The church in Corinth was much like the church today: It struggled with its Christian identity in the midst of a pagan culture and was trying to deal with many problems as a result. One of them, and quite possibly the worst, didn’t come from outside but from inside: their fleshly bent toward divisiveness, “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves” (2 Corinthians 10:12b).
Apparently, some of the Corinthians believed that their importance could be measured by comparing the effectiveness of their ministries and spiritual gifts according to outward appearance. Others mistakenly believed that their spiritual training and discipleship ranked superior, based on their teacher’s résumé and credentials (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-8; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 10:7-17; 11:5, 6).
No surprise that these actions and attitudes caused dissension and division among the Corinthian brethren, partly because this young, carnal church (1 Corinthians 3:1-4) was looking to such expressions and accomplishments to measure an individual’s worth in the congregation (2 Corinthians 10:7).
We too can fall into the same carnal trap and fail to live in unity as a church. But we can find help in Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians.
To correct the Corinthians and bring unity among dissension, Paul reminded them that, although there is “diversities of gifts . . . differences of ministries . . . [and] diversities of activities,” the impetus of these gifts and ministries is the same: the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the God and Father of all (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). Paul appealed for unity to those “measuring themselves by themselves,” saying, “If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ’s, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ’s, even so we are Christ’s” (2 Corinthians 10:7b).
The Spirit is the force that actuates the gifts given by the Father, through Jesus (Ephesians 4:8). The Spirit is the very presence of God who comes down from heaven and brings peace among the members of the body. He is in complete agreement with the Father and Son and with all who have the unquenched Spirit dwelling in them. The Spirit does not disagree or compete with Himself; therefore, if anyone is divisive, the cause is of the flesh, not of the Spirit.
“There is . . . one Spirit . . . one Lord . . . one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Paul stressed the fact that we, the church, are all disciples of one Lord. He sought to encourage the church’s unity, and stomp out contentions, by articulating our collective discipleship and individual gifting under one Lord for one common purpose: the salvation of humanity!
This Divine gifting is for His own program, not ours. Paul said:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (vv. 11-13).
Viewing the gifts and ministries of the body of Christ through the lens of our Lord is the greatest unifying factor for a divided church. We all have different gifts. We all have sat under the ministry of different pastors and teachers, and we all have different callings. But our common bond is that we are all disciples of one Lord, who uses each member of the body in different ways for one common purpose. No member is expendable (1 Corinthians 12:15-31). The body of Christ is a community discipled by Christ, put in place and chosen by God for the building up of itself, so that we may carry on God’s mission to share the good news.
If we remain babes, divisive and contentious, we cannot grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we fail to recognize our gifts as graces of God and that each member is just as important as another, we will be divided. If we compete against each other rather than engage in spiritual war against the Enemy, we will miss our opportunity to let our light shine before others. And if we compare ourselves among ourselves, forgetting our common call to the discipleship and ministry of the Lord, we cannot fulfill our common purpose.
Our gifts are deposited in us so that we may be conduits for the discipleship of one Lord, over one body, for one purpose.
— David Ross
Serving Where I Am
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NIV throughout).
“What are you sacrificing for Jesus?” the Holy Spirit asked me one day. In our society it’s so easy to focus on making ourselves comfortable and fulfilling every whim that we forget following Jesus means saying no to our desires and comforts for the sake of furthering His kingdom.
I used to think this meant I had to do something “big,” like become a missionary or start an orphanage. Now I realize following Jesus is serving Him where I am, with the people He has placed in front of me. At times I’ve felt bad because, as a housewife, I am around mostly Christians. It didn’t seem as important to serve them as it did to serve the lost.
Then I read Matthew 10:42: “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” This made me realize that God is pleased when we serve His people, even if we merely give them a glass of cold water. His people are important to Him, and He delights in seeing us care for them.
Every day I try to ask God to identify someone He wants me to minister to. God is faithful to bring people to my mind and show me what I can do. It can be as simple as calling someone on the phone and asking how they are doing, making a meal, or visiting someone. Often times the people He wants me to serve are right in my own home, like my husband. Some days it’s the widow at church, the Christian who feels alone and depressed, or someone who is sick.
But I repeatedly find myself saying, “Yes, Lord” and then not obeying, like the two sons in Matthew 21:28-31. It is easy to be busy with things that are important to me and forget what God asked me to do. This is especially true when I know that if I do what He wants me to, I will not have time to finish the tasks of the day.
Then God reminds me, “Take up your cross and follow Me. Sacrifice this for Me.” My love for Him takes over, and I lay down my agenda for His. I always feel blessed when I obey, because I know I have pleased Him — even if my dishes don’t get washed until tomorrow.
— Debbie Steinhauser
Have you ever seen a field before or after it’s been planted? An unplanted field has great potential, depending on different factors like seed and soil quality, as well as water and temperature. Once planted, the seed produces a harvest. The harvest is beautiful and the grain important for food, trading, and replanting next year.
Jesus said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. He didn’t say the harvest is small or hard to find. No, it is bountiful, ready and waiting (Luke 10:2).
Because of this great harvest of souls, Christ has commanded all His disciples to go into that field to proclaim the good news of His kingdom, to baptize and make disciples of all nations so they too may become children of God and citizens of His kingdom (Matthew 28:16-20).
Disciples love the Master and learn to do what He does. The Master loves His disciples and is eager to teach them everything He knows and does.
Christ’s followers join Him in His work, just as He carried out the will of His Father (John 5:17, 19, 20). Their priorities are the same as their Master’s. If Jesus had a heart for lost sheep who have no shepherd, shouldn’t those who follow His teachings share His heart?
If disciples share the heart of Jesus, then they will go as He commanded. Depending on the skills and spiritual gifts God has given each follower of Christ, this will take various forms. However, the result is the same: making new disciples to continue the work of the kingdom.
If we truly are God’s children and are to be rewarded as such, we must show evidence of His work in our lives through fruitful service in His harvest field. When the harvest is ready, too often those who should be active in God’s vineyard lack proper understanding of His mission or have other priorities. This is the central problem Jesus states in Matthew 9:37-39.
Opening our hearts to being committed disciples of Christ can happen only if we surrender to God’s call. If we haven’t, are we seeking help from the Lord to do so? Are we seeking advice from others who understand the will of God and carry out His work with excellence? Are we adjusting priorities in every area of life to achieve His mission, weeding out what compromises our ability to fulfill it?
This is the cost of discipleship.
We must give God access to our lives and allow His seed to be planted in our hearts by the Word, prayer, and active participation in the body of Christ. We must sow that seed. Otherwise, we allow the Devil to plant his seed and distract us from the mission, leading us to destruction. Our fruit bears witness to who we are and whether our lives align with God and His purposes.
As we await the final harvest when Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth forever, let’s take seriously our responsibility to “go,” joining Him in the harvest field now. Let’s allow Christ to plant His seed in us so that we can share with others before the end comes. May God raise up a vast army of workers to go in His name!
— Bryan Cleeton
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