The Church: Body Parts Working Together, Pt. 2
Study Guide, September 12, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
One of the reasons for the growing disconnection between the world and the church really is a mixed message…the world doesn’t seem to understand why the Church even exists? Since most people believe that human nature is basically good, and they think that they are basically good, they conclude that they basically don’t need church in their life. In fact, research now shows that about 74% of Americans do not attend church on any given Sunday. And that’s from research that was done before the pandemic ever started. Which means that those who were committed to the holy habit of assembling with a church will resume that commitment as more and more of a sense of normalcy returns. However, those three out of four that weren’t part of a church family before still won’t be part of a church family now. And, again, part of the reason is that they think they are already right with God or at least, okay enough with God just as they are.
But this is one key area of misunderstanding by most people of the world where the Church is called to help clear the spiritual air. And how wonderful that God does call His born-again followers to assure others that God certainly does want them to come to Him ‘just as they are’. But the reason He is calling them to come just as they are, is similar to the reason a physician calls the sick to come to him just as they are…not because they are already healthy, but because they are ill and are in desperate need of healing. So it is with those who have not yet been born-again. Their soul is sick and in desperate need of healing and Jesus is the only One that can heal their soul! Remember Jesus’ words about that? Luke 5:31-32- “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” NASU
Anyone that has not been spiritually healed by Jesus Christ is still spiritually sick. The issue is not about if unsaved people think they need to go to church or not…no, the issue is this: have they come to Jesus just as they are and let Jesus heal their sin sick soul?!
Do you remember our memory verse, or verses from last week? It is the passage in Ezekiel that is the Old Testament counterpart of the Born-Again concept of the New Testament. Notice again: Ezek 36:25-27- “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” NASU This is the passage that Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand when Jesus said to him that you must be ‘born again’ in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Nicodemus was a teacher of the Law, but he had neglected the most important teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures. Why even Jeremiah had revealed that the natural heart is desperately sick and is beyond cure. If your spiritual heart is beyond cure, then what’s the only alternative? You need a new heart from God!
I can imagine people who have had physical heart transplants would be able to really deeply understand this Biblical teaching of receiving a new spiritual heart. Maybe we should start asking people around us if they have ever received a new spiritual heart transplant? Maybe that would dislodge their preoccupation with thinking they are already good enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven just as they are. But Jesus made it clear that no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven just as they are. They can come to Him just as they are, but they need to become spiritually born again to enter Heaven. Each person must receive a new spiritual heart transplant from God. Each person must have their sin sick heart replaced with a new spiritually alive heart that is a gift from God. But this gift is not automatic for anyone. Rather, it must be personally received by anyone who ever hopes to enter the Kingdom of God.
Now, how about this? Why is this clear teaching of Jesus so hard for people to understand? Because in a large part, when you look at people, you might as well imagine that everyone that has not been Born Again has a spiritual veil over their eyes. Notice what the Apostle Paul said about that: 2 Cor 3:14-18 – “But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” NASU
This was a passage in Sharon’s recent devotions, and she and her mother and I were talking about how clearly this explains how people, religious or not, go through all of life. It’s like there is this sin-stained veil over their eyes that clouds how they see everything and anything that has to do with God, and it distorts their understanding and beliefs about life. And that’s the way it stays for them unless, and until they ‘turn to the Lord’…and then the Lord removes the veil. That ‘turning to the Lord’ is the Biblical act of ‘repentance’. It’s a turning from following sin and self to following Jesus and His Spirit, along with trusting in Jesus alone to save you from your sin and give you a new spiritual life, a new spiritual heart. That’s called ‘conversion’, whereby your spirit is converted from being dead in trespasses and sin to being alive in Christ in liberty and life eternal!
That’s conversion of the soul and spirit. But Paul also revealed that there is now a supreme goal for every converted soul. Did you catch it? There is a supreme goal for every converted soul. Notice again: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” So now, we, who now have an unveiled face and a converted soul, we now have a supreme goal, which is the very transformation of our soul; the transformation of our mind, will, and emotions. We were converted into sharing Christ’s very life, and now we are to be transformed into sharing in Christ’s very ‘likeness’. And mark it down: That is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of: What is the supreme goal for which every converted soul should be working toward? And the answer is: The supreme goal that every converted soul should be working toward is ‘Christ-likeness’ in their life and character.
