Finding Your PlaceErwin W. Lutzer | January 14, 1996
Selected highlights from this sermon
Did you know that as believers, we are all a part of one body? When we believed on Christ, we were baptized by the Holy Spirit into this profound unity and share in the glories of Jesus Christ—the Head of the Church.
God has ordained great diversity in this unity; like members of an orchestra, we’ve been given different parts to play in the symphony—and it won’t sound right without all of the musicians playing their parts.
I want you to look at the body that you brought with you today. I think that you did bring yours. You’ve already seen it in the mirror, and we can tell, by the way, as we look at you that you’ve already seen your body in the mirror. I want to begin today by talking about a part of your body that you have never seen, but one I know you have. It’s a requirement to attend Moody Church. It’s your brain.
Donald M. McKay, a specialist in brain research, described the complexity of the brain this way. “In order to form a realistic idea of the structural complexity inside your head, imagine that one cubic millimeter of your cerebral cortex were magnified to the size of a lecture hall. In this magnified one-millimeter cube we might expect then that we would find something to the order of one hundred thousand nerve cells. If each of these had 1,000 to 10,000 connections, each connection adjustable in ways that might be functionally important, then within this hall we would have a tangled structure containing up to a thousand million functionally significant elements. Depicted on the same scale, the nerve fibers running from the brain to other parts of your body would extend for distances up to a thousand kilometers. And now let’s take the arithmetic a step farther. The human cortex (That’s your brain.) is about two thousand square centimeters in area, and on average about 3 millimeters thick. In order to complete our imaginary model of your brain on the same scale, then we would need something like 600,000 of these lecture halls stacked side by side and three deep. That is the kind of complexity that challenges the scientist as he contemplates your brain, ticking peacefully away inside your head (as you drift off to sleep in church).” (laughter) That’s not the way the sentence ended, but that’s the way I ended it.
Can you imagine that you have that kind of complexity taking place in your mind at this very moment? It would be almost impossible for any scientist to tell us what’s happening just in the communication process. To think that I am forming words, and those words are able to communicate is a mystery that confounds us.
Well, when God gave you the body that you brought with you today, He uses it in the Bible as a metaphor of the mystical Body of Christ. I’m not sure if I like that word mystical because many people think that it means that it is somehow unreal. No, it is very real – very, very real and direct. But the Body of Jesus Christ in the Bible is likened unto the human body, and you know the passage of Scripture, of course, is 1 Corinthians 12. Last week our focus was on the first 10 verses, and today we pick it up at verses 11 and 12, particularly there at verse 12. First Corinthians 12:12, and what I’d like us to do as we go through this passage of Scripture is to notice three characteristics of the Body of Christ that we should celebrate. And let us celebrate them today with great joy and great freedom. What are they?
First of all, that we have unity. Verses 12-14 say, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
Paul is saying, first of all, “How do we get into the Body?” He’s answering that question – the Body of Jesus Christ. We don’t get into it by birth. We don’t get into it by water baptism. We get into it by what he calls the baptism of the Holy Spirit that makes us members of this very special body, the Body of Jesus Christ. He goes on to say in verse 15, “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.” The answer is no. It’s still a part of the body, even if it doesn’t like where it has been placed.
First of all, unity! Notice that we are unified because we become members one of another. Paul says, “My thumb can’t wake up someday and say to itself, ‘You know, I don’t like the other four fingers because they have much more sameness, and I am different, and I am tired of playing this role. I’m leaving.’” No, it’s stuck with the other members of the body.
And if you are a member of Jesus Christ you can walk away from a church. You can walk away even into the world, and you will be severed from the Body emotionally, and in some sense spiritually, but if you are a true believer you still belong, but you are going to look very gruesome.
I like to tell that story (It’s a true story.) of a man in Canada who was visiting with a medical doctor, and the medical doctor was on call. Some of you doctors know how often that happens. And so the doctor had to leave and he said, “Make yourself at home. If you are hungry just take whatever you like.” And so after the doctor left the guest opened the refrigerator to get something to eat, and there he saw a human hand wrapped in a plastic bag. And the story that I heard said was that after he saw that he wasn’t hungry anymore.
