Serving Christians Seeking to Live a Holy Life

THE CHURCH IV

Keeping It Healthy
Leon L. Combs
July 25, 1999

As we have seen, the church is the body of Christ. The Bible gives us many analogies to help us understand God, ourselves, and our role as His people. I want to help us understand some of what is involved in keeping the church healthy by using the analogy of keeping a human body healthy. So we will look at some aspects of keeping a human body healthy and see the spiritual correlation to keeping the church healthy. This will not be an exhaustive study, for such would take a team of scientists and theologians busy for many years.

I. Exercise

We all know that we need to include some physical exercise in our role of helping keep our physical bodies healthy. The physical exercise helps our bodies in many different ways, as most people know. But what does God's Word say to us about the role of exercise in keeping the church healthy? We find the answer in

Rom 12:6 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

Here God tells us that we are to exercise our spiritual gifts that He has given us. He continues:

Rom 12:7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;
Rom 12:8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Rom 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
Rom 12:11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
Rom 12:12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
Rom 12:13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Then in 1Cor 14:12, 26 He tells us why we are to exercise our gifts:

1Cor 14:12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.
1Cor 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

We are each to exercise our gifts for the edification of the church. If each of us will exercise the gifts that God has given us then the body of Christ will be edified. If one member does not exercise his/her gifts then there is a lack of edification. Each person must know what his/her gifts are, know the area of service of those gifts, and then be empowered by God to exercise those gifts. The gifts are:

Romans 12:3-8       1 Cor 12:8-10, 28-30      Ephesians 4:11
Prophecy                Word of Wisdom         *Apostleship
Ministering(helps)      Faith                   Prophecy
Teaching                Healing                 Evangelism
Exhorting               Miracles                Pastoring
Giving                  Prophecy                Teaching
Government (ruling)     Discernment
Showing mercy           Tongues               1 Peter 4:9-10
                        Interpretation          Hospitality
                        *Apostleship
                        Teaching
                        Ministration (helps), Government (ruling)

II. Proper Nutrition

A physical body will not be healthy if it is not fed the proper nutrients and the proper amount of food. If we eat mainly junk food, physically we will not be healthy. Similarly the spiritual body is affected by what it is fed. There are two aspects to this topic, that of which we should not partake and that of which we should partake. We are told below what type of spiritual food to avoid:

Rom 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

What happens to one member of the Body of Christ affects all of the Body. All of us have some weaknesses that can affect our spiritual life. If we feed those lusts, then we are adversely affected spiritually and the entire Body will suffer. If we deny feeding the lusts then the effect of that lust on our spirit is weakened and the entire Body gains. Dead things don't get fed:

Rom 6:11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Rom 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts,
Rom 6:13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

So of what do we partake that will positively affect us and the Body spiritually?

Phil 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.

We must continually feed our spirits as stated I Phil 4:8 and our spirit, and the Body, will be more healthy and better able to function according to His will.

III. Mental Health

Just as it is essential for the overall health of a human to be mentally healthy, it is also essential for the spiritual body.

A. Orderly Thinking

Disorderly thinking leads to confusion, lack of purpose, and lack of accomplishment. The mind of the physical body must be calm and focused on the required tasks, and one way the world encourages people to have this type of control is by meditation. Well the world has tried to copy a Biblical principle for the people of God have long known about meditation. The meditation of the Bible always has a focus on filling the mind with God's principles, whereas the worldly meditation has as its goal a mind that is "free" from all thoughts. To be fully used by God, we must know His Word and its applications to our lives. Biblical meditation fills us with His Word and His direction. Appendix A gives Scripture verses dealing with "meditation" and "meditate". We should all study these verses to have a clear understanding of how we are to meditate upon the Word of God.

