Do you see yourself as part of the body of Christ? We have been asking the question, “When you look in the mirror, what do you see?” You should see yourself as valuable, as precious to God, and we discovered that you should see yourself as royalty, a child of the King, and as an ambassador, His representative to this troubled and dying world.
Today I want to ask the question, do you see yourself as part of the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12-20 (ESV Strong's)
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For 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. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
EVERYONE WANTS A BEAUTIFUL BODY
Standing in front of a mirror and looking at your body may have been replaced to a large degree by the selfie, but we all look in the mirror sometime and examine our bodies.
These days, it seems like everyone wants a beautiful body. Sadly I stand before you as an example of a not so beautiful body. I have a t shirt that says, “Exercise… I thought you said extra fries!” I like food a lot, I don’t like exercise, and so this is the inevitable result, especially when you add in age! My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and apparently, it needed a front porch, so I am working on that!
Paul in this passage is looking at the human body as an illustration of Christ and His Church.
1 Corinthians 12:12 (ESV Strong's)
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
When we come to Jesus we are all baptised into this one body. We are all royalty, and we are all ambassadors, but as believers we are all also part of His body the church, baptised into His Spirit, and given His Spirit to drink it says in verse 12. The Greek for drink is the word potizo, which means to give a drink to someone, but also means to irrigate or saturate.
When you come to Christ you are covered over with His Spirit, immersed, irrigated, saturated in His Spirit. You don’t dabble, you don’t stick your toe in, you dive in, and so your sin is covered over, and if you hand over control to the Lord every aspect of your life, it is surrounded by His loving Spirit.
So when you come to Christ, you become part of His family, but also an essential part of His beautiful body, the body of Christ. He gives every one of us gifts, unique and special gifts so that we can bless and build up the body.
SPIRITUAL GIFTS IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
When we come to Jesus, we receive salvation, we are adopted into His royal family, and we also are given spiritual gifts, not to build ourselves up and promote our own desires, but to serve each other and build up the body of Christ. We explore this in 201, so you should all make sure you catch that next time.
1 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV Strong's)
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Let’s make this important point, your gifts and your behaviour are not to promote you or have you get your own way, they are to bless others. If you think you have a gift and it offends or upsets others, either you are wrong about the gift, or you are misusing it.
1 Corinthians 12 and 14 contain the great teachings on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially tongues and prophecy. Those chapters were written as a rebuke to the Corinthians, because they were misusing the gifts to promote their own way of doing things. These gifts have frequently divided and even destroyed churches instead of building them up, because people have said, “Its my gift, I’m using it and if it offends you, tough luck!”
Let me tell you that this is not God, and it’s the body of Christ in action. This passage clearly teaches that the gifts are to build others up, and this attitude never builds others up. Why do you think Paul talked about spiritual gifts, but right in the middle wrote the great chapter of love, 1 Corinthians 13.
If you have a spiritual gift, position or opinion and you value that gift more than you value others, this is not love, and we will have disunity.
BODY PARTS… A CHURCH AUTOPSY
The Church is the body of Christ, and Jesus is the head. That means all of us are part of His body… the church. Just as the various parts of your body are different, yet they are still part of your body, so the various parts of the body of Christ are different, but still connected.
This is why this concept of being a Christian but not going to Church is not Biblical… we were made to function together, and independent spirits pretty much never grow in their faith or ministries. If you chopped off a foot, or poked out an eye, in a very short time the flesh starts to die. It is not helpful to the rest of the body when detached, and if left long enough it will die. That’s why we need the church, and you and I need to be part of the body of Christ, even though the body seems imperfect at times!
Romans 12:4-5 (ESV Strong's)
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.
So what can we draw from this illustration to speak to us today?
1. EVERY BODY PART IS NECESSARY
I was always told that the appendix has no purpose, and it gets inflamed and has to be removed. However we now know that the appendix protects good bacteria in the gut, plays a role in the immune system and helps clean out the gut. Every part of the body is necessary.
