What Does It Mean To Be Church, The Body Of Christ In The World?
An essay by Pastor Benedict for Ray Of Hope Church Pastoral Report for the year 2017.
The Church of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the absolutely unique living Divine and Holy organism, His very real presence in the world, and does not depend in any way on the organizations of the world system. In fact, the Bible reveals the world system (best recognized in governments) is corrupted and under the assumed headship of Satan, not God. This fact is best shown in Matthew Chapter 4, verses 1-11. In verses 8 and 9 Satan shows Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" and offers to give all of them to Jesus if only Jesus would "fall down and worship" Satan. Notice Jesus does not spring to His feet and declare Satan does not own the world governments, does not have the authority to hand over the world governments, etc.. By not correcting this declaration of ownership of the world governments Jesus is showing us that indeed world governments are not under the leadership of God, but in fact as a result of the fall of humanity are under the headship of "the great dragon, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" with the help of "his angels," see Revelation 12:9. Later, Jesus calls Satan the "god of this world, the ruler of this world" and declares him judged. See John 12:31. In John 16:11, again Jesus refers to Satan as the "ruler of this world" being judged by God. The Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to also call Satan "the god of this age" as we have in 2 Corinthians 4:4. The world system under the leadership of the fallen Archangel Lucifer, and The Body Of Christ, the Holy Divine Living Presence of Christ in His Church are diametrically opposed in every way. All believers are filled with the actual presence of God, Christ, and Holy Spirit and form the Spiritual House, the Church, as one and the same Divine reality. See Romans 8:9-11, and verse 16; see 1 Peter 2:5. The more time we spend living and moving and being this Divine Body of Christ, His Church, the more we discover the reality of what Jesus means as He continues to guide us to be "in the world but not of the world" just as He was "in the world but not of the world." (see John 17:14-18)
The very presence of Christ in the world continues to be a presence of service and proclamation in action. Jesus said He did not come into the world to be served but to serve. We have this recorded in both the Gospel of Matthew 20:20-28 and Mark 12:35-45 for the whole context. Our Risen Lord and Saviour Christ, now truly and wholly present in every believer, continues to be the Servant of the servants. Christ continues to teach and proclaim the person of God as mercy and love through the thoughts, through the expressions and actions of Christ's self-extension in us His people, His members, His Church. Jesus defined us in advance of His Death and Resurrection when He promised that He would personally build His Church, His assembly of believers. We experience Jesus truly present and doing this action of building at all times. See Matthew 16, verse 18. We are experiencing God working through Christ really present in the world by calling and empowering us members of Christ to be of service to everyone around us and to also proclaim God's eternal plan. The plan of God is to love humanity and all creation all the way through time and into the New Heavens and the New Earth. We love humanity and creation forward as an action of the living Christ in us, moving forward toward the time when God will be all in all as proclaimed in 1 Corinthians 15:28. We do this through service and proclamation. The opportunities of service are often the very opportunities to share with those who are asking and wondering about the very marvelous works of the living and Creating God, the Mirabilia Dei, the act of proclamation.
Everything about being the Christ/Church present in the world is all about living and moving and finding our very existence and being in, through, and with Christ actually here with us. See Acts 17:28.
Other organizations of the world can only honor the memory of those who have come before them who gave and presented certain ideas, certain actions, certain services and works that really did change society. Great people of the past have often done great things and have left us great ideas and example we continue to draw motivation from for our efforts at making our society better for everyone. However, these great people of the past are not within us as gods and goddesses. Our active efforts to keep the memories alive of their great achievements are only as good as we try to assure their names do not fade with the passage of time. All we can do is retell their stories and find ever new ways to apply the lessons they taught us. Great ideas are often associated with great names, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, or even the family name, Kennedy for example.