Now you know, that’s odd, isn’t it? Why should that be repulsive? After all, what’s wrong with the human hand? I’m looking at both of mine and you can look at yours, and the hand is very beautiful, intricately made by God. There’s nothing wrong with it. You can easily look at it. But when a hand is severed from the body, that’s when it is awful. And I want to tell you today that there is no believer who is more miserable, no believer who is more difficult in his spirit, than someone who says, “I’m a Christian but I don’t like Christians; I’m not going to associate with Christians. I’m going to leave the Church.” Now they are still members of the Body but because they have cut themselves off emotionally and spiritually, they begin to shrivel up and they begin to look pretty terrible.
The Apostle Paul says that when we were baptized by the Holy Spirit of God, we became members one of another and nobody can walk away from the Body of Christ. Like it or not, folks, you are stuck with us if you are a believer.
Now this unity means not only that I am a member of somebody else and joined to you. It means more importantly that we are members of Christ. Let’s look again at verse 13. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body —Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Now here’s the astounding truth that the Apostle Paul shares. Even in verse 12 he says, “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ,” and we would expect to read, “And so is the Church.” That’s not what he says in the text. He says, “So it is with Christ.”
Now you look at your body in a mirror and you notice that it comes, generally speaking, in two parts. There’s the head and then there’s the torso, and Jesus Christ is the head of the Body. It is the control center that controls all the different parts of the Body, but the same blood, the same life that is in my head is in the rest of the body because the union is so direct, the union is so complete that the head and the rest of the body share the very same life. And so it is that we share Christ, partakers of Him. What an astounding passage of Scripture!
And in verse 13 Paul uses the little word all two times. We are all baptized into one body. He didn’t say, “Now all those of you who are spiritual at Corinth, you were baptized into one Body.” He didn’t say, “Now all those of you who speak in tongues at Corinth, you were baptized into one Body.” He said, “By one Spirit we were all baptized into the same Body,” and then he said, “We were all made to drink of the same Spirit.” Now when you drink water it goes inside of you. There are two aspects of the ministry of the Holy Spirit that ought to bless us. It is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that puts me into Christ. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that puts Christ into me. Jesus said, “I in you and you in Me.”
More than 100 times in the Bible the Apostle Paul uses that little expression, “in Christ.” In fact, every time God gives us a command in Scripture it is based on the fact that we are already in Christ. Remember that everything that we are asked to do is based on what Christ has already done, and we are in Him.
“And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Our connection with Christ is so direct that Paul says in Ephesians, “We are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones,” and you can’t get rid of bones without destroying the body. That’s how integral it is. That’s how connected it is – a part of Him.
Well, you say, “If that’s true, why all this misery in the world? Why all these trials? Why all these heartaches? Why all these difficulties? Does He feel what we are going through because the Body is a unit?
Many years ago when I was out on the farm growing up we were building something. And I took a hammer and I was trying to pound in spikes and see how few hammer blows I could get the spikes in with. I was probably not in the best of moods, maybe working out some of my aggression, but I remember hitting my finger. You know, to this day I know which one it is. It’s this one here because the fingernail is considerably larger than my other fingernails because I got a brand new one. And you know, when I hit it we didn’t go to the doctor until the next day, but all the other members of my body were so concerned about what happened that they stayed up all night with the finger. (laughter) They really did.
Does Jesus feel your pain? That’s what some of you are asking, and the answer is yes. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? My body is feeling the hurt and the torture of believers who are being cast into prison and put to death.
I am hurt.” Yes, we have a high priest who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Our head is not detached from the body. It is a part of the body. It feels with the body. It shares its life with the body, and it also shares its honor with the body.
Ephesians 1 says that Christ is above all principalities and above all powers. What does it say in Ephesians 2? “And He has raised us up together with Him that we might be seated also at the right hand of God, the Father.” If the head is in heaven, the body has to be there too, because the head is not severed from the body.