And the same applies to the body of Christ, the church. Each and every one of you brings something special and unique to the body of Christ. You may not think you have anything to offer, but God created you and you are His child and His Spirit lives in you. Remember…
Psalms 139:14 (ESV Strong's)
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
You have something to contribute to the family of God here at Ignite. I praise God that we have the best team here! Leadership, worship, admin, food, serving, kids, car parking, I wouldn’t swap any of you! Every part of the body wants to feel necessary, so if you long to serve the Lord somehow, do 201 and let us support your ministry. Every one of us is necessary!
2. EVERY BODY PART HAS AN ESSENTIAL FUNCTION
We are all different, and frankly sometimes we do not appreciate the differences in each other. A friend use to say, “Why is it that every body of Christ has to have an armpit?” We sometimes cannot see the value in what another person does, but God sees it!
1 Corinthians 12:15-17 (ESV Strong's)
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
As humans, we are so quick to judge others for what they do and don’t do, and we are also often quick to project our gifting onto them. If we have a spiritual gift of prayer, we think everyone should pray as much as we do. If evangelism, we think everyone should talk to everyone about Jesus.
1 Corinthians 12:21 (ESV Strong's)
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
We need each other, yet as sinful mankind we often overlook the seemingly insignificant people, and we chase after the pastor, the worship leader and all those with flashy jobs. Listen, we are all significant, and we all bring an essential function to the table. If you come to Ignite we are richer, but if you leave Ignite, this church is poorer, because what you do matters!
Part of my leadership here at Ignite is that I lean on the gifts of my team. I do not make any decisions by myself, I lean on my team, acknowledging that they are different to me, but complimentary.
So we need to not envy each other, or value some more than others in the body of Christ, but recognise each of us has an essential function in this place, and my calling as pastor is to release you to be all you can be in God, without pressure or forcing a square peg into a round hole. We do 201 so that people can serve where they are gifted. If you’re not ready to serve here, then it’s ok, because I’m not going to force you to do anything, but if you want to make a difference in the world, we can help you.
3. EVERY BODY PART IS ARRANGED AS GOD WILLS
1 Corinthians 12:18 (ESV Strong's)
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
Most of you do not have a foot growing out of your head, or an ear sticking out of your stomach. God arranges our bodies in a way that serves His purpose and makes sense.
You are not here by accident. This church is not just a way to fill in Sunday morning and make you feel like you’ve fulfilled your duty and gone to Church. No, we are the body of Christ, and we love that you are here, and we believe that God has set you here for His purpose in your life!
The Greek word for arranged in this passage is tithemi, which is derived from a word meaning laying down in a passive posture. So the meaning of this Scripture is that God lays out where you should function in the body of Christ… you don’t tell Him where you want to be, He places you where He knows you will thrive and become a functioning part of His body.
Am I saying you need to stay where you’re put and can never move? No, because God has greatness for you, so always aspire to what He has for you. But it means that you can trust God for Him to move you into a God given, Holy Spirit inspired destiny that will blow your mind!
4. EVERY BODY PART IS DIFFERENT, YET THEY ALL FIT TOGETHER
Sometimes in church we are envious of someone else, their talents or position, or sometimes we look down on others who don’t seem as important as we think we are. Some prefer quiet roles like praying or serving, while others prefer up front roles like preaching, singing or leadership. No one role in Ignite is better or worse, greater or lesser… we are in the same team, just in different positions.
In 1 Corinthians 3 it talks about the rewards at the judgement seat of Christ…
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (ESV Strong's)
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
I suspect that some high flying preachers and Christian singers will be left with a whole pile of ash on that day, and some of you who have loved and cared for the unlovely, who have waited tables, who have served without recognition and prayed faithfully will see gold, silver and costly stones.
