Becoming Part of Christ’s Body – part 13

Division comes in when you are focused on your own defects or the defects of others or others. One man’s doctrine is more correct than the other man’s. That man would rather you be focused on extending his kingdom. Division also comes in when you are focused on the defects of other denominations or churches.

Because you are not in submission to Christ in the area of your own sanctification, you are also not in submission to one another because you are too busy looking at their defects and shortcomings. Their sanctification is also taken care of and how they get it is their business. They get it through Christ like everyone else. Baptists are just as sanctified and redeemed as Presbyterians. All Christians everywhere are sanctified in Christ alone, not by works or by attending the right church or denomination. They are sanctified and are positionally seated in heavenly realms with Christ. (Ephesians 2:6) They are in process as all the leaves are not yet fallen from the dead tree. They should be being sanctified (present tense), or in other words, continue in faith that the finished work of Christ in their life will bring the leaves off the tree in this realm. Because in his realm they are already fallen.

All Christians must continue to walk with him in faith and that business is between them and God (1 Thessalonians 4). Their doctrine is also their business that is between them and God. There are those who call themselves Christians and who are living in blatant unrepentant sin. All members of the body of Christ should confront one another in matters of sin (1 Corinthians 5:13). But you must take the trunk out of your own eye so that you can take the splinter out of your brother. You must forgive seventy times seven. You must love to the extent that your love covers a multitude of sins when you are in a body and when you are in submission to one another.

Division also enters in when you are focused on how much you know. If you know more than others, you will think that you deserve to be followed more than the other person that doesn’t know as much as you do (Matthew 10:25). If you know more than others, you will be leaving them to follow someone else who knows what you know, thus dividing yourself away from the first man who knows less, and uniting with the second man who knows more as you do. All this will keep you from speeding the efficient spread of the Gospel throughout the ethnos.

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

(NIV, Luke 11:52)

You experts will be the cause of the division if you take your eyes off of Christ. You will be the cause of division if you are focused on the defects of others or on how much you know. Division will eventually creep in when you are not rightly submitted to Christ and to others in the body. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. If you are rightly submitted to Christ you will rest in him for your sanctification, justification, salvation, holiness, forgiveness, cleansing, purpose, identity, self-esteem, unity, and life in general. If you are focused on the defects in yourself or in others, do you think that you are trusting in Christ? If you are always comparing yourself to others do think that you are rightly submitted to Christ?

If you are in a ministry and begin to see the defects in others, you will quickly get discouraged and want to look for another ministry. If you are on a ministry team where there is a leader, and you know more (or think that you know more) than that leader does, you will either want to take his place, or take the other members and start another ministry. And you will have spread this division I have been talking about. You will now be the one in charge, the one who knows more, the one who people are looking up to for guidance. If you are in a church building ministry where the pastor has defects, it will be hard for you to keep going to his church building if you are looking at his defects. You will want to find a church building where the pastor apparently does not have defects (green leaves at the top of his dead tree). If you are in a church building ministry where you think that you know more than the leaders do, you will be in disagreement. You will want to be in charge or you will want to leave and find a better ministry.

Quarreling (2 Corinthians 12:20), jealousy (Acts 5:17; 13:45), outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder will eventually cause division in the body when Christians are more concerned about themselves than others. It will come when Christians think they know more than others. It will come when Christians are more inwardly focused than outwardly focused. It will come when Christians stop loving, forgiving and remembering who forgave them and who gave them all that they have. But if you are led by the Spirit, you do not have to give in to the acts of the sinful nature, such as hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy (Galatians 5:18-21). Factions are a state of conflict within an organization. Dissension and infighting happen when two people cannot submit to one another’s ideas about how to do things. We are all followers of Jesus Christ until one person will not relinquish his or her idea to another person about how to do a thing. Dissent; to hold or express opinions that are at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially expressed. One person thinks differently than another and will not agree to agree. Nonconformists will not conform. They have to argue about everything. They are not united in mind or thought.

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought”.