He shares His honor with us. He shares His victory with us. Romans six says, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we who have died to sin live any longer therein? Know ye not that so many of us as are members of Christ have been baptized into His Body? (Again a reference to Spirit baptism) Like as Christ was raised from the dead, so we too should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in His resurrection, so we shall be united with Him also in His death and ascension.” And that’s essentially what Paul is saying, and therefore we can walk because the head and the body are connected. We are one. We have unity. Write it down. We have unity.
Secondly, we also have diversity. We pick up the text in verse 17. “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?” Can you imagine the whole body an eye? You take this big eye and put it on the couch and all that it can do is watch television. “If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” One big ear! Imagine that! I guess you’d have to turn off the television and turn on the radio.
Paul doesn’t use this illustration but it came to my mind. “If the whole body were a mouth what would we be?” And you say, “Well you know there have been people for whom that description at least remotely may apply.”
Paul is saying, “There is diversity.” Do you know what this means in practical terms? Number one, there’s no such thing as inferiority. Paul goes on to talk about those lesser members that we give no honor to, and he says they are even more necessary. Verse 22 says, “On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” and then he goes into the description of those who are less honorable. And what he’s talking about is those parts of our body that we would never display in public. Paul says, “They are just as important as those that we very gladly display.” It is because the body has no such thing as inferiority. You can’t say to the toe, “I don’t need you.”
Do you know why there’s inferiority in the Church? And I would like to take care of that in the next couple of minutes if I could. I’m going to try but I’m not so naïve as to think that I can accomplish it, but let me tell you why. It’s because of the perverse idea that church is going to church on Sunday and having a wonderful meeting, and that’s church. And when you go to church you notice that there are certain people who lead the service. There are certain people who sing because they are particularly gifted and therefore people say, “Well, I can’t sing like that. I can’t read the Scripture like that. I can’t speak like that, and therefore there is nothing for me to do.” Oh please, get rid of that idea forever. Bury it.
What we need to do is to understand that the Body of Jesus Christ is to go about the earth healing the broken-hearted. The Body of Jesus Christ comes together on Sunday, but it has its ministry on Monday and on Tuesday, as we go out into the world and represent Jesus in stores and factories and office buildings, and wherever we may find ourselves as His representatives. And that’s what we need to understand. And we will never electrify the Church again. We will never see the Church transforming society unless once again we understand the vision of Jesus going about explaining to people how they can have a relationship with God, explaining forgiveness and reconciliation to God, and going into the highways and the byways, being willing to be identified with the people of the world, to lead them to the Savior about whom we sing so beautifully. And that’s the responsibility of the Church.
And you see that’s why we need all the members of the Body. Everyone has a function, maybe not in a public meeting, but every member functioning uniquely made by God to fit somewhere in the Body.
There is no room for inferiority, but no room for superiority. We come to the same text. “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?” Do you know what the problem with the eye is? They say, “Well, why can’t everybody be an eye just like me?” And the mouths, bless them! They say, “Why can’t everybody be a mouth just like me?” And so they begin to feel that other members are inferior because “everybody should be like me.” I cannot tell you the harm that has come to the Body of Jesus Christ, and the weakness of the Body, because there are members in the Body who will not accept other members who have weaknesses. Particularly it is difficult to accept those who have weaknesses in the area in which we are strong, you see. And so we say in effect, “Why can’t he be like me?” Well, I think it was Will Rogers who said, “I’ve never yet met a man of whom I wish there were two,” so that’s one reason why he shouldn’t be like you.
My dear friend, would you get over that? You see many of you don’t know me very well. You hear me on Sunday but you don’t really know my weaknesses. Not really! Now those who work with me do, and some of them on the pastoral staff know my weaknesses, but the reason that they never say anything to anybody about them is because I know their weaknesses too. (laughter) There are areas in which I am weak and the members of the pastoral staff are strong in those areas so we work together. We try to minimize our weaknesses. We maximize our strengths because we are helping one another, but there is no room for inferiority.
