Everybody throughout their lives deals with a thing. It’s there. You can’t always see it, but you can feel it. It never really goes away. You can try to put it on the top shelf, hide it under the bed, throw it in the back of the closet, and yet this thing never seems to disappear. Why is it so hard to move on? Why does it feel like an impossible mountain to climb? Are we destined to be stuck in these recurring nightmares forever? Let’s unpack this together. Let’s find a way forward. What’s your thing?
Well, good morning to everybody, and also to those who watch via the mobile app, and the internet. Our family, we recently moved. And honestly you have to get an aircraft carrier to move our family when we move with all the kids and everything. But one of the things that you realize when you move is that Mindy and I both, and not every couple’s this way, but we really like to keep things clean. We both are members of the OCD Club. In fact, we have so much OCD we alphabetize it as CDO at our house. That’s just the way that it is.
And so, we clean. We mop. We do all the things that we do. And what’s interesting is is when you decide to move you realize that as clean as you think the house is, you realize that there’s like nine pacifiers under the refrigerator from the six kids before, you know? And you find that food that you knew your kids didn’t eat. The broccoli and Brussel sprouts, you find them behind the dresser in the dining room where they’ve thrown it back there, because you knew they didn’t eat it.
And can I say this? Moving is somewhere between Hades and Gehenna, isn’t it? Those are two Greek words for Hell. And I’m of the opinion that no good Christian ever asks their Christian friends to help them move. Can I get an amen on that one, right? That’s right. Good. I’m glad everybody’s in the Spirit this morning. Good.
Well, something interesting happened about two or three years ago. Mindy decided she wanted to do a makeover on our bedroom, and get some cream carpet. And I was like, “I don’t know. The cream carpet might get dirty.” So, we got the cream carpet, painted the wall a little bit, and did our thing. And honestly, thought the carpet help up really good. I was surprised. Until, we moved the bed.
And let me tell you something, moving the bed’s a little difficult. We’re not big people. So, moving things is tough. It was tough to get the bed out of the way. Okay, but then you remove the bed and there’s this really beautiful white square where the bed was. And we didn’t notice the deterioration of the carpet as it went. Because it’s just familiar. You get familiar, you know? It gradually gets a little bit more dirty, until you move the bed. And then we realize we’re going to have to replace all of the carpet.
So, I say all that to say that this weekend we’re going to move the bed. We’re going to take some things that maybe we’re not really… We don’t think about that much as we go through life. We’re familiar, and things erode a little bit, but we don’t really see it. And then, when we move the bed we’re like, “Whoa, man. This is really not the way it should be. We’re going to have to replace the carpet.”
And let me say, moving the bed can be difficult, because beds are heavy. Moving the bed can be a little alarming when you realize that it’s dirty. And it can be expensive when you’ve got to put carpet down. And so, we’re going to have to do a little bit of work. And I want to make sure everybody knows, those watching via the internet and mobile too, I’m in a really good mood. So, if you think that I’m giving you some hard medicine this morning, let it be the Scripture, not me. There’s not snarky-ness at all, but I think this is going to be something that all of us have a little bit of a moment when the bed gets moved. We go, “Whoa,” because Paul does that to the people he’s writing to when we look at this passage of Scripture.
But I think it we will really let this speak to us it’s going to make a big difference in our life.
So, we’ll get to that in just a minute. Let me do a real recap here of what we’re doing in the current series. We’re talking about the Thing, and the Thing is something that comes out of my heart after living a Christian life for many, many years. And basically, hearing just about every position that you could possibly hear. I mean, I teach systematic theology as a professor. So, you hear just about every theological concern, question, that you’d get. And all of the books that are written, and so on and so forth.
What I’ve found, as a pastor, is this. And it bothers me, because I don’t think it necessarily needs to be this way. I find that so many people, when they’re asked, and they’re honest and being vulnerable, say, “You know what. I try to live out the Christian life, and I really want to live out the Christian life, and I really want to serve God, but I find that there’s just a lot of areas in my life that never seem to get better. And I don’t know what to do.”
You know, it’s like I got this one area in my life, and it might be lust, it might be an addiction, it might be never being able to get your finances in order, it may be a continual fight you have with your spouse, it may be something with someone else. But there’s the areas that seem to keep tripping us up. And traditionally, there’s two answers that are given to people in church.
The first one is, you need to pray more, and read more, and get more involved in a small group, and all of those things. And I’m not against any of those things, but often times what they do, it’s like going to a fitness place. You’re working muscles, and you’re doing stuff, and there’s a lot of good that’s going on, but you have a lower back problem, and it’s not solving that lower back problem. So, no matter how much exercise you do, you’re not really dealing with the thing that’s bothering you.
So, many people go, “I don’t know what to do, because I’m reading more, praying more, and I’m still tripping over the same thing.”
