The Work of the Holy Spirit & The Fellowship of the Body

By Eric Love

Notes for word on Sunday, November 1, 2009
Podcast available.
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There is a marriage between the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives and the fellowship we live in with the rest of the Body.

First, I want to look at the fellowship within the body and what that means.

Ephesians 4:1-4, 11-13 (Amplified)
I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to and beg you to walk (to lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called with complete lowliness of mind and meekness, with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another. Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of the Spirit in the binding power of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as there is also one hope [that belongs] to the calling you received.

Several things to see in this section.
First, being “one” - or being in unity - is how we live our lives in a way that is worthy with the calling in which we have been called.

Second, we know that this requires humility, meekness, patience and love. Keep reading, picking up in verse 11:

...And His gifts were varied, He Himself appointed some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints, [that they should do] the work of the ministry toward building up Christ’s body, [that it might develop] until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the [full and accurate] knowledge of the Son of God, that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ and the completeness found in Him.

Now we are shown that the gifts of God and the positions of ministry (apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists and pastors) are for the purpose of fully equipping the saints so THEY can do the work of the ministry.

The purpose of what we call the “five fold ministry” is NOT to fulfill the ministry of the church. It is to equip the church to do the ministry in the world. (This revelation becomes critical when we begin to look at church position as the only viable form of ministry. If we see it that way, we have missed the whole point!)

A startling revelation in this passage is that when we begin to become, as a body, equipped to do the work of the ministry, we THE WHOLE BODY attain ONENESS (unity)  and can COMPREHEND knowing Jesus. This is how we “mature... to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” and become complete in Him.

This equipping is crucial then, is it not?

Look at this from an Old Testament point of view:
Psalm 133:1-3
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment poured on the head, that ran down on the beard, even the beard of Aaron (the first High Priest), that came down upon the collar and skirts of his garments [consecrating the whole body - Exod. 30:25,30]. It is like the dew of [lofty] Mount Hermon and the dew that comes on the hills of Zion: for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, even life forevermore.

The oneness is the faith that we should live in in the Body is the way we are consecrated to the Lord (that was the purpose of the ointment poured over Aaron’s head, beard and garments).

We become fully His, holy - like Him, CONSECRATED when we live in unity.

So how is unity achieved?

First, we must understand that unity is not simply getting along, although that is a good place to start. Unity is the fruit of living out the first three chapters of Ephesians: WALKING IN THE SPIRIT.

Already, before we even go deeper into unity itself, we are pointed back to the work of the Holy Spirit in us individually and then, by extension, corporately (because we cannot truly expect to have visitations by the Holy Spirit corporately and be changed if we do not commit to communing with the Holy Spirit when we are alone.

So if unity in the Body is the result of living in the Holy Spirit, as the first three chapters of Ephesians lays out, then listen to some of the language with which Paul describes this lifestyle:
Ephesians 3:15-17
May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality]. May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love that you may have the power to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth it; that you may really come to know the love of Christ... [and] be filled [ throughout all your being] unto the fullness of God [...may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself!]

Now that is the work of the Holy Spirit!

So what exactly is unity?

If unity is more than simply getting along and is the product of walking in the Spirit, then what exactly is it? What does it look like?

First, being in unity means we let God be God and we let each other be ourselves and we do not confuse the roles of the two. (We will come back to this is depth in just a moment.)

Secondly, it means living with a transparency that is guiltless, fearless and is completely free from a competitive, independent spirit and paranoia. We live in communion with each other in a way that we live openly and honestly and we allow each other room to make mistakes and grow. In fact, without that safe space where we can try and fail with grace and mercy we will never learn to succeed.

This is why Jesus said (in Matthew 6) that if we refuse to forgive, we will not be forgiven and then (in Matthew 7) He said that whatever measure of mercy we choose to give it to others will be the same measurement with which it is given to us, whether mercy or judgement. That puts a different spin on things!

