Today’s guest post comes from a dear brother in Christ, and longtime friend, Tobias Valdez. His wife has contributed to the blog here and here, and we’re happy to finally have him agree to do the same. Thanks, Tobias!
Here in the U.S., we have a very independent, individualistic mindset, generally speaking. From an early age, we are taught, and even desire, to be able to do things for ourselves, to be on our own, to be independent, and self-sufficient. In our culture, it’s part of “growing up.” This mindset has seeped from our culture and has saturated the religious system for centuries.
However, having experienced true, authentic Body Life, we have not so learned Christ in that way. In fact, being part of the Body of Christ couldn’t be further from the mindsets of individualism and self-sufficiency, and this is one of the unique characteristics of Body Life that sets the Body of Christ apart from religious institutions and other worldly systems around us.
A Two-Sided Coin
Growing up in Christ can be viewed as a two-sided coin, with Side A as knowing Christ through our individual relationship with Him, and Side B knowing Christ through our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, His Body. Both sides of this coin are vital, and both are completely dependent on the life of Christ.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9, NASB)
We, as individuals, begin our spiritual lives (when we are born again) in complete and utter dependency on the life of Christ. We cannot achieve salvation, or anything else of substance, on our own. It is only by the mercy and grace of God toward us in Christ Jesus! We are fully dependent on the completed work of Christ Jesus: His death, resurrection, and exaltation. Nothing is based on human merit. We have received forgiveness of sins because of Jesus’ shed blood at His crucifixion. We have new life because of Jesus’ resurrection life. We have the indwelling life of Christ Jesus in us, because He was exalted to the right hand of the Father and sent His Spirit. It is by this very indwelling life of Christ Jesus within us that we each learn to truly live. But there is so much more to learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ than what we learn and experience as an individual.
“…but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16, NASB)
If we desire to deeply know, experience, and express the life of Christ, we will quickly come to realize that within the Eternal Purpose of God, it was never intended, nor is it possible, for us to do so completely on our own. We need a body. Not just any body will do. We need the Body of Christ!
Just as our natural body is dependent upon our head for us to be able to function and express ourselves, the Body of Christ is also dependent upon the Head, Christ, in order to function and give expression to His life within. We know that Christ Jesus is the Head of the Body, giving expression in and through the Body of Christ, which together make up the One New Man, of which we are all members. As part of the whole, each member is dependent upon the head for its direction and life supply.
Not only that, but as each member functions, or gives expression to the life of Christ within, the rest of the of the Body is then being fitted together and built up by the life of Christ which is expressed, because it causes us to grow in Christ, it causes us to know Christ in a fuller way.
Just as He gave His earthly body as the sacrifice for atonement, Christ has given us His spiritual body, our brothers and sisters in Christ, the church, for each of us to be connected to and an active part of. We must learn to live by the Lord who indwells our brothers and sisters, with whom we are being built together. We are, As Mark Lake said in a previous post, “meant to be an interdependent community of people, as opposed to a gathering of individual people.” We are meant to share His life with one another, to learn and know Christ Jesus with one another, to grow and express Him to and with one another. We are meant to live in community with one another, to be the ekklesia, the community of Christ Jesus on the earth.
The Perspective of a Spaghetti Dinner
Several years ago, I heard brother relate these two aspects of being dependent by using one of my favorite meals to show how vital both aspects are.
Imagine you’re planning to have spaghetti for dinner. In one container you’ve prepared your noodles and in another container you’ve prepared your sauce. Personally, I prefer meat sauce with some peppers, onions, tomatoes, and seasonings all mixed in for extra chunkiness and flavor. Now, imagine eating the noodles alone, by themselves, with nothing else. Or imagine having a bowl full of only the meat sauce, without the noodles. Granted, you could probably fill your belly with the noodles, or with the meat sauce, but you’d be missing out on what a meal of spaghetti should really be, how it is intended to be. You’d miss out on the robust flavor, the combined aromas, the fullness that comes from eating both the noodles and the meat sauce together. Are you hungry yet?
Now, think of the noodles as your individual relationship with Christ, and the meat sauce as the shared life of Christ you experience with your spiritual brothers and sisters, within the Body of Christ. If you go through life only relying on your individual relationship with Christ it’s just like eating a bowl full of noodles by themselves. To look at it another way, if you don’t really make time to cultivate your relationship with Christ, but instead you are simply relying on the portion of Christ that your brothers and sisters share with you, then it would be like eating a bowl full of meat sauce by itself. Neither one truly grasps the intended purpose, nor do they reach the full depths of the riches of Christ Jesus. However, if you make time to cultivate your relationship with the Lord, as well as share in the portions of Christ found in your brothers and sisters in Christ, then it is like having a full meal to feast upon, with all of the chunkiness, aromas, and flavors of Christ to be shared (yes, I just said the chunkiness of Christ).
The Perspective of a Potluck Dinner
There is one more picture I’d like to share with you to illustrate a very key aspect of Body Life. The credit for this illustration goes to my wife.
Imagine you’ve been invited to a potluck dinner with several friends. Each person has been asked to contribute a prepared dish to the dinner, and when combined, all of the prepared dishes make one feast that will feed all who are in attendance. You show up with your prepared dish and place it on the table where it will soon to be joined by other dishes prepared by the rest of those in attendance. As you’re seated at the table, guests arrive one by one, but to your confusion, they arrive empty handed, without a dish prepared to contribute for the potluck meal. Yet each one expresses their excitement and joy at being invited to the potluck and how eager they are to partake of such an extravagant meal. Once everyone has arrived and is seated, one of the guests grabs the dish you’ve prepared, takes a portion of it for their plate, then passes it to the person sitting next to them. This continues until the dish you’ve prepared has been completely portioned out. Without skipping a beat, everyone begins to eat and then exclaim how delicious the food is and what about the food really stands out to them. All the while, you’re sitting there wondering what happened to the feast you were all invited to.
This scenario sounds far fetched and would most likely never happen in real life. Unfortunately, it happens in Body Life more often than some would like to admit or recognize. As believers, we each have a portion of Christ to share with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, whether it is at a regular meeting of the saints, a time of fellowship, or even only when two or three are gathered together to share Christ. But sometimes we show up with an empty dish. We haven’t made time to cultivate our relationship with Christ and so our portion hasn’t been prepared, and the most we’re able to do is talk about what we’re able to glean from the portions of Christ that have been shared with us by our brothers and sisters. At other times, we show up with the dish, yet we don’t offer it up for others to enjoy. We keep our portion of Christ to ourselves because we don’t like speaking in front of people, we’d rather let others do the speaking, we’re concerned about what others might think of our portion, we’re timid or lack confidence in ourselves to convey what we have seen, heard, and tasted. In Body Life, this is a disservice to our brothers and sisters, as well as to our Christ.
Imagine if you were given a priceless treasure. Would you keep quiet about it as if nothing ever happened, or would you be hard-pressed to contain your excitement? That’s how it should be when it comes to sharing Christ with our brothers and sisters, only in this case, each one of us has the treasure within just waiting to be expressed! We must recognize our complete dependency upon Christ to give expression of His life to us, in us, and through us. He is fully capable of bringing His expression to fruition through each of us if we will but lay down our own lives and allow His life to flow through (See Body Life 101: Highway To The Discomfort Zone).
As we each express Christ with one another we will all share in the richness found in Him, His glory will be known among us, and His life will increase on the earth!