Then, what happens is there’s another thing that happens in the church where somebody has this book they want to give you, or a DVD, or some secret thing, and it’s usually couched under the idea of if you could just understand grace, or just understand a little bit more how to rest in Christ a little bit more, things like that, then all of your problems will go away.
What that does for us is it gives us the truth that God loves us, and it gives us a little bit of, “Okay, I don’t have to measure up. I don’t have to just always do things that are right.” And so, there’s a good positive thing there, but it still doesn’t solve the problem that we still are tripping up. Because even those who tell you those things, they still have problems in their life that they’re tripping up on on a regular basis.
And so, what we do is we sit, sort of paralyzed, and then what we do is the typical church thing. We don’t want to tell anybody we’re struggling. We don’t want to tell anybody that we got these issues in our lives. And so, we smile real big, whatever camp that we’re in, and we just go, “Well, I guess that’s the way it should be.”
And, as a pastor, I don’t want to stay in that ugly position of neither one of these things work. There’s got to be a better way. the Bible’s very clear that we can live moral and ethical lives. The Bible’s very clear that we ought to be able to love people the way Christ wants us to love. The Bible’s very clear that we can live this thing out. And yet so often people go, “It’s not happening.” And no matter what secret little thing you learn, or how much more you try, it seems like we still keep tripping up on the same old things over and over again.
And so, as a pastor, I want to equip you. I want to equip to be able to live out the life that God has called you to live. And I believe God wants you to live an abundant life. I do believe Jesus died and rose from the grave so that we could be forgiven. But I also believe He died and rose from the grave so that we could live holy and righteous lives in this present world, shining His light to the world that we live in.
Amen? Do you believe that?
Okay, so here’s the big idea that I’m trying to proffer up as your pastor about why we may be struggling with these areas, and why the answers that we’re getting aren’t necessarily helping us out. And here’s the big idea of the series. It’s that the Thing that we think is the Thing is usually the Thing.
And what I mean by that is this, we’re dealing with symptoms. We’re not dealing with the cause. And so, we can have a symptom, and we can say read this book, do this here. We can say pray more, or read more, or do all this stuff. We can anoint you with oil. We do all of these things, but if we’re treating a symptom, we’re not going to ever get better. Because the symptom is not the problem. It’s the cause that’s the problem.
You know, people who maybe have a lust problem. It might not be lust. It might be loneliness that’s the issue behind that driver. And you can pray about lust. You can seek God about lust, but until you deal with that root cause you’re not going to get any better. And so, your theological persuasion, or how hard you try, might not ever get you any better because the Thing that you think is the Thing, the Thing that you’re focused on, the Thing that you’re giving your energy to, the Thing that you’re praying against, the Thing that you’re reading Scripture about might not even be the thing that’s really driving all of this anyway. It might just be a symptom of a cause, and until we can get to what the cause is we’re going to continue to live with the symptoms no matter how we’re approaching this Jesus thing.
So, last week we talked about unforgiveness. And I think most of us were sort of shocked with how many symptoms unforgiveness shows in our lives. I mean, even to the point of 61 percent of people that had cancer have areas of unforgiveness. And look, if you’ve had cancer or whatever, I’m not trying to put that guilt on you or anything like that. I’m just saying doctors have seen that, man, this unforgiveness really shows itself in many areas of our lives.
And so, that’s a root cause, and we need to deal with unforgiveness and maybe some of the symptoms go away.
Okay, the other thing we’re going to deal with today might be just as problematic, but it’s something that we don’t think about that often. It’s like the carpet. You know, we just sort of go through life, and we don’t really think about these things until somebody moves the bed. And all of a sudden, we go, “Wow, there’s really an issue there.”
And Paul talks to a church in Corinth about this issue, and he deals with this issue in something that’s very familiar to all of us. Communion. He deals with this issue that’s the thing behind the thing. And he actually says that, hey, this thing leads to these symptoms in your life. But it’s going to take a little work, because we’re not familiar with these terms. We might not even be familiar with this passage. And so, we’re going to have to do a little bit of work to work through some Biblical stuff to get to the end today, where we do some take-homes and we do some real practical stuff on how we can address this issue.
So, here is a Thing that is behind the Thing that Paul says has massive amounts of symptoms in our lives. And it’s “Not properly discerning the body.” And we’re going to look at this. If you’re thinking right now, “I’m not quite sure what that is,” That’s okay. Don’t worry about it. We’re going to work through a passage of Scripture to see what Paul has to say about it, and then we’re going to jump forward to 2017 and we’re going to say what would it look like for you and me to properly discern the body right now, today.
But look at what Paul says. He says, “When we don’t properly discern the body, guess what some of the symptoms are? Weakness.”
And you don’t have to raise your hand. I’ll be the sacrificial lamb for the service. There’s areas in my life where I would like to be stronger in, and sometimes I am weak in.
