Growing in Grace: Serving
Pastor Kevin and I were eating lunch. I stood up from the table to get ready to leave, and as I stood I felt a shock go through my body and I immediately knew I’d have to have surgery. I have spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spine. This can lead to ruptured discs, which then press on your nerves, which causes the legs to go numb. It first happened to me in 2008; I had my 1st back surgery in December of that year. Fast forward to the lunch table incident; it was November of 2014. I had my 2nd surgery in December 2014, days after Haddon was born.
Even now, when I throw my back out, it affects my whole body. When one member of the body suffers, the entire body suffers. Whether you’ve had brain surgery or stubbed your toe, you’ve experienced this to one degree or another. This is the analogy that the Holy Spirit uses to teach us about the nature and work of the church. This is week 3 of the series “Growing in Grace: how do I grow as a Christian?
The next step after joining a church is to serve the church. It is impossible to grow as a believer if you do not serve the body of Christ. This is the point we see in God’s Word this morning. In fact, when the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write this letter 2 millennia ago, he had CCC in mind. You’re not here by accident this morning. God has a word for you that you need to grow. And this is the big idea this morning – Christians grow by using their God-given gifts to serve the church.
Let me give you a little context before we dive into the pericope. 1st Corinthians is a letter, written by Paul to a local church that addresses a number of specific issues. There was sin in their midst, they had a faulty view of the Eucharist, and they were confused about spiritual gifts (to name a few). But even though this was a particular letter written for a specific church at a point in history, we also believe that it is the eternal Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit to instruct and sanctify the church for all time. At the beginning of chapter 12 we’re given the occasion for this section. Paul says,
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed
He does not want them to be uninformed – to misunderstand – spiritual gifts. This is the verb that governs the whole chapter; everything else is an explanation of Paul’s wish for them. He wants to grasp that there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. And he does so by using the analogy of the body. So let’s work through verses 12-27 together and feast on the very words of Christ.
You are a Member of Christ’s Body
In verse 12 the Spirit of Christ says
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
One body, with many members; members (μέλος) could be translated as “limbs” or “parts.” Just as the human body has limbs, parts, members, so it is with Christ. This is where we derive the language of Church membership. We are members of Christ.
Regardless of ethnicity (Jews or Greeks), regardless of socioeconomic status (slaves or free), we are members of Christ through faith. NT Wright notes that Paul doesn’t say that we’re members of Jesus, but of Christ (Χριστός), that’s the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah (מָשִׁיחַ). The language refers to the Messiah, who in the Old Covenant would represent the people of Israel. Now, through faith in Christ, the Israel of God has nothing to do with ethnicity, but has everything to do with faith. That’s why in verse 2 Paul says that before they were believers, they were pagans. The word he uses is literally “Gentiles.” In the new covenant, Israel signifies those who believe in Jesus and the gentiles are those who don't.
Notice also that he’s not merely speaking of the church universal because he uses sacramental language. We were all baptized into one body. We were all made to drink of 1 Spirit. Just as baptism brings you into the covenant and communion sustains you in the covenant, so it is with the Spirit. We are all baptized into the body of Christ at regeneration and we continually drink of the Spirit like we do the wine at the Lord’s Table. One does not take the sacraments with the universal church, but the local church. In the same way, members must serve a local body. Christian, if you’re trusting in Christ, take heart this morning, you are a member of Christ’s body. You are the true Israel, God’s covenant people. You are a member of the kingdom.
You are a Gifted Member of Christ’s Body
Not only are you a member of Christ’s body, but also you are a gifted member of Christ’s body. A foot is not neglected because it’s not a hand. An ear is not any less part of the body because it’s not an eye. If the whole body were an ear, you wouldn’t be able to smell the roses, or fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. I don’t know how you feel about this, but it unequivocally proves to me that the Addams Family in unrealistic. Thing is just a hand, but he can hear people talk to him, and he seems to be able to see. Hands cannot see or hear; they need eyes and ears. The body of Christ is made up of different members with different gifts.
God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. Notice the sovereignty of God that is on display here. God arranges the members of the body as he chooses. In verse 11 the Spirit apportions to each one individually as he wills. We can trust that Christ Community Church has the personnel and the gifting that we need because God has sovereignly put us together. God doesn’t draw bodies like my kids do, with disproportionate features. The body of Christ is more like the Mona Lisa; it is mature and beautiful.
And each one of us is gifted differently. Some of us are feet so that we can march as soldiers of Christ in truth arrayed, stand firm in the faith, and dance with joy. Some of us are hands so that we can do the work of ministry, feed the hungry, and lift others up when they fall. Some of us are ears so that we can listen to the hopes, fears, and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Some of us are mouths so that we can pray for each other, teach each other, rebuke, and encourage each other. Some of us are eyes to watch out for wolves and make sure that every lamb is tended. God has gifted each member of CCC so that we can successfully do the work of ministry at the corner of 14 and Van Dyke.
