The number “10” always indicates a completion or a perfection in God’s divine time. How significant that I should be invited to speak on “Unity in the Church” on 10 October 2010 … 10.10.10! As I prepared, I entitled the message “The Perfect Man”, drawing 10 key points from Eph 4:7-16. But the night before, an idea popped into my head (definitely the Lord’s creative leading), and I promptly re-titled it, “10 Keys to a Perfect Body”.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would Jesus score? Quite obviously, the answer would be, “A perfect TEN!”, for He is the only One who is perfect. From Eph 2:15, we see that the Church is a new man in Christ. A man, as we know, has both a head and a body. And Jesus, our Lord, is the Head and we are His Body. Now, whilst the Head is perfect, we know that the Body is not exactly there yet. Yet, in Christ, the Personification of Perfection, the Body has been given the Potential of Perfection! Hallelujah! That all sounds great, but look at Church Unity (or disunity) and we quickly realise that we are still a long way off the mark. For reflection and examination, to church leaders and members alike, allow me to humbly present the following “10 Keys to a Perfect Body” …
1. Recognise the place of Grace wherever we are placed by His Grace
“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Eph 4:7
Each of us has been gifted and placed, not because we are good or deserving but entirely by His grace. As we make clear our place of calling, God graces us with a special favour to function well in that call. Some may be called to the frontlines and some to be in support of others. And to whom much is given, much is expected. According to the measure of Christ’s gift, grace is given that there may be no pressure on performance. Yet, this is no excuse for shoddy work, for in response to His grace, each will do the very best for the Master.
2. Understand and Utilise the Gifts
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, …” Eph 4:11
Even this one verse has drawn argument and contention within the Body. For sure, God has raised men and women who function strongly as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These are all nice titles, but may we remember that it is God who appoints and not individuals themselves. More critically, God gave these for the benefit and profit of the Body, and not for the advancement of personal ministries. Whilst not all may be called into these offices, all are called to be sent (apostolic), to declare His Word (prophetic), to bring good news (evangelistic), to shepherd and care (pastoral), and to teach, correct and direct! The Body is not about individualistic, spiritual superstars. Understanding and utilising these gifts require submission and co-operation within the Church.
3. Equip the Saints, Edify the Body
“ … for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, …” Eph 4:12
For the gifts to function and to be fully activated, the Body must be equipped accordingly. To equip means to make fully ready, to arrange, to set in order, to complete, to bring to perfection … that the work of the ministry may be done by all in the Body; not just a meagre 10% working with 90% criticising! Whilst a level of perfection is required for ministry, it is in and through ministry that the saints are further perfected. That’s how to Body is edified, strengthened and built up! It’s about the building of character and lives, not physical structures and programmes. Numbers are nice, but let’s be promptly reminded that they do not necessarily mean spiritual growth in the lives of the believers.
4. Focus on the Unity of the Faith
“… till we all come to the unity of the faith …” Eph 4:13a
If you haven’t already noticed, there is an attack on Christianity; not necessarily through physical persecution but through ideas, values and attitudes! Our faith is being shaped by consumer culture, the world has crept into the church, and pluralism has reduced Christianity into merely a system for moral living. Ask and interview Christians, and you will be sorely surprised by their lack of depth through shallow and superficial spiritual taglines! Whilst there is nothing wrong with personalising the faith, it has swung to an extreme of individualistic and self-centred faith. As such, there is no unity of the faith in the Body of Christ! Clearly, there is a strong need to go back to basics, to the fundamentals, to the “old ways” and the “ancient paths”. Our people must be taught again what the Church stands for and what she believes. Our pillars of the faith must be strengthened!
5. Strive for the Unity of the Knowledge of Jesus
“… and of the knowledge of the Son of God, …” Eph 4:13b
In the gospels, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” and more pointedly, “Who do you say that I am?” Similarly, there are many views about Jesus today. Interestingly, Jesus is not just everything to everyone, He’s anything to anyone! We all love and know Jesus as Saviour, Healer, Provider, Lover of my soul and Friend. But how about Lord and Master? The Church must strive for the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God, differentiating from just wanting to know what Jesus can do for me, to who He really is! We have to move on from mere intimacy in relationship to obedience to His mission and purpose! And to know Him is to be like Him. Like Paul, we too must strive for that perfection that is found only in Him.