Last night would be a great example. I ate a whole frozen pizza before I went to bed. That’s called gluttony, so I confess my wins before everybody. Pray for your pastor, okay? I don’t know why I did that, and I woke up this morning going, “Ah man, I should have never done that.”
Anyway, so sometimes we’re weak. Now, all weakness does not result back to this, but Paul says that some of our weaknesses are because of this.
He also says some of our illnesses are because of this. He also says that people have died because of this. He also says that church divisions come because of this. So, it’s like, wow. I mean, I could be weak and praying for weakness. I could be struggling in this area in my life. I could be giving into this temptation on a regular basis. And what you’re saying is it could really be because of this. Yes.
This is the whole premise behind this series. I want to see you walk in victory, and it’s not learning a theological truth. And it’s not trying more. It really is simply sometimes we’re not focused on the things that are creating the problems. We’re focused on the symptoms. And if we can deal with the real causes I believe that God has given you and me His power, and His Spirit within us, because the Holy Spirit of God lives within us. And I believe we can live out practical Christian lives because of the power that lives within you and me. But we’re not going to live out those practical Christian lives if we’re trying to address the symptoms and not the causes.
So, let’s look at what this means. Let’s unpack this. And to do that I need to give you a little bit of background here. Paul writes to the church at Corinth. The church at Corinth is an interesting church. I don’t have a lot of time to develop this, but one of the major issues the church at Corinth had was they were divided, massively divided.
Some people liked Paul. Some people liked Apollos. Some people liked Peter. Some people were more spiritual, like, “I don’t like anybody. I just love Jesus,” and all that. And they were all divided. And everybody had their little deal going on.
And so, Paul has to write to this church that’s divided, and he has to do the thing that pastors do, which is to do what we call in the scholarly world the “yes, but” approach to arguing. He takes two camps, and he looks at one camp and he says, “Hey, I know you guys think that it’s okay to eat food sacrificed to idols. And you’re correct, because there really are no demons in those things. And they really are not Satan burgers, and Beelzebub pizzas, and all those great things, and all this good stuff.” He says, “You’re right, but have you considered this as well.”
He turns to the other ones, and goes, “I understand that you don’t think eating is there, and you’re trying to be holy. I understand that. You’re commendable, but have you thought about this.” He says, “I know some of you all think marriage is like this, and I understand that. That’s great, but let me tell you this. I know some of you all think that you shouldn’t be getting married, and I understand you’re trying to be holy and serve God, but have you thought about this.”
And so, he does a lot of those things throughout this book, trying to bring a church that’s divided together. Until he gets to chapter 11, and in chapter 11 verse 17, where we’re going to pick up, this is what he says, “In the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it’s not for the better but for the worse.”
It’s like, what? Can you imagine if Paul wrote us a letter and said, “Hey, all the four service that you all do, it’s not for the better. It’s for the worse.” It’d be like, wow, that’s like a really serious indictment there. He’s saying, “Look, I know in the other instructions I’ve given you I’ve been able to commend you and give you a yes and then a but, but on this one here I can’t really say anything positive. Because when you guys come together as a church for the thing that you’re doing it’s really not for the better. It’s for the worse.”
He says, “For in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.”
That there’s factions among. That you guys aren’t coming together to celebrate Jesus. You’re coming together to put forth your positions, and your thoughts, and the way you think things should go, and who you like better than others. And that’s not the way Jesus is supposed to be at all. We’re supposed to be unified around Jesus, not around all these different things that you guys are coalescing around.
He says, the bottom line, when you come together as a church, he goes, I hear that there are divisions among you. And then he says, “And I believe that in part…”
This is sarcasm. He believes it in full. He doesn’t believe it in part. He believes it in full. And Paul, and a lot of times people when they read the book of Corinthians they think Paul’s pretty tough, man. He’s a snarky dude. No. No. No. Paul is writing in a way that we call rhetoric. And Paul rhetoric that he uses is the rhetoric that they used in Corinth as sophists and philosophers would write. He’s simply using the way that they spoke to speak to them.
Much like when you go to Kentucky, and you say, “How y’all doing?” They understand what that means, because that’s the vernacular. If you go up and say, “What’s up, dude?” They’re like, “Come again?”
They understand. There’s a certain way people understand words. Paul’s using a word, and here’s what he says, “I believe it in part…” — Sarcasm. He says, — “For there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”
This is great. What he’s saying is, “Well, since you guys are divided so much, you must not be Christians, because Christians don’t divide like that. And so, they don’t divide like that, so that the people who are Christians who are not divided can actually be shown that they are really Christians.
He doesn’t think that they’re not Christians. This is just biting irony. He’s making a point to them. He’s like, “Seriously, guys. When you guys are coming together it’s not for the better. It’s for the worse. And it’s a big mess right now, because you guys are all factioned out, and all separated out, and all siloed off, and doing the things that you’re doing.” He goes, “When you come together, it’s not the Lord’s supper that you eat.”
