In January (actually earlier today as I write this), I preached a message on “World Class Believers”. In it, I made mention of the impossibility of being married to my wife’s head without being married to her body. Likewise, when we are joined to the Lord, we are joined to His Body, the church. As we grow in Christ, it is natural that our sensitivity to personal sin and selfishness grows. Our bent and demand for personal pleasure, satisfaction, and even privilege and freedom gives way to the law of love. We learn that the general welfare of the whole congregation is more important than our personal liberty.
The more we grow, the more we are conformed to Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Philippians in chapter two, verses 3 and 4 that nothing should be done through selfish ambition, but having adopted humility of mind, we should esteem others better than ourselves and look out for their interests. This is the same chapter that says we should let the mind of Christ be in us. His choice to save us was an obvious example from which we are reminded that God loves even His enemies to the degree that He accepts personal loss for their highest good. Paul twice uses the example of food and drink to illustrate one practical way we should put other’s interests above our own.
Those examples follow:
I Cor. 8:8-13 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Rom. 14:14-22 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
Again, as we grow, we discover Christ wants us to consider others more highly than ourselves. We discover a sense of community in which individual restraint adds to the common good and releases the Spirit of God as in the guidelines for decency and order established by Paul in I Cor. 14, especially verse 25, “And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.”
In coming into this level of maturity we begin to temper our actions so that they in some way edify (e.g. build) our Brothers and Sisters, the church. They:
1. Bring honor to the person of Jesus Christ.
2. Produce a greater hatred of sin and a greater desire for righteousness.
3. Produce a greater appreciation for the word.
4. Lead people into truth.
5. Produce a greater love for God and man.
6. Refresh, encourage and stimulate kingdom life.
7. Bring forth intimacy with God.
8. Transmit grace and power to others.
9. Impart the fruit of the Spirit.
10. Promote unity through bonding experiences.
11. Empower for ministry.
12. Accomplish the works of Jesus.
13. Release anointing.
14. Stand in the gap.
15. Help the needy.
16. Manifest love.
Of course, there is more that could be said to describe the behavior and fruit of a Spirit-filled person in relation to his place in the assembly, but suffice it to say, we learn to build with Jesus. As builders, we never behave in such a way as to negate any of the above. We are careful not to stumble anyone, not to distract seekers, not to divert saints, and, most of all not to quench the Holy Spirit. We are commanded to love and obediently do so.
Now, obviously, in the assembly we are not alone and must recognize that there will always be a mixture of the human and the divine because God’s treasure is in earthen vessels. There will always be differing levels of maturity. As lovers, we do not judge the less mature, we guide them and prayerfully help them to grow.
Also, remember no one is perfected and no one is entirely free of emotional response. The emotion of being healed would cause anyone to shout and be excited. We have to make room for this, but at the same time remember Jesus told some He healed to be quiet because the crowd would become unmanageable. There is a time for shouting and action and a time to be still. Again, let those who are mature guide others into greater discernment.
I invite you to review the ideas presented here and use them as a filter by which to discern your own actions. If you exhibit none or little of these positive signs, you are asleep; wake up! If you leave a trail of confusion behind, reexamine your life. If you show some positive results in your interaction with the church of God, then you are on the right track; ask the Lord to empower you as His witness and bring all of your relationships with His church into conformity with the mind of God and the heart of the Father so that your loving actions will produce more and more of the above listed qualities of those who build with Jesus. Amen.