Service:  The Church as the Body of Christ

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Exercising through Service

Getting Stronger and Reaching the World

In our previous exercise, we began a new level of workout routines dealing with Service; and, during the course of that introductory routine, we learned how, through our service for Christ, the good works which He began are still being done in the world today.  Then, as we searched for a definition of the word, especially as it relates to us as believers, we discovered some of the Terms of Service which must be adhered to, if any enduring work for Christ is to be accomplished.  These are…

  • Service must begin at the altar of worship, where we surrender our wills to God’s will;
  • Service must be motivated by our love for Christ;
  • Service must proceed from clean hands and pure hearts; and,
  • Service, like that which Jesus performed—and, other than our post-salvation, personal MDLA, or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—must be done in cooperation with other members of the Corporate Body of Christ, or the entity better known as The Church.
We Are the Church Together

Not a Building but a Body of Believers

Too often, when we hear the word Church, the image that comes to mind is of a building.  However, the real Church of Jesus Christ is not and was never intended to be an architectural structure or an organized institution, into which the Children of God could retreat in search of protection or insulation from the world.

Rather, it was designed by God to be the collective and universal spiritual manifestation of Christ on the earth; one in which Christ is no longer limited to serving through just one physical body, living in one time and in one place.  Instead, with His Presence and Power multiplied many times over in the lives of Believers scattered across the globe, the works that He once did during His Incarnation are now being replicated worldwide by the members of His spiritual body, the Church.

In order to grasp this concept a little better, we must realize that, even though God loves each one of us individually, Christ died for each one of us individually, and we are each saved individually, at the moment we receive our Salvation, the Holy Spirit is busily and quite imperceptibly baptizing us into the Collective Spiritual Body of Christ; positioning us within that Body wherever He deems best, and assigning specific roles or functions to us that we are to carry out within the Body

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.   For the body does not consist of one member but of many…as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose ( 1 Cor. 12: 12-14, 18).

Before getting into what those roles may be, though, we first need to learn how God intended for the Body of Christ to operate.

In one of our earlier exercises, Sanctification: Regeneration Perfected, we learned that when God created Man, He fashioned him with an individual or Personal Body, Soul, and Spirit, so that…

  • Through his Body, he could relate to and function in the physical world;
  • Through his Soul, he could relate to others on both emotional and intellectual levels; and,
  • Through his Spirit, he could relate to God and learn how he could use his will to bring God’s will to pass on the earth.

In much the same way, God’s design for the Body of Christ called for it to have a Corporate Body, Soul, and Spirit,  so that…

  • Through its Body, the Church could relate to and carry on the work of Christ in the world outside of the Church;
  • Through its Soul, the Church could relate as a Family to those within the Church, ministering to them and their needs in love; and,
  • Through its Spirit, the Church could serve heaven as an Army of Spiritual Warriors; one united in its mission to overthrow the Enemy of God, take the territory previously held by him, and bring the Kingdom and the Will of God to rule on the earth in his place.

In short, God’s intention for the Church of Jesus Christ is for it to…

  • Function externally in the world as a unified Body, under the direction of its Head, Jesus Christ;
  • Relate internally to its members as a Family, under the loving guidance of God the Father; and
  • Serve eternally by advancing the Kingdom of God through Spiritual Warfare, under the command of its General, the Holy Spirit.
In the World

…Being in the world but not of it


The Church as a Body
 

Since God’s purpose in creating mankind was to obtain a spiritual family of holy sons and daughters; and, since He was not willing…

…that any should perish but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9)…

…God purposed that His Church, in its function as a unified Body, would reach out to those in the world who had not yet to come to repentance—that is, those who have yet to be adopted as His children.  In fact, forty days after His resurrection, as He was preparing to go back to His Father in heaven, Christ charged His disciples—those who would soon become the Church—with this very task in the Great Commission…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20).

As for how Jesus intended the soon-to-be Body of Christ to fulfill this charge, it was to be accomplished by its members…

  • As they lived before the world according to the kingdom principles He had taught them in the Sermon on the Mount; and,
  • Through acts of service empowered by the giftings of the Holy Spirit, which would soon be bestowed upon them.
The Sermon on the Mount

Jesus Teaching the Principles of Kingdom Living in the Sermon on the Mount


The Body and Kingdom Living
 

After choosing His disciples, one of the first things Jesus did was to gather them together and give them an introductory lesson in Kingdom Living.  This lesson, called the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5-7), must have been tremendously unsettling for them because in it, Jesus was establishing as their new standard for living, a set of principles which completely contradicted everything they had been taught was true.  That’s because, in the culture of that day—much like in our present day—they had grown up believing that being healthy, wealthy, religious, and without any apparent problems were all indicators that one had been blessed by God.  But here, in what has come to be known as The Beatitudes, Jesus was declaring that for the Children of God, the very opposite of this was true; that the ones who would be blessed by God are…

the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (Matt. 5:3-11).

