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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Unified, But Not Uniform

Robert Jeffress - Unified, But Not Uniform

Robert Jeffress - Unified, But Not Uniform
TOPICS: Straight Answers to Tough Questions, Unity

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Whenever we bump heads with someone who has differing viewpoints, it's tempting to wish that everyone else would embrace our position. But God had other plans when he created individuals with different opinions. And gratefully, our differences actually make the body of Christ stronger. My message is titled "Unified, But Not Uniform" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Suicide bombers approached a police training facility in Pakistan, and in revenge for the death of Osama Bin Laden, they exploded their explosive vests they were wearing, vests that were filled with nails and ball bearings. The resulting Carnage left 88 people dead and 120 people severely wounded. Those who were eyewitnesses to the event said literally it was a scene from hell. Body parts strewn everywhere, arms and hands and feet and heads. And people said like it was the most nightmarish scene they had ever witnessed.

As I read that, I was thinking about tonight's passage, and I thought to myself what is it that makes body parts so grotesque? Well, it's very simple. Body parts are beautiful when they're attached. The body parts were designed to function together. It's beautiful when they are attached and functioning properly, but whenever you have a body part that is detached, that is severed, it is a horrible sight. And what's true with the physical body is true with the body of Christ as well. As we're going to see tonight, we all as individual members of the body of Christ were not designed to operate by ourselves. We were designed by God to operate jointly, and that's what the church is all about.

If you have your Bibles tonight, I want you to turn to I Corinthians chapter 12, as Paul explains how we can be unified and yet not uniform. Now remember, in verse one, Paul is introducing a whole new subject. He's going to spend three chapters talking about the subject of spiritual gifts. Look at verse one. He says, "Now, concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware". Remember we said last time that a spiritual gift is a unique desire and ability that God gives you to perform ministry. And the Bible says when we were saved, we all received a unique spiritual gift, just as when you were born physically, you were born with certain natural abilities.

When you were born again, God gave you a supernatural ability and a desire to do ministry. And we said last time it is crucial to discover your spiritual gift. Knowing your gift gives you joy in life. It helps you to understand your purpose, why it is God left you here. I like what Finley Edge said about discovering your spiritual gifts. He says, "When you discover what your gift is, it gives you that eureka feeling. When you find and begin to use your gift, you say this is what I would rather do for God than anything else in the world".

Now, we don't all have the same gift, and that means we don't all enjoy doing the same thing in the church. And that's okay. God made us differently. Discovering your gift is key to understanding your purpose in life. It gives you joy. But there's a second reason we need to discover our gift, and that is because when we use our gift, it helps the church function effectively. This body of believers, first Baptist Dallas, will be handicapped, it will be crippled as long as you are not effectively using your gift someplace. The church needs you and you need the church. That's the theme of I Corinthians chapter 12.

Now, the Corinthians had two erroneous views about spiritual gifts. There were some in the church who felt like since we don't have those up front showy gifts like teaching or prophecy or leading, we're not needed. And so because they felt inferior, they began to isolate themselves and fall away from the church. But there were others in the church who had those up front gifts and they said, do you know what? We're pretty good. We don't need anybody else in the church. We can function effectively by ourselves. They were self sufficient. And so Paul addresses both extremes in this chapter, chapter 12.

Notice he begins first of all by talking about our unity in the body of Christ. The Bible uses a number of different metaphors to describe the relationship between God and his people. Sometimes God is called the shepherd and we are his sheep. Sometimes he's called the gardener and we are the branches. Sometimes Christ is called the bridegroom and we are the bride. But the most common image used in the Bible to describe the relationship between God and his people is the body. Christ is the head and we are his body. And you see that beginning in verse 12. Look at it. "For even as the body is one and yet has many members," or parts, "And all the members are parts of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ".

Think about the human body. It has a variety of different parts with different functions but they are all coordinated by the head for one singular purpose. So it is with the church. Now, follow me on this. When you became a Christian, you were joined together with the body of Christ. That's what the baptism of the Holy Spirit did. It joined you with the body of Christ. What is the body of Christ? It is that organism of which Christ is the head and all other members form the different parts of the body. We call that sometimes the universal church. When you were saved, you were joined together with every other Christian who is living right now or who is in heaven, who has ever lived, you are the universal church.

Now, look at verse 13. We ought to recognize this verse. "For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one spirit". This verse explains how you and I were joined together with the body of Christ. We were joined together by the baptism with the Holy Spirit. When we were saved, in a one time action, Jesus Christ immersed us with the Holy Spirit and joined us together with him and with other believers. This baptism is a one time experience. Ephesians 4:5 says there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. And Paul said it is something that happened to every believer, for with one spirit we were all baptized into one body.