B. Anxiety

Perhaps more prescription and nonprescription drugs are used by people for the treatment of anxiety than for any other mental condition. Anxiety can have a biochemical origin and people should be sure that such is not the case before looking for other causes. There is another short paper on the topic of anxiety on this site and you are referred to that paper for some details about anxiety. A major Scripture reference on anxiety is Matt 6:25-34 in which Jesus commands us to not be anxious.

Matt 6:25 "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?
Matt 6:26 "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
Matt 6:27 "And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?
Matt 6:28 "And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,
Matt 6:29 yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.
Matt 6:30 "But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?
Matt 6:31 "Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?'
Matt 6:32 "For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Matt 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
Matt 6:34 "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

When we feel anxiety, we should recognize it as a symptom of a spiritual problem just as fever is a symptom of a physiological problem. We should recognize that we are not trusting our Father who is in absolute control of everything in our lives and

Rom 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

There is another possible cause of anxiety that we must consider. It is possible that being disciplined by God because we have sinned causes our anxiety (Heb 12:6-11). Let God examine our hearts (PSA 26:2 [a]Examine me, O Lord, and try me; [b]Test my [1]mind and my heart.) If God reveals to us that we are indeed being disciplined, then we must repent of our sin and submit to the will of God.

IV. Immune System

The spirit is attacked from three fronts: lusts, the world, and Satan. Just as our physical body has a variety of means of dealing with attacking bacteria, viruses, and poisons, God has many ways of dealing with the spiritual attackers. Our physical body has an innate immunity and an acquired immunity and God has similar preparations for our spiritual needs. We will look at some analogies to our natural immune system, to analogies to symptomatic medication, and analogies to preventive medicine. We have many invaders with which to be concerned as discussed in 2Cor 12: another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel, false apostles, deceitful workers, Satan disguised as an angel of light, Satan's servants disguised as servants of righteousness, and false brethren. These invaders can take many different approaches in their goal to destroy the effectiveness of the Church.

A. Direct attack immune response

This physiological response is as it probably seems from the words: the antibody attacks the invading antigen and digests it. Spiritually the analogy is that we as an individual member of the Body of Christ take care of the problem ourselves with no assistance from the other members of the Body. One way we can deal with the invader is to just not feed it (Rom 13:14). Another way we can individually neutralize the invader is to turn away from people causing dissensions and hindrances in the Body (Rom 16:17). By turning away from the invader, the influence is negated and the invader leaves the system. Another individual response we can make is to not let anyone deceive us with false religious concepts (Col 2:18,19). One of the worst invaders to the Christian community are the elementary principles of the world exemplified by modern philosophy. Individually we can terminate this invader's influence on us by refusing to be deceived (Col 2:8) and standing firm in the teachings of Christ.

B. Activation of the complement system immune response

This physiological response is to activate the complement system that destroys the invader. Physiologically there are many fascinating cascading effects that occur to neutralize the invader. The corresponding spiritual phenomena is the spiritual help of other members of the Body. If one member of the Body is afflicted then we who have suffered similar afflictions and been comforted by God can come to the aid of the other person (2Cor 1:3-7). By comforting the person with the comfort of God that we have experienced, we help restore the Body.

We can all help each other be alert to possible counterfeits (2Cor 11:1-26). These counterfeits of Jesus, of the Gospel, of the Spirit, and other aspects of Christianity can mislead some portions of the Body and cause disharmony and dysfunction. The way these counterfeits function within the Body reminds me of the way some viruses function by mimicking the good species and thus being allowed to enter a cell to wreak havoc. We must be very alert for such counterfeits.

Other Scriptures which are analogies to this immune response include 1John 4:1-6 telling us all to test the spirits for authenticity and James 5:13-16 where we are told to pray for people, sing praises for people, and to confess sins to one another, all of which are healing effects for the Body.

