At 14 years old, I was a scrawny kid. All elbows, knees and skinny limbs. I could not gain weight even if my life had depended on it. One afternoon I was working in the hot sun with my dad and his tree-trimming partners, Bill and Marion. Both men and my dad had muscles from many years of heavy work. We had taken out a huge tree in this lady’s yard, and I had scrambled to keep their chain saws gassed and ropes untangled.
Now we were loading four foot (1.3M) logs that were about 36 inches (~1M) in diameter; BIG logs, about 1100 pounds (500Kg)!! My dad, his two partners and I were pushing them up a ramp into his pickup truck, and as we heaved and sweated, the thought came into my empty head that my flimsy muscles were not doing anything, so I relaxed for a moment . . . and the log we were pushing almost rolled down on top of Bill!!
He glared at me and yelled, “Hey, push, you idiot!” I immediately jumped back into position and with all my weight against the log, helped load it into the pickup. Bill continued glaring at me after we had finished and asked, “What did you think you were doing, letting that log almost roll back! Carry your weight, boy!”
Bill Kenny, one of God’s great men I have been privileged to know, had no idea how proud he made me feel that day! Having had such a low opinion of my “weight” against that log, I really thought the men had been using me as “window-dressing;” not really needed, but like a little kid, being allowed to look like I was. When he glared at me, it signaled to me that I did carry weight; that I was needed to load that truck!
Steve Elliott, referring to Acts 5:15, recently phrased it this way: “Not many of us will be chosen to be famous or great like Peter, but we each have a shadow. On who does your shadow fall, and what is its effect?” Being part of the Church of Jesus is not optional for the Christ-follower, but a vital part of our learning to walk in the Spirit. “Let me stress this is not just a comfortable thought. It is a vital factor in the life of God’s people . . . The Bible does not say that the Church is like a body, but it is the Body of Christ.” Watchmen Nee, The Normal Christian Life
Being part of the Church of Jesus requires being part of a local group of believers. Hebrews instructs us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) In fact, most of the New Testament instructions have to do with getting along with others who are trying to live in God’s grace. It involves being in the lives of others who are either there to help us, or being in the lives of others we are there to help.
I cannot emphasize enough that this participation in the Body of Christ is no more optional than your big toe’s participation in being part of your foot. Granted, if you lost it to frost bite, your body could still survive, but it would be clear every time you went swimming that something was missing! As the Elliott quote above points out, most of us are not important parts of the Body. If an eye was destroyed, or if you lost a thumb, you would notice it much more, but the fact remains that every part of the Body is a part, and to be a healthy body, every part is needed.
1 Corinthians 12 gives an excellent and clearly written exposition of this concept, better than anything I could write, so I commend you to that chapter, and read it with chapter 13 to understand the “more excellent way” to participate in the Body of Christ. Sandwiched between chapters 12 and 14, which give instructions on the use of spiritual gifts is this “love chapter” that emphasizes any and all gifts, abilities or authority exercised in the fellowship of the believers must be done from a motive of love. If such a gift, ability or authority is exercised out of any other motive, even if it appears miraculous and auspicious, it is nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
There are then two reasons for joining a group of believers:
1) There are times I need encouragement. There are times I need prayer. There are times I need advice, or correction, or a friendly hand, or even times I need to be rebuked. All times that I need something. And it is in fellowship in a church, whether in someone’s home, a cathedral, or an evangelical meeting, that these things are provided for me.
2) Then there are times I can give encouragement. There are times I can pray for someone. There are times I can give advice, or correction, or a friendly hand, or even times I may need to rebuke someone. All times that I can give something. And it is in fellowship, again, whether in someone’s home, a cathedral, or in an evangelical meeting that I can give.
So get behind that log, and carry your weight! And challenge me to carry mine!
Next week, February 27, 2017, we will look at some basics about salvation, The Good News, Plain and Simple, to make sure no one makes a mistake of thinking that observing these spiritual disciplines earns Heaven.