Basically, unity is all of us standing in our proper places - one body with many members - equipped and DOING the work of the ministry. It isn’t all of us doing the same thing the same way. (Think about when the disciples wanted to stop a man from casting out devils and healing people because he wasn’t in their group... Jesus said, “Hey! He’s doing it! Leave him alone!”)

I heard someone say once, “Unity isn’t same-ness... it’s diversity in the right places.” I think that is key.

Now, we do this work to build up the Body, but we don’t simply do this IN the Body. Look at how Jesus ministered. The majority of His ministry was to unbelievers. That’s how they became believers.

There are two stories in Mark 5 and Luke 8 that show a compelling side to the way Jesus performed miracles. First was with the man called Legion because of the legion of demons who had taken over his body. The demons begged Jesus to show them mercy, and HE DID! Is this compassion toward demons? I don’t know what it is exactly, but it is unexpected in any case. The man was set free. That’s the point. And Jesus didn’t go looking for the man, He simply ran into Him in the course of doing what He was doing. (That’s why we have to alert and aware... we never know when we will have a chance to do the work of the ministry!)

The second story is the woman with the issue of blood. She touched Him, without Him knowing, and was healed. But He felt the power surge out of Him into her! Amazing! Again, He was simply there.

Ministry within the Body looks different. That kind of ministry is relational. That is why we  have to live honestly with each other.

There are many in Christianity today who do not believe in counseling. I think this is short-sighted and overlooking the fact that Jesus did it.

 Think of when He and Peter sat around a campfire after His resurrection, and He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” He didn’t just speak healing and forgiveness into Peter... He talked him through it. Essentially, that’s what counseling is: BUT HE DID THAT ONLY WITH SOMEONE HE WAS IN RELATIONSHIP WITH! We can’t expect to have all of our troubles straightened out simply by talking about them with a stranger. But within the context of relationship, counseling can be very powerful.

Honest relationships.

Unfortunately, our bodies do not self-diagnose. They don’t send daily reports to your brain saying, “Your kidneys aren’t functioning properly” or “Your heart needs it’s plumbing check out.” If they did, wouldn’t things be great! But they don’t.

However, the Body of Christ can... but many times we don’t communicate with each other what is going on and so, even though the Body can tell something is wrong, those we are in relationship with may not be able to tell what is wrong or with who.

That is why we must be transparent, particularly with those we are closest to.


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Story of meeting Mark on the secret trail. True story:

When I was a boy, I had a friend who lived across the woods, Mark. Him, my brother and me discovered a trail that connected our yards through the woods. At the center was a deep gully. For me, a child, it was almost head high when I stood at its bottom. There was a large, felled tree laying across it, probably three feet in diameter. You could sit on it or, at one end, hide things under it. The canopy of trees over top created a natural roof and the gully created a type of walls. It was a secret hide-out made by God just for us.

Unfortunately, we didn’t actually play together all that much and so I rarely went to the hide-out. But one Saturday, we called him up to see if he wanted to come over and play. He said yes and he’d head right over because he only had a couple of hours to play.

Instantly I set out on the hidden trail to our secret meeting place. I got a little lost, because the trail was so hidden. And I got a little distracted. There were these crunchy little green plants that grew close to the ground that strongly resembled brains to me. I really loved to stomp them and feel them crunch - alien brains trying to take over planet earth! Those, coupled with the brown bubble mushrooms - alien bombs placed to destroy warriors like myself - that produced an impressive cloud of dust when stomped (which, of course, I knew would kill me if I breathed it in... so naturally I never missed an opportunity to risk my life to destroy them) created an undeniable obligation on my part to prevent a global overtaking by superior alien forces.

So I wasted a good bit of time in this before finally reaching the secret place and waiting patiently for my friend to show up and make my Saturday perfect. I waited several years (by children’s standards) but he didn’t show. Finally, I gave up and assumed something had happened to prevent his coming. I left the secret hiding place confused and disappointed and headed back down the secret trail - stomping more alien brains and bombs along the way (after all, a super hero’s work is never done) - and started back for home.

