Sunday, December 31, 2023

Three Important Steps Before Connecting to Your Tribe


As Christians, we are a part of a bigger group which the Bible calls the body of Christ. We aren’t islands to ourselves, but God connects us to other believers as He sees fit. This is something He does and we yield to. It’s not something we want to force our way into or to fight against, but to be willing to take our place as God wants us to. Unfortunately, for the most part, we fall far short of His vision for us.

We know Christians don’t always get along. There is not yet full unity or maturity among Christians and neither is everyone taking their God-given place in the body. Many people have become discouraged with churches and, though they love God, don’t feel connected to a church body. If that’s you, ask God to connect you with your tribe, making you ready for them and them ready for you.

I think it’s helpful to consider three points in growing to a place in Christ where the body can function as the Head intends. These are three points to take before even trying to connect with your tribe. Not that there are only three points, but I believe these three things will do much toward bringing us closer into security in Christ as individuals, which paves the way for us to connect in a healthy way with other believers.

The body of Christ is made up of individuals just as a human body is made up of many parts—arms, legs, eyes, fingers, etc. A Christian body part may need a certain level of care, healing, or deliverance first before being able to really connect as a healthy, properly functioning member of the body of Christ. While you are waiting for God to connect you to your tribe there are three things you can do in the meantime.

Here are the three things:

  • Know God’s Love: Know and believe His love for you. (1 John 4:16).
  • Strive for the Prize: Respond to His love with diligence. (1 John 4:19)
  • Get Fit: Connect to the body in true love. (1 John 4:21).

Once members of the church are secure in these three things, the church as a whole will be in a much better position to fulfil it’s corporate role of bringing the gospel to the lost.

So let’s look at each one in more detail.

#1: Knowing and believing God’s love for you.

16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us…  1 John 4:16

Do you know God loves you? Do you believe that? Do you know it in your heart, or do you just understand what those words mean in your head? We each must come to “know” His love for us and come to the place where we “have believed,” past tense. We’re not trying to believe that God loves us, but we know it already--it’s already been settled in our minds and hearts. We’re not trying to earn anything from Him, impress Him, so we won't step on others or sabotage them to feel secure in His love. No. We’re not talking about rewards or favor or anything of that, just His love—the thing our hearts long for at the very core of our being.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

John had a lot to say about the love of God. Remember he called himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He would lay his head on Jesus’ chest. He knew something about the love of the Lord.

We also see the love of the Father in this verse. For God so loved the world… The Father loved the people in the world—the human race—so much that He gave the most valuable thing He could to rescue us from the clutches of darkness. He gave His only Son. He paid the highest price He could.

Think about that for a minute and realize the value He has placed on you. He gave the most valuable thing in existence to redeem you from the enemy and bring you into His family, His kingdom. He values you! Don’t worry about getting off into pride, He did it for everyone, but make sure you let that understanding become a part of your entire existence. Let it seep out of your pores.

I’m not kidding when I say not to worry about pride, as long as you remember He paid the same price for everyone. Some people won’t fully absorb the love of God for them because they think they are undeserving on the one hand, or they think it will make them arrogant if they fully receive His love. Those are both lies of the enemy, for the enemy knows once you understand the love of God for you, once you come to know it and believe in it, you are a greater threat to him. He won’t be able to trip you up, get you into guilt, gossip, or arrogance like he used to.

Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to:

1. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30) and 

2. To love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).

Then He told His disciples a new commandment, which was to love one another (other Christians) as He has loved us (John 13:34-35).

You can’t love your neighbor very well if you don’t love yourself very well. And the only way to properly love yourself is to receive God’s love for you—to see yourself as God sees you. So yes, we are to keep the love of God first and foremost as the greatest command, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Yet, the only way we can do that is to receive His love for ourselves first.

19 We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

We can’t love anyone—God, ourselves, or our neighbor without receiving His love for us first.

This brings us to point #2:

#2: Strive for the Prize: Responding to His love with diligence

19 We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Again, we can only, ONLY, love God once we realize—know and believe in—His love for us. You just can’t do it. Love does not originate with you, it originates with God. Don’t try to be super-Christian, 100% unselfish, and think that you can love God without receiving His love for you. That’s just pride. And it’s foolish.

We need Him, and we will always need Him. We will never outgrow Him or His love. Maturity doesn’t mean that we don’t crawl up on His lap and lay our head on His shoulder. We must remain children in our love for Him.

However, His love will mature us. We will grow. His love matures us because we become more secure. We won’t need the approval of people like we used to. The more we know His love, the more we love Him, and we want to get to KNOW HIM more. Our focus is not on ourselves, or on other people and what they think of us. Our focus is on HIM.

23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with himJohn 14:23

Read that again. The benefits of our loving Him is that the Father and Jesus will come and “make their abode” with us. They will come and stay, rest, and dwell, with us. Not visit occasionally but stay. Meditate on that until your heart melts with love and appreciation for Him.

Thus says the Lord,

1 “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
“For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.
“But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.
Isaiah 66:1-2

There is no place we can build for Him that will impress Him. The only thing He will look to is the one who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at His Word—the one who is humble, broken, and fears the Lord.

So we can come to know, and love, the Lord more intimately, but it will require something of us. This is where many people give up. If we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments (John 14:15). What is His commandment? To love one another as He has loved us (John 15:17). This is a sacrificial love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we love the Head, we will love the body.

