4. Not of the Body

Poverty in the Body of Christ

Neil Girrard
Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Mt. 25:44-46 π Jn. 4:23-24 π Jn. 13:3-5 π Jn. 13:15 π Rom. 10:13 π 1 Cor. 12:27 π Gal. 5:22 π Gal. 5:22-23 π Jas. 1:27 π Jas. 2:15-17 π 1 Jn. 3:17 π Rev. 3:16

There are those who claim to belong to Christ. Yet we know that many who make such a claim have no real idea what they are talking about. By what standard can we know whether or not someone truly belongs to Christ?

Let it be said immediately that for those whose actions are inconclusive, there will always remain an element of uncertainty. This is partly due to the faithfulness of God who has promised that "all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." ( Rom. 10:13; top ) Perhaps, by the time these ones appear before the judgment seat of Christ, these who claim something about belonging to Christ, truly will be saved. But at the present time, their priorities, attitudes and actions leave us wondering if they have ever really encountered the Savior and have ever surrendered to His absolute lordship over their lives.

Some look to an event like a "sinner's prayer" or their response to an altar call as proof that they are "saved." But their life shows no current evidence that they have been saved from anything. Oh, they may be a bit more moral about some relatively trivial aspect of their life - but their business dealings, their promises, their relationship to their spouse and their children and other members of the Body of Christ clearly demonstrate that the core of their being remains unchanged and that Christ has little or nothing to do with their every day lives.

The real standard that demonstrates the reality of Christ's saving presence is a changed life. We should look first to the earmarks that clearly demonstrate the reality of Christ in our hearts. Paul called them "the fruit of the Spirit" - the spontaneous, regular and natural outgrowths of a life lived in Christ. He writes, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." ( Gal. 5:22-23; top ) These products of the Spirit of God must be present in some visible measure or we have great reason to doubt the validity of our salvation.

Jesus said, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." ( Jn. 4:23-24; top ) It must be God who produces these spiritual characteristics and they must be real. Legalistic (fleshly) attempts to keep some moral and ethical code or fraudulent attempts to be on one's "best behavior" at certain times or when with certain people is not valid proof of Christ's saving work in the heart. It may work well in social, "church" circles, but it carries no weight with Christ.

But we must not stop at the lofty, esoteric, "theoretical" standards of heart attitudes. The changes Christ works in a life has practical application and impacts the lives of others.

James wrote, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." ( Jas. 1:27; top )

Jesus warned, "Then they also will answer Him, saying 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." ( Mt. 25:44-46; top )

James also wrote, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." ( Jas. 2:15-17; top )

And John wrote, "But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?" ( 1 Jn. 3:17; top )

The love of God is the fruit of the Spirit of God ( Gal. 5:22; top ) - if there is no fruit, there is no fruit - and there is no life of Christ present within.

Nor is all of this talk of loving the poor meant to imply that we should rush out and start a "ministry to the orphans, widows and leasts." Rather, it is to say that any practice or lifestyle that ignores those "less fortunate" than we are in life's circumstances clearly demonstrates that the love and truth of God has not truly permeated into our life. To seek to meet these needs in His name but apart from Him is as equally contrary against God as is ignoring their needs completely. Both are works of the flesh that are equally repugnant to God.

Placing money in some "offering plate" or even "faithful giving" to some "ministry" - all forms of vicarious giving - is not the same as obediently and personally attending to those around us who have needs. Jesus left us the example of abandoning the place of prominence and humbly serving the needs of the lesser. (see Jn. 13:3-5 , 15; top ) Notice also that He did not send out Judas with the moneybag to hire someone to do this ignoble task - nor did He as the "senior pastor" of His flock delegate it to some inferior "assistant pastor."

We must also recognize clearly that the day when God overlooks His children's flagrant waste of His resources on buildings and professional clergy's salaries - thereby resulting in horrendous personal neglect of one another - is over. The "churches" will continue to do this confirming their apostasy and they will reap their judgment on the appropriate day. But for the true child of God who intends to do only the will of God, this vile practice of vicarious giving that condones and promotes interpersonal neglect in the Body of Christ will not be tolerated. We must share freely what has been given to us freely or we risk losing everything that is of true worth and value.

Paul wrote, "Now you are the Body of Christ, and members individually." ( 1 Cor. 12:27 ) To claim to belong to Christ means that He is the Head and that the claimant is part of the Body of Christ. To be the Body means that we receive direction from Christ. If we do not receive these directions then we are not of the Body but rather some disease invading the body - a poison that will someday be forcibly ejected from all pretense of being the Body. ( Rev. 3:16; top )

So, let's say that we know Christ has initiated some work in our life but we know that there are serious lacks in one or more of the areas that has just been discussed. Should we then just settle back and give up in defeat with only eternal judgment to look forward to? Not at all! First, recognize your failures and confess them to God. Then as the Lord leads you, seek out anyone whom you have offended or even neglected with your failures and seek reconciliation with them. Then continue to turn to God to grow you out of that area of weakness and failure.

But do not neglect so great a salvation as has been given to you lest on the last day - when it is too late to do anything about it - you find that you did indeed let the most precious treasure slip through your fingers.

3. More Than Words π 5. American Independence vs. Body Interdependence
Poverty in the Body of Christ

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