Daily Devotions: Biblical Unity
The Body of Christ - The Church
"And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way."
Ephesians 1:22-23 (NIV)
When describing the Church, we don't see a description of a building or the listing of the acreage or an inventory of construction materials. Instead, Paul uses "the body" (I Corinthians 12:15) to create a wonderful visualization of the Church. We quickly come to see this is a reference to a gathering of people. And that gathering is often quite varied in its makeup. Can you imagine a body of all feet, or all hands, or all elbows? That wouldn't work well at all. Likewise, when the Church comes together, it is quite a diverse assembly. We will nd both male and female. There will be blue collar and white collar. We will see a range of ages from senior adults to children, and everything in-between. Some like country & western music, some like hip-hop, some like the classics, some like rap. Different styles, different tastes, different family histories; differences with a commonality that brings us together and keeps us together - our relationship through Jesus Christ. We may meet in a sanctuary or auditorium
or venue or parking lot, but we are the Church. We may sing hymns or praise songs or choruses; we may be loud or soft spoken; we may be vibrant or reverent; but we are the Church.
We are the church, and we are His church!
"To the church of God in Corinth, to those sancti ed in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - their Lord and ours" (I Corinthians 1:2).
Christ - The Head of the Church
"For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body... Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her... This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church."
Ephesians 5:23, 25, 32 (NASB)
It's been said the best thing for any type of relationship is good, clear, healthy communication. Now those words are a lot easier spoken than put into action; but when they are demonstrated and modeled to us they become easier
In the passage today there is a key that helps us understand and communicate effectively in any type of relationship. That key is unconditional love. Jesus demonstrated that unconditional love at every crossroad He encountered all the way to the moment He was cruci ed and breathed His last breath.
Verse 25 is very clear about how to love, till death. Wow! That's a big pill to swallow. Allow me to explain why. As Jesus was mocked, ridiculed, struck, beaten and humiliated and ultimately put to death for you and me, He didn't stop to evaluate or contemplate whether or not you or I deserved it. Can you visualize that scenario? Imagine Jesus thinking, "let's see, ok, I'll love you to death because you're good, you listen to me, and best of all you love me... so I'll die for you." No! He loved us despite our many imperfections. That blows me away because Jesus tells me to love my wife, Lydia, in the same way. It doesn't matter what she says or doesn't say. It doesn't matter what she does or doesn't do. It doesn't matter how she treats me, good or bad. The scripture tells me to love her in the same unconditional way Christ loves the church. When I am able to demonstrate that kind of love to Lydia the result is a unity we both enjoy.
When we put into practice this same unconditional love toward one another, we will experience a unifying, contagious love inside and outside our church walls. Decide today to love regardless of how others treat you or what they speak to you because it's the way Jesus loves you.
It is the Holy Spirit That Empowers the Church
"So he said to me, 'This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty.'"
Zechariah 4:6 (NIV)
What is the fuel that empowers the church? It is the Holy Spirit that lives in us to take a stand for what is holy; to be the salt and light of this world so others may see our good works and glorify God through them (Matt. 5:16).
In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells His followers one last thing before returning to be with the Father, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses..." Jesus said plainly two things in this verse: you will receive power and you will be my witnesses.
To receive power from the Holy Spirit is experiential; you know something has changed inside of you that you cannot explain. Soon after Jesus went to be with the Father, the rst Christians became the witnesses for signs, wonders, miracles and witnessing from that day forward. The rest of Acts describes how the Mediterranean area was turned upside down through the preaching of the gospel by people empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Consider the initial weakness of the witnesses: Peter denied he knew Jesus; Thomas doubted Jesus' own words about His resurrection; the disciples deserted Jesus; and yet this tiny group of cowards, liars and deserters turned the world upside down by taking a uni ed stand for Christ.
How? It was not their words or wisdom, but by the Holy Spirit who lled them and empowered them to speak the Word with boldness. This is how the Holy Spirit empowers the church. It is always the work of the Holy Spirit to bring unity among members in the local church. If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit does not want you to merely be a keeper of the aquarium. He wants you to be a sher of men, a preacher of the gospel, sacri cial in your love, determined in your godliness, unfailing in your prayers so you can stand for what you believe in.