So let me encourage you this morning, if you’re not serving, you should be. Jesus wants you to serve the body. He made you to sacrificially give of your time, money, and energy to his bride. If you’re not serving in the church, you cannot and will not grow as a Christian. As your pastor, let me give you 3 exhortations. First, if you’re unsure about your gifting, think about what you like to do. God gives us gifts and desires to carry out those gifts. Eyes are naturally made to see. Ears are naturally made to hear. What do you like to do? What are you good at? That’s a good place to start.
But let me also encourage you. Mature Christians sometimes do things that they don’t want to do. Maybe God’s calling you to step out of your comfort zone. Just because you’re not a “kid person” doesn’t mean you should never serve in Children’s ministry. Maybe the Lord is stretching you. Let me brag on my brother for a minute. There was a period of time where he wouldn’t have spoken publically even if you offered him $1M. Now he’s one of our strongest young teachers. Is God calling you to teach kids? Serve as a greeter? Host a flock? Maybe he’s calling you to step outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes growth means growing pains.
Finally, let me give you a 3rd encouragement, and I have to cite my source here, this insight is from Bethany. Learn how to be served well. Let’s be gracious recipients of the service of others. Don’t feel like you owe a brother or sister every time they serve you. Just say “thank you” and graciously receive their gift. If we try to handle everything on our own, we rob others of opportunities to serve and we get burned out and then nothing gets done. Serve, but also be served.
You are a Necessary Member of Christ’s Body
Not only is every member of CCC a gifted member, but also you’re all necessary members. Because God sovereignly arranged the members of the body, they’re all vital. The eye has no right to tell the hand that it doesn’t belong. In fact, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensible. A human being can live without a hand, but not without a digestive system. This is counterintuitive to our power hungry individualistic western culture. In the church weakness isn’t abused, pushed to the side, or trampled upon. In fact, the opposite is true. We care for our weaker brothers and sisters. Every week the physically, mentally, and spiritually week come for the bread and wine. Jesus became weak for us, so that we might have his strength.
Those parts of the body that may be deemed less honorable, we show greater honor by treating them with modesty. Paul is obviously talking about sexual organs. And he writes this in a Roman culture that would’ve abused these body parts in 1 of 2 ways. First, the pagans would’ve promoted free sex. Basically the modern western attitude that you can have sex with whomever you want whenever you want. And the Gnostics would’ve said that sex is evil regardless of the circumstance, because anything physical is evil. Christianity says both views are erroneous. Uninhibited sex is wrong. God created us male and female and he created sex to be enjoyed within the bounds of covenant marriage between a man and a woman. Paul is saying that sex is good in marriage. And so we show greater modesty to these unpresentable parts because they’re only meant to be seen by 1 person – your spouse.
In the same way, there are people in the church who serve with little or no public recognition. We thank God for them. There are things that get cleaned, conversations that are had, needs that are met, and they’re never publically disclosed. But they are gifts to our church. The mouth may be louder and more visible than the intestine, but both are needed to eat and digest nutrition to live.
Whether visible or behind the scenes, one of the great duties of the church is to care for each other – physically and spiritually. If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honored, all rejoice together. It doesn’t matter how influential the member, you know that when you have a stomachache or stub your toe that the whole body is affected. On the other hand, when you feel the sunshine on your face, smell a pleasing aroma, or bite into something delicious, your whole body rejoices. When we lost Dester or Margie, we suffered. When the news of cancer came to Renee or Sharon, we all suffer. So also when a young couple gets married or a baby is born at CCC, we rejoice!
Matthew 20.28 tells us that Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. The gospel motivation for serving God and neighbor is that we are the body of Christ, and Christ came to serve. We are following a foot-washing King. Jesus not only gave his time and energy to others, but he gave his life. He lived a life of covenant faithfulness. He died as our substitute on the cross, he was buried for 3 days, and then on the 3rd day, he rose from the dead. Jesus served his Father and his people by dying in the place of sinners. We remember that every week when he serves us his own body and blood at his table.
God has gifted you specifically to serve here at CCC. Christians grow by using their God-given gifts to serve the church. Where is God calling you to serve here? What do you love to do? What are you good at? Where is he calling you to step outside of your comfort zone? We are the body of Christ. There is a sense in which we are 1 flesh with Jesus. Don’t neglect the body. You will not grow as a Christian. Let me encourage you, if you’re looking for a place to serve, come talk to a deacon or deaconess. If you want to serve in children’s ministry, talk to the Mows, Chrissy Loginow, Gerry Champoux, or Randy Loginow. We believe that God has gifted you to serve here in this body. We need you. Everyone has a place. There’s no appendix in the body of Christ.