Before this series gets started, I feel that it is imperative that I properly define what I will henceforth refer to as the Body of Christ. I don't feel that it's wise to make a generic, all-inclusive reference when describing the Body. For me, it takes far more than "church" attendance, "fish" stickers and Christian lingo for one to be truly included in the Body of Christ. So, from here on, I would like to allow one simple phrase that Paul used in Colossians 3 to define who I see as the true Body of Christ – one that I've adopted to reference what I embrace in my life. "When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." Now set aside all but the italicized part of this short verse in order to see it.
Those whose entire life is Christ – these, I believe, are the true members of the beautiful Body of Christ.
I've learned over the years the boundaries of scrutinizing anyone's spiritual life too deeply, but I do believe that it's wise to look deeper than what the world defines as "Christian" in order to determine who is in fact a born-from-above Believer in Jesus, The Christ. I do not believe that all who profess to be Believers are truly my brothers and sisters in the LORD. Confession is a great start, but it is not the end-all. Even with the world in the sorry spiritual state that it is in, millions the world over would generically state that they are "Christian" just as they are "American" or "Southern". We must look deeper than heritage or traditions to determine who truly is living a "Christ who is their life" lifestyle. The generalization that is currently in place, predominantly here in America, would likely label demons as "Christian" because even they know that Christ is LORD. We must first know that we truly know the Father and that He knows us before we can ever assume that we're counted as one within the Body of Christ.
"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!" 2 Corinthians 13:5
In love, we must take a good hard look at ourselves. In love, we must take a good hard look at the Body of Christ as a whole. In love, we must stand up and declare what the Word states as acceptable in response to our gatherings.
Without agape love that originates within the heart of God, the Body of Christ is absolutely no different than any other social gathering or organization. (You may want to stop and think about that one for a while.)
Confrontations – Embrace or Run?
If you think that confrontations and potentially uncomfortable situations should never be a part of gathering with the Body of Christ, you'll have an extremely tough time ever sharing life with others. I think that this is one of the main reasons why Christians are always "trying new churches" throughout their entire life. Someone or something rubs us the wrong way, so it's time to move on, right? The issue is not the confrontation, disagreement or personal issue that we may have, but how we respond. The response and the spiritual maturity level of all involved parties is what determines the outcome. Sadly, wounds abound within the Body from "bad church experiences" that could have been avoided if everyone was willing to lay down their own agenda - or any other that opposes Scripture. We'll address this more later.
I came to the conclusion late last year, after years of judging, confronting and shedding light on the immeasurable error within the Body, that I had not loved as I should. It is not as much of a matter of if we are to confront or address issues that contradict the Word of God and what It says is Truth, it is however, I feel, all about motivation. While I thoroughly believe that I did speak as the LORD led me many times, I, in my zeal and enthusiasm, overstepped some boundaries on occasion. It's OK. I move on. I am constantly learning who I am in Christ and what my role is upon this earth as an Ambassador for Him. At times I'm quite sure, I will continue to confront and expose things for what they are. For example, I am unquestionably called to stand up and speak boldly about what the Word states regarding how the Body is to gather, what biblical salvation truly is, what the LORD deems as acceptable in His sight, etcetera. But there is something deeper within me that the LORD is stirring. Love. "Love first, Joel" is all I heard for quite some time. "Love first."
Last year, I was seemingly thrust into being a part of the Body of Christ like I had never known. It had nothing to do with buildings, positions and doctrines of men, but it still had (and has) its challenges and the same concerns frequently attempt to creep in. It is almost comical how the exact same issues want to establish themselves, even in gatherings completely outside of the "religious system". Religious spirits, personal stances, denominational movements and the desire to drive home one's personal beliefs run deep my friends. These issues can quickly become divisive and we must always be aware that the Body is not immune, in any setting. The weapon that I see being most effective against this battle for control is love.
Confrontations will come. Only those who aren't concerned about their reputation or drive to be right will be able to allow these situations to be beneficial instead of detrimental to all parties involved. One must be aware that this will always, at some point be an issue on some level. We must always be alert, aware and desiring peace to reign as we gather. If we don't, the entire purpose of our gathering cannot be attained - which leads me to my next point.
* Part 2, addressing self control, will be posted this weekend