6. Raise Spiritual Giants
“… to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, …” Eph 4:13c-14
Let us not be contented to stay spiritual infants but determine to grow into His fullness! Quite obviously, the enemy knows the problems he will have if every believer rises up as a spiritual giant. No wonder he keeps bringing deception, discouragement and distraction into the Body to keep us from growing and perfecting the Body. Which teaching is right? Which church trend is of the Lord? Should we embrace every spiritual move? Little children don’t know how to discern these, but will simply go with the flow and follow the crowd! Not that the churches are not filled with activity or offerings, but it is not about more head knowledge or more bible study programmes! The only safeguard against the wiles of the enemy is once again, the pursuit of the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of Jesus!
7. Speak Truth in Love
“… but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ…” Eph 4:15
While many Christians are all caught up with the “doing”, Paul shows us that our spiritual growth is best evidenced through the “speaking”. Is it not true that our speech often reveals or betrays us? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth shall speak! Our speech is a mark of Christian maturity (or the lack of). James 3:2 says, “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” Some are very quick to speak the truth but without love, bringing offence, hurt and bitterness. Conversely, some only want to speak love, but are totally unwilling to confront the situation with truth. Perfection in the Body is demonstrated through our ability to speak the truth in love!
8. Check the Joints
“… from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies,…” Eph 4:15b-16a
When Body is not aligned with the Head, it results in a lot of aches! But if we are to be aligned with Jesus, the Head, we must be aligned with His purposes and His mission. Yet often, there is a disconnect between our lives, the church and the Kingdom. Our agendas are simply not in alignment with God’s will and purposes for the Kingdom! No wonder we experience such discomfort and pain. To be aligned with Jesus also means to be aligned with His Word. Instead, we tend to learn Christian truths and concepts in parts, and then mix and match these according to how we desire, taking things out of context. More discomfort and pain! Then there is the misalignment between leadership and the congregation. If we are all truly aligned with Jesus and with one another, do we have the same heart and the same mind? Are we willing to put petty differences aside for the sake of the Body? Are we willing to give up personal ground and rights for the greater good of the Kingdom? Or do we harbour hurt and unforgiveness in the Body? Only when the above points are addressed and put back in place will the joints begin the hold the Body together and enable it to move with purpose and direction.
9. Work Effectively
“… according to the effective working …” Eph 4:16b
All said, there is work to be done but it is must be done effectively through the effective working of God’s power. In other words, it must not be working for working’s sake or doing ministry simply for the sake of serving in the church. These may be needful but not necessarily effective. Instead of relying on our own strength, we have to learn to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. This same power that raised Jesus from the dead will also bring life to our dead works. Only the Holy Spirit can empower the Word, bring new hope into situations, change and transform lives! Is it not scary that the reliance on ourselves, our methods, our know-how’s and our tradition can all render the Spirit’s power ineffective?
10. Make It Your Business to bring Growth
“… by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Eph 4:16c
Finally, we have come full circle to where we first began our journey. The first point challenges us to recognise how each of us has been called and placed by His amazing grace. And with the measure that has been given to us, we are now expected to do our share. If not, grace would have been given and received in vain. Clearly, it is pointless to go through these 10 keys and not do anything about it. It would just be another great concept and teaching, but nothing is going to happen! Everyone knows that you don’t get a perfect body by just sitting down, surfing the net or watching TV. It’s time get off, get up and get on with some solid spiritual workout! Growth, unity and perfection depend on each and every one of us to work out what God has already worked in. But remember, don’t go it alone. Instead, stand on the Word and rely on the Holy Spirit “by which every part does its share.” Don’t keep waiting for others. Make it your business to bring growth to the Body.
“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” Heb 6:1-2 (emphasis mine)