As I walked into my yard, I heard voices in the backyard. I went to them and found Mark and my brother playing. As soon as he had gotten off the phone with me, he climbed in his mom’s car and she brought him over. He’d literally arrived about two minutes after I went in to the woods. Well, better late than never. I ran to join in and heard a car in the drive-way: his mom. I had wasted a couple of hours in the woods - no kidding - waiting for my friend to show up at our secret hide-out. Problem was, he didn’t know I was expecting him there. He came over, but not the way I had expected. The result was that I missed him pretty much altogether.
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Being careful not to confuse the work of the Spirit with the fellowship of the Body.

One common danger we as Christians (and really as human beings) is to expect things from each other that it isn’t fair to expect. Anytime we set off on a “secret trail” to meet someone (who doesn’t even though we’ve set out to meet them) in order for them to minister to us, we set ourselves up for disappointment and our problems are only amplified.

We have a tendency to believe that we can experience deeper healing and deeper ministry by going to conferences or by sitting under someone who has an anointing for such deliverance ministry. Although it is true some within the Body - and not always those sitting next to you - may be given a deeper gifting in deliverance ministry, is it careless to believe we can be more free somehow by simply talking through our stuff with someone who has that kind of anointing. Ultimately, what will prove your deliverance is how you walk that deliverance out in the context of relationships.

So many Christians have become codependent, either to someone or to receiving ministry, that it becomes like an addiction. We never feel quite right with ourselves unless we have someone ministering to us. There is a deep ministry that happens only in the presence of the Holy Spirit and when we look to someone to fill that place we make ourselves sick.

We all need deep healing. When we look to someone in need of deep healing to heal us, we will both be sick. But when we live in a state of grace and mercy in covenant relationship with those around us and dip deep in the pool of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to cultivate healing in the deep recesses that only He can reach, then we can be healed.

Proverbs says hope deferred makes the heart sick. When we hope for someone to be or do something in our lives that only the Holy Spirit can be or do, we are sick, and as long as we stay in that place we stay sick. Proverbs goes on to say that desire fulfilled is a tree of life. When we let Jesus be Jesus (the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit) and do His work in us, our needs are met.

Another type of codependency is when we become addicted to ministering to others. This can be just as dangerous. If we always feel like we have to be giving or seeing healing in others (which, of course is something only they can choose and find for themselves) we will become sick because our healing is tied to their sickness. Again, we have to learn to do what we are hear to do and let the Holy Spirit do His own work.

Inter-codependency

If we are all codependent, then we create a community of inter-codependency where everyone is always looking to someone else for ministry, affirmation, and whatever else we need. When this happens, we continue in a circle, but we don’t grow up. We just keep going in a circle. It’s like a dog chasing his own tail. He can never catch it.

Where ministry happens

Ministry happens in two ways.

First, it is the deep work of the Holy Spirit. And though we can help facilitate it in each others lives, we CANNOT do the Holy Spirit’s work.

The other way is in healthy relationships in the Body. When a body is healthy, it will automatically drive out something that doesn’t belong. But if the Body isn’t healthy, and we see things like bitterness or anger being “pushed” up and out of someone else, we may be revolted by it. But when the Body is healthy, things come up and out and stay out.

Casting our cares on Jesus.

As we walk out unity in the Body, by first walking in the Spirit, we learn to “cast all our cares” on Jesus. We do this because “He cares for us.” He can handle it. We talk with each other. We counsel each other. We minister to each other. But ultimately we throw those things on Jesus - we “cast them off.”

Then we think on the pure things, the good things, the healthy things, the whole things (because the focus of our hearts will determine the health of our spirit) and we grow in deeper and deeper healing.

Unity.

Unity, then, is the product of walking in the Holy Spirit and growing in healthy fellowship in the Body. And the product of unity is that we grow up in Him, we mature, and we are consecrated - it is unity that sets us apart.

Eric Love, 11/5/2009