Rightly Discerning the Body of Christ

Aduterous woman and Jesus 2

What right do you have to criticize someone else’s servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right, and the Lord will make sure that they do right. (Romans 14:4 CEV)

What an amazing verse this is! Here Paul wrote that only God has the right to decide whether one of His saints is doing as they should and not only that, He has the power to put them back on the right path. There are many people in the church today who want to take this right into their own hands and speak out against anyone that is not toeing the line as they think should be done.

Another form of judging involves people who judge others in their hearts but do not verbalize it. They think they are okay because of their silence. Yet, the scripture says that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. God hears our thoughts and knows our hearts. Do you still think you are doing just fine when it comes to judging? Well, listen to your thoughts the next time you are driving in heavy traffic. Paul wrote,

“For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.” (Romans 12:3 RSVA)

Thinking of ourselves as God sees us is a rare thing. We usually think of our spiritual estate as better than it is. Not many of us see ourselves according to the measure of faith that God has given us. Satan is the accuser of the brethren of Christ. Often we find our thoughts agreeing with him as if we are the one who has the right to judge, taking the place of God to ourselves! Funny, but this is exactly what Lucifer did (see Isaiah 14:12-15).

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never went around claiming that He was the Messiah? Even when pressed by the Jewish leaders to say so, He seemed to avoid taking the title to Himself. Instead He let men tell Him what He was while they observed His actions and words (see Matthew 16:16). The title does not make the man, and neither do his degrees. On the other hand, Jesus did take the title “the son of man.” There was nothing special about being “the son of a man.” We read that when He found Himself in the form of a man, He became a lowly servant, not a Prince in a palace or a High Priest. As he grew in Christ the titles Paul the apostle claimed diminished until finally he called himself, “the offscouring of the world” (1 Corinthians 4:13). When we rightfully compare ourselves to Christ, the Father’s Standard of righteousness, it should humble us as it did Paul.

Jesus took the lowest place His whole life. He was born in a barn, and laid in a feed trough in the least of all towns in Judea. He grew up in a town in Galilee that was considered least by the Jewish leaders of that day. Referring to Him they said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” He spent most of His life in what was called “Galilee of the Gentiles,” disdained by the Jews. He was loved by the common people, but was rejected by the leaders of His own people. Finally, he was tried like a common criminal, crucified between two thieves and His body placed in a borrowed grave. If being born in the right family and having a place of respect in the local community was an asset for gaining power and respectability, somebody forgot to tell God.

We often have this “uppity” attitude toward one another as if we think we are something when we are really nothing. It is a dead give-away when we hear ourselves saying to another saint, “When I was a younger Christian like you I thought that way too.” “I know what you are going through.” “Here is what you need to do…” And the all time classic, “I feel your pain.” We are all too quick to put ourselves in a higher place in our thinking than the one we are “reaching out to in love” or speaking to. We are all too quick to try and do the convicting work of the Spirit of God in each others lives.

One of the subtle ways we elevate ourselves over others is by posturing. We do so by flaunting our experience, our titles, our degrees, even with our attitudes and body language. “Touch me not, for you are unclean!” “I am holier than thou.” We might not say this, but we often act it out and others can sense it. Yet, Jesus, who should be our example as Christians, allowed Himself to be touched by women who were bleeding, and unclean according to the Jewish law. He hung out with sinners and prostitutes and even touched lepers!

Jesus identified with the multitudes (Greek, ochlos by definition – the common people and the rabble) and was often found mingling with them. He was criticized for it by the Jewish leaders. How often we see people who love their titles and respectability keeping the common people at arm’s length or even further, but not our Lord. This attitude is not the Spirit of Christ. He did not have an appointment secretary who acted as if she went to guard dog school. But I am afraid this is all too common today among recognized church leaders. By looking to people such as these as an example, we take on the wrong attitude toward others. Like so many children, we learn more from what we observe in our leaders than by what they say.

In contrast we find Jesus rebuking His disciples for trying to keep women and their children away from Him. He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In short, Jesus was a servant to all and always accessible to the “little people,” even saying that they will fill His Father’s kingdom, not the elevated ones.

Saints, there is no substitute for the work of the cross and the excellent knowledge (intimate knowing) of Jesus Christ in our lives. There is no substitute for the unction of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly teaching that comes from Him as we open our hearts to God. Institutions can teach you the history of the church and details about the Bible, but they cannot give you the rhema word and moment by moment guidance of God. No, you must walk by faith in humility if you are to be an effective witness of God’s kingdom and love.

