Ye Are the Body
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Cor 12:27)
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Cor 12:27)
How literally do you take that?
The completion of the work of the Cross is that you and I become the actual Body of Christ. Funny how "literal" and "figurative" change places in my mind as I go along. In the beginning of my days in Christ I saw the "Body of Christ" more figurative than literal. I knew all believers worldwide and through history were the Body of Christ but the meaning I saw was a figurative meaning. A poetic way to describe the Church.
I thought the same thing when we sang one of the anthems of my early days: "We are One in the Spirit we are One in the Lord." The "One" I saw was sort like being on the same football team or going to the same school. A "figurative" oneness.
Now I take being the "body of Christ" and "One in the Lord" completely literally.
Therefore we come now to the final stage of the Cross. Jesus' earthly body is gone from our sight. And now WE are the earthly body of Jesus.
What could that mean?
In the first "Star Wars," which they are now calling number four, since the fourth one became number one (you'll have to have some knowledge of the "Star Wars" movie sequence to understand that), the great climactic scene is when Obiwan Kenobe is dueling with light sabers with Darth Vader, and Darth raises up his weapon to strike down Obiwan. Obiwan looks at Darth and says, "Strike me down, Darth, and I'll become more powerful than you ever imagined." Then Obiwan takes a submissive posture, and Darth strikes him down. He comes back later as Luke's inner helper to defeat Darth and the Death Star.
Now, I'm not trying to make a case here for good solid Christian theology in Star Wars. But they do display one thing very vividly in Obiwan's death and subsequent return in spirit to help Luke and those who oppose the Dark Side.
Jesus came to earth to live one human life and die, and then to resurrect. And then to go away from us in body, sending us His Spirit to live in us again in our bodies, making all our bodies His bodies. It is really quite simple.
Hence, we are completely, literally, the "body" of Christ. And He sent His Spirit not to just live in one person, but in millions of people, so that potentially the whole human race could be, literally, His living body on earth. He died as one single individual person with the whole human race in the depths of His being, but rose again not just as one single individual Person, but to share the Totality of Who He IS by millions of "individual persons," each finding their unique human life hidden in Him Who is All, and in all.
He continues Himself in every one of us. He sustains Himself, not we Him. And He sustains His own life in the identity He has given us as ourselves. I'll say that again. He sustains His own life in us in the identity He has given us AS ourselves. As you and as me.
No effort of ours is required. If you know you have no strength of your own then you will not have trouble with that statement, "no effort of ours is required." If you still think you have any strength of your own to do anything, then that statement will nag you and make you mad.
It is simply a fact that you cannot find His strength except in your own weakness. It's a hard lesson. But that's where you find it. Be weak. (Any strength you think you have is only a deception anyway. It's smoke in the wind.)
The reason is because we are His Body. We walk the road He walked. We walk the road of weakness and foolishness. And in that weakness and foolishness we have had a paradigm shift in the depths of our innards, because our weakness and foolishness has become the dwelling place of the Lord, and the set stage in which are manifest -- get ready for this -- in which are manifest THE STRENGTH AND WISDOM OF GOD!
And believe me, this is not vain imaginings, but this happens for a purpose. What purpose? Christianity is not about going to church, or going to meetings or Bible studies. It's not about which side of which doctrinal fence you're on, or even if you try to sit on the fence balancing the best you can. It's not about being a good citizen and a patriotic American. It has absolutely NOTHING TO DO with what political party we belong to or what side of the political fence we are on. (I say "American" because I'm an American. If you're not, substitute your own country.) Neither Christianity isn't about going to heaven later. Or avoiding hell.
Christianity is Jesus being Himself in you and me. Mi casa su casa. My house is yours. People want to "feel" God. Want to "feel" His presence. Sometimes He comes in a special way and we do "feel" Him. But most of the time we do not. We just are Him living in us. You don't "sense" the presence of your own self. You just are you. Well, He's you when you're just being you. You don't "feel Him," you just ARE Him.
And being Him, expressed in this world by you, you have been taken into His purposes, and into His counsel. And His purpose is to continue to reproduce Himself, to continue the work of gathering together in One all who are in Christ. And that is why we have entered the "fellowship of His sufferings." As well as the inner depths of His joy.
I speak of "intercession" but I'm hesitant to use such a lofty word. Because most "intercession" is really found in the daily stuff of life, and not necessarily through some great act of demonstrative religious significance. The daily stuff of life leads you in all sorts of directions and situations, where crosses are found and deaths are experienced and life comes forth. These crosses are often unconscious to us, just "life happening," though sometimes we have a sense of a consciousness of God directly involving Himself in a particular moment. (Realizing of course, that God IS directly involving Himself with EVERY particular moment of every particular creature that there is, regardless of our consciousness of it.)
