(This is part 2 of 2 on Spiritual Introversion. You can see the first post–“I Don’t Need You”–here.)
There are two sides to spiritual introversion. On the one hand, I can take an independent view of my sanctification, not participating in Christ’s body or in those things that “aren’t my thing,” even though God has called each of us to “upbuild” each other. I must pray that God would so fill me with His love for His body that I joyfully receive from my sisters’ lives. On the other side of spiritual introversion, I must pray for courage; I must ask God to make me a good grace-steward, to rid me of my unwillingness, fear, or laziness, anything that keeps me from giving to my sisters from the riches I have received.
God calls us to be good stewards of His grace: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace . . . by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 4:10-11). We become stewards of God’s grace because Christ stewarded grace to us from God. Paul demonstrates this to the Ephesians when he says that the grace of God was given to him for his brothers’ and sisters’ sake to preach the gospel to them (3:2). God’s grace was not meant only for Paul’s private use. He was given the gospel and the grace to use his particular gifts for the sake of others, for the sake of Christ’s body. Grace flows from the Father through Christ into Paul and to the lives of other believers. This is to God’s glory!
Sometimes it seems like we don’t have a lot to contribute (or at least we’re unwilling to do so) when we compare ourselves to others. At the beginning of Romans, Paul tells his brothers and sisters that he longs to see them so they could be “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Rom. 1:12). Paul understood his relationship to the body of believers: he needed them for encouragement as much they needed him. He was not a spiritual introvert! It would be easy to label Paul as a great Christian not needing “help” from brothers and sisters. Imagine some of the Roman Christians hearing of Paul’s desire to be mutually encouraging and laughing: “What do I have to offer him? He’s a better teacher than I am. He prays better than I do. He’s more passionate than I am.” Or they could have thought, “What do I have to offer my brothers and sisters in the Roman church? They can get all they need from Paul.” They would have been willing to receive Paul’s stewarding of grace, but unwilling to be used by God to steward grace to others. How much the Roman church would have missed out on!
We too can hear of our need to encourage each other and ask, “What do I have to give my sisters? They can get ‘such and such’ blessing or teaching or encouragement from the leaders in the church.” The short answer to what we give is that whenever, whatever you receive from the mercies and grace of God, you give. Again in Romans, Paul writes for eleven chapters on what Christ’s work on the cross has accomplished. Then, when Paul describes the church as one body with many members, he asks them to give because of what they have received. He begins Romans 12 with “by the mercies of God, . . . present your bodies as a living sacrifice”: “Where mercies have abounded, you don’t conform to the world, you present your bodies to God to do his will in relationship with others” (Piper, Present Your Bodies). We can present our bodies because Christ presented His body: “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). We can present our bodies to be living sacrifices (giving off the aroma of Christ—2 Cor. 2:14-16) because Christ died as a sacrifice for our sins: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2).
In order for the body to function as God designed, with all the gifts God has lavished upon it, the members have to present themselves for service first. This stems from understanding the great well of grace from which we draw: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:14,16). In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing the heavenlies have to offer (Eph. 1:3). Grace was given to each one of us in great and greatly varied ways; we are lavished with it. We each have a unique grace from God, a unique witness to His power; God has given us unique ways to glorify His name. Where one member may lack, another overflows with God’s grace for the body’s benefit. God’s gifts of grace, those daily ways He is transforming us by revealing more of His glory, are meant for mutual edification, to build up the whole body, not just for our own private sanctification: “[W]e are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body . . . makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). It is a strange thing to say the body makes the body grow, but Christ, the head, equips the members of His body to build His body up. This occurs “when each part is working properly,” that is, when, by the mercies of God, we all present our bodies to the body of Christ for its proper function.
When God’s grace transforms our own lives, we should be faithful stewards. We should pray for courage to participate fully and transparently in the body so grace can flow through us to strengthen other believers. If I believe I am unnecessary to the body, whether in words or through my attitude or actions (or lack thereof), I do not believe God’s Word, that He has composed the body and told us He would equip us all to function within it. I can confidently say that you do need me . . . because of Christ’s work in my life and the special grace He has given me to share with His body. He is my boldness to walk out of spiritual introversion and present myself for service.
“Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8)
“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation” (Psalm 95:1)
Josh Black: Deep and Wide (found in Gospel of John: Seeing is Believing? series)
- Josh Black: Fan the Flame (found in 2 Timothy: Entrusted with the Gospel series)
- Josh Black: Compassion: Every Member a Minister (found in Maturing in Christ series)
- John Piper: Build Your Life on the Mercies of God
John Piper: Present Your Bodies as a Living Sacrifice to God