Do you want to know a good way to start developing love for others? Start praying for them. In your private prayer place, pray for them until you love them. You’ll find it much harder to criticize a person you’ve been praying for (not praying against, not asking God to ‘go get them’ but praying for).

Once the infatuation of point #1 falls off, knowing and believing His love for you, you will need to be committed to persevere in your relationship with Him. You have an enemy who will send whatever he can your way to try and pull you away from this intimacy with the Lord through the Holy Spirit.

20 The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. Matthew 13:20-21

We have to have a firm root so our joy over the love of God for us, our joy over the Word of God, is not temporary and dries up in the face of affliction or persecution.

You’ll need to develop a lifestyle of prayer, study, FELLOWSHIP with the Father and Son through the Spirit. You’ll need to determine to become a hearer and a doer of the Word (James 1:22), to become a bond-servant, submitting your will to His (Luke 22:42). This requires commitment and perseverance. It requires taking up your cross daily and following Him (Luke 9:23). Then you’ll grow.

Don’t be the shallow one who falls away during tough times. Some of those who do hide it pretty well. They might continue in the church for a while, or maintain a “form of godliness,” (2 Timothy 3:5) but their heart is no longer in it. Their heart has grown cold and far from the Lord. This is the definition of hypocrisy (Matthew 15:7-8). This is how a person ends up becoming competitive and accusatory toward other Christians—fellow members of the body of Christ. If we love the Head, we must love His body (1 John 4:20-21).

At this point, when you strive for the prize and respond to His love with diligence, you become determined to press on for your purpose in Christ.

12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14.

Press on so that you may lay hold of that for which you also were laid hold of by Christ Jesus! Did you know that Jesus laid hold of you for a reason? Did you know He brought you into His kingdom family for a purpose? Press on, persevere, so that you can grab a hold of your purpose in Christ. Paul went on to say how he did this, by forgetting the past and reaching forward to what lies ahead. He pressed on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. You can do the same.

However, can you see how competitive Christians could become if they haven’t fully come to know and believe in the love of God for them FIRST before striving for the prize? If we’re not secure in our relationship with the Lord and His love, we will be competitive with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We’ll become jealous, suspicious, critical, and so on. 

There’s not just one prize. There’s a prize—a reward—for you, personally. Press on to receive that reward. Don’t try to go after someone else’s reward. Go after yours—the reason Jesus has laid hold of you. Seek Him to find out what that is.

When you understand the value God has placed on you, then you won’t be insecure, you won’t feel de-valued when you “compare” yourself to other Christians. And there is a comparison that is necessary. Which brings us to point #3.

#3: Getting Fit: Connecting to the body in true love

15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 4:15-16

The body of Christ is fitted and held together by what every joint supplies. What is a joint? A joint is a connection point. It’s where we connect to something else. To what? To another part of the body. We, as individual body parts of Christ, are supposed to be connected to other body parts of Christ. We each are to work properly according to our individual part—whatever place we have in the body—but we do so while connected to the rest of the body. Is an arm very useful if it’s detached from the body? No. Even if it managed to stay nourished because it somehow stayed connected to the Head, it wouldn’t help the body at all, and it wouldn’t help the Head either. It would look awfully strange to have an arm sticking out of a head. Nourishment comes from the Head, but through the body as well.

18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 1 Corinthians 12:18.

If we love God, we need to love His body. If we have trouble loving His body—fellow believers in Christ—then go back to #1 and #2, and somewhere along the way begin to pray for those we feel God is trying to connect us to.

Once we are secure in #1 and #2 then we can start to move into this true and sincere love of the brethren. To connect to our tribe, remember first, that God connects us as it pleases Him. But as we connect, we need to see where we fit. This requires a certain level of comparison. This is why it’s so important that we are secure in God’s love for us so our comparison is not competitive.

The comparison required to connect to a body is not to compare for value (like you would judge one person’s skill better than another’s) but it’s to compare for connection, where you fit and connect with each other (like a puzzle). Not value-based comparison but connection-based comparison. Think about that for a minute. The body of Christ—your tribe in particular—coming together like a puzzle. Where do you fit?

Does this take some work? Yes. But we don’t want to neglect connecting with our tribe. We have a job to do and we need each other to do it fully.

24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

There is much distortion in the body of Christ today because people want everyone to fit in where they want. Like trying to force a puzzle piece where it doesn’t belong, it won’t work. It just messes up the big picture. Once you are secure in the love of God for you, and you respond to that love with perseverance, you will be able to connect to your tribe, where God fits you, and as a result, take your place and function in the body. This is His design.

Until we grow up in this area, we are hindered from fulfilling our call to preach the gospel to the lost—the very thing that will usher in His second coming—which we are all hoping for (Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 3:12, 1 John 3:1-3).

Additional Scriptures to consider:

  • Jesus is the Head of the body (Colossians 1:18).
  • His body is made up of many members, or parts, yet it is still one body—Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:12).
  • All believers in Christ are a part of His body and individual members of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).
  • God has placed every member of the body in place within the body as He desires (1 Corinthians 12:18).
  • He has also given gifts to the body to equip the saints (Christians) for service and to build up the body of Christ. These gifts are people—ministers such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. (Ephesians 4:11-12).
  • These gifts, leaders, in the body are needed until we all attain to the unity, knowledge of Jesus, maturity and the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
  • These gifts are needed so we do not remain children, tossed around and deceived, but rather grow up into the Head (Ephesians 4:14-15).
  • The body is fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, so the body grows and builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16).

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