Session Three | Life Together: Serving each other in Covenant Membership
Life Together Retreat 2015
Life Together: Serving Each Other in Covenant Membership
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:1–16, ESV)
The third session we are going to cover tonight is “What it means to serve together in a covenant community”. I've titled this session Serving together in the covenant community of the local church. What I want you to understand is that part of us being in a covenant relationship with one another in the New Covenant means that every single one of you is absolutely crucial to the health of the body of Christ, through the love that is experienced and displayed in the body of Christ. Every single member in the local church is absolutely crucial and is necessary. My hope is that if you are a member of the Gathering, you will feel equipped to serve in whatever capacity and what ever gift the Lord has given you so that the body can be built up in love.
Back to Ephesians 4:1–16, he says that, “grace was given to each of us”. Grace is not something that comes to some of us. Grace is something that belongs to every single member of the body. Verse 7,
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, 'When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.'”
When Jesus Christ ascended to heaven he told his disciples to wait for him and he would send them the Holy Spirit. Then in Acts 2 the Holy Spirit comes and the church is born and the gifts are poured out. That is what he is referring to. The crazy thing about the new community is that it is not only the king, it is not only some of the prophets, it is not only the priests, it is every single member of this new community that is given the Spirit of God, which is an amazing thing. And with that Spirit comes a gift. So every single member of this new covenant community is given the Spirit of God and is given a gift, which is why we do not believe that the only spiritual people in the church are the leadership. That's very wrong. Everyone is a minister, everyone serves. Leaders have to be careful of calling ourselves ministers because it can give an idea off that there is only “A” Minister in the church rather than all of us being ministers. We see that leadership gifts given for equipping the body for ministry, not doing all ministry.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry”
You see why I do not refer to myself as the minister of the church? Or we dont refer to the elders as the ministers of the church? He gave leadership gifts, including those of a pastor teacher to equip the body for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body. So every single person who is a member of the New Covenant is a minister of the New Covenant. So my job as a leader is not to do the ministry in the church. It it to do my little part that I need to do so that you are equipped so that you serve, and that's how the body grows. Any other view of the body is not understanding what the body is. Grace is given to each of us, leadership gifts are given- which is crucial but they are given for the building up of the saints for the work of ministry.
Notice here that he says the gifts are for building up the body. The body doesn't grow by one part working. For those of you know that Russ has been living with us and one benefit of having him life with us is that he is my free personal trainer. I really need someone to give me direction and instruction because I go into the gym, have three of four workouts that I do and if that machine is taken, I get so irritated and I leave. But Russ knows a thousand workouts, so even if we are doing a workout for the legs and someone takes the leg machine he'll be like “come, i'll kill you over here”. What we do for a workout is intentionally takes me through a circuit and works every single part of me so that the next day....I hate him. My whole body is in agony. If I were to go to the gym and workout only my arms, the next day only my arms would be sore. My body would not be built up.
The church is the same way. The body is the same way. The point of what Jesus is doing through this new community, this community in which every single one of us is ministers is he is trying to build us up. The whole body is suppose to grow in the Head- The Lord Jesus Christ. The only way that happens is if every part is getting worked. If I went to the gym and only worked my arms, it may look nice but I wouldn't be healthy. If I don't ever do cardio, I am not going to be healthy. You don't have a healthy body by working only one of the parts. It's the same way in the church. You don't have a healthy body with only some of the parts functioning. If only some of the parts are working.
The gifts are given for the building up of the body. I want you to understand your gifts, have nothing to do with you. This is really what we need to grasp. Your gifts have nothing to do with you. Individualism, self-centeredness, personal autonomy that we can do with gifts as well. He says that the gifts are given for the building up of the body in love. In other words Jesus gave us these grace gifts to be used in loving service of the body, not of ourselves, and that is when the body grows. The very nature of spiritual gifts is that they are not for our own. They edify us to be sure but they are given for other people. See, a bodt can't grow in love even if you do all of these seminars and we get all your personality profiles and think through all of your talents and try to plug you into all of these ministries if we are not serving in love which means doing it for the sake of other people even at great cost to ourselves then we are not actually using spiritual gifts and the body is not actually growing. So its possible to have a very busy church, a church with ninety percent service rate and the body is not growing to be anymore like Jesus. Why? Because we have adopted this view of the church that is more like an organization or like a business. But if that is how we are viewing spiritual gifts then we have totally missed what they are. He gave grace to everyone and poured out his gifts for the sake of building up the body.
That changes how you find your spiritual gifts. How do you find your spiritual gifts? It is really simple: you go serve people. You get engaged and you get into the mess and you find a need and wherever you feel compelled to meet it is probably how the Lord has gifted you. If you wake up and decide to pour yourself out where ever you see a need, where ever you actually see the need is probably where you are gifted.
This is really awesome and where things really get exciting as a member of a church.
The body is not this everyone is the same kind of thing. It's very diverse. There are people in our church who serve in very different ways. Some people really care about the marginalized and mercy ministry. For other people, they may not necessarily think of those things but these people do. Well they need to go serve there. Other people really care that Christians understand the Word of God, they need to serve in that way. Other people see children and want to help. Others see that one person who has never been to church on Sunday morning and go and make a point to invite them over for lunch. If that is you then you probably have the gift of hospitality. Do you know how you found that? It was not through sitting in your room and contemplating, it's by giving yourself in love and service in the context of the church. Thats why God gives gifts.
