And not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God?…. If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above…. (Colossians 2:19, 3:1–4—NKJV)

I fear that the horizons of our devotional lives are in danger of being fenced in by the great societal changes occurring within western civilization. Christians are losing the rudimentary concept, and the critical necessity, of individual devotion to God. I do not mean devotional reading, but I do mean original thought.

Speaking as an American, there is a lesson to be had from our pioneering ancestors. They saw what they called a “howling wilderness” as a land full of opportunity, to be explored and searched out for the resources from which to build a life. They chose a direction to go. They gathered up all the people that were near and dear to them—their families and like minded individuals (sometimes it was their whole church)—and they endured in the pursuit of their dream, come what may. They settled their chosen land, then they settled their towns, their territories, their states, and they built something. They built their personal world, and along with it they had a part in building the world of those who were their fellow travelers. They left a legacy for their children and their children’s children. There is no denying the significance of what was called “Manifest Destiny” and there is no denying one of the motivating facts underlying it—missionary zeal.

Christians, like lonely castaways, are engulfed, awash, and set adrift by very real pressures to think differently than even our father’s generation. We are to think “globally,” be politically correct, beware of thought crime, yield what is precious to us to the “good of the many,” be a good “worker” rather than an employee, be interconnected (yet emotionally distanced by our technology), feel guilty about every aspect of our “stewardship” of the earth and its resources. Rugged individualism is replaced with fear of some unheard-of law or trivial lawsuit. We are to sacrifice ourselves for something called “the greater good.” (Biblically, militarily, and rationally, the act of ultimate self-sacrifice for the “greater good” is only to be utilized when all other options are exhausted and there is no other way to rescue, as our Lord demonstrated upon the cross of Calvary!)

Don’t fall for the world’s way of diminishing the significance of the individual in your spiritual life! Believers must find their marching orders from the inerrant and unchanging Scriptures. There were many familiar organizations which the Holy Spirit could have chosen to describe the believer and his place in society. He could have chosen the illustration of a nation-state with every strata of society from Caesar on down to the lowest slave. He could have chosen the ever-present Roman military with its legions in martial orderliness. He could have chosen the strictures of the various business guilds found in every Roman city. God brushed all those “command-control” possibilities aside and He chose an illustration of God’s design: the human body.

Every Christian, upon his conversion, is placed like a member (joint, ligament, organ, etc.) into the “body of Christ.” Jesus Christ is the head of the body, directing the function of all the individuals within the body and utilizing the body as He sees fit. When one “member” is out of joint (Galatians 6:1ff) the body suffers. When the “member” is fully functioning, individually thriving, doing the things unique to himself, he has done his part so that the body can perform like an athlete—fluidity in motion (Ephesians 4:16)!

In the spiritual realm, every believer’s individual uniqueness, effectiveness, and giftedness will only function if it is energized by, and in coordination with, the headship of Jesus Christ. Your personal devotion to God, and devotions with God, are critical to your healthy function in any body (whether family, church, society, or nation). Our text speaks of what every joint nourishingly supplies (to fully outfit and provide—2 Peter 1:5) and knits together (coalesce, join, unite). Your spiritual thoughts lead to your beneficial actions.

In this world where the significance of the individual is lost rather than celebrated, rugged, godly individualism is shamed, and (even within the church) individual soul liberty is an antiquated doctrine, be challenged with the following reality:

  • There is nothing more eternally important than your spiritual relationship to your local society.
  • There is nothing more unique than your spiritual fruit beneficial to people close around you.
  • There is nothing more critical than your spiritual health so that you can bear fruit.
  • There is nothing more crucial to your spiritual vitality than granting God the daily opportunity to lead you into pioneering thoughts and expansive devotion.

(Colossians 3:10, Ephesians 4:22ff, 2 Corinthians 4:16, Psalm 51:10) Trust and obey.