The Mandate of the Church - Reaching the Lost/Making Disciples
"Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Matthew 28:19 (NLT)
My employer has a mission. When I walk into a healthcare facility or a patient's home as a hospice chaplain, I come in the authority of my company to accomplish its mission: "To transform the end of life care in the communities we serve." Simple, huh? But deep inside those words are the values of service, integrity, hope and compassion.
Thinking through today's Scripture, I see something similar but with far greater value than life on earth. I see the God of the universe allows His children to involve themselves in His transformational process of impacting someone's eternity. I see the God who needs nothing command His purchased people, by, in, and with ALL of His authority, to go; to go everywhere and reach into His very own creation and make [His] disciples. He didn't need us ... but He chose us.
What an incredible mission! Think about it: the God of all creation chose you and me, with all of our bumps, callouses, bruises, mishaps, misunderstandings, and misdirection to accomplish His mission of making disciples. And if that is not enough to light your re, note this: He even tells us where to go and what to do, and gives us the endorsements we'll need to accomplish our mission. And it's not even a secret mission. It's right in front of you, in the Scripture you just read. So today, how are you going to accomplish His mission in His authority? Simple: go!
Today, go to the coffee shop and, with His authority, make disciples. Go to school and, with His authority, make disciples. Go to the job site and, with His authority, make disciples. Go to the gym and, with His authority, make disciples. Do you get it? GO! And wherever your feet take you, with His authority, make disciples.
The Message of the Church - Teaching the Word of God
"and teaching them to obey everything I have
Matthew 28:20 (NIV)
We live in a media-driven society. Not sure how to do something? Google it, watch a video, then go and do likewise. I used this process a few years ago. I like to repair mechanical problems on our vehicles. However, I was perplexed by a strange noise emanating from the drive-train of our Yukon automobile. After my preliminary investigations returned empty, Google became my friend. To my amazement, a video was posted on YouTube of a truck making the same strange noise. After seeing and hearing the noise coming from the truck, I compared notes and, a few hours later, problem solved. I reached; I saw; I heard; I learned; I grew and things were different. Not too unlike our Scripture for today.
Yesterday we noted the mandate of the church is to "go" in the "authority" of the sin-conquering Savior and "make disciples" everywhere we travel. Today, we learn what going and making disciples looks like. Jesus said, "Teach them to obey everything I've commanded you." In an increasingly complex world, notice Jesus keeps the church's job simple: reach, teach, and nurture growth. Part of the job of the New Testament church is sharing the Gospel, but reaching is only the beginning. The next step is to actively train others, helping them grow in all of Scripture's principles. The Apostle Paul put it this way: "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28 NASB)."
Here's today's challenge: How are you engaged in teaching God's principles through His Church? Stumped for what's next? No need for Google. The Author has reached; you've seen; you've heard; you've been taught; you've grown and things for you are now different. Now, as you go, do likewise.
The Ministry of the Church - Ministry to Those In Need
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James 1:27 (NIV)
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." When the ood waters along the Sabine River rose in March 2016, Trinity cared. Caring continued for weeks and monthsas churches continued to band together to accomplish hundreds of service projects on behalf of those impacted. Every time a church rolls-up her sleeves, she demonstrates exactly what today's Scripture teaches: ministry, meeting the needs of others, in love.
Over the last two days we've explored the mandate and message of the church. We've grown to understand that as we go we reach and teach everything Jesus instructed. Our lesson plans are now complete. What's next? Put those lesson plans into practice; become involved in ministry. You see, ministry steps into the epicenter of a crisis. Ministry gets hands and feet dirty. Ministry is what you've been created to do to bring glory to God.
It's been rightly said that ministry is messy, and it is. But it's a beautiful mess that requires beautiful feet. We know the answer to any crisis lies in the teachings of our Savior. But sometimes people in crisis have little concern for the saving knowledge we're ready to share. They're hurt, tired, broken, burdened, in pain; hopeless. Crises dimmed their light. But when Christians meet needs in their communities, their love brings hope. Jesus said, "...'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" (Matthew 25:40 NIV)
So there you have it. As we go, we reach, we teach, and we accomplish ministry. Perhaps this week God has stirred in you to unite alongside others at Trinity to move beyond doing church to be the church. Your challenge? Today say, "I stand uni ed in the mandate, message, and ministry of the church." Your lesson plans are complete. Now go, and do likewise.