Now, we know what he’s talking about. When they come together to the table of the Lord, he’s saying, when you guys come together for this it’s for the worse. Because you’re not understanding when you come to the table what the table really represents. He takes something familiar, and then he moves the bed on them to say, hey, listen. Here’s what I’m really talking about.
He goes, “When you come together, it’s not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” — He says, — “For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.”
You go, wow, so what was going on there? Well, you have to back up. This is written probably around 54 A.D., so this is thousands of years removed from where we are today. And here’s what was going on, so you can sort of get the idea.
In Corinth there were people that were wealthy people, as there is in any society. Then, there were people that were poor in Corinth. And then, there were slaves. There was a nine-day work week in first century Rome. So, nine days.
So, if you’re a Christian, and you want to celebrate the Lord’s meal every seven days, it’s falling primarily on a work day. So, it’s not like they got time off. They have to work.
Well, the wealthy people could get together around three or four in the afternoon at their house, and cook up a really big dinner, and they could sit and have a good time, and talk, and eat, and eat. And then, they could bring out the wine and have a glass, and then talk a little bit more, and have another glass of wine. And then, they could drink another glass of wine, much like people do around here about 12 o’clock at Cheesecake Factory, and then get into that diverging diamond. God help us all.
Anyway, they would get together, and they’re doing their thing, and they’re eating and whatever, and then about five or six o’clock the poor Christians would show up who had to work all day. And then, about two hours later the slaves would show up after they had put their master’s children to bed. And when they showed up, you’ve got people that are tipsy, because they’ve had their glasses of wine, and they’ve already eaten. These people have come from work and are hungry, and there’s all this food that’s been eaten on a table. And then, everybody says let’s get together and let’s have some bread and wine, and celebrate Jesus.
Paul says, man, I don’t have any good news to say here, because this is a disaster here, guys. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.
He goes, “What!” — He goes, — “Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?”
You guys couldn’t go do this somewhere else? But when you come together as a church and realize the unity that you have is not on all the things you think or believe, but it’s in Christ. You guys can’t do that? “Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?”
And here’s what he says. “What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.”
I can’t commend you in this.
So, guys, let’s re-up the situation again. Let’s talk about what we’re doing. He says, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed, He took bread, and when He had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body.’”
That was cool. All right, he says, “This is my Hitachi.” [LAUGHTER] And I have no signal.
So, “…when he had given thanks, he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”
I know that those that watch via the internet and the mobile app, you can laugh. That was funny.
So, anyway, he says this. And he says, “And in the same way he took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Guys, when we come together at the table, and we do the bread and the wine, it is to remember Jesus. When we come together as a church it is to remember Jesus. Not to remember what we think we should be doing, or how we should be doing. It’s to remember Jesus.
The unity that we have is we believe that Jesus died on a cross, rose again on the third day physically, and one day is going to return. And we have decided to give our lives to Him, and we find unity in that. This is what we’re doing.
And he says, “For as often as you eat this break and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
Notice here, “…as often as you eat it (now), you proclaim the Lord’s death (in the past) until He comes (in the future).”
In this moment here, when we’re all together, and we’re doing the bread and the wine, he says what we’re doing is we’re remembering all of the things about Jesus. It’s all about Him. It’s all about lifting Him up. It’s all about focusing on Him. It’s all about realizing what He’s done for you and me.
And then Paul says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.”
Now, we got to unpacked this, because this has been used to just destroy people in the church. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I didn’t do communion today because I had a bad week.” That is not what this is talking about. It doesn’t say when you eat the bread or drink the blood unworthily. That’s not what it says. It says when you do it in an unworthy manner. And we got to figure out what that unworthy manner is, because Paul tells us what that unworthy manner is. And we don’t want to do it in an unworthy manner. What would it be to eat and drink in an unworthy manner? He’s going to tell us that.
He says, so if you do this… And here’s another thing. This has nothing to do with non-believers. I’ve heard so many people say, “Well, [grunts complaining].” He’s not writing to non-believers. He’s writing to Christians. He’s saying that Christians can do this in an unworthy manner, and we shouldn’t be doing in an unworthy manner. Because when we do it in an unworthy manner what he’s saying here is it’s like we’re those that are on the outside of Christianity that nailed Jesus to the cross, rather than those that have been redeemed from the fact that Jesus was nailed to the cross for you and me.
He says, don’t do this in an unworthy manner. He says, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
In other words, guys, there’s a way you can do this that’s not good. And I’ve already told you what you’re doing is not good. I can’t even commend you for what you’re doing, because it’s ugly what you guys are doing. Don’t do it in an unworthy manner. Examine yourself here, because this is what you need to examine yourself for.
“For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself.”
Now, we have what Paul is getting to. Discerning the body.
