Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35).
This bread is what distinguishes us as members of His Body. We are set apart from the rest of humanity because we dine from a single loaf: Jesus Christ. "We are all partakers of that one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17).
Some Christians, however, don't want to be connected to other members of the Body. They commune with Jesus, but they deliberately isolate themselves from other believers. They want nothing to do with the Body, other than the Head.
But a body can't be comprised of just a single member. Can you picture a head with only an arm growing out of it? Christ's Body can't be made up of a head alone, with no limbs or organs. His Body consists of many members. We simply can't be one with Christ without being one with His Body also.
You see, our need isn't just for the Head, it is for the whole Body. We are knit together not only by our need for Jesus, but by our need for each other. Paul states, "The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you" (1 Corinthians 12:21).
Note the second half of this verse. Even the head can't say to another member, "I don't need you." What an incredible statement. Paul is telling us, "Christ will never say to any member of His Body, 'I have no need of you.'" Our Head willingly connects Himself to each of us. Moreover, He says we are all important, even necessary, to the functioning of His Body.
This is especially true of members who may be bruised and hurting. Paul emphasizes, "Much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary" (12:22). The apostle then adds, "And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness" (12:23). He's speaking of those in Christ's Body who are unseen, hidden, unknown. In God's eyes, these members have great honor. And they are absolutely necessary to the work of His Body.
This passage holds profound meaning for us all. Paul is telling us, "It doesn't matter how poor your self-image may be. You may think you're not measuring up as a Christian but the Lord Himself says, 'I have need of you. You're not just an important member of My Body. You're vital and necessary for it to function.'"
The apostle Paul instructs us, "Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Corinthians 12:27). He says more specifically, "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members . . . being many, are one body: so also is Christ" (12:12).
Paul is telling us, in essence, "Take a look at your own body. You have hands, feet, eyes, ears. You're not just an isolated brain, unattached to the other members. Well, it is the same way with Christ. He is not just a head. He has a body, and we comprise its members."
The apostle then points out, "We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:5). In other words, we are not just connected to Jesus, our Head. We are also joined to each other. The fact is, we can't be connected to Him without also being joined to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul drives this point home, saying, "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Simply put, we are all fed by the same food: Christ, the manna from heaven. "The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world" (John 6:33).
Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life . . . I am the living bread which came down from heaven . . . he that eateth me, even he shall live by me" (John 6:35, 51, 57). The image of bread here is important. Our Lord is telling us, "If you come to Me, you will be nourished. You will be attached to me, as a member of My Body. Therefore, you will receive strength from the life-flow that is in Me." Indeed, every member of His Body draws strength from a single source: Christ, the Head. Everything we need to lead an overcoming life flows to us from Him.
John the Baptist would not let himself be distracted from leading a life of great consequence.
The gospel of John tells us, “A discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness — look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him’” (John 3:25-26, ESV). John’s followers were speaking of Jesus. Evidently they had theological concerns about Him. Maybe they had heard about His miracle at Cana and thought He had mishandled the cisterns.
John wasn’t going to be distracted by the debate. He knew that something greater than doctrinal sticking points was at stake. He answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (John 3:27). In other words: “Can someone work a miracle like this if he hasn’t been sent by God? That kind of power comes only from heaven.”
What John says next is powerful: “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ . . . He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28, 30). John’s focus in life was clear; his holy calling was centered completely on Jesus. For that reason John the Baptist was known as a great man.
The problem for many of us today, in our success-driven culture, is that we seek great things for ourselves. Well-intentioned ministers seek to build a Twitter following. Christians want to be heard even if it means having fifteen seconds of stupidity on YouTube. We may convince ourselves we are pursuing things for God, but is Jesus really our focus? Without rigorous examination of our hearts, we won’t be able to discern whether we are pleasing our Master or following an inner longing for validation.
The prophet Jeremiah addressed this question directly: “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord. But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go” (Jeremiah 45:5). Jeremiah makes clear that God’s measurement of greatness is much different from the world’s. Note that he doesn’t say, “Do not be great. You’ll get spiritual brownie points for false humility.” No, as Jesus Himself says, greatness is measured in how well we serve others.
“So David went on and became great, and the Lord of hosts was with him” (1 Chronicles 11:9, NKJV).
The mighty warriors of 1 Chronicles 11 helped David conquer a new capital for his kingdom, a story told in verses 4-9. The modern nation of Israel has made a big celebration of the 3,000th birthday of this city, Jerusalem, as the center of Jewish life.
It was not an easy prize. The Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem flatly told David, “No way. This is a tough, fortified city, and you won’t get inside.” In fact, 2 Samuel 5:6 records their insult: “Even the blind and the lame can ward you off.”
So it is with every attempt to do something significant for God. It is never simple. Whenever God stirs us to establish His kingdom in a new place, the enemy is sure to taunt us. The devil always tries to convince us that we’ve tackled too much this time and we’ll soon be humiliated.
But David and his warriors pressed on. They would not be turned back. In fact, David made an unusual offer: “Whoever leads the attack on the Jebusites will become commander-in-chief” (1 Chronicles 11:6). This meant being the first to head uphill against well-armed soldiers perched atop thick walls, just waiting to rain down arrows and rocks. David’s young nephew Joab, however, seized the opportunity to perform this exploit. He broke into the city first, and thus he became David’s leading general for years to come.
That is not how we select leaders in the church today, is it? We go by resumes, seniority, image, education, and a half-dozen other human criteria. By contrast, David looked for bravery and boldness in the real world of battle.
If we are courageous enough to go on the spiritual attack, to be mighty men and women of prayer and faith, there is no limit to what God can accomplish through us.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.
"Out of the belly of hell cried I" (Jonah 2:2). Why did the Lord take Jonah so low? He was in the belly of a living hell, suspended in darkness, hanging between life and death. Why would a merciful God put a servant through this? I believe Jonah's story shows us how God deals with disobedient servants.
Jonah was in this hell for three days and nights. Yet, in all that time he never prayed. The storm hadn't brought him to his knees and neither did his brush with death in the whale's belly. Only after three days and nights do we read, "Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly" (2:1).
Why didn't Jonah pray before this? It was because he was convinced, "I am cast out of thy sight" (2:4). He described God as having mercy for Nineveh, but Jonah couldn't believe for the same mercy for himself. He thought, "I'm a dead man. I can't fall any lower. God has turned His back on me. He hates me for what I did."
Nothing could have been further from the truth. When Scripture says, "The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah," the word for prepared means enrolled. God had picked out a huge whale and put an urgency in that creature. So when Jonah went overboard, the fish was there, ready to swallow him. The Lord was still at work.
The truth was, God was speeding Jonah on his way to Nineveh. Soon the prophet would be walking in sunlight again. He would preach boldly in the streets as a chosen messenger.
What did God intend through Jonah's belly-of-hell experience? For a season Jonah knew what it was like to feel dead. He couldn't pray. God had hidden His face, and the prophet had no one to turn to. Hell for Jonah wasn't the seaweed sweeping over him, or being pounded back and forth. It was the sense that God had lifted His hand from his life.
It was all meant to test Jonah in his disobedience. God wasn't demanding, "Now will you obey Me, Jonah?" Rather, He was asking, "Whose word will you believe in this awful hell, Jonah? Mine or the devil's?" Finally, we read, "Then Jonah prayed" (2:1). "When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee" (2:7). Jonah rushed back to God's loving arms. Then he testified, "Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice" (2:2).