An Intimate Relationship with Christ's Body, Part 1
From the series Keeping Love Alive - Volume 4
Have you ever held those big ropes boats use to tie onto docks or lower anchors? They’re big and heavy, created to withstand incredible weight. In this program, Chip picks up in his series, Keeping Love Alive, Volume 4. If your relationship is under a lot of stress right now, join Chip as he identifies the ‘ropes’ that hold great marriages together when the going gets tough… and actually makes ‘em stronger.
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About this series
Keeping Love Alive - Volume 4
Four Relationships Great Marriages Have in Common
We’ve all heard or read news stories that celebrate couples who’ve been married for 5, 6, or even 7 decades. So how did they stay together that long? What’s their secret? And better yet… how can we build those types of lasting bonds? Through the 4th volume of our Keeping Love Alive series, Chip’s identifying 4 relationships great marriages have in common. Learn why these connections are critical to every relationship and how you and your spouse can better prioritize them in your marriage - starting today.More from this series
And, third, we are in part three. You need and I need an intimate relationship with Christ’s body. Great marriages are characterized by close, personal relationships with fellow believers that provide love, support, accountability, fun, and opportunities to minister and be ministered to by one another’s gifts and resources.
Great marriages have that. Translation: Marriage is not a solo endeavor. We all need friends, mentors, and other couples to help us remain faithful to Christ and to one another. The answer to what feels impossible that you can’t figure out, God’s answer almost always, is a gifted person.
We read it earlier in Romans 12. We belong to one another. We need one another. The principle: The seeds of a fruitful marriage require the soil of authentic community. The seeds – what – here’s what some of you don’t get. The experience you have right now are all the seeds you planted last year and the year before and the year before and the year before and the year before. And they are all just growing up. And some of them are growing up with really good fruit and some with some really ugly fruit.
But the seeds you start planting now; you never reap in the same season that you sow. If you start new patterns, start new habits, start to make changes, I mean, would you think a farmer would go, “Okay, someone said these seeds are really good. I put them in the ground, I put some dirt over them, there’s a lot of sunshine, there’s fertilizer and I water them.” I come back in two days. See? They don’t work. They just don’t work.” Come back in a week; they don’t work. Come back in two months. “Oh, it’s just a little plant. It doesn’t work.”
But what would a farmer say? “Mmm, looks like it’s right on time! It takes about four months for them to get up here, and in the fall this happens, and the bud happens, and - That’s how life works. And so, where and what are you going to sow? Because that’s what you’re going to reap. The seeds of a fruitful marriage need the soil of authentic community. And what I mean by “authentic community” is those kind of relationships that give you life. The kind that tell you the truth. The kind that you can have fun with. The kind that you laugh with and you laugh with in different ways than anyone else. The kind that you can just totally be you. The kind that privately you can share your deepest struggles and your deepest fears and they are with you and they are for you.
If you don’t have that, you will not make it. You’ll medicate yourself, you’ll run to escapes, you’ll put up walls, you’ll run and hide, you’ll eat, you’ll buy things, you’ll drink too much.
We all have issues. God has a gifted person who is made to love and support you and you have been made, not to just get, but to give and in ways that I don’t understand. According to Jesus, “Give and it will be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap. For whatever measure,” the size of what you give out to others, “so it will be returned to you.”
Now, I understand that when you have heard that verse in church, the pastor in many cases is going to talk about money and how money works. It’s Luke 6:38; look it up. It’s not a financial passage. It’s a kingdom passage. There are certain ways the world works and there are certain ways the kingdom works and it’s just the opposite. When you’re lonely and don’t have a friend, go be a friend. When you’re struggling and depressed, I have a little formula, go get on the treadmill, then get sweaty, get the endorphins going. Number two, I don’t feel like it. Sing songs to Jesus and start thanking Him, whether you feel like it or not. And number three, find someone who has bigger problems than you and go help them right away. And guess what – bam! You break through.
How do you develop relationships in the body of Christ that are really authentic, real community? I’m going to suggest three things. Number one, an awareness of our need for others. The writer of the Hebrews, writing to a group of people that were drifting. Man, they were on fire for God at one point, it’s a mixed group of people, and they are drifting. And he’s going to remind them of all the superiority of Christ, then the law, and the priests, and all the rest. The whole Old Testament economy.
And in chapter 3, he tells them, “But encourage one another daily as long as it’s still called today so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” I memorized it in a slightly different translation, “But encourage one another day after day as long as it’s called today, lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Well, you know, how long is it called today? Every day you wake up.