Well, they obviously aren’t discerning the body. They’re not loving their brothers and sisters in a way where they give of themselves to their brothers and sisters, because they’re doing what they want to do. They’re doing it the way they want to do church. They’re just being individuals, and not discerning the totality of the body, that we live in a community of faith. That we have brothers and sisters that we’re supposed to love. That when we say, hey, I’m signing up for the Jesus thing, it’s love God and love others.
And when we do the bread and we do the wine, when we discern the body, we’re not only saying, hey, Jesus’ body was broken for me so that I can be redeemed and be a part of His community, and partake of His righteousness and holiness, and become a child of God. But because of that, there’s also a body, and that’s you and me. Which means we need one another.
Let me break this down for you here. This is the best way to break this down. If you are in a church, and you’re a part of that body, when you are not involved in the body you’re robbing yourself of an abundant life, and you’re robbing us that are in the body of your gifts and talents. Think about that for a minute.
That means when you come to a church, and you may say today, “I don’t like this church anymore. I’m going to go to another church.” Well, if you go to another church make sure that you realize this. Sitting and listening to a sermon, and going off into a group of people that you just sort of like, is not discerning the body. We’re robbed and you’re robbed of all the great things that God has for you and me when we’re not all in this thing together.
When you say, “Why do we do communion the way we do? Why do we Our Father? Why do you do that? And everybody has to go together?” Because I want to make sure that we teach, when we do communion, how to properly discern the body.
He says, “If you eat and drink without discerning the body you eat and drink judgement on yourself.”
That’s not good. Everybody would go that’s not a good place to be. And listen to what he says, “That’s why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
Think about that for a minute. That not discerning the body… I mean, we just sort of go through life, right? The carpet doesn’t look like it’s really that stained until the bed gets moved. And you have that moment of where you go, man, is it possible that some of the areas of weakness in my life, is it possible that some of the illnesses in my life, is it possible that some of the things that are going on, could it be related to the fact that I’m not properly discerning the body in my Christian life? That I’m just sort of an individual doing my thing the way I like it, the way I do it. Rather than seeing that we need each other.
Let me tell you something. It is so important in the body of Christ that we realize we need each other. Some of you have gifts that we’re in desperate need of, and if you’re not involved and doing the things of God with us we miss out and you miss out. Because, see, when God using you and your gifting, you’re going to be like, “Whoa, that was awesome.”
Well, the person on the other side of receiving that gifting is going to go, “Thank you, Jesus, for allowing that person to pray for me, or to give into me, or to serve into me, and the things that they do.”
And sometimes, in our culture, which is a radically individualistic culture, it takes someone to move the bed for us to go, wow, there really is something here that maybe I’m missing.
And again, I want to reiterate something. I’m in a good mood. I had cinnamon twist coffee at nine o’clock. I’m happy. I’m smiling. There’s no snarky-ness here at all. I’m just trying to say, hey, maybe, just maybe, some of the struggles that we have is because we’re not properly discerning the body. And these are some of the consequences of it.
He says, “But if we judged ourselves truly, we wouldn’t be judged.”
In other words, if we just took a moment to say, hey, I need to think through this.
And then, he goes on to say this, “But when we’re judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
Let me unpack this theologically for you here. In Paul’s mind, you and I, because we are Christians, have been saved from the judgement of God at the end of time when God judges those that are not His own. So, the judgement that we have now in this lifetime is called discipline. God is disciplining you and me to create in us a what He wants us to be as we walk into finality, into the future.
And so, we’re not going to be judged like the world, but the judgements that we have in our lives in today are forms of discipline. And God disciplines you and me when we are not doing the things that He wants us to do. And that’s just the way that it is. And you can kick from it, and you can buck from it, but you can’t challenge it. Scriptures got it all over the place, that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. Just like we discipline our children. Just like we discipline our pets. We know how to…
And it’s not punishment. It’s different. It’s discipline.
He says, “We’re disciplined so that we won’t be condemned along with the world.”
In other words, you’re not going to be condemned. If you’re a Christian you’re not going to be under God’s wrath on the final day. That sentence has been done. Jesus has taken that from you. The wrath of God against you has been taken. You stand in the righteousness and holiness of God.
But you also, you and me, stand to be disciplined by God when we get out of line. And part of the ways we can get out of line is by not discerning the body.
And so, he goes on to say, listen, “So the, my brothers, when you come together to eat wait…”
Don’t do that thing where you’re eating, and the table’s all the stuff, and you’re not really honoring your brothers and sisters, and you’re not discerning the body in the right way.
“If anyone’s hungry, go eat at home, so that when you come together it won’t be for judgement.”
So, in other words, you’re not doing this in the wrong way. And so, that’s all. A lot of stuff to unpack. There’s a lot of stuff in there. It’s one of those passages of Scripture that you go, “I don’t even know if I’ve ever seen that before. I’m not quite sure that I’ve even read that before. And so, Chip, I get the idea. I got to discern the body. I sort of get some of that idea, but can you help me to see what would that look like in today’s world, 2017? How can I, in my life, properly discern the body.”