C. Anaphylactic immune response

Physiologically this is a process that changes the local environment around the invading antigen, which prevents its progress. This process can be harmful to the body causing the harmful effects of allergy, but it is known that when people cannot respond in this fashion the infection can spread very rapidly throughout the body. In the spiritual analogy, the Church must sometimes respond in a very forceful way that may be rather painful at the moment, but leads to purification of the Body. One analogy is church discipline and there are many Biblical examples for us to follow. Jesus gave us this model for such discipline:

Matt 18:15 "[a]If your brother sins [1], go and [2]show him his fault [3]in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
Matt 18:16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that [a]by the mouth of two or three witnesses every [1]fact may be confirmed.
Matt 18:17 "If he refuses to listen to them, [a]tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, [b]let him be to you as [1]a Gentile and [1]a tax collector.

Paul also wrote of his actions against a member of a local congregation who was involved in great immorality even with his father's wife. Paul's action were severe, but they aided the man's soul and the life of the Church as told in 1Cor 5:5: "I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."

We also remember the story of Annanias and his wife Sapphira who lied to the Holy Spirit about the selling of some property (Acts 5:1-11). Peter confronted them and they both died. This event filled the whole church and all others who heard with fear. This was an extreme event but one that had a cleansing effect on the local church.

V. Preventive Medicine

Eph 6:13-17 tells us to take up the full armor of God so that we can stand firm against attacks. This armor of God is essential preventive medicine for every member of the Church. Here are some other sources for spiritual preventive medicine: Heb 12:1-3; Heb 13:1-3; Phil 1:9-11; Col 3:2; 1 Thes 5:21-22; 1John 3:3; and 1John 1:6-7.

VI. Antibiotics

The first book to apply to the treatment of a spiritual infection is the Bible. We also have the history of many great Christians who have written extra-Biblical material that can be extremely useful for the Body in time of attack. We need to read the works of Spurgeon, Luther, Calvin, and many others. But first of all we must read and meditate upon the Word of God.

VII. History

One of the first things that your physician should do is to take a medical history so that he/she will know what diseases you have had, what trauma you have endured, what allergies you have, what immunizations you have had, etc. We in the Church often neglect to study our history even though God tells us that the history has occurred for our benefit (1 Cor 10:1-12). This section is explicitly written to the early Christians referring back to the Jewish exodus, but it is also applicable to us today regarding all of the Church history. We need to study the church councils to understand the early heresies so that we can easily recognize their reappearance in perhaps a slightly different form such as the Gnostics and some aspects of New Age. We need to study the Reformation to better understand the principles involved in that important time in the history of the Church.

I hope that this study has whetted your appetite so that you will pursue additional studies as we all need to cooperate to develop a more healthy Body. My prayer for you is Numbers 6:24-26.

Appendix A

Meditation

JOB 15:4 "Indeed, you do away with reverence, And hinder meditation before God.
PSA 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
PSA 49:3 My mouth will speak wisdom; And the meditation of my heart will be understanding.
PSA 104:34 Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the Lord.
PSA 119:97 O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.
PSA 119:99 I have more insight than all my teachers, For Thy testimonies are my meditation.

Meditate

GEN 24:63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming.
JOS 1:8 "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
PSA 4:4 Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
PSA 27:4 One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to meditate in His temple.
PSA 63:6 When I remember Thee on my bed, I meditate on Thee in the night watches,
PSA 77:6 I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart; And my spirit ponders.
PSA 77:12 I will meditate on all Thy work, And muse on Thy deeds.
PSA 119:15 I will meditate on Thy precepts, And regard Thy ways.
PSA 119:27 Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, So I will meditate on Thy wonders.
PSA 119:48 And I shall lift up my hands to Thy commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Thy statutes.
PSA 119:78 May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie; But I shall meditate on Thy precepts.
PSA 119:148 My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Thy word.
PSA 143:5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands.
PSA 145:5 On the glorious splendor of Thy majesty, And on Thy wonderful works, I will meditate.
ISA 33:18 Your heart will meditate on terror: "Where is he who counts? Where is he who weighs? Where is he who counts the towers?"


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Web Author: Dr. Leon L. Combs
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