One of the most significant illustrations that the Lord uses in scripture to describe the church is the analogy of the body. We are also called his building, his bride, his flock, his priests, and his ambassadors. All of those expression are rich in meaning, but the concept of being Christ’s body has a multitude of applications. The concept that gripped me in a fresh way yesterday is how much Christ relies on us to accomplish his mission in the world. Imagine if you would, how impossible it would be for you to accomplish anything without the use of your body. You could not go to any other place, you could not touch or handle anything, you could not hear, you could not speak if your body did not function.
One of the sad scenes that I see on a regular basis is a person who can still think well, but whose body no longer functions very well. Go to any nursing home and you will encounter people who would still love to do so many things, but are unable to accomplish even the smallest tasks because their bodies do not function. I know one lady who says she would love come worship with us, but cannot because she can’t hear anything that is being said. Others think of the things their hands built even though they cannot now even pick up a tool. They think of the other people they have touched, but now cannot raise their hand to shake another person’s because their body does not function well. How hard it must be to want to do so much, but to have a body that doesn’t function right.
Then I begin to think of all the things that Jesus wants to accomplish in this world. There are people that he wants to hear the truth, but he depends on his mouth (the church) to share the wonderful truths of the Gospel. It seems that he often has to deal with a speech impediment. There are people who the Lord wants to help – He wants to reach out and give them hope for the future by providing for a need in their life. He is dependent on His hands to do that work, but often His hands do not function. There are some people who are hurting so badly He just wants to hug them and cry with them, but for that to happen he has to use His hands, and His eyes have to be capable of tears. There are children who need rescued and lonely people who need someone to sit with them, but none of that can happen if his body no longer works.
As I prepared to teach the lesson to our Word of life Teen club last night we were dealing with what characteristic makes a good local church. As a discussion starter, I played a short video of a song by Casting Crowns. Let me share the chorus of that song with you:
But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
Let’s pray that the Lord heals His body, so He can accomplish all He desires to do in our world.
Memories are strange things. In most lives there are thoughts of the past that we cherish – so much so that some people try to escape to the past rather than dealing with the problems of today. That can be seen in conversations of the “good old days,” which turn into wistful longings of better days. The thoughts can be that the world was better back then as I cope with the failures of society, or that I was better back then as I cope with my own personal struggles and sins. Sometimes we just want to get back to a time that probably wasn’t really all that we remember it to be. That longing, if carried to an extreme keeps us from living well in the present.
Not all memories are pleasant, however. In most lives there are things in our past that we try hard to forget. Past sins and traumas sometimes just won’t stay buried! Christy and I were recently listening to a series of lectures on Grace given by Steve Brown at Reformed Theological Seminary. He repeatedly made the statement, “Everyone here has a secret, and if it were to be known you would either be out of here or be suicidal.” Every individual and every family has a past that includes some skeletons in the closet. Those memories, as hard as we try to escape them, can end up controlling a person and also keep them from living well in the present.
Senator Edward Kennedy completed his memoirs shortly before his death and that book, True Compass, was released this month. One of the things he reflected on was the 1969 accident that claimed the life of Mary Jo Kopechne. The new York Times quoted him describing his actions as “inexcusable” and said that at the time he was afraid, overwhelmed “and made terrible decisions.” As he reflected on his own struggle with guilt and the damage to Ms Kopechne’s family he made an interesting statement: “Atonement is a process that never ends.”
What a horribly sad statement! It is true that sin can have consequences that continue on, but atonement does not take a lifetime. We truly do not have to live with guilt from our past. I can never atone for my sin, but in a moment on the cross Jesus did just that! In Hebrews we read, “but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:26-28) Because I have believed in Him I am separated from my sin; “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us”. (Psalm 103:12).
It is good to learn from the past (others and ours). It is good to be grateful for whatever God has enabled us to do in the past. That being said, we don’t have to live there. God has given us the grace for this day – let us live in it!