And that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll call these the take-homes. If you write things down, or if you have an iPad, or a phone, or whatever, you take notes. This would be a good time to write these down. I want to help you. I want to help our church understand what it would mean to discern the body in a proper way, so that we’re living in the ways that God wants us to live.
Because some of the consequences of not discerning the body are what Paul just said. They’re symptoms, and we don’t want those symptoms in our lives.
I don’t think anybody here wants to be weak. I don’t think anybody in here wants to be ill. I don’t think anybody in here necessarily goes, “Man, you know what, yeah. I think I just want to die today.” None of that, right? Or divisions in the church, or whatever. All those things, we can deal with those things by just honestly taking a moment and saying what would it look like for me to discern the body? What would that look like?
So, let’s start here. First one: We properly discern the body when we focus on our unity, rather than trying to force uniformity.
Let’s flesh that out for a minute. You all know as well as I do, and this is again, I’m not being snarky. I’m not being nasty. I’m just being honest here. Most churches in America, most churches, and it’s sad, they line up to some sort of little thing that they all agree on, and then when you don’t agree with them on these particular issues, you’re really not welcomed. That’s called uniformity. That’s not called unity.
And what happens is churches get together and they go, “We believe this. And we believe there’s this many angels on a head of a pin. And we think this here about this thing. And we think that men should be this way. And we think this on this particular view. And we think this on this particular issue. And we think whatever.”
And then, when somebody comes into that church that doesn’t necessarily agree with some of those things, but yet they love God, they believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, they get on their knees at night as much or more than you do and cry out to God, and they read their Scripture as much or more than you do, they feel ostracized because they don’t measure up to all the litany of things that we believe create Christians in our uniformity.
When we come together as Christians, we come together to celebrate one thing. It doesn’t make a difference what car you drove in. It doesn’t make a difference the color of your skin. It doesn’t make a difference how much money you have in the bank. It doesn’t make a difference if you voted this way or that way. What matter is this. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God?
Jesus, when He said to the disciples, He didn’t say, “What do you think about this issue?” He said, “Who do you say that I am?”
And Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
And Jesus said to him, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven. Peter, you’ve answered right.”
That is the right answer. It’s not, what do you think about Me? It’s who do you say that I am?
And if we as Christians understand that it’s we come to remember Jesus, not to faction off into the groups that we think we like, or people that see the same thing. We come together and truly celebrate Jesus, then what we’re doing is we’re celebrating our unity.
Here’s the way it works. We don’t gather to meet with the likeminded, but to gather with the Christ-minded.
So, here’s the deal. If you just like to be around certain people, and just like to be around because they think the way you do and act the way you do, you’re not truly discerning the body at that point. Because, let me give you a secret here to your success as a Christian. It’s really good to sit across the table from a Christian that doesn’t agree with you on an issue, and to talk that out, and to be able to lay that down at the foot of the cross after the end of the conversation. And to agree that you are brothers and sisters, and lock arms together, and worship Jesus as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
That’s tough, because we live in a radically individualized society that’s more concerned about my rights, and my stuff. The Bible never talks about your rights at all. In fact, when it talks about your rights it says you ought to lay them down to serve someone else, which is totally foreign to our culture.
The Bible is not written to our culture. Christ confronts culture. If your church doesn’t make you squirm a little bit every once in a while, you’re probably not really getting the authentic Word of God. If you leave every time just happy and smiling, you’re probably not getting rebuked and corrected the way Scripture should rebuke and correct all of us at times.
It’s not a matter of getting together with the likeminded, but with the Christ-minded.
Do you understand how desperate we are to figure out a way to be a healthy family? It’s okay. And you say, “Okay so, I sort of get this idea. What would be like a real practical application for me today? How could I practically apply this?”
I’ll tell you how you could apply it. Laying down our positions that don’t have anything to do with salvation, and lifting up Jesus together.
Do you realize the world’s got plenty of divisions? We don’t need divisions in the church. And listen, we’ve got a great church. We really don’t have this stuff, but I still believe that you’ve got to put the mirror up on a regular basis. And you may have missed the little place that you shaved. And if it’s just a little placed that you missed, you need to get it.
The Word of God is that mirror that challenges you and me, and makes us think through the questions here. We need to learn to lay down our things. And that would be many things.
Honestly, as a pastor, as Christians, as all of us together, it’s trying to figure out a way to do the Jesus thing without separating out into groups and factions. And it’s so easy to do, because we like to do is we like to get with the people that think just the way we do, and we hang out with them, and we don’t want anybody else that’s maybe a little bit different from us. The beauty of the Kingdom of God is that people from all different races, and kindreds, and tongues, and places, and thoughts, and positions, come together. And what we unite around is Jesus. And if we’re going to discern the body, we need to realize how important unity is rather than uniformity.
