous in our attempt to honor each other in the body of Christ.
  • COMFORTING (“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)  If you take an honest inventory of the blessings God has provided you, you will most likely find that you will never reach the end of his goodness.  One of those blessings is the comfort that God provides us.  The most logical response to that blessing is to extend the comfort we have found in God to others, and especially those of the body of Christ.  Life is tough sometimes, and we need one another to fall back on in times of trial and affliction.

Be sure to return tomorrow as we look at five more fruits that the functioning body of Christ should show.

-Joe

What is the Body of Christ (Part 1)

What is the body of Christ?

The body of Christ is everyone who has put on Christ (Galatians 3:27-29).  The body of Christ is composed of those who live for Him, who are actively changing their lives to pursue the righteousness of God (2 Timothy 2:22).  The body of Christ is made up of those who have responded to the one call, God’s call (Ephesians 4:4-6).  In its simplest terms, the body of Christ is you, it’s me, it’s the church.

So you may ask, “How do I know if I’m part of that body?”  I think I’ll let Jesus speak in response to this question.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:7-8)

In order to be a part of the body of Christ, we must be his disciples and disciples bear fruit. Today, and in the next few posts, we will study some examples of fruit that the body of Christ should be producing.  I ask that you remain honest with yourself and be real about whether or not these fruits are evident in your life.  Since the body of Christ is made up of individual Christians, we must look first to ourselves and consider whether we are living in a manner that brings glory and honor to God.

The body of Christ is…

  1. CARING (“25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”1 Corinthians 12:25)  How well do you care about other Christians?  Do you place more importance on yourself or do you seek to remain unified with the members of Christ’s body?  If there is no divisiveness among you, you will care deeply for every child of God.
  2. LOVING (“34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” –John 13:34-35)  Did you know that loving one another is such an important command to God that he placed it second only to loving Him?  This is how those outside the body of Christ will know if he truly exists and is a loving God.  If they see our love for one another, then they can believe that there’s a Father that loves them too.
  3. ACCEPTING (“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” –Romans 15:7)  What is one way to glorify God?  By accepting one another the way Christ has accepted us.  No, this doesn’t mean accept a “live and let live” mentality that ignores the commands of God.  It means not to play favorites, but to treat everyone the way you want to be treated.
  4. GIVING (“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” –Acts 2:45)  Just stop and think for a moment how generous God has been to you.  You can’t even count all the blessings you’ve received, can you?  Whether we like it or not, there are many in the body of Christ who suffer from want.  Who is to meet their needs?  We are!
  5. SERVING (“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” –Galatians 5:13)  God has granted us tremendous freedom in the body of Christ and that has been given to us for a purpose…so that we will serve one another.  The body will always have its needs met when we are looking out for one another and considering the needs of others before our own.  There’s no better way to emulate Christ than to have a heart of a servant (Philippians 2:3-8).

Be sure to check out the next post as we examine more fruits of the members of the body of Christ.

-Joe

Monday Motivation: Made One

“26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

(Galatians 3:26-28)

For all of the hatred, racism, and separation that are prevalent in our world today, we should be reminded that God wishes that not to be so. He has made us one through Christ Jesus. We must quit looking at how we are different as human beings and instead look for ways to stay unified.

-Joe

 

Monday Motivation: Every Day is a Day to Worship

 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
    and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    let the field exult, and everything in it!
33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
    before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
34 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!”

(1 Chronicles 16:31-34)

Today and every day, worship the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  You don’t have to wait for a Sunday worship service to glorify God.  While public acts of service are wonderful, you don’t have to do some amazing thing in order to honor Him.  Lift up his name in everything that you do each and every day.

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.”

(Psalm 100:1-5)

-Joe

Obese Spirituality

I was alarmed recently when I went to the doctor for my physical and found out that I had gained some weight.  Now, it may seem petty, but I have been between 180 and 185 lbs. for literally the last twenty years.  So you can understand my surprise when the doctor told me I weighed 192 lbs.  It’s not a huge increase, but I quickly realized that in middle age, the weight does in fact catch up with you like I was warned.

I can probably hear some of you saying, “I’d love to only weigh that much!”  I only mention it to show I’ve been a little undisciplined, that I’ve taken one too many trips to the all-you-can-eat buffet and listened one too many times to that ravenous voice in my head that says I need a snack at 11 o’clock at night.  Putting aside some very real medical and physical issues that cause some people to be overweight, most obesity is simply a result of taking in more calories than you can burn off.  Apparently, the problem is pretty widespread too.  According to the National Institute of Health, 74% of men and 64% of women in America are considered overweight or obese and the number is continually rising.