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 1:10)

It’s fairly simple if we don’t agree, we are divided about what we don’t agree about. If we sharply disagree, we are sharply divided. If we are adamantly in disagreement, there are all other kinds of terms that are used, but in the end, division keeps us from accomplishing the goals of God which are to reach others that have not yet had the chance to know him yet (Romans 15:20)

I must agree with you in action, even if I am not in mental agreement with you. I must agree in action, (be OK with) your way of believing and doing things and submit. My discipleship is not from you it is from Christ. Discipleship is from Jesus. I am focused on him and what he is telling me to do, not on you and what you believe or do. As brothers in the Lord I am obligated in love to submit to you and agree with you in Christ, but this does not mean that I am getting discipleship from you. As brothers in the Lord I am obligated in love to tell you to obey Christ, but this is not me giving you discipleship. When you obey Christ you are getting your discipleship from Christ, not me. If I point you to Christ, you now have the obligation to do what Christ says. The fear is now of the Lord and your love as well is directed to him. If I point you to me, when I am no longer around, your fear of what I told you to do diminishes. Or when I am gone your motivation to do spiritual things is gone. You depended on me for your spiritual life and not on Christ. But if I point you to Christ, your fear of the Lord does not diminish because the Lord is always present. Your motivation to do a spiritual thing never leaves. If I am a pastor, it is simply a role in the body, I do not have authority to disciple you. I have the obligation as your brother in the Lord to point you to Christ. I have the obligation to tell you what Christ said, and to encourage you to get out there telling others the good news.

Leadership requires being part of the Body of Christ

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us”.

(NIV, Romans 12:3-6)

A body has no independent members, each member belongs to all the others. Each person imagines different things when they hear the word leadership. We must get the mind of Christ on leadership if we are going to understand the body. In the world, a leader is set above the group in many aspects. It is understood that a leader is needed as much as the group, but the leader is higher in importance and set apart from the group with authority. It is common to esteem leaders higher than others and consider them special. If your son or daughter is considered a potential leader, it is usually thought that they will be above and ahead of the rest because of special abilities and character traits. Most of us have these ideas instilled in us from birth so they will not be easy to remove. The world’s ideas are opposite the teaching that we are all one body and belong to one another.

Jesus and the disciples go to great lengths to teach us that leadership has now changed. All leadership has transferred to the head who is Jesus Christ. None of us are the head. We are no more than normal members of his body. In a physical body the leader is the head. Every other part is a vital part of the entire organism. Even your little fingers nail would be missed. You can begin to completely remove all your ideas about leadership and start to consider yourself as part of a physical body who is dependent on the head as well as all other members. More importantly, you are one member and belong to all the others. According to the New Testament, the group of people that are Christians are referred to as a body and not much else. In some passages we are referred to as a building but in most cases, a body. There is not much else in nature that you can compare to our Christian union. The human body is the best thing to describe our functionality and dependence on each member. We often refer to the human body when describing ourselves and don’t even realize that we have taken on a new vocabulary.

We call ourselves members of a church body. Members of a human body care for each other. If we are all one body and there is only one head, apostolic succession is nonexistent. Jesus did not leave Peter or John in charge of his body.  The head is Christ and he tells the rest of the members what to do. The hands and feet are directed by the head. Many other functions of the body are necessary for all members to accomplish a task. If one organ fails, all others cease to operate. They are directly bonded together and work in unison. Christ is the head and his body is his alone, which he has purchased by his blood. The body belongs to the head. We, as members of his body, all function for the will of the head to accomplish his purposes. We no longer are independent individuals who function on our own. Nothing is ours, nothing have we earned, not even our own lives are our own. This analogy of the human body represents a model of unity and agreement which is able to function even when having thousands of parts.

If you are someone correctly submitted to Christ as the head of his body, it means that you will do the tasks that any of the other member would do. It is about humility, efficiency, and most importantly, getting the job done. The hands will scrub the toilet, or assemble a clock if needed. The feet will walk onto a red carpet or into the mud if necessary. A true member of the body will do any task needed in order to get the will of the head done. A true member of the body is always functioning to facilitate the involvement of the rest of the body. A true member of the body will work in unison with all the other parts and take no thought about the importance of its own function. Think about this: your right hand has no consciousness of itself as an individual member and is not in competition with the left hand. A true member of the body will not distinguish between menial tasks and important tasks. If you are judging the task, you are disqualified from being involved in the accomplishment of the task. You will cease to be a true member of the body, at least until you repent. Work is work and all the tasks that need to get done in order to accomplish the will of the head are necessary for the thing to get done. Someone has to do the tasks no matter what they involve. I have often said that missionary work among remote unreached people groups is just work that no one else has gotten around to doing yet. It is nothing more than work and someone has to do it. It requires no special abilities or character traits that any normal Christian who is correctly submitted and joined to the head could not do.