In our flesh and in our humanity, we will drift and sin is deceitful. And it starts with tiny little compromises. And the tiny little compromises start to harden your heart. And then you harden your heart, and then you are insensitive to the Holy Spirit. And you’re insensitive to the words and the life of others. And over time, then, you just drift.
And, by the way, notice it says when you’re deceived. When you’re drifting, you’re absolutely sure you’re not. I’m good! Hey, I’m good! I’m okay. I’m watching online. Everything is okay.
And then when you do get with people that you have been close to in the past, you start to be superficial. And they ask some penetrating questions and there are little things you start to do privately that you know are not right and it grow and it grows. And then you start feeling this discrepancy between who you project and who you really are.
I have had just so many heartbreaking experiences. I remember a young family that was, they had a radical conversion and three small kids and within eight or ten years just became, like, the dream you would have. And as their kids hit the teenage years, a couple of them were really gifted, athletically. And pretty soon it was one traveling team, then it was another traveling team, and then they were missing church quite a bit. And they were leading a small group but they didn’t have time to do that. And, “It’s just a season. And we want to be with our kids.” And pretty soon, it was soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer.
And I said, “Hey, man, bro, I’m, man, I mean, I love sports. I coached. And I think your priorities are a bit out of…” “Oh, you just don’t understand. I think my son is going to get a scholarship.” “Well, he might.”
I don’t know where his kids are. He’s not walking with God, the marriage didn’t work out, they drifted, life fell apart. And he was convinced everything was okay.
A young couple I was mentoring, I mean, started in the big ministry in our church, young, godly, and the things are closed down, they watched online for a little while and they have some small kids. So, it’s hard to – it was really hard. I get it’s really hard.
And it was four months, then it was six months, then it was eight months. And then all of a sudden, I saw values change. Then I saw some conflict in their marriage. And then I saw issues I thought, Oh man.
And they – drifting – they just didn’t know it. By God’s grace, man, He intervened. And, boy, they have plugged in and they are kind of restoring those habits around the table where you talk and you pray and you spend time with one another.
No one is immune. No one is immune. Not me, not you, not anyone. But if you don’t have close relationships, if you don’t absolutely know, “I need people,” then you won’t take the initiative. And it has never been easier to get isolated than right now, isn’t it?
I mean, it’s crazy. Part of my discouragement, and I’ll tell you, I’ve had a few times I got really, really down.
And uhm, boy, I had to take some drastic measures to say, “I have to connect with some people.” With some, in my case, some men that I can really share my heart and do life with.
The second do you have a real friend who will guard your heart and your life? I didn’t ask if you’re in a small group. I think it’s important. I didn’t ask if you’re watching online. I think that’s important if you can’t meet. Do you have a real friend? I mean, a real friend? Someone who loves you enough to accept you no matter what happens and someone who loves you enough to tell you the truth when they just care?
Someone who will make time? Everybody is busy. They’ll make time. And you make time for them. And I am convinced that every man needs a couple men like that in your life. And every woman needs a couple women like that. Second, to have those kind of relationships, notice the word was “intimate relationships.” What I wanted to get you to see is it’s connectedness, it’s from the heart.
There’s a process to follow. Romans chapter 12, in verses 9 through 13, I believe the apostle Paul actually gives clarity to what authentic community is. He says, “Let love without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, give preference to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”
I wish I could unpack all of that. But there’s four very clear triads. And what he says in the first triad, “Let love be without hypocrisy,” literally, it’s: let love be without a mask. The word was used in the Greek culture for they would have Greek plays or theatre. And all the actors were male. And you would learn to throw your voice and sound like a man or a woman, old or young. And they would wear a costume and they would have a mask. And they would come out and they could hold the mask and be this person. And then go back and change and put on a different mask. That’s this word. Let love be without a mask.
Abhor what is evil. The word “abhor” – I did a little word study. It’s like if you have been gone on vacation or out of town or you forgot and there’s a milk carton in there and it’s been there for, like, six weeks. And you’re not even sure how long it has been. And you make the mistake of opening it up and you stick your nose in it and you just want to throw up after you smell it? That’s this word. Not play around with evil, not tolerate evil, not make excuses about evil, not drift into evil, not flirt with evil. “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Because here’s the deal: The first aspect of authentic community is the real you has to show up. The authentic, who-you-really-are. And if you’re hiding sin, then you’ll put on a mask.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor. The real you. And then notice, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor.” That word “devoted” is like, I mean, I am for you. I’ve got your back. You guys understand this. I would lay down my life for you. That’s that word “in brotherly love.”