And, it would be these seemingly weak, insignificant, and oftentimes marginalized members of society, as they learned to live out the Kingdom Principles Jesus highlighted in His Sermon—principles such as…

  • Kingdom Living requires more of us than surface level righteousness; it requires true righteousness which begins in our hearts and then proceeds outward;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we love our enemies, blessing instead of cursing them;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we treat others the way we would want them to treat us;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we replace outward demonstrations of piety, designed to impress others, with giving, praying, and fasting done in secret; and,
  • Kingdom Living requires that we cease judging others and that we forgive them instead, just as God has forgiven us…

…who would become the salt of the earth and the light of God in a darkened world, and so spiritually emboldened that they would later be spoken of by the Thessalonians in Acts 17:6 in this way…

These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.


The Body and Spiritual Gifts
 

Surely, living according to God’s Kingdom Principles—that is, living lives radically different from the cultural norm—would prove to be a great way for believers to pique the interest and attract the attention of those living outside of the Body of Christ; however, just getting their attention would not be sufficient to get them saved, and moved from the outside to the inside of the Body of Believers.  To make a transfer like that happen, from the world’s kingdom to the Kingdom of God, the involvement of the Holy Spirit would be required; which is why, just before His ascension Jesus ordered His disciples

…not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’

[For] you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and [after that] you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

It would take the power of the Holy Spirit, working through individual believers, to produce Acts of Service like the ones Jesus performed, and in the way that God had ordained–which was, with the members of Christ’s Body working together, using the Spiritual Gifts assigned to them at the time of their Salvation.

 

Spiritual Gift

The Holy Spirit Gives Gifts to All


Spiritual Gifts,
unlike the natural talents we are born with or the skills which we develop on our own throughout life, are the special spiritual abilities or enablements given to believers for the purpose of growing and building up of the Church, the Body of Christ.  The Apostle Paul explains them far better  than I could, here in these passages from three of his letters… 

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed…there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (1 Cor.12: 1, 4-6).

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor. 12:7-11). 

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:4-8). 

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Although we will go into more detail about these Gifts of the Spirit in a future exercise, to summarize what we have learned so far about Service and the Church, we now know that…

  • as the members of Christ’s Body model the character and behavior of Christ before the world—the character developed in them as the Fruit of the Spirit, and the behavior epitomized in the Kingdom Living Principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount; and…
  • as, the members of Christ’s Body reach out to the world through their Acts of Service—service which has been initiated, coordinated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit

…the world will be reached with the Gospel, the family and kingdom of God will be expanded, and the function of the Church as the Corporate Body of Christ will have been realized.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Unspoken reminds us that if we are to do the works of Christ, we will need the Holy Spirit to “Start a Fire” in our souls…

 

 

Original image of the Sermon on the Mount courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.

 

Loose Threads Require Redemption…

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If I had to choose my favorite book in the New Testament, it would be tough to have to choose between the books of Romans and Ephesians but, in the end, I think I would have to go with Ephesians.  That’s because, in its six short chapters, Paul lays out for us God’s grand plan for all humanity and, in case you haven’t picked up on this yet, I am all about understanding His “grand plan.” In fact, I am so eager and determined to learn as much as I can about it that I have become very much like the little kid who tags along after her father, nagging him for answers to questions that would drive most dads to distraction; questions which, in the case of my heavenly Father, would sound something like this:  “Papa, Papa, why did you make the world?  Papa, Papa, why did you make people?  Papa, Papa, why are some people mean while others are nice?  Papa, Papa, why do people have to die? and most importantly, Papa, Papa, why did Jesus have to die?”  Although I am getting up there in years now, I am pleased to be able to say that my faith is still of the childlike variety, meaning that when I ask questions, I need answers that are simple, straightforward, and understandable—and that’s just what I get in the book of Ephesians.

