Summary: The church is one body and not many and yet unity is often hindered by such "diseases" as pride, self-sufficiency, ignorance and laziness. To "heal" we need first to die to ourselves and surrender to Christ who will change us.
This week I heard devastating news from a friend of mine who will soon be ordained as a pastor. His son was just diagnosed with cancer. This is a young man, 18 years old, graduating from high school in just a few months and having to now face stage three cancer. It’s heart wrenching – especially when we see such a young man beginning his life as an adult. It just happened – you don’t know why and you leave it in God’s hands.
There are others though, who have brought devastation on their own bodies through neglect, mistreatment, lack of care. And the consequences become high blood pressure, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases, and sometimes cancer.
Our bodies are a gift from God and we are given them for only a limited amount of time. They are for God’s glory and so we care for them as they are not our own.
The same must be said about the body of the church. Paul, in Romans and in other places in the New Testament, compares the church to a body. And if we are a body, we need to take care of our body so that it can bring the most glory and honor to Jesus Christ.
The very fact that the church or even our congregation is a body says something amazing. We are not related. We are different ages. We come from different towns and backgrounds. And yet we are called ONE BODY. What makes us one body? Our confession of faith? Our name in the membership book? Our baptismal certificate? Our friendships with one another? All of these are important but they don’t make us one body.
The one thing that puts us all together as one is the HOLY SPIRIT. We have ONE SPIRIT. Ephesians 4:4 says “There is one body and one Spirit…” There are not one hundred Holy Spirits! And then in 1 Corinthians 12:13 it says: “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.”
I remember losing my grandpa and seeing his body in the casket. It didn’t look like him at all. I could tell that that wasn’t really Grandpa but an empty shell. Why? Because his spirit had left his body. He wasn’t there.
Friends, that is all our church is without the Holy Spirit. We are an empty shell. We may have a common confession, friendships, a building, an organization, and activity but without the Holy Spirit there is no life. So if you are not trusting in Jesus Christ for your salvation, surrendered to Him, the Holy Spirit is not dwelling in you and you are not a part of the body. But if you ARE living for Christ – the Spirit dwells in you and you ARE part of a living and breathing and active body. And that is amazing!
Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes a body simply gives out for unknown reasons – a cancer develops and we trust God through it. Accidents happen. But many times a body is broken by sin. The most important thing for a body is that it is functional and the fact that we are living because of the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that the body will function perfectly. We need to be unified.
Paul in Romans writes about four different diseases to a functioning body, to a functioning church. What are they? Pride, self-sufficiency, ignorance, and laziness. I’m not here this morning to say that any of these are a problem in our congregation, but simply to reveal what is a warning to us and to any church.
The first disease is PRIDE. Romans 12:3 says: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” This is talking about the person who has “an unwarranted pride in oneself or in one's accomplishments - conceited, arrogant, thinking too highly of oneself.” An inflated ego. It’s the secret thought that “without me, they can’t survive, they will suffer, they won’t be able to do anything.”
That kind of thought whether it comes from the pastor or from a church leader or from anyone is deadly to unity. Why? Because the church is not centered around any individuals – it is centered on Jesus and he is the one that receives the glory. He receives the honor and gives us our sufficiency.
The second disease preventing the unity of the body of the church is SELF-SUFFICIENCY. This is the idea that we are part of a church but we don’t really need anything from the church. Certainly we have our faith and trust in Jesus but that is our private faith. We read our Bible and don’t need someone else to tell us what to believe. It’s better not to get involved because there will just be arguments and fights and I can take care of myself.