It’s give preference and honor. I want your success more than my success. This is radical Christianity. So, authentic community is the real you meeting real needs, not superficial ones. Not the ones that, you know, “Well, I can do this on the way home.” Or, one of the tricks I used to play is, you know what? I don’t really want to talk to so-and-so, but I want them to think I kind of care, and I do kind of care, but there’s sort of extra grace required. And I don’t really want to be devoted to them and they kind of bother me. So, I’m going to give them a call and I hope they don’t answer so I can leave a message. And the message goes something like, “Hey! So sorry I missed you. Wish that we connect. Hope everything is okay. See you!”
Has anyone else ever done that? And what you’re really trying to do is just sort of manage the relationships, but I don’t want to be devoted to them. And you can’t be devoted to everyone, so you don’t have to feel guilty. But be honest. The real you shows up to meet real needs. I mean, it’s when you give money away that you can’t give away, but their needs are so great, you give it to them. It’s when you don’t have time and you’re under pressure and you understand they are in crisis and you give time.
That’s what builds those kind of relationships. The real you meeting real needs. And then, for the right reason. It says, what does it say? “Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” See, sometimes in the body of Christ we get a lot of strokes. You know, I show up for this or I do that. “You’re so wonderful.” Not lagging behind. The word for “diligent” is follow up, follow through. Fervent in spirit. We get our word water coming up to a boil.
It’s a picture of this energetic, enthusiastic person who is doing what they do in the body of Christ, serving the Lord. I’m not doing this for men’s approval. The real you meeting real needs for the right reason. And then in the right way.
Those last triads, actually, this is about five small chapters in this book on Experiencing Authentic Community. In the right way, there’s an upward focus. Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.
I’m going to find my joy not in my circumstances. My ultimate hope is there’s a heaven, it’s real, I’ve got promises, I have a Savior no matter what is happening. I’m going to persevere. That means hupomeno. That’s the word. It means being under pressure and refusing to give up. Resilience in tribulation. And how? With desperate dependency. I’m devoted to prayer. It’s the same word. I’m devoted. I can’t make it. God, I need You.
And then notice there’s the outward focus. “Contributing to the needs of the saints?” That word means you’re actually giving money to other Christians that have financial need.
Practicing hospitality, literally, it comes from our word for pursuing strangers. Hospitality is, you know, you walk into a room and it doesn’t take long at a party or a group and you just realize, Boy, those two people feel completely out of it. Or, This person is marginalized. Or they get pushed to the side. Or they are not as attractive. The body reaches out to those kind of people and says, “Hey, do you want to come over and sit with us? I want you to know someone cares about you.”
Didn’t Jesus do that? He touches a leper, there’s a woman whose son is dead and He touches the coffin. The Jesus who loves you is moved deeply in His heart when He sees someone’s sin or sees someone’s suffering. He just is compelled to want to help you and to love you and to move into your life.
And He wants to give you His eyes, that you would see marginalized people the way He sees them. And it wouldn’t be just writing a check or talking about how terrible this is or that is. You would activate in small ways and in big ways.
And what I will tell you is when the real you meets real needs for the right reason in the right way, you will experience this supernatural thing called authentic community where you are deeply loved not for what you do. You are deeply loved not for what people think you are. You are not deeply loved for how you look or what you have. You are deeply loved for you.
And, you know, the human heart has been made in desperate, desperate need to have someone love you just for you. And that’s the body. And if you don’t, if you’re not aware that you need people and if you don’t practice authentic community, this process, you will drift or you will fake it.
Once you get in patterns, you know, the Bible word, you don’t hear it anymore, it’s called sloth. It’s called sloth. It’s one of the big sins in the Bible, but we don’t talk about it. Sloth is simply this: It’s the opposite of being disciplined.
Discipline is doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
God prompts you and says, “You know what? You need to share Christ with so-and-so. He’s hurting, I know he’s an outcast, I know he has a different sexual preference than you, I know there’s a lot of stigma to it. But he is desperately in pain and shame and hurt and he needs you to break the barrier with him.” Or you to break the barrier with her and look into their eyes, regardless of their orientation, and let them understand there is someone that understands and someone that loves them and you want to introduce them to the One that can meet their deepest needs.
And so, what I’m saying is God wants you to be His body. Jesus lives inside of you. So, you’re in desperate need of love and you’re actually in more desperate need to give love.