In fact, in John 17:21 and 23, two verses, 21 and 23, Jesus says, “Father, let them be one as We are one, so that the world may know that You sent Me.”
When the church can walk in unity, and can lay things down that don’t have anything with our salvation, and put Jesus first, we walk in a place where the world is going to want to see what we have. Because the world is so divided, and the church doesn’t need to be divided.
Second thing I’ll tell you is, we properly discern the body when we ask what we can do for the good of the whole, rather than what the whole can do for us.
Again, I’m in a good mood, and I’m smiling. Good cinnamon twist. I got a really nice cold Perrier. Yum. Fantastic. This is a little tough here, so please understand this. The majority of American Christians, which includes us, are consumers. If we don’t like the way things are, we voice our opinion. If we don’t do this… Because it’s all about what the church does for me.
And listen, it can’t be that way. If we’re really going to do something…
Here’s the reality. I’m at the point in try life where I’m all done with… Look do I want the church to grow? Absolutely. Do I want to become…? Absolutely. But I am so more concerned with the truth of Jesus, and preaching the authentic Bible, than I am about anything else at this point in my life. I’m more worried about making sure that when I lay down in that pine box that Jesus says to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You stewarded the Word of God.” That’s where I’m at in my life right now.
And I’m not trying to rub anybody wrong. I mean, my basic personality is that I like people to like me. So, my basic personality is that I don’t like to have tough conversations with anybody. I’d rather just go out and play basketball with you, and have a good time. But here’s the reality. We got to stop being consumers if we’re going to do something great for the Kingdom of God. And I’m passionate about the fact, in my heart I believe God wants to send revival to Lakewood Ranch. I believe God wants to see businesses shut down, because people are praying on the street in Main Street because God has just absolutely invaded this community.
And for us to be a part of that move of God we’ve got to move from “What am I getting out of this?” and “What do I want?” into “How can I be a part of what’s going on?”
Because when we individualize and privatize our faith, we lose the beauty of community. We lose it.
So, what would that look like practically? What’s a practical application? Being invested in and serving in the ministry.
If you don’t like this place, you don’t like me, and you go somewhere else, that’s fine. But here’s the reality. Be invested in and serve at the church that you’re in. Listen, if you just come and sit and gather with just the people that you like, and that’s all you do, please understand something. You’re not only missing out on what God can do in your life by not properly discerning the body, but you’re robbing everybody else at Grace Community Church of the gifts and the talents that God has given you.
Which means, we want everybody involved in ministry. We don’t sit around and go, “How many people showed up?” Although, we want to know how many people showed up. We don’t sit around and go, “How much was the offering?” Although, we care about the fact that we keep the lights on. But those are not the drivers of Grace Community Church.
Do you know what the drivers are in the staff? The drivers are how many people are involved in ministry. How many people are serving in the church. Because here’s what we find out. We get emails on a regular basis from people who go, “My life is changed because of Grace Community Church.” And inevitably it’s because they got involved in doing something for the Kingdom of God.
How do you invest? Time. Talent. Treasure. Time Talent. Treasure.
How do you invest in a ministry? Tim. Talent. Treasure. That’s how you do it.
Serving in the ministry. Small group leader. Greeting somebody at the front. Nursery. Preaching. Whatever it may be. We want to get involved.
And here’s what we have extended to every service, and we’re extending it to this one, too. If you would like to get involved. And there’s two reasons why people usually don’t get involved. One, they’re new, and they’re like, “We pulled in. We’re not even sure if this a cult, because it’s in the back.” Or whatever. So, you’re new and you may think, “I’m not sure I want to get involved. I’m not quite sure.” Let me challenge you to get involved.
And secondly, people don’t get involved because sometimes they’ve just been burned by a church. They’ve just been burned by something. Let me tell you something. Sometimes you got to get out on the water to walk on the water. You got to get out of that boat sometimes, and trust God to be involved in serving.
Here’s what we’ve offered everybody. Call into the church, say I want 30 minutes with the pastor. You’re going to get one of the pastors on staff. We will sit down with you, and we will go through your gifting, and your talents, and we will try our best to match you with something that will work for you in service, so that you can get involved in doing the things of the Kingdom of God. That is properly discerning the body.
We need your help. We need your talents in ministries, because some of you, believe it or not, some of you have the gift of healing. And you know what? There’s people that are sick that you may pray for, and God may heal them. We need that.
Some of you have words of wisdom that need to be spoken into people’s life. Some of you all have gifts of service that could help someone out. Some of you all have gifts of listening that could listen to someone, and understand. Some of you have gifts, and we want those gifts to be used. Because when God’s using your gift, you walk in abundance, and so does the body. Does that make sense?
I hope I’m making sense here.
Third, we properly discern the body when we allow ourselves to consistently have some spiritual and moral examination.