I learned from somebody that I have a part of my body that is absolutely essential to my preaching, but it is a part of my body that you have never seen, and I predict you’ll never see it. It’s my big toe because apparently if you didn’t have a big toe you couldn’t maintain your balance. Do you know that your toes are constantly sending these messages to the brain and saying, “Now you have to tilt a little bit this way and lean this way and to compensate you have to do this.” And just to think all that is happening and I’m not even aware of it. It’s happening quite well actually without my being aware of it. So do you realize today that I could not preach like I do if I didn’t have a big toe? So since I’ve learned that I’ve always been protecting my toes. And don’t you dare step on my toes because they are a part of my ministry.
You see, what God wants us to do is to understand that there is diversity. Accept it and enjoy it and delight in the fact that we have some people in this church who are very, very different.
There is unity and there is diversity, and thirdly, there is interdependence. Look at verse 21. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” And Paul then goes on to say it is truer, as I mentioned, that the members of the body, which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members that we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and they actually become very, very important.
And so he goes on in verses 25 and 26 saying, “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” There is this inter-relatedness within the Body of Jesus Christ.
Here in Chicago there used to be a law school (I don’t know if it still is in existence.) called the Kent Law School and I’m told that there were two students who met almost on the first day of class and they became fast friends and graduated together. One was a man without any arms but he had good eyes. And the other was a blind man. And the blind man would carry the books in accordance with the instructions and the guidance of the man who had no arms. And then in the evening when they studied, the man without the arms would read, of course, to the man who was blind, and that’s the way they got through law school together.
And it’s a wonderful story that even though both of them were physically challenged, they made up for their own weaknesses by compensating – by someone else coming to the rescue to help them. Now that’s what is called interdependence, and I’m here today to try to exalt with all that is within me and to the best of my ability those works in the Church and those gifts upon which we generally bestow less honor because they are invisible. But God honors them, and what we need to do is to think of creative ways in which to honor them as well.
Let’s take, for example, the maintenance people here at the church. You usually don’t see many of them. Usually you see them when there’s some kind of a tragedy that has happened or some kind of a need, but how long could we operate without the maintenance crew here at the church? Not for very long! How long could we operate without the nursery workers, without the ushers, without the parking attendants, without the Sunday school teachers, without the social committee that prepares those lovely meals that we have? How long could we operate without these ministries, which are often done in those areas where there is less visibility? Don’t you dare tell me that they are less necessary! There’s a terrible equation sometimes in our minds. Visibility – important! No visibility – less importance! God says, “No, they are all necessary to the working of the Body, interdependent one upon another.”
What is the bottom line? The bottom line is simply this, my friend. Today you are a cell in the body. You are a part of the Body of Jesus Christ if you have believed in Christ, and you impact the entire Body for good or for ill. You impact it.
I’m not sure if it is true that a bee flying in Bolivia impacts the air currents in the United States, but I am sure that your spiritual life impacts The Moody Church. No matter how remotely you may be involved in our ministries, no matter how distantly and independently you think you might be, every cell in my body either contributes to what’s happening or else becomes a drag on the Body and what is happening, because there is no such thing as a cell making it on its own. It receives the life from the body, the sustenance from the body, its interdependence on the body, and if it becomes a parasite and it lives off the body and doesn’t contribute to the body then it becomes a drag to the body.
Now there are some people who are going through times of hurting. There are some people who, for whatever reason, are unable to serve. I’m not talking about them when I use that word parasite. I am thinking of that man who I met in Florida who so tenderly looked after his wife who had Alzheimer’s disease, and how, even though she couldn’t serve him, he served her. And therefore there are people in the Body who give us opportunities to serve, and they are not harming the Body. They are benefiting the Body. There are some people, who through their criticism, through their angry spirit, through their independent unbroken spirit and heart become a weight to the Body rather than a blessing to the Body. And we must bear them, yes, because the Body must function, but whether you are a hindrance or a help depends on the kind of cell you are within the Body of Jesus Christ.