I want you to write down the four results of being baptized with the spirit. The Bible says as a result of being baptized with the spirit, joined together with the body of Christ, number one, your sins were washed away. I Peter 3:21 says, "Now baptism saves you". And oh, the church of Christ people love to point to that verse. Baptism saves you. But unfortunately they stop short and don't read the rest of the verse, because Peter says, not the washing of your body with physical water. He's talking about the washing away of your sins, the baptism with the Holy Spirit of God. That's what saves you. Your sins were washed away. Secondly, you received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God, Ephesians 1:14. Remember, there's a difference between the presence of the spirit, we received that when we were baptized with the spirit, and the power of the spirit. That's the filling of the Holy Spirit. You received the presence of the Holy Spirit when you were baptized with him.

Number three, you received a unique spiritual gift. When you received the Holy Spirit into your life, he brought into your life a unique spiritual gift. Romans 12 lists the seven gifts. You received one of those gifts. And number four, you were joined together with the body of Christ. The way you were grafted into the body of Christ, you became a part of his body, was being baptized with the spirit.

Now, let me chase a very short rabbit trail here for just a second. You know, one thing I'm asked all the time, and I bet you've been asked too, is why do I need to join a church? Maybe you've had Christians ask you why is it important for me to join a church? Have you ever heard people ask that question? I mean, I like to come and sit and so forth, but why do I need to join a church? Is joining a church really important? Now remember, the local church is a picture of the universal church. It's the universal church cut down to size. Paul said, "For by one spirit we were all baptized," we were joined together, "Into one body". When you were saved, you were joined together to the universal church. You also need to be joined together with a local body of believers.

The next time anybody asks you is it important to join a local church, ask them the question, is it important for my hand to be joined together with my arm? Is it important for my foot to be joined together with my leg? Is it important for my head to be joined to my neck? Of course it is. And in the same way, it is important to join together with other believers. That's what he's talking about here in I Corinthians 12:13. We have been joined together as one. But then, after addressing our unity, he talks about our diversity, beginning in verse 14, our diversity in the body of Christ. "For the body is not one member, but many".

And as I said, there were two erroneous views about spiritual gifts. Some people felt inferior. They said just because I don't have the gift of prophecy or leading or teaching, maybe I'm not that important. I hear people say that today. Well, you know, I haven't been given the gift of teaching, I can't teach a Sunday school class, I can't sing in the choir, I can't perform a solo, I can't give a million dollars. Maybe I'm just not that important in the local body of believers. And the result when people feel that way is they isolate themselves from the church. The become like that piece of charcoal that you remove from the fire. As long as that charcoal is in the fireplace, it burns red hot. But when you separate it from the fire, it turns cold very, very quickly. That's what happens with a Christian who removes himself, isolates himself from a local body of believers.

So Paul addresses this idea of inferiority beginning in verse 15. He says, "If the foot says, 'because I'm not a hand, I'm not a part of the body,' it's not for that reason any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, 'because I'm not an eye, I'm not part of the body,' it is not for this reason any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? And if the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be"? You see, the body needs many parts to function effectively. Just look at your human body. What if the human body were one giant eyeball? Just one giant eyeball rolling along down the street. One giant eyeball. You'd have 20/20, 100/100 vision certainly, but it'd sure be hard to hear anything, to smell anything, to touch anything. Or what if you were one giant ear or one giant nostril? Can you imagine that? I mean, there would nothing be more unattractive, impractical and ineffective.

You see, we need all the parts of the body in order to perform the functions God has given us to perform. It's the same way in the body of Christ. What if everybody had the same gift? What if, for example, everybody had the gift of prophecy? We all went around convicting one another of each other's sins. Can you imagine what an unpleasant church that would be? Everybody had the gift of prophecy, nobody had the gift of mercy. Or say everybody had the gift of serving. That'd be nice, but what if there was nobody to lead, to organize everybody to serve? What if everybody had the gift of giving? That wouldn't be so bad, come to think of it. I think we could live with that. But no, we would still be an unbalanced body of believers. The body needs all of the parts to function.

Look at verses 18 and 19. "But now as God has placed the members, each one of them in the body just as he desired, if they were all one member, where would the body be"? What Paul is saying is your spiritual gift, whatever it is, is important to the body of Christ. If you don't have one of those up front gifts, don't allow that to isolate yourself from the rest of the body. All the parts of the body are needed. But then Paul talks about another extreme in the church, those who believe that their gifts made them self sufficient and they didn't need anybody else. And so he addresses them in verses 20 to 31 by talking about our interdependence in the body of Christ.

And I want you to notice here what he says in verses 20 to 21. "But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'i have no need of you,' or the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you'". See how he's turning this now? He's saying, yes, your gift is needed in the church, but you need the other parts of the body as well. No head can say I don't need any other part of the body. No eye can say I don't need the head. We all need one another. And Paul, beginning in verse 22, uses two illustrations of how seemingly inferior parts of our physical body are really some of the most important parts of our body.