Simply put, to just say, “God, search me. Just search me, God. Am I really discerning the body? Am I really involved in this thing? Just search me.”
Here’s what Richard Hays, a great New Testament scholar, says, “Those who are failing to discern the body are those who act selfishly, focusing on their own spirituality and exercising their own social privileges while remaining heedless of those who share with them in the new covenant inaugurated by the Lord’s death.”
In other words, we’re all in this thing together. When I do communion, you remember I always say, “Our Father,” not “My Father.” Let’s do it together. I need you. You need me. Maybe you understand why I do communion that way. Maybe you understand what’s the mode behind that.
And the fourth thing I would tell you is this. We properly discern the body when we put aside the earthly constraints that separate us.
And we let so many things separate us as Christians. In fact, we go to the extent sometimes of saying, “Oh, they can’t be a Christian.” Let me give you the straight truth here. When the Philippian jailer, or the guy on the cross said, “I need to get saved,” they didn’t say, “Well, hold on. Let me pull out my chart back here. This here, did you do this? And do that? This? Do you agree with me on this? Look at this here. Okay. You’re in.”
No. No. Paul said, “You want to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Jesus plus nothing equals everything.
And we want to go, “No, you got to do this, and this, and this.”
No. Listen to me. If somebody says to me, “I believe Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. I believe He died on the cross, and He rose on the third day, and I believe one day He’s coming back.”
I am slapping five with that person, and saying, “You are a brother and sister in the Lord, as far as I am concerned.”
God can separate all the other things out, but as far as I’m concerned, you and I are brothers. Let’s unite around Jesus. Let’s lay down all the things at the foot of the cross, and let’s get out doing the things God has you and me to do. Separate all that stuff that bogs us down.
So, here’s the way I would say it. Allowing our gatherings to be a place that resembles Heaven. Do you know what the beauty of the first century church was? You could have somebody that owned a house, and was wealthy, and had all kinds of land, that could sit at the same table as a slave, and say, “You’re my brother, and you’re my sister, in the Lord.”
If we could come in here and set aside all the things that separate us, and unite around Jesus, remember Him, you have no idea the power that is in that unity of putting our eyes upon Him and focusing upon Him, rather than all the things that we focus on. And you’d be surprised if we could truly discern the body, I think you might be blown away at the abundance that you find in your life, in your family, and the abundance that we find in the way that we reach this community.
So, I’m just challenging you here. Once again, I’m in a good mood. I’m happy, okay? Everything’s good, and our church is wonderful. And our church, honestly, excels in so many of these areas. But the Word of God is always something good to remind us of where we need to be, and not to settle.
And so, I just want to challenge everybody as we talk about the Things that are behind the Things. One of the things that might be creating some symptoms in your life is a lack of properly discerning the body. So, I’m going to challenge everybody to properly discern the body, and just let God speak to you and get involved. And let’s do this thing together. And let’s really see Lakewood Ranch changed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen? Amen.
Dear Heavenly Father, I know we went through a lot of Bible passages today, but Lord, I’m committed to the fact of the authority of the Word of God. Lord, in fact, I believe so much that I could just read the Bible and go back to my office, and it would be sufficient.
Lord, Your Word is very clear that we are to discern the body. And Lord, I think many of us, if we’re honest, can say there’s areas where in the normal things of life, the carpet’s gotten a little dingy, but when we remove the bed we realize, hey, this needs some attention.
Lord, I pray that in a gentle way, not in a guilty way, not in a way that brings any condemnation towards anybody, because that’s not the point here, but Lord, in an encouraging and inspirational way, I pray that You would speak to our hearts, Lord, to find those areas where we might properly discern the body.
And I pray, Lord, that if there’s anybody listening via the internet, mobile app, or anybody here in the building this morning that’s not a part of Your body, that says, “I’m not even sure where I’m at,” Lord, I pray today would be the day where they say, “Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Be my Lord and Savior.”
And Lord, if there’s somebody that’s ready to pray that prayer, wants to pray that prayer, or does that prayer at their chair, I pray, Lord, they would find somebody in the church, name badge or a gray shirt on, and say, “Hey, help me out here.” And if anybody’s listening via the internet or mobile app, and they’re thinking the same thing, I pray, Lord, they would send us an email or phone call us, Lord, so that we can help them out.
Lord, I pray that You would continue to lead, guide, and direct this church for Your glory and for Your honor. I believe, Lord, the days that are ahead are incredibly great. I believe, Lord, the church is going to shine in ways that we haven’t seen in years and years. I believe, Lord, the New Testament church that was infiltrating all areas of society can be the church of today. Lord, the world is dark, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a bright light. Help us, Lord, to become that church that truly reaches the unchurched by being intentionally neighbors that reflect Christ for Your glory and for Your honor.
We thank You for it in Jesus’ name, and everybody said Amen. give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Have a great day.