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A RECIPE FOR COMPLETE JOY: 3rd INGREDIENT
by Philip Owen

            Nothing is more striking about the recipe for joy that we have begun examining than the fact that believers cannot achieve complete joy in isolation.  The church, which is the body of Christ, is made up of many individual members who must fulfill their designated (God-ordained) functions in conjunction with all the other members in order for Christ to be glorified, the church edified, the world evangelized, and the individual members blessed.   The Scripture knows nothing of the holy recluse, shut off from other believers, except through the temporary deprivation brought about by emergency conditions or some other unusual natural occurrence.  We should not be surprised, then, when the “third ingredient” continues the theme of unity which characterized the first two ingredients.

            3rd Ingredient:  Be united in spirit.  It has been suggested that this might be translated simply as “co-spirited.”  The word in the Greek combines a prefix meaning “with” and a root (psuche) often translated “soul,” rather than “spirit.”  Though the meaning of the word soul may be hard to grasp, though authorities may differ, though the usage of the terms for soul and spirit seem to be used somewhat interchangeably, nevertheless, it seems that the term soul designates the seat of the affections, desires, and will, the personality, or that which differentiates one human being from another.  Given the fact that the soul, or personality is that which makes you distinctly you and me distinctly me—in other words, that which makes us separate individuals and defines our unique “self”—it is of great import that it is at that very fundamental self-identifying and self-individuating place that the Scripture commands, not separation, but unity.

Unlike many cults, which call for the suppression of personality or even its virtual eradication, the Bible honors the uniqueness of individuals as God has made them, even declaring that the Spirit of God has from the beginning been “distributing [gifts] to each one individually just as He wills” (I Cor. 12:11).  But what our text makes clear is that the uniqueness of our personalities and the distinctions of gifts are not given to enable us to stand out or stand apart.  They are not given so that one might lord it over another, nor so that one might be exalted and another abased.  Quite the opposite.  Paul explains to the believers in Corinth that “the varieties of gifts” come from “the same Spirit”; “the varieties of ministries” from “the same Lord”; and “the varieties of effects” from “the same God who works all things in all persons.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (I Cor. 12:4-7).  Perhaps, by mentioning the three Persons of the Tri-Unity at this point, Paul is encouraging us to imitate the distinction of personality but unity of purpose and function manifested in the Godhead.

God has neither desire nor purpose that we lose our individuality:  that is a concept common to mysticism and pagan eastern religions.  But He does call on us to submit our individual wills and desires to the will of God for the blessing of our brethren.  He does ask and expect us to yield all that we are to Him that others might be blessed.  Our flesh insists that we can only be truly happy when our wishes are fulfilled, our desires met, and our persons are honored.  The Scriptures tell us true joy finds us when we along with our brethren with have yielded ourselves to the Lord and have submitted to the Word.

As has been observed frequently, unity is not uniformity.  In fact, it is in the very reality of our individual differences that God is honored as we unite with one another to use our God-given abilities to serve others and to glorify the Lord.  And we express this unity of spirit properly, not so much through deliberate, conscious self-denial as through the self-forgetfulness that comes from loving the Lord and wanting Him to be honored and from loving the brethren and wanting them to be blessed.  Then it may be said truly that we are united in spirit. 

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