And that process of transformation occurs primarily through two holy habits, or personal disciplines: One is your personal worship and service to God and the other is your corporate worship and service to God. Remember Pastor Robert’s super helpful teaching on Romans 12? Well, take another look and see if you can pick out these two holy habits from Paul’s revelation to us about discipleship. Notice: Rom 12:1-8- “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” NLT
Pastor Robert may have planned to expound on this passage further, so I’ll just stick to our holy habit principles here. So holy habit number one: Surrender your body and soul in worship and service to God. Plus, guard your mind from being further conformed to this world, or deformed by this world, and set your thinking on a course to be transformed more and more to God’s way of thinking!
Now then, no one else can do that for you. You alone must personally commit to this surrender to personally worship and serve God. So again, that’s holy habit number one. But then there is another holy habit that Paul connects with this one, and that habit is no longer personally only, but now corporately, or bodily, or in the context of the local church. And one statement by Paul was maybe even quite surprising…maybe even quite startling: Note what he says: “We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” What? We belong to who?….we belong to each other! How amazing is that? You see, as we pointed out in our last study, when the Holy Spirit baptized us, placed us into the Body of Christ, made us a member of the eternal family of Christ, He also connected us to each other to now worship and serve together as a member or body part of Christ’s church. And in doing so God made us not only belong to Him, but as body parts we also now belong to each other! Meaning – now we really do need each other. Why? Because as members of Christ’s body we no longer belong to ourselves, rather “….we all belong to each other.”
Does that ever completely change the understanding of my relationship with other Christians, especially in the context of the local church. As a body part, you and I have been eternally untied to Christ, but we have also been eternally connected with one another. We share the same spiritual DNA, with the need to now function, or to now serve Christ together and serve one another. It’s just like what Paul pointed out in his instruction to local churches about how the ‘body parts of the body of Christ’ are supposed to function, when he said, 1 Cor 12:21- “The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” NLT Of course, they need each other, because they have been connected through their conversion to the other members of the body of Christ; a part of His church that He is building on Earth. Therefore, part of the ongoing transformation of each body part depends upon each body part functioning together, or worshipping and serving together in a local church body…again, as you are able, physically and such, as we talked about last time. God understands and compensates for that when you are not physically able and such.
When it is possible, when we are able, health-wise and so on, to worship and serve together with a local church body of Christ, we are not only to commit to doing so, but also, we are to understand that this holy habit is crucial to part of the transformation of our lives in becoming more and more conformed into the image of Christ. Realize this: The reason we need to make church a part of our life is because Jesus has forever made our life a part of His church. We are each a ‘body part’ that needs to worship and serve with other body parts in Christ’s body; both His universal body of the Church and His local bodies of His Church. And as we also pointed out from that passage in Hebrews 10, especially so as we see the day of Jesus’ return drawing nearer. And as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. In these desperate times God’s people need to have these holy habits of personal and corporate worship and service going strong in their lives!
We all have busy lives; we all have personal business to attend to; but as Jesus said, “I must be about My Father’s business”, so we, too, must also be about our Heavenly Father’s business. And part of that business is building up others in the local church by serving God and serving others. It’s part of ‘our calling’. And, therefore, we are calling members of the body of Christ to connect or to re-connect to a local church, as you are able of course, in order to fulfill your calling and to advance the Kingdom of God through the building up of Christ’s church. Make sure that these two holy habits of a believer’s life are your holy habits: personally worshipping and serving the Lord Jesus and corporately worshipping and serving the Lord Jesus.
Maybe it will help if we turn Paul’s admonition to the local church into an encouragement for us in the local church…instead of “The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”, we could say, “As an eye, I will say to the hand: I do need you. Or as a part in the head, I will say to the feet: I do need you!” For once we realize that we belong to each other, and also realize how much we need to worship and serve together with the other parts of the body of Christ, then we can become even more committed and even inspired to do so. When we understand that even our very supreme goal of being transformed more and more into the image of Christ depends upon our serving one another in the context of the local church, well…that’s powerful motivation to do so!
So Church…it’s rallying time for serving time…serving our Lord Jesus Christ together!