When I was reading the passage for today 1 Corithians 12:12-31 the passages seemed to be highlighting three key messages. IDENTITY, DESTINY, MISSION.
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbithole, and that means comfort. – This is the opening from my favourite book “The Hobbit” by J R R Tolkien
I wonder how many people go through life living in comfort and yet there is something missing from their lives. If Bilbo had never met Gandalf the wizard then his life and the story would have been pretty short and boring. His life would have been comfortable – but that yearning he describes as being awakened by Gandalf, that was always there would have been left empty. The Hobbit is a wonderful story and Gandalf seems like the architype for Jesus – This whole that people feel can only be filled by one person.
Many people go through life in relative comfort, earning money from a good job or just trying to enjoy themselves, many people also live in poverty and they still feel this emptiness like life has no real meaning. They live there life like this phrase says
eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. – Ecclesiastes 8:15
they don’t know who they are, they feel desperation like life is meaningless.
Last week I watched an episode of new lives in the wild by Ben fogle and this chap earned loads of money, didn’t know who he was so he bought a mountain and lived on it trying to discover who he was – Ben visited him some years into his journey and he was still struggling with his past and still trying to find out who he was. No amount of esoteric bells, meditation or mindfulness helped.
12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.1 Corinthians 12:12-13
This passage starts by telling us an important truth. All believers have been baptised into the body of Christ and in verse 27 plainly –
You are the body of Christ – both individually and as a whole.
It doesn’t matter how different you are, you are all the body of Christ.
Now think about this! If Jesus was bodily raised, and if we are his body we should be a new creation, we are raised with Him. We are freed from the chains of this world. John 10:10 I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
When people encounter Jesus their lives change. Paul’s encounter with Jesus changes his life. In Acts 9 “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” – Saul was persecuting Christians – the church, the body of Christ and Jesus changes him from who he thinks he is to who he is destined to be.
When people encounter Jesus, their lives change.
- William Wilberforce was a very young MP who by his own admission was in it to make himself look good, but with an encounter with Jesus and he suddenly has a purpose and became one of the main people to bring about the abolition of the slave trade.
I believe when we decide to accept Jesus. Then only truly then can we be reborn and walk forward into who we are meant to be. But we do not do this alone. To come to Christ there are many steps perhaps but there are people who encourage you – exhortation. We’ll come to this in a bit.
When people ask about who you are? If you are the body of Christ – what do you say? Or is it something we are only putting on like a suit on one day of the week?
Up jumped Bilbo, and putting on his dressing-gown went into the dining-room. There he saw nobody, but all the signs of a large and hurried breakfast. There was a fearful mess in the room, and piles of unwashed crocks in the kitchen. – Once you realise who you are do you then go back to concerns of the world – making sure you have done the washing up – before you pray to God. Remember
An invitation is open to all, to enter His kingdom, now here today, not when we die. Jesus said if you reach out and heal to tell the person the kingdom of God is now at your door – He is just like Gandalf waiting for you to run out the door and grasp it. We are living in God’s Kingdom now!
N.T. Wright > Quotes – former Bishop of Durham
“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.”
When people encounter Jesus, their lives change.
- A young girl – Helen aged 12 found Jesus and decided to convert all her classmates – which she did. She started sewing pockets into her dresses so she could always carry them and give them away. Today the pocket testament league have brought 130 million people to faith. She had a simple membership card which encourages everyone to do three simple things;
- Read – the Word
- Pray – in the spirit
- Share – with someone
Summarising verses 15-20 tells us;
We are all individuals and we have all been placed here for a reason, we have a destiny. Jesus is standing ready with gifts to shower you with, It doesn’t do good to grumble about where you are in life, perhaps I have done that sometimes, because God has placed you where he has placed you. One of the fruits of the Spirit is to always be thankful.
Could you be the ear for someone, be the hand for someone, be the feet for someone, be the mouth of Jesus. Be a messenger, an envoy, one who is sent, perhaps even like an apostle.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
Once we accept who we are, and accept our destiny there is only one thing left to do. Accept the mission and get on with it. Like the poem we may not know the whole path but just the next step. So the next passages tell of the important of these things it seems for church growth.
Apostles – The first order of priority is to have apostles to grow the church. Apostles where the eye witnesses of Jesus. In a court of law if you don’t have the eye witness there you can accept a written testimony of that person, and we have that in the gospels and letters in the New testament. Apostle actually means someone who is sent – Here’s a spoiler – we are all sent.
In Acts chapter 8 it says everyone who believed was scattered apart from the apostles, so what did all these people do who were scattered – preach the good news, the gospel,
When you encounter Jesus your life changes, for the better.
The writings of Jesus are so important because they ground us and feed us daily with the Word. I do believe the Word of God is mighty and powerful. In Acts when the church grew it was always with the Word growing first (acts 6:7). So we need to somehow grow the Word. READ the WORD, PRAY and SHARE – like young Helen did – carry the Word at all times so you can share it with someone else. Discuss it with people, like Jacob – struggle with the passages until Jesus wins.
Prophets – a prophet was someone who would share the words of God to help the nation of Israel in the old testament, or build the church in the New testament. The word for prophet means EXHORTATION – a building up, encouragement, and comfort. Sometimes people can share a Word to encourage someone in their faith. 1 Cor 14:3 Anyone who prophecies speaks words to Grow, encourage or comfort. In the middle of a storm Paul exhorts all to be of good cheer because no life shall be lost. He revealed the Heart of God. Honour each other and you will grow the churches strength.
Teachers, we are all teachers to someone. We have all been called to share the gospel – I was one day taken aback finding out that the words to a hymn had been written by the former vicar to the church I was singing it at. We have a gospel to proclaim.
We can all be a miracle to someone?
William Wilberforce didn’t heal anyone but brought about a huge miracle.
John Newton Encouraged – was he a prophet using exhortation? He encouraged William his friend to continue in this path, a former slave ship owner and the writer of Amazing Grace – that song has saved so many through the years through its revealed WORD OF GOD.
Helen used her tenacity, became a teacher through the Word and just grasps the mission with both hands. I think she has saved more souls that her father – the famous chocolatier Mr Cadbury. Today at least 30 million people have been saved by the pocket testament league.
Above all remember, you are saved by faith through Jesus and He walks through this life with you. Remember your identity – Christ – realise your destiny – A child of God – and grasp the mission – save lives to live in God’s kingdom today.