Look at verse 22. He says, "On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are hidden". That word weaker refers to those parts of the body that are hidden from human sight. You know, much of our body cannot be seen. You can't see somebody's heart or liver or kidneys or pancreas like you can see their arms and their feet and their hands and their head. But just because you can't see the heart, pancreas, liver, kidneys, would anybody here say that those parts are inferior because they can't be seen? Of course not. Those parts are vital. In many ways, they're more vital than the body that can be seen. I mean, what would concern you more, having foot surgery or having heart surgery? I mean you can see the foot, but the heart is really what's vital to the functioning of the body.

He says it's that same way in the church. Sometimes it's those gifts that are behind the scenes, that aren't in view for everyone, that are some of the most vital. In verse 23, this gets a little tricky here, but he's illustrating how inferior parts of the body are sometimes the most important. And he says, "And those members of the body we deem less honorable, on these we bestow abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable". Now, I just don't enjoy looking at people's stomachs, okay? I've never seen a stomach that I thought was attractive, and I bet probably you haven't either. And we just don't think of people's stomachs as being particularly attractive.

But think about it. What do we do to our stomachs? We feed our stomachs, don't we? We put food in our stomachs even though they're not the most attractive part of our body. We bestow honor upon them. And without going into a lot of detail, there are some parts of our body that aren't particularly beautiful, but what do we do? We clothe them. I mean, they're the ones that get all of our money. I mean, we're spending money to clothe the dishonorable parts of our body. That's what he's talking about here. He's saying those parts of your body that seem inferior, in many ways are more important than the visible parts of the body. It's the same way in the body of Christ. Sometimes those gifts that aren't seen are the most important parts of the body.

Now, look at verses 24 and 25. "Whereas our more presentable bodies have no need of it, but God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to the member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have the same care for one another". Because we are one, folks, the Bible says we should care for one another. Because, get this, whatever happens to one part of the body happens to all of us. Plato said when I hurt my finger, I don't say, my finger is in pain, I say, I am in pain. And it's the same way in the body of Christ. Look at this in verse 26. "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. And if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it".

I want you to look at this first phrase. "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it". You know, unfortunately that's not true for many of us. There is a German term you're probably familiar with, schadenfreude. Are you familiar with the term schadenfreude? It's the tendency we all have, we never admit to it, but we all have, the tendency to take pleasure in the suffering of other people. It's a natural human reaction. It's wrong, but it's a natural reaction. When somebody suffers a mishap, a loss, the tendency to take pleasure in somebody else's loss. And unfortunately that takes place in the body of Christ.

Let's say a pastor falls into sin and disrepute. How do other Christians respond? They joke about it, they condemn, they ridicule, but they don't feel any pain themselves when a pastor in another church falls. Why is that? They don't feel any connection to him. They think, oh, that's just what he does. But no, the Bible says we're all connected to one another. If one member suffers, we all suffer. And in the same way, he says if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. That's what we should do anyway, but that doesn't happen either all the time. Another Christian gets a promotion or they buy a new home, they have a new home, or their child gets a scholarship in the senior awards ceremony at church. Do we rejoice with them? We think, oh, they didn't deserve that. Or why doesn't somebody recognize me? We're envious of them, rather than rejoicing with them.

Why do we feel that way? Because we really don't see ourselves connected to them. We think they are they and we are we. We don't understand that we are connected to one another so that we can rejoice when another member is honored. That's what he's talking about here. You know, you see a great illustration of that in Paul's own life.

Remember in Philippians chapter one, he wrote to the church at Philippi. He was in prison, and he said, I want you to know I rejoice in my present situation because other people are receiving boldness to preach the gospel through my example. He said, now, some of them are doing it for the wrong reason. They're rejoicing that I'm in prison and they're seeing this as a chance for them to make their ministry known. But he said, do you know what? I don't care. I don't care what their motive is. As long as Christ is being preached, that's all I care about.

Paul wasn't envious of people who were mistreating him. He felt connected to them even if they had the wrong motivation, because Christ was being honored. Paul closes this section in verse 27 by restating the theme. He says, "Now you are Christ's body, and you are individually members of it". Yes, you are unified together as one, but you are also individual parts of the body. So instead of deprecating the differences you have with other Christians, appreciate those differences. Understand that God didn't make you like everyone else for a reason. And God made other people differently from you. He never meant for everybody to think like you do, to enjoy the same things as you do, to react the same way you do. There are different parts of the body of Christ so that the body of Christ can accomplish its mission.

Legendary late football coach Vince Lombardi was one time asked what his formula was for a successful football team. This is what he said. "If you're going to play together as a team, you've got to care for one another. You've got to love each other. Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself, if I don't block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken. I have to do my job well in order that he can do his well".

Now get this. "The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the feeling these guys have for each other. Most people call it team spirit. When the players are instilled with that special feeling, you know you've got yourself a winning football team". Each player thinking about the next player. Each player doing his job well so that others can do their job well. That's not only the formula for a winning football team, it's the formula for a winning church.
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