Remember that Paul had the best education the Jewish system could provide and he counted his history, bloodline and education, etc., as less than nothing, except for his intimate relationship (“excellent knowledge of”) with Jesus. Mark his words, “We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2, NKJV). It is not what we know that counts, but whether Jesus knows us and we intimately know Him (see Matthew 7:21-23). We cannot effectively teach what we have not become. As with John, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, NKJV). There is nothing more detracting in us from portraying Christ to the “lost world” than pride. And pride keeps us from becoming truly one with God and with each other as well.

When the Lord’s people get a new spiritual Holy Ghost revelation of the Sovereign Headship of Christ, and begin to hold fast the Head, they let go of everything that is local, and personal, and different, and scattered on the earth. That is the place to which to come for unity. We cannot be at variance with one another as the Lord’s children if Christ is absolute Sovereign Head in our lives. When the Lord Jesus gets the complete mastery as Head in our lives, then all independence of action, and life, and all self-will, self-direction, self-seeking, self-glory and self-vindication will go. These are the things which set us apart from one another. You pass from Isaiah [Isaiah 6:1-8], and as you do, so you remember that you have the results of such a vision seen in this man Isaiah. Such a vision immediately has the effect of humiliating him to the dust. Oh, yes, we lose all our pride, all our importance when once we see the Lord in glory. “Woe is me….” That is humiliation! Then, after humiliation, there is consecration: “Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” And, after humiliation and consecration, there comes vocation: “…who will go for Us?” “Then I said, Here am I; send me.” ~ T. Austin Sparks http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001461.html

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22 comments on “Rightly Discerning the Body of Christ

  1. Ah, beautiful piece. Thanks, I enjoyed reading that. This is one of my favorites, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” I also love, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Gabrielle, thanks for your comment. I grew up in a little mill town called Potlatch, It could be said in this area as well, “Can any good thing come out of Potlatch? 🙂 As for the other quote, I have found out that if we are truly taking up our cross and following Jesus, it is a life long process of decreasing as God pares us away so that His Son increase in us and might become our All.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ken Dawson says:

    Excellent post Mike–We are having our convocation right now at Emmanuel Church here in Tulsa,OK and the theme this year is unity–the quote by T A Sparks says it all and I copied it down and will read it to them this morning letting them know where I got it–thanks

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pat Orr says:

    A wonderful piece. Thank you for the edifying and plumb line word. Undoubtably, apart of being of the race of Adam is to think competition where everything is concerned. Jesus has the grace to set us free from being competitive – which always judges others. I go to the throne of grace asking for grace and mercy to be free from the spirit of competition. I pray to be on the same team with the other saints.

    Love in Him,

    Pat Orr

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Michael, such a humbling and truthful word here. We all need to remember Whose we are, and that we are servants for His kingdom, not our own fiefdoms. His agenda always comes first and foremost, His message, His love, grace and mercy.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Michael says:

    Susan, thank you for your comment. Wow, you live only about 25 miles south of where my mom and sister live in Davis! My father died in ’94, but retired from teaching in that town as well. i graduated from DSHS in 1963. Small world. Yes, Jesus’ message of love, grace and mercy and we being changed by His grace to walk the same… that is what the New Covenant is all about.
    God bless you dear sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful article, Michael! ⭐

    Romans 12:3 was the first thing that “hit me”. 😉 I realized that Paul did not generally outlaw to think highly of ourselves (as we know when he referred to knowing “a man” of who he could boast because he had been in the third heaven), instead, he simply forbid to think MORE highly than we ought to. I think the Pulpit Commentary offers a rather helpful explanation as to that issue.

    …according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Why of faith? One might have expected the expression to be, “of grace,” as in ver. 6, “according to the grace that is given to us;” or as in Ephesians 4:7, “according to the measure [μέτρον, as here] of the gift of Christ.” It seems to be because by faith we become receptive of the grace given to each of us. Hence the faith assigned by God to each is regarded as “the regulative standard; the subjective condition” (Meyer) of the several gifts or graces. Cf. also Matthew 17:20 and 1 Corinthians 13:2, where miraculous powers are spoken of as dependent on the amount of faith. Tholuck explains thus: “Faith in an unseen Christ brings man into connection with a world unseen, in which he moves without distinctly apprehending it; and in proportion as he learns to look with faith to that world, the more is the measure of his spiritual powers elevated.” [Emphasis in italics mine]

    And when I read that paragraph, I heard God speaking through every word. You wrote,

    Saints, there is no substitute for the work of the cross and the excellent knowledge (intimate knowing) of Jesus Christ in our lives. There is no substitute for the unction of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly teaching that comes from Him as we open our hearts to God. Institutions can teach you the history of the church and details about the Bible, but they cannot give you the rhema word and moment by moment guidance of God. No, you must walk by faith in humility if you are to be and effective witness of God’s kingdom and love.

    You have ears to hear His voice, my brother!

