January 19, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Or do you not know that your body is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who resides within you. You have received it from God. You are, therefore, not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6.19)
I suppose we might be able to say that the practices of blasphemy and hypocrisy are two sides of the same coin. Regardless of where that coin lands and which side you choose, you lose. The life, ministry and death of Jesus most certainly illustrates what it means to live a god-centered life. He did, without question, point others to God and godliness as John the Baptizer pointed Him out saying “Behold, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world.” What made their ministries successful, and thus is the key to our successful ministry, is their alignment to the truth which God desires, intends and does proclaim. The two sides of their “coin” were 1) being true to who they were in the will of God and 2) being true to the God whose will was for them and never against them. For them, and us, choosing one side was choosing the other. It was and is a win-win scenario. We all know people who are good at pointing things out and giving directions to others about what is the best thing to do. We probably are those people to someone else. But, what becomes questionable is when they point you in one direction and then they go in another. Pointing out and aligning with are not the same thing. The same can be said for those who teach the efficacy of the Holy Spirit but who don’t walk in that same Spirit. Knowledge of something is not a guarantee of mastery of the subject, especially when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Mastery comes with the doing of what we know. Yes, that means there is mastery of evil with an evil spirit, too. It is a part of existence which we should never deny. What is that old saying “Practice makes perfect.” I am sure you have heard the caveat, “Only practicing perfection makes perfect.” We can practice something wrong over and over again. What is the result of such practice? Well, we can get it perfectly wrong every time with no chance of doing it right. In fact, such a practice will eventually lead the person to think that “wrong is right and right is wrong.” We are certainly seeing the fruits of that labor in today’s culture and climate. We can even see it when it comes to our “church” life, too.
And that is the downfall for many congregations. It is probably the biggest sticking point for those who are unwilling to become a part of the Church, as the body of Christ. Yes, there is a difference between church with a lower case c and Church with an upper case c. They are, in this manner of speaking, intended to be two sides of the same coin. But, when they are not aligned with the truth of the matter, which is the will of God, then the label of hypocrisy sticks and the idea of blasphemy can be applied. So, when the apostle Paul writes to the “church,” as the local community of believers in Jesus as the Christ found in the great city of Corinth “You are not your own,” he is speaking to both sides of the coin. If it were possible to have a three-sided coin, that application of knowledge and practice would be even more poignant. Paul spoke of “the body” with three bodies in mind.
He spoke first to the individual members of the local congregation. Their physical body was a sanctuary, or temple, in which the Spirit of God exists. It is a fact that cannot be changed but must be acknowledged. Just because you have a key, a car and a car with fuel doesn’t mean you know how to drive, drive safely or go anywhere. Something has to be done. Just so with each of us as a person. The Spirit of God exists in us but until we acknowledge it and seek to live in that Spirit and let it lead us, it just waits. It may speak in our conscience. It may whisper warnings, alerts and truths. But, until we recognize it for what it is and where it comes from, the Spirit is there crying out to be connected, engaged and leading us into the glory of God. The hope of the Spirit is that the Spirit and the flesh would become as one. The hope of the body is dependent on the reality of the Spirit.
But, Paul did not limit the application of his teaching to the members of the “local” body. He spoke to them knowing that collectively they were joined together as one local community of faith. They were drawn together by a “shared” Spirit which spoke of alignment with and a commitment to the teachings of Jesus as the Christ. They were bound by a testimony of being a different community than the one in which they were born and raised which was not necessarily aligned with the Spirit and Truth of God, Yahweh Elohim, the Father of Jesus. In this expression of a new reality, their “body” was not their own. It was led, guided and directed by the Holy Spirit of God to become the clearer image of Christ who was the head of their body. But, some congregations and some of its individual members chose to attempt life unaligned. They believed that they could be a part of the community of “flesh” at some time and a part of the community of “spirit” at another. They even used the religious practice of sabbath as an excuse for their practice saying “Six days we shall labor and on the seventh day we shall rest from laboring.” In so doing, both individually and corporately, they were blaspheming the testimony of the Holy Spirit which says “all days belong to God.” They also showed themselves to be weak due to their hypocrisy telling others “well, it is okay for you but not for me.” Or worse, they said “you may need it but I am so good that I don’t need it.” Here comes the echo of Jesus’ word in response to the query of the rich young ruler, “There is none good but God!”
But, Paul was not satisfied with addressing the local community of faith in Jesus the Christ and its individual members. Paul was the proponent and continual reminder that all those communities were intended to work together. He often reminded one community to render aid to another. He lauded one community for taking care not only of his needs but the needs of others in a different community. He believed that all communities should support the “first” community which was in Jerusalem where it all began on the Day of Pentecost that the Church was born. On that day, the two became as one. The psalmist David spoke of “deep calling unto deep.” That could have been applied to that Day of Pentecost which happened fifty days following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The Spirit in each individual in the Upper Room was greeted and welcomed by the Spirit of God which descended upon them. In that moment there was the “indwelling” of the Spirit and the “ondwelling” of the Spirit. The connection and engagement of “the two becoming as one” challenged the community at hand and began the ministry of reconciliation and transformation. Each community, remember the disciples spoke to those who represented every nation where Jewish believers lived and did so in their own languages, became witnesses to the “one” community which was the full body of Christ. They would all be members of it and Christ was indeed the Head, the leader and identity, of the body. For one community to say “I have no need of another, I am good enough on my own” was wrong. For one community to say “Every community should be like our community because we have it right” was wrong. To say any of that was both hypocritical and blasphemous. That was not the purpose, intention nor reality of the Holy Spirit of God. They were not their own but God’s who sent His Son to show us the way, the truth and the life.
In truth and in spirit, we are not our own but God’s. If we desire to make the most of who we are, then our alignment must be with God. We must choose and put into practice submitting our spirit to the Spirit of God. We must, as some are wont to say, “walk the walk and talk the talk; talk the walk and walk the talk.” The truth will be that at the end of “this” journey, the decision will ultimately be God’s as to where we will walk and talk. Will we “walk in the garden with Him” or “be cast out and down” to a place where there is a vast and uncrossable chasm fixed between us and joy that is intended for each of us individually, communally and corporately? What say you? What say we?
Father, You not only are making all things new but calling us into a newness of life with the hope that we shall be as one with one another and with You. Without You and Your Spirit within us, this would seem impossible. We know that all things are possible if we are aligned with You. This is our hope to be and to become in Jesus’ name. AMEN.