4Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:4-5
The New Testament writers used many images to help followers of Jesus get the church. One of those images is the “Body of Christ.” Today we are the living representation of Jesus in and to the world. And you are a part of it. Paul writes here that you have a special function in the body of Jesus. You are a part of the body.
Here’s a challenging feature to our hyper-individualization as it comes to our idea of private spirituality and the church: we all belong together in Christ. Jesus has actually called us into relationship with each other. The cool feature is that as you grow and relate within the Body of Christ you will discover the special ways He has gifted you for the mission and ministry of the Church. I’m glad to be in this family, His Body, and adventure of faith with you.
38And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Belonging to Jesus means nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God. In Christ you are firmly in the grip of His love. And that is a reality yours by grace to never be changed by death, authorities, powers, fears for today or worries about the future. You are loved!
1So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 8:1-2
I love these verses. So encouraging. Can you imagine being sentenced to death? Death because of independence from God, brokenness and willful rebellion against God. But now in Christ. You are not condemned. You are freed from both the sentence or eternal consequence AND the power of sin over you! If you are in Christ, there is no condemnation from God.
People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray. Proverbs 10:17
When a close friend or even someone outside of your circle of comfort identifies an attitude, action, or belief that is wrong what do you do? How do you respond?
Are you reactive? Or, are you responsive?
A reactive person is correction adverse. Immediately feels judged and condemned, even disrespected. A reactive person will lash out at the one who has offered a corrective criticism. The reactive person feel diminished as a person if their attitudes, actions, or beliefs are called into question or if they are called to give an account. There is a kind of foolishness shaping the reactive person and it will lead them astray.
The responsive person is celebrated as a wise one. The responsive person pauses and considers whether there is anything true in the criticism and corrective word. The responsive person is willing to change his or her mind. The responsive person has found their identity not “in being right” but in truly being righteous. The responsive person is not diminished by correction but embraces the opportunity to apply discipline to their life and thereby enter the pathway of life.
So you, are you correction adverse? Or are you responsive to correction?
It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance, and therefore to Jesus and His pathway of life! There is no discipleship without responsiveness to correction.
13For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. Philippians 4:13-14
So many Christians have memorized Philippians 4:13. Especially in the West we seem to love this verse. It gives us hope. It calls us to persevere through difficulty with Jesus. And that is exactly what Paul has to say. Much of our obedience to Jesus as Christian leaders requires us to enter periods of plenty or periods of hardship with a sense that it is “me and Jesus.”
But this verse is not meant to be a triumphal declaration for individualistic Christianity. I’m afraid we may use the verse to condition a hyper-individualistic expression of the motto, “Its just me and Jesus.” Paul is actually setting his struggle in the context of community. He knows Jesus is sufficient. Paul also knows Jesus calls His people into a life of service to each other to share in the troubles of others. The NIV translates verse 14 this way, “Yet, it was good of you to share in my troubles.”
Our experience of pain is truly our own. Pain is subjective. However, while our experience of troubles may at times seem to be just about “me and Jesus,” we are still meant to be a person in community. Paul knows the Philippian congregation cares about him. In fact, he accounts in verses 15-16 that they were the first to support him financially when he set out to Macedonia. Support through difficulty can be received when you are a person in community. Paul describes it as the matters of “giving and receiving.” The exchange the Spirit of God brings to the community of Jesus is not just of money, but is also of encouragement, a listening ear, exhortation, prayer, prophetic words, comfort, songs, Scripture, and sacrificial service.
Are you taking the time to make connections in your church?
Are you entering into the graceful exchange of giving and receiving?