    As for knowing as we should really know – being known/loved by God, that is – I think that the spiritual knowledge of coming to know the love of God must come first and then, through His anointing, the knowledge we share with others follows. Knowledge that is not based on having received the love of God before always puffs up and stirs up pride and arrogance. Just my two cents… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Susanne, thank you for your gracious comment on my blog post. You bring up a great point about how we apprehend our knowledge about God. First there must be a love relationship established with HIM. “We love Him because He first loved us.” It is then that He can start teaching (and unlearning) us in that love relationship with our Father. “Those whom He loves, He rebukes and chastens and He scourges those who are His sons (and daughters).” When we first experience the warmth of His love it is so wonderful, but how can HE still love us when we start going through the purging of our old natures with such pain at His hand? I want to share this quote from Oswald Chambers…

      Behold, He is coming with clouds… —Revelation 1:7

      In the Bible clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. “The clouds are the dust of His feet” (Nahum 1:3). They are a sign that God is there. What a revelation it is to know that sorrow, bereavement, and suffering are actually the clouds that come along with God! God cannot come near us without clouds— He does not come in clear-shining brightness.

      It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child— a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows. Until other people become shadows to us, clouds and darkness will be ours every once in a while. Is our relationship with God becoming more simple than it has ever been?

      There is a connection between the strange providential circumstances allowed by God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.

      “…they were fearful as they entered the cloud” (Luke 9:34). Is there anyone except Jesus in your cloud? If so, it will only get darker until you get to the place where there is “no one anymore, but only Jesus …” (Mark 9:8; also see Mark 2:7). http://utmost.org/do-you-see-jesus-in-your-clouds/

      Liked by 2 people

      • Wow! I needed that word from Oswald Chambers’ devotional today. Thank you very much for sharing it, Michael! 🙂

        I have truly sensed recently that God’s light begins to shine in the darkness of my own spirit the more other people seem to turn into “shadows”. I am only at the outset of this experience, but it is already intriguing for me to see that God, completely without our help, 😉 draws the old self with its wrong self-centered focus (referring to your second comment regarding Enoch and Paul here) into a black hole of sorts where we begin to perceive His very quiet omnipresence and awesome greatness instead. What a miracle!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael says:

        Yes, Susanne. As He turns all that we once knew and loved into shadows and they become “strangely dim” there seems to be a period where we have nothing at all to hang onto or focus on… total darkness, but then HIS light starts to arise in us and soon He fills our whole vision and we start to see by HIS light and not that of the world or our old selves. This transition can be scary, but it is worth it as we hang on to Him by faith until the Day Star rises in our hearts. Truly, everything takes on a new perspective as we walk in the Light as He is in the Light. Oh what fellowship is ours in HIS light and love. Yes, what a miracle this is!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Susanne, as I seem to do so often with your multi-faceted comments, I failed to address the first part of what you wrote,

      “Romans 12:3 was the first thing that “hit me. I realized that Paul did not generally outlaw to think highly of ourselves (as we know when he referred to knowing “a man” of who he could boast because he had been in the third heaven), instead, he simply forbid to think MORE highly than we ought to.”

      What came to mind as I prayed about this was the story of Enoch, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24 RSVA). Was Enoch self-absorbed as he walked with God? No, I think he was totally focused on our Father. I think that as our relationship with our Daddy becomes more clear, our thoughts about ourselves will decrease until WE are no more the center of our thoughts, but we are totally caught up unto Him just like the man Paul was speaking of that you mentioned. Of such a man or woman, I will also boast! ⭐

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Albert says:

    This message really touches my heart. Am tremendously bless. I got to reread it again and go to God in prayers. Bless you dearest elder Mike for sharing with us this great truth.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Michael says:

    Albert, it is so good to hear from you again, my brother! I am glad to hear that you were blessed by what I shared and are taking it to our Father in prayer. Stay in touch.

    Your friend,
    Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Becky Johnson says:

    Micheal, this post validated what is going on in my spirit, and has for some time. I am married to and am close friends with unbelievers. This is not always a problem to me, for I am a prodigal daughter with a heart for those in the “far off country.” When it stings is when I’m feeling misunderstood, such as a conversation just last night with my husband regarding love & kindness towards others. The majority see love & kindness as all fine & good if it’s given to those who deserve it. But what about the others, those causing harm, etc. I was stunted in the conversation as it comes to pass there is a vast difference between God’s love and the rest. And initially I felt sad for the large gap in our understanding, as I ache for a spiritual connection with my husband, but then it dawned on me that this is good for my growth as I must be careful in how I speak for actions speak louder. And there is nothing more disgusting (to me) than a Christian spouse who is rude and prideful and preachy to the other.

    I feel like I’m rambling. But where my feet are in this season has been about love. Period. And I can’t love if I’m trying to prove my point about love. I must love. Period. And I am unable to love without first knowing God’s love for me. Sometimes I wonder if all this talking and preaching and writing has done us any good, really. And what if we were left to ourselves and our God, and the way we treated each other was the only proof. “They will know you by your love.” Not our words about love, but actual love.

