One of my favorite all time football players is a running back by the name of Barry Sanders. Barry and I arrived in Michigan around the same time, he to help lead the Lions to the Super Bowl and me to lead the church that had called me to be their pastor. On the rare occasion that I had a chance to go down to Pontiac to watch the Lions during the decade of the 1990’s Barry Sanders never disappointed us. Even when I was at the last playoff game in the history of the Silverdome in the early 90’s, a game the Lions lost, Barry Sanders was still outstanding. I was present in December 1997 when Barry Sanders became only the 3rd (at the time) running back to go over 2,000 yards in a season. The Lions needed to win the game to make the playoffs and Barry didn’t disappoint. It was one of the greatest sports memories of my life. It is right up there with being at game 6 of the 1980 World Series when the Phillies won their 1st world championship or watching the Red Sox’s come back from 0-3 to beat the Yankees in the 2004 AL championship series. But one thing about Barry Sanders, he was always about the team. He was always willing to do whatever was needed in order to help the team, which usually meant getting the ball to him.
In the body of Christ, the church, we need to be about doing all we can to build the body for the glory of Christ. In the 2nd chapter of Ephesians Paul writes beginning in the 2nd half of verse 20 “Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (v.20b-22 NASB). The “in whom” in verses 21 and 22 reference the Lord Jesus Christ in whom all our spiritual blessings are found. The phrase “fitted together” in verse 21 is a reference to Christ carefully joining every component of His building together in a coherent and compatible fashion. Christ is the one who is fitting us together so that we may be a holy temple. Stones which do not fit together with each other make an untrustworthy or unattractive structure.
The purpose of this fitting together is that we should be “growing” which is a biology term and represents the church as a growing organism. The word “growing” means to increase in the intent of or in the instances of activity, and to spread and extend out beyond itself. Growth supposes life. If the church is a living organism it will be growing towards knowledge and completeness in Christ. If it is not growing then something is wrong, because growth is a natural process for something that is alive.
In verse 22 Paul talks of us as being “built together into a dwelling of God.” God is building us together as His habitation; the place where His children can find safety and rest. The Holy Spirit builds this temple by taking dead stones out of the pit of sin and despair and giving them life and setting them lovingly into the temple of God. This “dwelling” carries the idea of a permanent home. This process of being built together is the result of the fact that this is still an ongoing event. God is still building His church and we need each other if we are going to be “a holy temple in the Lord.”
Well, in the spring of 1999 I was shocked, as well as the football world, when Barry Sanders suddenly retired. He was within 1500 yards of breaking the NFL’s all time rushing record. More importantly what about the “team”? I never understood it. Just as I can’t understand when people just walk away from the body of Christ, leaving a gaping hole in the building God is constructing.
For God’s Glory,
Pastor Rich Sivo