There are still unreached peoples in the world because the body has not finished it’s work

If we are truly part of Christ’s body and that body needs to get somewhere, all the parts need to do their job. The legs need to lift, the feet have to push, the eyes have to look out for obstacles and the arms have to swing. Try walking for an hour without swinging your arms. All the parts have different functions but each is important in accomplishing the task of getting the body from one place to another. The roles that God has given in the body are for the one purpose of accomplishing his will. One of the enemy’s principal tactics to keep the body from accomplishing his will is to keep us believing that we are independent individuals. God has a son and he is the messiah and his blood cleanses people’s sins. This message must get to all those who do not have access to it. All members of the body must get rightly connected to the head and correctly submitted to his will in order to function in agreement so that this happens.

“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building”.

(NRSV, 1 Corinthians 3:5)

All the examples that are given to us are for the purpose of helping us understand how to function as a body. If you are not rightly submitted to the head, you really are not functioning as a body. You are probably hindering the body from moving ahead correctly. If one member thinks more highly of themselves than they ought, the rest of the body slows to a stop. The members become divided and the will of the head does not get accomplished. We are in the twenty-first century and the Church still has not finished the great commission. By Church, I refer to the body of Christ in the world, not church buildings and independent ministries. The body is not working together as it should. It is disconnected from the head. We are divided and much of the reason is that we think of ourselves more highly than we ought. We are something and that mentality will separate us from working in a body. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. We think more highly of our families, our organizations, our leaders, and our doctrine than we ought (Romans 12:3).

We each have a part in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) but neither the one who lifts nor the one who pushes is anything. They are in effect, nothing. Literally saying that we are nothing is an extreme statement, but apparently, the apostle needed to bring the reader into a correct perspective of how things are. You see, even if you don’t want the body to be this way, it is. If you plant, you are no more important or any more special than the one who waters. And until you get your heart into alignment with this reality, you will not even be planting or watering in the true spiritual kingdom. The leg lifts and the foot pushes but neither are anything. The head is the source of all movement and all credit and glory goes to the head for making the body move forward. The head is high, the feet are low. The leg that lifts and the feet that push have a common purpose (1 Corinthians 3:8), and each will receive compensation for their labor. If the body eats a good meal, both the legs and the feet benefit. These are not easy concepts to understand about the Christian life and purpose and they will not be easy to live out. I too am personally challenged by them. It is not easy for me to live them every day, 365 days a year. But be encouraged. Jesus knows how to reward his servants. He is not ungenerous, and at the end of our days on this earth, we will have an eternity in heaven and real tangible rewards for those of us who will learn to be another member of his body.

Leadership will get the job done, with or without help from others

After such an extensive explanation about members functioning together, there will be times when you will have to do it alone. However, you will never really be alone (Matthew 28:20). The head will always be with you. True members of the body are willing to do any task, and at times they are found doing them alone. Those tasks, great or small, seen or unseen are still necessary to get his will done. Those tasks need to get done with our without others. The true members of the body will do those apparent unseen tasks even when they will never be noticed. There are many things we all will have to do in order to get through the day. Most of us would rather be doing something we consider to be more important. Our sinful nature will always want to be doing things that can be seen by others (Matthew 6:1; 6:5). But the dishes need to be washed, the trash needs to be taken out and the toilets need to be scrubbed. To be a true member of the body you will frequently need to be doing the apparent unnoticed tasks. I say apparently because no task in the kingdom of God goes unnoticed.

My wife and I were at a conference several years ago. We were at the back of the conference hall putting together folders. The conference speaker asked us what we were doing? He told us to get some other people to do the grunt work. My wife and I looked at each other, and for a moment thought to ourselves, “Well yes, this is exactly what we have wanted to hear for years, why are we always the ones doing the grunt work?” And after a brief pause, we quickly went back to putting together the folders.