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Sermon 10/14/07 –
1 Corinthians 12:14 – The Body of Christ

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The Body of Christ

For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:14)

I read a book called “The Last Train Out,” by Wellesley Muir. It's a biography of the life of Siegfried Neuendorff, a man I was privileged to meet a few weeks ago at the close of the Bible study I teach on Thursday mornings. Pastor Neuendorff is tall, as the book says - “6’4.” He has a shock of white hair and I had the impression that this man REALLY loves the Lord. The book agrees wholeheartedly with that conclusion.

I found it to be a “good read,” to say the least. I cannot imagine a life more different from my own. He was a member of the Hitler Youth in Germany during World War II and was sent to Poland. His “Mutti” (mother) went there and rescued him, taking the then young Siegfried on the last train back to Germany.

He is German; I am not. He is a 7th Day Adventist and a vegetarian and I am neither of those things. He lived under Communist rule and became an American, serving in the U.S. Army as a “non-combatant,” a medic, because of his religious beliefs, which reasonably includes an aversion to war. He worked in construction, married, was a deacon, and the married couple went to Peru as missionaries, where he faced terrorists and met the needs of a people.

In Peru, he built buildings, led people to Christ, extracted 12,500 teeth, learned English, Spanish and Campa, treated infections, brought-in a rice crop, installed the water system for a village, experienced dangers in the jungle, perils on rivers and built airstrips. He preached many sermons and Bible studies each week, ministered to prisoners, went to tribes never evangelized before, and finally, much later, he completed his education and became a pastor. After ordination he returned to Peru for much more ministry, which included a radio program. Pastor Neuendorff is passionate about the Sabbath, which extends from Friday at dusk to Saturday at sundown. He even offered his jeep “as a prize to anyone who could show a text from Scripture that says we should worship on Sunday.” He kept driving the jeep for nobody was able to win it.

My family and I do worship the Lord on Saturdays, but we also worship on other days as well, including Sundays, and we are not 7th Day Adventists. I have not been to Germany or Peru, I never expect to extract a tooth, and it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll ever be 6’4” tall. I eat a lot of vegetables, but I am not a vegetarian.

But I love the Lord and my life is His, much like Pastor Neuendorff belongs to Him and loves Him. As to one day or another, the Apostle Paul said, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it” (Romans 14:5-6). In other words, we can be very different in our appearances, in our experiences, and our theological belief systems, but if we really have the Lord in our hearts, we have satisfied God’s requirement for our lives. We are to be the Lord’s, which makes us acceptable in God’s sight.

God called Pastor Siegfried Neuendorff to Himself and carefully fashioned him for service within a 7th Day Adventist context. I was blessed to have had a wonderful Adventist friend who was first the friend of my mother, and her name was Mary Thomas. She gave me a beautiful anointing oil container and a portable communion set when I was ordained. My ordination, like Pastor Neuendorff’s, was later in life. Mary left me a generous portion of her wonderful Christian library when she passed-on a few years ago. I am blessed by her memory and am also blessed by the life of Siegfried. Through such good people, I have been taught by God that “the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:14).

Though we are as different from one another as fingerprints or snowflakes, we are one in Christ. Paul continues in 1st Corinthians Chapter 12 with the wonderful analogy of the human body. He points out that the foot, the eyes, heart and brain, etc., all have very different functions, but each part is necessary to the body. In much the same manner, each of us who has trusted in Christ becomes an important part of Him, even if others don't think so. And just as it is insane for the hand to hate the foot; Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 12 suggest strongly that we are crazy if we reject one another.

I have noticed for many years the church buildings that exist side-by-side, but those who worship in them have little or nothing to do with each other. As individuals who have trusted in Christ, we are a people, “one body” in the sight of God (1 Corinthians 12:20).

Here is the prayer of Jesus, uttered to the Father, in all sincerity and power, before He went to the Cross. This is not only a prayer, but it is also the capstone of His final instructions to His disciples right before He left this world. He prayed, “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:20-21).

This prayer of Jesus was not only on behalf of those who were with Him at the moment, but it extends through time and space to all those who encounter this prayer right now. He has offered a prayer that IS being answered at this minute, though we often don’t see it. We ARE being made ONE in the strength, power and love of God. And this is more than just reading the magazine that is published by another organization and deciding it’s not so bad after all. This is honestly loving others, even when their labels are not like our own. And even harder for us – when they DO things differently than we do.

The stakes are very high indeed. Look at the verse in John 17 once more. We are to become willing to “be one” so “that the world may believe” that the Father has sent the Son to this world. Why doesn’t revival come? Why doesn’t the world turn to Jesus Christ? Well, part of the problem is the church! If we don’t love others who wear the label “Christian,” the world sees our lack and decides the love of God in Christ Jesus isn’t real. Pastor Siegfried and Pastor Ron are very different men, and yet we are one in Christ. The world is angry, sick with sin and dying. The Cure is the love offered by our Lord.

Father, we hear the prayer of Your Son. We WANT others to receive our Lord. Please heal us, that we may love one another. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

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"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
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