But that's it, folks. That's our purpose. To die that others may live. To be the servant of all. To not seek our own.
Our mission is to "bear about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus." Those are powerful words. How can I bear in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus? Because this body is now His, and He has say-so over it, having filled it from head to toe with Himself. We think it is our responsibility, but it actually has become HIS, and His continuing mission is to be a corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, that brings forth much fruit. And the body being His, He sees to it.
This is the point we have to get across. HE sees to it. God puts you where He wants you, for the purpose He has in mind. Flat tires included. He sees to it you experience what you are supposed to experience not for yourself, but now that you're part of His army of Kings and Priests, He uses you for others. You just say, "OK, Lord, YOU do it all."
There is no formula or describing what in your life will be death and resurrection. The Spirit leads you into death and brings you up again in resurrection. That is the general principle. How He applies it to you and me on a daily basis is as unique in each of us as DNA. But in your faith you will know what is going on, even if in your body or soul you are weak and feel rebellious.
And in our faith we now know the Cross in ourselves, and that our acts, big or small in the great scheme of things, all contribute to the bringing of the "many sons unto glory."
You have become the body of Christ, a member in particular, in order to extend the body, in love. This love is the sinews, the mortar holding the building of God together. This love flows through every stone and every jewel, strengthening each individual part, and each part seeks to reproduce the love in itself, and continue to build up the building by adding more stones and jewels. The Love is God Himself, Who is the foundation, Who is each of the stones as us, Who is the mortar and framework that holds all of it together. And each seeks only to edify the other. That is love. That each does not seek its own, but the good of the one beside it.
Jesus endured "for the joy that was set before Him." This is an immeasurable joy, that has no cause from this world, that depends upon no circumstance, no pleasure or pain or heartache that is from the cause and effect of this world. There is an unspeakable joy in the midst of the center of ourselves, that is overwhelming beyond the human capacity. The joy of God that lives inside us is too great for our frame, so we are only treated to little snatches of it from time to time. But whether we "feel" the joy or not, the Joy of God upholds the very molecules of our existence.
Why? How can there be joy when my bills are all due and my baby needs shoes and I'm busted?
Because God has from the foundation of the world chosen us to be in Him in love. That we would be His body. That what we heard when we first believed was true: that God loved us and had a wonderful plan for our lives. He loves us enough to create us in order to contain His own personal Life which is extended in Love throughout all eternity. He created us to express the true image of God. The God of outgoing, self-giving Love. The God who dies, that others may live. The Joy is the greatest reward of all. "I AM thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." The Joy is that we are billowed over by "I AM," and like Moses and Samuel and David, the life we live is not our own. Oh, yes, it is fraught with dangers and perils, but "I AM" leads the way, provides bread and water in the desert, and milk and honey in the Promised Land.
The Joy is God Himself, who is past understanding, past finding out.
This is a true story. I knew a man in Christ, who once had heaven opened to him in its exceeding joy. Many years ago, he was alone praying in the early evening hours. Suddenly he had an overwhelming sense of Light all around him, though the room was dimly lit. Suddenly he saw in the Light only the lower portion of the figure of a transfigured Man. He was suddenly overtaken by a powerful joy. It was a Joy unlike anything he'd ever known, ever imagined, outside the bounds of any experience he'd ever known or conceived. It was a Joy that took physical hold of him. It was a Joy that began to grow so full and to so completely overwhelm, that seemed to grow and grow so that there seemed to be no end. It began to explode beyond his ability to contain or grasp it. He said the joy became so intense he began to be afraid, and the moment he began to be afraid, it subsided and the vision dimmed. But he he wasn't left with having done anything wrong in being afraid, as if somehow he'd offended the Deity. He understood immediately that the presence of God was inexpressible unspeakable infinite JOY, and yet his humanity couldn't handle just how incredibly completely totally JOYOUS God IS.
It is God Himself WHO IS our joy. And His joy is with us as we walk the life of the Cross with Him. It undergirds all we do, because at the Source out of which all things flow there is Joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Be the body of Christ. Bear about in your body the dying of the Lord Jesus. Bring many sons unto glory. No matter what you do, that is what you are doing. And remember that in the heart of everything there is unspeakable, inexpressible joy. It is surging to escape every moment of every day, in every step, every sound, every sight.
Every knee does bow and every tongue does confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. It doesn't matter if we do not yet see it. God sees it, and we can join in His sight. That is the unbounded privilege we have in being His sons.
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
Whom having not seen, Ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1 Pet 1:8)