This year, 2017, I had many discussions around the question of the people of Ray Of Hope being in a religion / religious people, or being spiritual. There is a movement in pop culture to say one is not religious or supportive of organized religion but one is spiritual instead, as if this is the better choice for the modern world. When asked if we are religious or spiritual, or a religion, or a spirituality, I always try to respond this way. A religion is a repeated pattern of something one does with some kind of expected benefit. For example, we religiously tie our shoes, we religiously sleep a certain number of hours every 24 hours, we religiously brush our teeth, and so on. One might say they followed the favorite family recipe religiously. Things we do in a religious way are often those things we can do so automatically that we sometimes tell others we could do them with our eyes shut. As for the question of if we are spiritual with the view it is a better choice than religious, I try to answer that one this way. The spirit of something is often based on a certain set of feelings. For example, we speak of the spirit of America, the spirit of pride, the spirit of the holidays, and even the spirit of our favorite sports team, we speak of school spirit, or the spirit of mindfulness. In fact, the "Spirit Cafe" "a program of The Park Church" invites "spiritual seekers who like to share their experiences and eat well!" (www.theparkchurch.org/spirit-cafe) The site goes on to list in its Archive of Topics that were identified as the spirit of (you fill in the blank). Some examples that were presented as the theme for an entire evening program of discussions include; the spirit of creativity, the spirit of gratitude, the spirit of art, the spirit of new life, the spirit of love, the spirit of wilderness, the spirit of mother earth, the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of humor, the spirit of improvisation, the spirit of memory, the spirit of preparation, the spirit of adventure, the spirit of courage,... the spirit of change, the spirit of listening, the spirit of vulnerability, the spirit of poetry, the spirit of the fool, the spirit of emptiness, and the spirit of myth to name some of the themes included in the list. From this we clearly see the topics are based on sharing experiences of our humanity with those who attend the event around the theme of the awareness of common experiences named the spirit of something.
Being the living Christ, His Body, His Church in the world is not a religion (something one does religiously - over and over - even following a rigid order of service, or the liturgy, or the holy and holidays being the very reason we go to a church), it is not us being spiritual (recalling the spirit of some human experience or holiday). Being the Church, is a relationship, a constant interaction with the Living God. Whatever we may choose to do religiously, and however we may seek to enrich our relationship with Christ by using the tools of being spiritual are secondary to our being the real and present Christ in the world. Religion and being spiritual are not what we are as church. Christ truly present is Who we are forever.
Here is the difference. If the Divine Christ baby named Jesus who was born of the virgin Mary, lived, physically died, was raised, ascended, and is now come in the Holy Spirit, and now indwells His Church is the image of the invisible God (see Colossians 1:15 - 20 +) then each and every human being is also as uniquely and expressly an image of the Living God. Christ present in the world is changing the world through each person who invites the Divine Trinity of God to transform their natural selves into the Temple of God, and be His Church. It is from the reality of Christ's real presence in every person (be they aware of this or not) that we build our Ray Of Hope Church Statement of Purpose with all of the endless potential that it sets forth.
In this Divine organism, the Church of Christ, that is all believers, Christ is actually, truly, really, even physically present with us and in us now and always. It is Christ in us inspiring (in-spirit, Holy Spirit within us moving) to not only remember and recall, but to facilitate into action, the real and present actual presence of God, in Christ, through the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit within each believer in the world around us. God is moving, God is creating, God is loving, God is forgiving, God is healing, God is speaking, God is listening, God is understanding, and God is doing all things together with us now in everything we do. The Holy Spirit clearly orders our lives with this command: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. (see 1 Corinthians 10:31) This same command is stated again in Colossians 3:17 where we read: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through Christ.
This command to do everything is the opportunity of a lifetime for each of us while we are in the world, but we must not slip into handing over our eternal existence and allegiance to being of the world.
How then, do we learn to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks always and everywhere to God and glorifying God at all times and in everything through Christ? How, then, do we enflesh the Servant Christ and be of service to everyone around us and to also be the proclaiming Christ of God's eternal plan? These questions have been on my mind through most of 2017.
Time and time again I have compared our services that we offer from our place in the city at our addresses (the places where we gather as Ray Of Hope, including our Internet address) to the services other institutions in the same city offer. In the 21st Century the department store, the medical supply business, the social club, the library organization, the grocery and food supply, the educational institutions or any other organizations of persons do not make their principal purpose to teach people how to do everything as stated above for the glory of God in Christ, through the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit.
It is uniquely and deliberately the work of Christ in His Church to offer the necessary education, guidance, and practice of living life centered and purposed on finding and sharing the Will of God. Other organizations may have shared values and ideas that support the common good that we can participate in and support. However, we are filled with Christ, and therefore we have the commission to bring Christ into the streets and thereby go out into the world and attract new and renewed disciples of God in Christ of everyone so life can be more enjoyable as we experience the real purpose of eternal life, to give honor and glory to God. We are not alone in this effort, it is not a human endeavor. Christ is with us to the very end of this age. (See John 14:18; Matthew 28:20) Christ is alive and working in us and calling everyone to this order and purpose of life. The Christ/Church is here in the world to facilitate Christ in His purpose of bringing everyone to God. See 2Peter 3:9 where Holy Scripture says Jesus is patient toward us (we who are alive in this age now), not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Again, after Jesus rules over his Kingdom he will hand it all over to God, the ultimate goal to be accomplished, see 1 Corinthians 15:28.