Although it is filled with some of Paul’s best run-on and seemingly complicated sentences, when you get right down to it, Ephesians isn’t all that difficult to understand:  in its first three chapters, we are told what God has done in the heavenly realms to make us His children, and then, in the last three chapters, we are told how we, as God’s children, are supposed to behave.  Pretty simple and straightforward, huh?  My favorite passage is Ephesians 1:3-14 and, although it’s a passage that we have looked at before, it is such an important one that I think we need to go over it again a little more thoroughly. For, if I was asking my Heavenly Papa about the who, what, where, how, when, and why of life, I have every confidence that He would direct me to this passage and say, “I’m glad you asked child, it’s all right here…”

Ephesians 1:3-14
The creation of a race of beings who would be predestined—that is, designed in advance to be so much like God, that they could be adopted as His children;I think that you will agree that by breaking down the passage in this way, it makes it much easier for us to pick out the main points in God’s plan for mankind; a plan which was already in place even before God spoke the first “Let there be…” of creation, and one which called for:

  • Children who would ultimately be able to stand before Him holy, or morally pure, and blameless, or free from the guilt of trespasses and sins;
  • Children to whom He could reveal His will and plan for the ages; and,
  • Children who, because of their right standing with the Father, would be entitled to inherit all of His riches; an inheritance which would be guaranteed to them by the Holy Spirit of God himself, once they had come to faith in Christ.

Sadly, in our visits together recently, and as a result of our journeys back to the Garden of Eden, we have seen how Adam and Eve’s one decision to disobey God not only left us with a mess of loose threads to deal with, but it also resulted in the apparent negation of each of these aspects of God’s plan.  For, as a result of his sin, and…

  • In spite of being pre-designed for the glorious destiny of becoming a son of God, man was reduced to a state of slavery to Satan and to the selfish desires of his flesh;
  • Instead of being able to stand before God in a holy and blameless state, man found that he could only stand before Him as a guilty sinner, and as someone who was condemned to death;
  • Instead of being capable of understanding God’s will and plan for the ages, man’s mind became debased while his understanding became darkened by sin; and,
  • Instead of standing to inherit eternal life and the boundless riches of God, man found that the only thing that he could expect to inherit was hell and its torment, the result of his eternal separation from God.

From all appearances, then, it would seem that, as a result of man’s sin, God’s grand plan had been completely run aground.  But wait-things aren’t always what they appear to be! You see, there is still one aspect of God’s “grand plan” that we haven’t discussed yet, and that is the integral part that God intended for Redemption to play!  Yes, redemption–it’s one of the most beautiful words in the all of the world, and that’s because it means:

  • To buy or get back; recover—implying that something has been lost or stolen;
  • To pay off, as a debt—implying that someone owes someone else something that they don’t have the resources to pay off;
  • To ransom, that is, to obtain the release of a captive by paying the demanded price—implying that someone is in bondage but has no way to obtain freedom;
  • To deliver from sin—implying that someone is living an impure or immoral life but has no power to stop or change;
  • To fulfill a promise—implying that someone has given his word to deliver the relief that is needed;
  • To make amends or atone for—implying that someone has broken laws and committed injustices for which he is unable to make restitution; and,
  • To restore oneself to favor—implying that someone has lost his reputation and his relationship with someone who is important in his life.

And, what makes it even more beautiful is that this is exactly what Jesus did for us when He died on the Cross in our places; for, it was through His death that:

  • Jesus recovered all that man had lost in the fall;
  • Jesus paid off the sin debt that each of us had accumulated and couldn’t pay ourselves;
  • Jesus paid the price required to ransom us from our slavery to Satan, sin, and death;
  • Jesus freed us from the penalty of sin, restored our souls to their rightful positions, and gave us His Spirit to enable us to live in victory over sin;
  • Jesus kept the promise God made to Eve to provide a Savior who would crush the head of the Serpent;
  • Jesus’ blood made amends and atoned for all of the laws we had broken and the injustices we had done; and,
  • Jesus restored us to favor with the Father.

Redemption is truly amazing, isn’t it?  When you think about it, though, the most amazing part is not that a loving God would create man and then offer him so many wonderful blessings in return for obedience borne out of faith.  The most amazing part of redemption is that even after man had spurned God’s generous offer of Sonship, and had turned from God to go his own way, God still made a way to take the one who had rejected Him, pay for his pardon with the blood of His only Son, then make that man His son, and give him everything that He had promised in the beginning! That is something that only the God whom I know as my heavenly Father, could and would do.  And in response to that, all I can say is, “Papa, Papa, Thank You so much!Redemption

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

The Talley Trio reminds us of all that redemption has done for us in…”His Life for Mine”