    The world is changing fast and they’re laughing at us with all the crazies that get the media’s attention. But what if I, instead of desiring to prove a thing, or even defend one, simply loved? The likes and shares and numbers wouldn’t be there…but I’m not sure I even care anymore. Alas, I am rambling.

    Thank you for writing. This means something to me today.

    In Christ,
    B.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Michael says:

    Dear Becky, God sure is doing a good work in your heart. It is a blessing to be getting to know you.

    How many of God’s saints I know that are not “equally yoked” with their spouses. Yet, you make a good observation about how God can and does use this to show love in action and not just words. Like Jesus said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:44-46 RSVA).

    Then He said a most curious thing, “You therefore must be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It seems that as we love the unlovable and those who reject us we are living out our Father’s perfect love with others. I know that this is not normal or natural.. loving those who “deserve love” is the norm in this world. And because of this norm we have a world that hates and kills at the drop of a hat. No, in the sermon on the mount from where this passage comes, Jesus demands the impossible. Why? Because it brings us to see ourselves as our Father sees us… corrupt and unable to walk as His sons and daughters. We MUST throw ourselves on Him and cry out for a NEW heart that we might be truly children of our Father in heaven.

    Yes, dear sister, words are cheap and with the advent of blogs, websites, twitter and all the new forms of communication via the internet there is no shortage of them. But to really love it takes action and face to face encounters. Virtual love is nice, but is it really all that God had in mind when He said love your neighbor?

    Thanks for your great heartfelt comment. May Father pour His love for this lost world through us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. How little seems to have changed as between religious leaders in the time of Christ, and those today! A feeling of superiority, of inherent “worthiness” in comparison with the rest of mankind, seems to have infected Christians.

    This feeling is, of course, wholly unfounded. We have no merit of our own. Scripture expressly tells us that our righteousness is like filthy rags. Yet Christians are known to non-believers for their self-righteousness and hypocrisy. This is a grave impediment to our witness.

    Your post called to mind the incident where St. Martin of Tours divided his cloak w/ a beggar. It was only after Martin’s act of kindness that he recognized in the beggar Christ.

    Through Christ, our eyes are opened to the spiritual reality of the world around us. The poor are still w/ us. Hundreds of thousands have recently been made refugees by political and economic unrest. We will be assessed not by the luxuries w/ which we surround ourselves, but by our response.

    I had not heard that quote from Oswald Chambers before. I’ll tell you why I found it so striking. For years, I blamed God for the evil in the world. It was His fault that I had been molested. So it seemed to me. Slowly though my heart began to soften. One of the things that contributed was a quote by the science fiction writer, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. It went something like this: “Fate is not the hand of God. It is the way the wind blows, and the dust swirls eons after God has passed by.”

    While that is not precisely a “Christian” sentiment, it helped me recognize the importance of intervening factors, specifically the free will choices of my abuser. In that way, it helped me forgive God.

    The statement by Chambers is the counterpoint:

    “In the Bible clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. ‘The clouds are the dust of His feet’ (Nahum 1:3).”

    Beautiful!

    Thank you, as always, Michael.

    Your sister in Christ,

    A.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Anna, I always look forward to your comments. Thanks for stopping by. It seems that you have known more “clouds” in your life than most people I have ever known. As you know, I read your book, “The Rose Garden,” and I can’t get out of my mind what your father did to you. Like Tolkin observed, “Men can not handle power.” Whether power was in the hands of the High Priests and Sanhedrin of 2000 years ago or in the hands of pastors who hold themselves as the absolute leader in their churches or fathers/husbands lording over their households, Lord Acton of England got it right, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

      When God established the NEW Covenant with His son as it Head, he did not establish a hierarchic structure, but made Jesus the head of a body not a corporation or a dynasty. Jesus told his disciples that the kings of this world rule over their people, but they were not to be this way. But rather the one who would be great among them would be the servant of all. Dear Anna, I see you as one of His great ones because you have a servant’s heart and are not afraid to get down into the trenches and help out the poor and outcasts of your area. THIS is the way Jesus led, but being a servant to all those in need. How few “church leaders” today lead this way. How few come into a gathering of the saints and take the lowest seat. Your story of St. Martin of Tours brought to mind Jesus’ words, “What you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me.”

      God bless you, my sister,
      Michael

      Like

  12. John Boy says:

    Hi Michael,

    Just wanted to say how blessed I was reading all the conversation here. I know Father blesses you as you let Jesus connect His various members here, one with another. Give me a call I have lost your number again, 254-744-1673
    John boy

    Here by His grace, because of His great love!

    Liked by 1 person

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