I believe there is a deeper problem behind the increasing rates of obesity and it has nothing to do with food.  In fact, we may be seeing the same phenomenon in parts of the church today and it’s becoming detrimental to our ability to win people for Christ.  I believe the problem lies with the fact that we have a consumer mentality.  In terms of our bodies, when we consume too much it gets stored as fat and can ruin our health.  In regards to the church, when we consume too much, we think only of our own spiritual appetite and miss the chance to be the true church to the world around us.

Ask any preacher or body of elders from any congregation of your choice and most will say that people primarily look at church as a means to be filled.  People want sermons that pander, programs that provide, and decisions to be made that fit their opinions.  Church has become a place where if your needs aren’t being met, you move on to somewhere else or leave the church altogether.  Instead, we should be fixated on serving rather than taking.  We should be asking, “What can I do with my life, my time, and my talents to serve God and his kingdom purposes?”

Sure, we should feed ourselves from time to time.  We should consume scripture because it brings life.  But we should also feed others, looking for ways to encourage, pray for, and teach those who need the life-giving sustenance that only God can provide.

I say, let’s all go on a diet together.  Let’s be more concerned about the needs of others and not just our own.  Let’s share the bread of life (John 6:35) and the living water (John 7:37-38) with as many people as we can so they can know Christ and have their spirits quenched.  I guarantee this diet will have a much bigger effect on your soul than any fad diet would ever have on your body.

(John 6:27a) “27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”

(John 6:33) “33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

(John 6:51a) “51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

-Joe

Would We Be Missed If We Were Gone?

The doors of the church building closed one final time.  The members said their goodbyes and departed, sadly making plans for where they would attend in the future.  No one thought it would happen to their church, but it did and it was time to move on.  The paint faded and peeled.  The windows were broken or stained.  The walls that once echoed with songs of praise now only heard silence.

Would we be missed if we were gone?

This fictitious story was meant to help us understand that churches close permanently all the time.  And with those closures come very real consequences for the surrounding community.  Or at least there should be.  If your church left the community or closed its doors for good, would anyone care or notice?  I know the members of a church that closed would definitely feel the loss, but would it really affect the community?  Does the church have a big enough impact on its surroundings that if it were gone, a huge void would be created?

The truth is, some churches are actively providing ministries and outreach that drastically help the communities around them.  And that is exactly what the church is supposed to do.  We are a vehicle by which people can come to know Jesus and learn how to effectively serve Him with the abilities they’ve been given.  For instance, an accountant by trade could use their knowledge to offer money management classes so that others can learn not to be chained to poor financial decisions.  Maybe a group of divorcees could offer a ministry to the community to help counsel couples on how to deal with real marital issues they may be facing.  Even if your talent is just being an encourager, you could use it in the community by volunteering at a local nursing home or classroom.  We must ask ourselves, are we truly being Jesus in our communities, not just preaching the truth, but being servants and meeting people’s basic needs?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

(Matthew 25:31-40)

I love this passage because it reminds us that being a Christian is not just about preaching the gospel.  Being righteous is not the only requirement to honor God.  We can help with social problems and teach the gospel and they don’t always have to happen simultaneously.  Sometimes a pressing physical need arises that needs attention before we share the gospel with others.  In fact, the true meaning of the gospel is really shown through acts of service.  The love that Jesus showed on the cross can also be shown when we sacrifice to take care of others.  Jesus goes on to say that if we don’t take care of these obvious needs around us, then we are essentially turning our backs on him as well (Matthew 25:41-46).  It means we can hole up in our churches and only focus on ourselves and be counted lost in the eyes of God if we look past the needs in the world around us.

I know that can be tough.  We are called out of the world and instructed to be careful of our associations (John 15:19, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18), but we are also sent into the world as well (John 17:18, Mark 16:15).  It doesn’t take long to look around and see some very desperate needs.  We definitely live in a hurting world where many have lost any sense of hope for their lives.  If the church doesn’t make every effort to meet those needs, who will?

I want to leave with the same question I posed at the beginning of the post.  Would we be missed if we were gone?  Would the entire community be affected by the closure of your church or would they barely notice?  I suppose it depends on our ability to love with our words or love with our life, and I believe that Jesus calls us to not only speak the gospel with our words but to live it out as well.

-Joe