Notice Paul says that we should have the same care for the Body in the last part of verse 25. I guess what he means is the same care that our physical bodies have. Have you ever slipped on ice? You slip on ice and your hands will go out and they will absorb the blow, and they won’t even think about it. They’ll just do it like that. I’ve slipped on ice and my hands didn’t say, “Well you know, we don’t want to get hit. Let’s just go to the back and let him fall on his face and his chest.” My hands have not done that. When I slip they don’t even pray about it. They don’t say, “Now, what shall we do? Let’s think about it.” Instantly they are there and they will be willing to absorb the blow. The wrist will be broken. The fingers will be broken. The arm will be smashed. “But,” they say, “we’ve got to do everything to protect the head and the heart, and we’ll do it.”
That’s the Body of Jesus Christ, functioning the way in which God intended it to function. You find somebody who is hurting. Paul says in verse 26, “If one of the members suffer, all the members suffer with it.” You say, “Well, what good is that if we all suffer?” The idea is that you suffer in order to help that other member in his or her suffering, and you lighten their load. We can lighten the load of missionaries by writing to them. We can lighten the load of those who are going through grief by calling them on the phone, praying with them, encouraging them, strengthening them. Paul says, “Strengthen those who have fallen down,” and so that’s the way we help, and that’s the way the Body functions.
Do you know anything about your white cells? I’ve never seen any of my white cells but I read about the white cells in my body and you’ve got some too, though you’ve not seen them. Doctors tell me that they ramble through the body as if they are going nowhere, just aimlessly. They remind me of a college student who just can’t make up his mind as to what his major should be. And that’s the way the white cells are, meandering with no special aim. Just here we are! But the minute you have a pinprick they come from all over, and nobody knows who lets them know. No, they don’t have a fax machine that says, “Everybody get to the hand. We’re in trouble.” But they come from all over the body and instantly there are some of those white cells who immediately take the bacteria and they wrap themselves around the bacteria and then they detonate, and they end up dying, and they give their life to keep poison from entering the body. And if you have enough of those happening we call it pus. And you see these white cells, of which I think there are (What is it?) 50,000,000 or whatever. They exist in the body, but the moment they are needed, they are there, willing to lay down their lives.
And is that not what the Scripture says we should be willing to do for one another, even give our lives for the brethren as one of our Brothers did 2,000 years ago on the cross? That’s the responsibility of the Church, the Body functioning.
So the Apostle Paul says there is unity, the baptism of the Spirit. There is diversity. Oh, let’s just celebrate our differences. And when you see a weakness, recognize that you have yours too. And then there’s interdependence, and the bottom line is that the way I live – the victories and defeats in my life and my use of my gifts or my lack of use of giftedness – all impacts the Body and it becomes a part of the total picture.
I’d like to remind you that the Body is so important to Christ that it is the Body for which He died. And as Paul says, the only way to get into it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that happens when we receive Jesus Christ as Savior. When we receive Him into our lives, many different things happen. The Holy Spirit indwells us. We drink from one Spirit. The Spirit baptizes us. We become a part of Christ. We receive a new head. We receive a new name, a new identity, and we thankfully are going to spend eternity in a brand new and different place. That’s the ministry to which now we have been called, as the Moody Church, as part of the total Body, as an arm of the Body, a great and joyous responsibility of representing Christ, however He has put us together, however He has planted us for His glory and for His honor.
“For as the Body is not one member but many, so also is Christ.” And I say, “Let it be so,” and you join me as we pray.
Our Father, we want to thank You today for every single person who has listened to this message. I thank You for every weak part of the Body, and there are some going through trials and hurts and pains and disappointments. I thank You for each part of the Body. I thank You that there is no such thing as a member of the Body who is simply a nuisance because You have created each, and each plays a part. Thank You for those who are strong in the Body, those who can lift us up, those who can encourage. Thank You for those who are multi-gifted, and then there are those with one gift, or perhaps because of illness are unable to use any gift, but still all a part of us, sharing the same life, headed for the same destination, loving the same Savior. Father, help us to fall in love with Christ, that we might fall in love with each other. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.