Together: Love

This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “Together” where we’re learning more about the often neglected gift of the Holy Spirit of uniting people together.

Though it’s been almost a month, the opening message reminded us how we, the church, are part of the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision where the valley of dry bones were brought to life. Not only were those bones brought together to form bodies, but those bodies were also brought together to be a mighty army.

It is for this reason that Jesus told His disciples in John chapter 16 that it was for their good that He was going away. Better than having Jesus in the flesh with them was having the Holy Spirit within them binding them together in unity. Those words of Jesus are still obviously true today as we are better together, united by the Holy Spirit alone, than we are alone in our faith.

The church was God’s idea and His intent. Though it is true that someone can be a Christian apart from a church family, that person is missing out on the bigger picture of who they are in Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14;24-27
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
24b But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

We’ll dive into this concept later in the series, but it is important for us to realize that by His own design, Jesus is currently the head of the church and each one of us are a critical part of it. He is the ultimate and sovereign authority of the church and He is the one who orchestrates and directs it all, but we are the physical presence of Jesus here on the earth today. Anyone should be able to look at the church overall and see Jesus.

This should be an incredibly encouraging and freeing truth for all of us! God isn’t calling any of us to be someone that we are not. God doesn’t call any of us to fulfill roles that belong to someone else. Jesus simply asks that we be who we are; the part of the body that He created us to be. However, He’s also calling us to fulfill our function. If a knee is a knee, but refuses to bend, that has a huge impact on the whole body! If an eye is an eye, but it refuses to open, that has a huge impact on the whole body! If anyone here has ever gone through the complications of anesthesia where a certain body part was slow to awaken, you know just how powerfully that can negatively impact the whole body! This rings true even if you didn’t know that a certain part of your body existed such as your gall bladder or appendix. Each part of the body has an enormous impact on the body as a whole and all of its parts. Now we’ll go into those various parts of the body of Christ at a later time in the series.

This morning, the desire of God is to have us focus on the attributes that apply to every part of the body. These attributes are the tendons, ligaments, and sinews that Ezekiel saw that brought the bones together as life was given to the valley of dry bones. If these attributes are not possessed by each part, then that part will become severed and separated from the body and all will suffer greatly as a result. These attributes should be the highest priorities in all areas of our lives as they are the attributes that the Holy Spirit uses to bring us together.

It is the Holy Spirit that enables and equips us for every good work that we can do in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who defines what part of Christ’s body we are here on the earth. However, it is our choice whether or not to do these works that create togetherness. It is our choice whether or not to choose to join together with the other parts of the body of Christ or to cause division among the parts of the body of Christ.

While the Apostle Paul was in prison, he wrote this letter to the Colossians imploring them to spring into action and it still applies very much to us today to every one of us.

Colossians 3:1-17
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Notice that the things that we are called to put to death are things that always cause division: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. These are all part of our old self that was ruled and dominated by sin. These things all separate us from others

We, however, have been made a new creation by the Holy Spirit. Why would the Holy Spirit want us to continue in the things that enslaved us after He has set us free? Now, we have been made one with Christ and are called to instead do the things that bring people together. We are called to clothe ourselves because our natural, sinful self doesn’t possess them. We are called to clothe ourselves with things that we will not find anywhere in this world. The things that we are to clothe ourselves in are gifts freely given from God’s Kingdom to all of its members. These clothing items are: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. The robe that is to be worn over all of these clothing items is love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

These clothing items are the tendons, ligaments, and sinews that bind all of the various parts of the body of Christ together in unity. Again, in the same context of Jesus warning His disciples of His death and resurrection and how it was for their good that He was leaving them in the flesh, Jesus said this:

John 13:34-35
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

It should be no surprise to us that the very robe that we are to wear over all of the other heavenly clothing given us to put on is the very same thing that Jesus said everyone should be able to see and recognize that we are His disciples; love. This is the outward sign of our inward change as a new creation in Christ. No matter what part of the body of Christ we are, no matter what our giftings are, no matter where we are at in our maturity in Christ, the love of Christ should be the single thing clearly seen.

This love in the Greek is the agape love that comes only from God. It is this love that sacrificially honors all of the other parts of the body of Christ above itself no matter what it’s role is. It is this love that knows and understands that the primary purpose that every single part of the body of Christ possesses is the purpose of serving the others and honoring Jesus Christ, the head.

Every single part of the body of Christ is to put on agape love no matter what their secondary role or purpose is within the body. Now most of us know this and could quote this, but the question this morning is, “Do our lives clearly display this and act this way? When outsiders see our lives, do they foremost see love that humbles self and exalts others?” After explaining the various parts of the body of Christ, Paul taught this:

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

From the beginning, our walk with God was intended to be walked together with others. We were divinely created with the need for one another. Love is not only meaningless, it is non-existent outside of my relationship with others. Love requires togetherness. Love requires relationships with God, the Father, with the church family, and with the world around us who has not yet put their faith in Jesus. Jesus was the physical manifestation of love. If we are robed in His same love, then our lives ought to look just like His did while He walked the earth.

His love was a double-edged sword that brought clear revelation. In a way, Jesus divided people as He revealed who truly had their faith in God and who simply followed man-made religion. However, His life’s goal and purpose was togetherness. He came to bring sinners like us back together with our Heavenly Father.

Obviously, as we are united back with our Heavenly Father through adoption, we are also united with our new brothers and sisters in Christ through that same adoption. Togetherness is what Jesus fulfilled through His life, death, resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Love actively unites us together. Not love quoted in the scriptures, not love spoken, not love hoped for, not love that is claimed to be possessed, but only love which is put into action is what unites us together. As a Spirit-led believer, our thoughts and concerns should primarily be for the needs of others. Our goal and mission in life should be the same as Jesus; to seek and save the lost.

We are not called by Jesus to be consumers in the Kingdom of God where we seek out what local body of Christ best meets our felt needs, we are called by Jesus to go to the local body of Christ where He calls us and to serve; to fulfill our purpose within His body. We are called to serve and not to be served. It is only when the entire body is serving their function that every need of others is then met by one another. It is only when all of the gears are in place that things begin to operate fully and smoothly.

It is only when we fulfill our function in the body of Christ that we are then fulfilled. It is then that our frustrations turn to joy. It is then that hope shines brightest. It is then that dry bones join together and come alive into a mighty army of God. It is then that the world looks upon the church and they see Jesus. They don’t see us as individuals, they see Jesus through us cooperatively. They look at the church family and they see first and foremost the love of Christ that binds us together, just as Jesus said that they would.

This requires a mindset shift on our part to begin looking outside of ourselves. It requires us to begin to actively seek out the needs of others and to meet them if we’re able to. It requires us to lay down ourselves in order to honor someone else. It requires us to live as Jesus lived. He reached out and freely gave to those who could give nothing in return. He allowed the love of His Heavenly Father to pour out through His life as should we. Even as He said, “freely you’ve received, freely give.” Whether it be pushing back someone’s cart or paying for their meal or mowing their grass or just giving them an encouraging word or praying for them, the smallest acts of kindness show the greatest love! Every single one of us are capable of these things, which God uses to do the greater things that only He can do!

Although love is what we are to wear externally, it is peace that must rule our hearts internally.

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.

Peace has been the spoken desire of people for ages. World peace is the plea and cry for many today. However, in the Kingdom of God, what is this peace that is to rule our hearts? Join us next week to find out!