I would like to share with you what I am learning about the body of Christ. For a long time I have realized that something is missing when Christians gather. There is such a vast difference between the descriptions of the early church in Acts and our church experience today. Some said that it was because the gifts had ceased but I couldn't believe that because the Holy Spirit had bestowed spiritual gifts on me. Others said that the church was the body of Christ and we must just believe and not seek to experience it. Still others said that I shouldn't rock the boat or go off the deep end, that I should just accept things as they are and not question their Scriptural validity -- that questioning the church was attacking God.
For awhile, I drifted away from the traditional church groups and became interested in groups that were attempting to return to the New Testament ideas. I joined small groups, meeting in homes, sharing and caring about each other. I studied with groups that emphasized the gifts. I searched for new meaning with groups that were turning away from the culture. I met with people who were joining in community, holding all material possessions in common. But in none of these groups did the body of Christ become a vital living reality.
I am not suggesting that I found no work of the Spirit present in these groups in the individual members. I was looking for a group where the body was fitted together perfectly, each part in its own special way helping the other parts, a body healthy and growing and full of love.
I realized now that the efforts of men to put life into the body of Christ, the church, were futility. For awhile I gave up my quest. And what did I do about gathering together with other Christians? My family and I attended the local church where we felt most at home. And I attended a women's Bible study and prayer group where I found more Christian fellowship and love than I had ever known before.
Then three months ago my husband and I found ourselves in a precarious position far away from home. I reached out to some of our Christian friends by calling them long distance, asking them to pray. Soon I sensed the lifting up of our souls to God. Although we were miles apart it was as if we were together in a more real way than physical. Something was happening. Later that evening these friends contacted me, asking me to read specific Scripture. While I read, I heard through the written Word, the voice of God. The verses were a prophecy. Only hours later the Word became truth in our lives.
When we returned home our problem followed on our heels and we were hard pressed. Through this difficult time we were surrounded by people who ministered to us with their spiritual gifts. We were encouraged, exhorted, helped, confirmed, strengthened, given the prophetic word. For the first time I experienced the body of Christ, alive and glowing with spiritual power.
We have had Christians help us many times before but this time was different. I knew that all actions had been prompted by the Holy Spirit -- that this was His doing -- that this was no human effort. Jesus was giving the orders and the members of His body were carrying them out through the various spiritual gifts that He had bestowed on them. Can you imagine what that meant to me? It is always heartwarming to have people concerned and caring but when the King of Creation bends down to help you through His obedient servants, it is the touch of glory. He had aroused Himself from His holy habitation, He was moving among us.
And now I know part of the answer. The church -- the body of Jesus Christ can never be contained by structures no matter how grand or how humble; it cannot be organized or set in motion by men no matter how spiritual; it cannot be activated by doctrine no matter how correct; it cannot be brought to life by people with gifts. (However these last three are necessary for a healthy body). It can only be alive when the Holy Spirit is the source, the activator, the teacher, the comforter, and the helper. And He works through the spiritual gifts that Christ has given to His followers. (Ephesians 4: 12-26)
Only as we, His followers, come to Him, bringing ourselves completely under His authority, learning to hear and to obey His voice, can the church be vital and alive. For the body does not decide what to do, it can only obey the Head. Without Jesus, we, His people, can do nothing -- no thing. Can you imagine your body trying to function, each part doing its own thing, ignoring the signals your brain sends it?
"Religious work can be done by natural men without the gifts of the Spirit, and it can be done well and skillfully. But work designed for eternity can only be done by the eternal Spirit. No work has eternity in it unless it is done by the Spirit through gifts He has Himself implanted in the souls of redeemed men."
A few short weeks ago I experienced this work of eternity -- His body functioning here on earth, putting its arms around me, loving me, upholding me. At that moment I experienced for the first time, the church, fitting together perfectly, each part in its own way was helping the other parts, so that the whole body was healthy, and growing and full of love. And it was all under the direction of Jesus Christ. I will never be the same again. And I pray, "O God, arouse Yourself from Your holy habitation and move among us again. We, Your people, are waiting for You."
"God may not go everywhere I might decide to go but He always goes where I must go."