Monday, February 26, 2024

Built Up in the Fullness of Jesus Christ

"In March of 1981, President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr., and was hospitalized for several weeks. Although Reagan was the nation's chief executive, his hospitalization had little impact on the nation's activity. Government continued on. On the other hand, suppose the garbage collectors in this country went on strike. It happened last year in Paris for a while. That city was not only in a literal mess, the pile of decaying trash quickly became a health hazard. A three-week nationwide strike would paralyze the country. Who is more important--the President or a garbage collector? In the body of Christ, seemingly insignificant ones are urgently needed. As Paul reminds us, "The head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable" (I Cor. 12:21-22). -David Parsons.

Whether it’s president, political leader, pastor, church greeter, garbage collector, the body of Christ needs every member. You matter. You are important. And that’s why it’s so important we grow in Christ, and seek maturity in Christ.

The Apostle Paul challenges us, just as he challenged the church in Ephesus two thousand years ago, to walk in a manner worth of the calling we’ve received.

He writes, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” 
-Ephesians 4:1

Each of us have been called to be Christians, followers of Jesus, to be pure and blameless in a wicked world, to be love in a time of coldness, to speak truth when lies reign everywhere, and to care about others when most only care about themselves.

The calling is high, to Jesus. Paul tells us to live our lives in a way that matches the heights of what we’ve been called to.

We’re immediately instructed on what that looks like. We’re considering the theme of building a house today. The house is you. And we’re going to see the bricks and pieces we want to include to make sure this house is a success.

In verses 2-3, "...with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

First, we’re told living worthy to our calling looks like humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, and eager to maintain unity.

Humility is thinking highly of others and thinking of ourselves soberly. Gentleness is not being too loud, not being too intense, not being too overbearing, but gentle. Patience is being good at waiting. Even in traffic. Bearing with one another is making room for people’s faults. Notice unity as well that’s going to come up again here. Unity among believers is hugely important to God. No divisions. Complete unity. Not partial unity, but total unity.

Immediately the Lord points us to unity, in verses 4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

If this house we’re building is like a brick, it fits in with all the other members of the body of Christ, in a larger house, which is the body of Christ, the church as a group. What unites the body? The fact that the Lord is over us all, through us all, and in us all.

All of these other character traits, humility, gentleness, bearing up, are going to help us to solidify into the bonds of unity in the larger collective.

Next Paul turns back to the individual believer, and speaks of Christ’s gift.

In verses 7-10 it says, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)”

In other words, the foundation of this whole structure is Christ’s grace. Along with that grace, Christ gave us gifts. Spiritual gifts, like faith, showing mercy, prophecy, giving, administration, and on the list goes.

Not only did Jesus give us His grace, and spiritual giftings for the blessing of the body, he also gave us leaders in the body of Christ.

This is what we call the five-fold ministry. It says in Ephesians 4:11-12, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

So if the house structure we’re building is you, one believer, the various leaders in the church are given by Jesus, to build you up in various ways. An apostle can minister to you in various ways, they are pioneers, church planters, missionary types. They blaze new trails, try new things and build up the church.

Prophets speak a hard truth. They may speak a word over you, give you a word for your life that’s specific to you, from God. They call us away from sin. They mourn the evils in the world. The evangelist is one who is often out on the streets ministering to people who don’t know Jesus yet. The shepherd is the pastor, the counselor, someone who guides Christians to grow in Christ. And teachers are experts in explaining the Bible, explaining the meaning of truths in scripture, and is good at leading a small group or bible study.

Each of these five areas of ministry are meant to do one thing: Build up the body of believers. Christ is the chief builder, but through the five fold Christ builds up this house, which is you.

Here next in verse 13 we really see the end goal of this whole thing, it says this Ephesians 4:13, “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”

We see further growth again is exemplified by unity of the faith, more complete knowledge of the son of God, all culminating in maturity.

And again in verse 14, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

The contrast is between being children in Christ, to being mature, it says mature manhood. So, having grown up in Christ, we come to a point where we are no longer children, but mature, and no longer tossed to and fro by the ways of controversy and human deceit.

I recall a time in my life when I was younger as a Christian and I was very much tossed to and fro, first I would listen to prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen, then I was listening to Calvinists online, then I’m talking with Jehovah Witnesses, then I was taking a Christian basics course online, and I was just all over the place. Slowly over time, as I studied and learned, I found growth toward maturity.

All of this is building up toward a place of maturity in Christ where we have a sense of stability and discernment. We aren’t thrown back and forth anymore. We aren’t torn in different directions. We have a stability from knowing God’s word. And we have a discernment to test what is true and what is false.

Lastly it says in verses 15-16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” -Ephesians 4:15-16

“Speaking the truth in love” I think implies the level of maturity Paul is talking about here. I’ve seen unstable Christians before and they usually fall into two camps, first you have those who speak the truth without love. They are so focused on doctrine that they don’t have much love. They want to fight off false doctrines. But they just come off as mean and loveless. It’s unstable, it lacks biblical love. Second camp is the ones who speak in love, but don’t have truth. They are so focused on being loving, being kind, being nice, that they simply affirm whatever someone says. They don’t speak truth. They compromise God’s word. They just want everyone to feel great, feel accepted, feel good. But by so doing, they are unstable, they lack truth, and love without truth is deceptive and empty.

So, speaking the truth in love we’re to grow up into Him who is the head, and that was mentioned in verse 13, it said to reach the stature of the fullness of Jesus Christ. In other words, come into a place of maturity that is marked by spiritual fullness in Jesus Christ. To be truly filled with Jesus completely.

But, this picture of a house full and mature in Christ is a single believer. So, when each part is working properly, working together, united in Christ, connected and held together by Christ, then the body functions correctly, the church functions correctly, and we’re all like a brick in the wall, of the larger building, which is the church worldwide.

Or, like a collection of many houses together, like a city, you might say. And each house represents a person in the city who serves some function to make the city function, whether it’s a teacher, a painter, an electrician, a clerk, driver, musician, artist, plumber, jeweler, construction, day car worker, waitress, politician, lawyer, and so on. We each have a particular part to play in the body of Christ, each a unique role to fulfill. It all fits together. And if each member is serving with their gifts, the body works well, and grows and prospers. If they do not work well together, and fight each other, the body doesn’t grow properly.

So, for each of us today, we should make it our goal to come into maturity in Jesus Christ, growing in Christ, and then using our gifts and talents to build up the body.

Let’s Review…

1. Live up to your call – Grow into Christ

2. Grow in Humility, Gentleness, Patience, Bearing with one another, Unity, and the bonds of Peace

3. This is accomplished through the gift of Christ’s grace

4. Christ has also given us spiritual gifts to use to help each other

5. Christ also gave us the five-fold ministry to build us up

6. Grow in the Knowledge of Jesus / Unity of the Faith

7. Then we will find Stability and Discernment to avoid false doctrine

8. Speak the truth in love, avoid missing either love or truth

9. All of this will lead us to Spiritual Fullness in Christ - maturity

10. In maturity we can serve in our place in the body of Christ faithfully and successfully

Remember brothers and sisters you are part of a family of believers. You are called to unity. Your place in this group worldwide is very important. Your place matters. You can make a difference. You have a role to play in this body. If you can grow in Christ, you can serve effectively in this body, and play your part in the great body of Jesus Christ worldwide.