At Ignite, we need to value each other, care for each other and love each other as members of the body of Christ. When someone wins, we all win. I’ve been watching the World Cup, and when the striker scores a winning goal, the goalie does not walk around saying, “I wanted to score that!” No, they all rejoice because when one wins, they all win!
THE VALUE OF A PART OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
Paul’s argument in our key text is that we all have a role to play, great or small, spectacular or quiet, and that it takes all of us to make up a healthy body of Christ. Every part has value… every part!
1 Corinthians 12:22-24 (ESV Strong's)
On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,
The Lord sees those little things you do, the phone call to someone who has missed church, the cars you help park, the plate you clean, the weeding you do. As a pastor, I get the up front job, but this passage tells me that much of what you do is as important as what I do, and should be treated with special honour.
Unpresentable parts are given greater consideration in the body than presentable parts. We cover the reproductive bits and treat them with special modesty, and so the church should treat those who might be a little bit different with special honour. I recently attended Joel’s birthday party, and there were a whole range of very different people with intellectual disabilities. We all had a blast together, it was great fun and I was honoured to share Joel’s special day with these unusual people.
Someone once said, “I value everyone because every person can teach me something I don’t know.”
THE VALUE OF THE WHOLE BODY
The body never exists on its own, but is a complex, interwoven being. The body only works effectively when all the parts are joined together, working together properly.
1 Corinthians 12:24-25 (ESV Strong's)
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
The Greek for composed means tempered together, mixed, combined, blended together perfectly. It means unity, where different ingredients are combined to symbiotically produce a desired result.
Three a mystery when you mix something. If you mix flour and water you get glue. If you mix flour, water and egg, you get a cake. Where does the glue go?
When we mix a motley band of unique, sometimes strange, sometimes prickly people together, we get the Church, one of the most powerful forces on earth!
When we love and care for those who may seem to have less value in human eyes, we promote unity and the body of Christ grows healthy and strong.
In the body of Christ, God has made you unique, and has placed you in a place, a position where you can function not for your own benefit, but for the whole body. Look at how intricate your fingers are, your eyes can distinguish around 10 million colours. Your heart pumps more than 115,000 times a day. Being fit and healthy is about the whole body working together.
Of course, the entire medical industry of which I am a part is based on the fact that often times bodies do not work together properly. The parts of our body, just like the body of Christ, can suffer various types of disunity…
1. EXTERNAL INFECTION OF THE BODY OF CHRIST
Foreign organisms can invade and seek to control the human body. Bacteria can get past our body’s defences and infect us, causing toxins to flood our body, leading to sickness and even death. Paul said to the Ephesians elders…
Acts 20:29-30 (ESV Strong's)
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
So the body of Christ can be infected by people of evil intentions, and ideas or doctrines that are not from the Lord. We need to be on guard constantly to stop these attacks, because they will make the body of Christ feeble, sick and useless.
Our greatest defence is the Word of God, so at Ignite, this is our standard. If teaching that is not Biblical arises, we must be diligent to stand against it!
2. AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
Autoimmune diseases are those where the body attacks itself. Viruses often start this, because a virus injects it’s DNA into a cell, using the cell’s own contents to attack other cells.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV Strong's)
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Listen, when the body attacks itself it is destructive (AIDS for example). When we attack one another in church, when we place our desires above our love for each other, we are like an autoimmune disease, and the body of Christ suffers in the same way.
John 13:35 (ESV Strong's)
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Not how well you argue, but how well you love. You can win an argument and lose the unity which makes the body strong, so we need to guard ourselves against personal opinion that eclipses love!
Atrophy occurs when a part of the body is not used, and it therefore decreases its ability to function and eventually dies. It might be obvious like a withered hand, or less obvious but more far reaching like atrophy in the optic nerve, or a part of the brain. Essentially atrophy means use it or lose it!