If love is not our aim and dying to ourself is not the way we are doing it then we are not going to be given gifts. God does not give gifts for the self-service. He gives gifts for the service of others. The church that is unhealthy and not willing to love one another is not a church that is functioning in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thats not why the Holy Spirit gives. That is not why the Holy Spirit empowers. The Holy Spirit does not empower you for your own great ministry. The Holy Spirit empowers you for the building up of other people. If your aim is not the building up of other people then you are not going to have an empowered life. That is a challenge for us all, isn't it? It's an encourage too right? What does the Lord want me to do? He wants you to wake up tomorrow, pray to him, read your bible and go out and be spent. That's what he wants you to do. Whatever need you find and however you serve, he will help you in that. He will gift you for that. It's just that simple.
Paul's desire is that the church would have unity and would move to maturity. That they would not be like children tossed to and fro by every wave of doctrine that comes in. Teaching really does matter.
He says that the church is built up by speaking the truth in love. Speaking truth in love is how we grow. The body only builds itself in love when each part work properly.
“when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
The body can not grow to look like Jesus, to maturity to look more like Christ, cannot grow to be more loving, if the individual parts are not commited to giving themselves in love in service to one another.
Did you notice the conditional statement? “when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” It is only when the whole body is working properly the body grows. The body only grows when every single part is being worked. Not only a couple parts. Not only when the pastor is preaching. Not only when people are in student ministry and kids ministry. Our church will not grow in love if each member is not giving themselves to loving each other. This church will not grow if we bring in some more mature elders, we are young guys and we know it, but that wont fix anything. It wont fix anything if we bring in a couple super talented people. Our church will grow with what we have. We don't need anything other than what the Lord gives us but we do need to use what we have.
We only grow as we grow together: there is no such thing as a purely individual Christian life. I said already but I will say it again: I want you to understand that the point of your life, the point of your service, the point of your gifts, the point of your love is not just for your own up building but it is for the upbuilding of the entire church. That would be a radical change, wouldn't it? We are not saying build an empire, we are not saying just build up the Gathering so that the Gathering has a good name and we are more stable. We mean that we are built up in love whether we are always as we are with 30-50 people. We can still be a very mature and godly church. I want you to understand that we only grow as we grow together. I want you to stop thinking about your own growth as a Christian as only having to do with you. It has to do with other people.
The growth of the body should be our priority. We know that we have come to understand our relationship with other Christians in our church in a covenantal way when we start to see our growth and stop seeing it primarily as our own personal growth and start caring more about the growth of other people. We know we have moved out of the self-centred view of things and into a covenant relationship with one another when we stop first always thinking about our own spirituality, our own growth, where are we at, and we give ourselves for the sake of others. It is honestly a really paralyzing thing and alot of us fall into this where we start looking in the mirror and stop looking to Christ and stop looking at what he has done for us and stop considering his sufficiency and power and we stop thinking about his grace but we also stop thinking about other people.
I want to quickly look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Just a couple points on this and we are going to have a discussion.
“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. 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. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you....”
How many people here got saved under the preaching of an amazing preacher? Put your hand up, anyone. How many people heard the gospel from their mom? How many people heard the gospel from their Sunday school teacher? Exactly.
“...On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:12–31)
We won't read it but what is the more excellent way? Love. Did you notice how he ties this whole section? The way of love. You see, love is what produces and love is the fruit of us using our spiritual gifts.Life together in a covenant community and local church membership means serving one another. The reason we do this is because we recognize that we need each other. We need each other. You cannot say “because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.” It would not make it any less part of the body. We cannot say “because I am a preacher, I do not have need of you”, or “because I am a teacher”, or “because I serve in this way”, or “because I can do this”. None of us can say we do not need each other. Part of living in covenant relationships means we have obligations to one another. It means also that we have need for one another. We know our church has grown in love and grown in maturity when we have a very functional and immediate sense of our need for one another.When someone leaves the church under bad conditions what they are doing is losing site of the fact that every person needs you. No body who is members of the body are redundant. The church suffers when the members are not all serving together. The Gathering will not be who and what we should be, if we are not committed to serving and loving one another with whatever the Lord has given you; great or small. Thats a pretty staggering thing. We will only be what we are meant to be with all of us participating. We need others and others need us.
We celebrate a diversity of gifts. We don't just celebrate what we consider to be important. He said that God made the body this way to avoid disunity. God decided that it would be a Sunday school teacher who thinks she is doing nothing, to be the reason most of us here are saved. That is not a mistake. That's why God made the body that way . He didn't only through people who preach the gospel from the pulpit save people. He does that to keep the church humble and to keep the church unified and to show the church that everything matters. Mothers sharing the gospel with their children is infinitely important as many of us bear witness to. He did that intentionally so we we see that every member of the body is necessary and is important and he uses.
More in Life Together
October 2, 2016Everyday Life Together: Prayer (Session 4)
October 1, 2016Everyday Life Together: The Word of God (Session 2)
October 1, 2016Everyday Life Together: Christian Fellowship (Session 3)