Atrophy is often called wasting, because unused parts of the body waste away. And some of you here might feel that you’ve been wasting away, perhaps for years. You might believe that you once had a ministry in the body, but that is has finished, it is over, dead and useless. You might have once been on fire for Jesus, but now you’re cold, uninspired, just going through the motions, not really feeling like a part of the body of Christ.
Joel 2:25 (ESV Strong's)
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
Locusts are destructive, they eat your life away and leave acres of barren wastefulness. Sin, pain, bitterness, anger, destruction of reputation, wandering away from the church, all of these can result in years of neglect and wastefulness. If that is you, God’s promise today is that He will restore those years. Restoration means as if the years of neglect never happened. I believe that God is speaking to some here today calling you to make the past past at last and let Jesus restore the life, the vision and the ministry you once had in the body of Christ.
At Ignite, this is a body of Christ that will allow you to restore the years the locusts have eaten!
4. CIRCULATION AND NEUROPATHY
With our lives of fast food and stress, circulation and neurological problems abound. What happens here is that the blood and nervous impulses we need for our bodies to behave correctly don’t make it through. The arteries get clogged and blocked, or the wrong neural messages get sent through.
This too can happen even in the body of Christ. Miscommunication abounds even here at times, where people say and do things that are misunderstood by someone else who takes offence. Much of the job of a pastor is managing disputes, which more often than not are not intended but are based around failure to communicate effectively. How can we stop this process?
Ephesians 4:29 (ESV Strong's)
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
When we are part of the body of Christ, we must make sure that what we say is kind, uplifting and gracious, and if it is misunderstood we need to be quick to apologise, or if we feel aggrieved, quick to love and extend forgiveness.
Sometimes, for reasons often not clearly understood by medical science, body parts turn cancerous. Cancer is perhaps the most feared bodily disease, and treatment is harsh chemo and radio therapy.
I had been tracking a large pigmented mole on a guy’s retina for many years. One visit it had spread dramatically and started heading down his optic nerve towards his brain. Within a week the eyeball was removed and his life was saved from this aggressive, cancerous malignant melanoma. Cancer can be that nasty, incredibly destructive and difficult to cure.
But we have cancer in the body of Christ at times too. Cancer starts with a single cell, which then turns other cells cancerous as it grows and invades tissue. I’ve seen people get upset with pastors or leadership, and they then gather others to their cause, creating opposing factions and splitting the church in two, destroying everything the Lord was doing in that body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:3-4 (ESV Strong's)
For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
Factions and dissension in the body of Christ are cancer, bring disunity, pain and destruction, so we must be careful about forming cliques and power bases, and following men instead of God. Rivalry and dissension destroy our greatest asset as the body of Christ… unity!
ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE
For the human body, and for the body of Christ, unity is the key. I know most of those diseases are not happening here at Ignite, and for the most part we are in wonderful unity. Different parts, different roles, different callings, opinions and hopes and dreams. Yet, we only function correctly when we stand together, and when we work together, side by side, arm in arm, hand in hand.
Let me say it again… if we love our ministry, our opinion, our reputation, our pet doctrine or anything else more than we love other people, we will lose our greatest asset as a church, as the body of Christ… Unity in the Spirit.
Psalms 133:1 (ESV Strong's)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Look in the mirror and see yourself as a valuable part of a viable body of Christ. Unity does not mean we see eye to eye on everything, but we can walk hand in hand and arm in arm. We may not agree with each other, but we can disagree agreeably. Unity is at the and core of Ignite Church.
1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV Strong's)
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
If you’re not part of the Body of Christ, pray this prayer.
If you believe that you are called to do something in this world for Christ, stand up. Tell God you’re ready and available to allow Him to lead and guide you.
Today I want to pray for those of you who feel or have felt disjointed, dislocated or unfulfilled in church. If you have in your heart the desire to serve the Lord, but you just feel like the part of the body that is not working properly. I want to pray for you and also explore with you where you fit and how we can make your ministry dreams come true. If you have a dream in your heart for any ministry listen and respond today.