Sunday, May 13, 2018
Connected: My Life in the Body of Christ
Part 3 - Connected in Growth
God has a plan and purpose for everyone. The specific details are as individual as the individual himself. But there is a general will, a broad plan for every Christian that God has designed. That plan simply put is to grow. Here in Ephesians chapter 4, Paul utilizes the word, “measure” 3 separate times to highlight the overall purpose of growth. Let’s consider them with quickly:
Vs. 7: “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.”
The measure of the gift of Christ – refers to growing to the determined extent, limit or portion measured off. It means to grow to your capacity and ability made available to you by grace. So, we are to grow to capacity.
Vs. 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.”
The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ –this measure refers to being ripe or of full age and maturity. It means to grow completely –nothing is lacking, nothing is underdeveloped, you are complete in Him. This will not be fully realized until we stand before the Lord in glorified bodies, but we ought to strive towards this end in this life. We are to be pressing onward to grow completely.
Vs. 16: “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.”
The measure of every part makes the body grow –by this Paul is referring to your growth being balanced and in proportion to the rest of the body. You ought to grow congruently.
Think about this for a moment. The largest part of a newborn child is the head. The rest of the body must grow to be proportionate to it. Concerning the body of Christ, the Lord Jesus is the Head (look again at verse 15) and the born-again believer makes up His body. We must grow so that we are proportionate with our Head! We must grow congruently.
These are three uses of the word ‘measure’ that highlights different aspects of growth and underscores why it is of such great importance. Let’s grow to our capacity, let’s grow completely, and let’s grow harmoniously!
Where does this type of growth take place? What are the crucial elements that are required to have this type of growth? Here in chapter 4, Paul identifies 3 essentials that facilitate this type of growth.
We Grow Best:
1. In the Soil of the Local Church 7-12
Consider again verses 7-12. Note the gifts that the Lord Jesus gave. The Bible says He gave some apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. To whom did He give these too?
Where do we find them?
Specifically speaking, the apostles were those who were directly called and sent out by Christ or those directly associated with them. They encountered Christ in His resurrected form. Eyewitness accounts. (We do not have ‘apostles’ in that sense today).
Prophets would be those who tell forth the Word of God as opposed to foretelling the Word of God. That is a subtle yet significant difference. God is not calling people to ‘foretell’ His Word, we have God’s Word, inspired and preserved.
Then Paul mentions evangelists –in its truest sense this word refers to missionaries and church-planters, and gospel preachers who help bring people into the Body of Christ.
And finally, we have shepherds (pastors) and teachers. (Here, these words describe the same person). A shepherd’s task is to feed, nurture, and care for his sheep. He protects them from enemies who try and pull them from the flock. A shepherd’s duty does not include acquisition of sheep. When the shepherd-teacher functions in the way Jesus has called him to, the sheep will be healthy, and the flock will grow.
But the question at hand is, “Where do we find these people?” We find them in the local church.
Why did the Lord Jesus give the church these gifts?
Vs. 12 “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” For the perfecting of the saints! To facilitate growth.
If you want to grow up in all things, you need the fertile soil of the local church. Not every church is fertile. Not every church is conducive to healthy growth. Some churches are not fertile –they are futile. We have come to such a strange place in church culture. Allow me to speak in broad terms. The modern church in most cases is foreign to the Bible.
What we have come to recognize and even call the church today is not found in the New Testament. It would appear that the church is obsessed with being accepted by the world. Churches and Christians alike are willing to jettison anything if it increases their chances of being applauded, accepted or appreciated by the lost. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is of too great a value. Most churches will do anything to avoid being marginalized. Christendom, broadly speaking, is willing to do whatever it takes to avoid the reproach of Christ.
That brand of Christianity is not found in the Bible!
1 John 3:13 – “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
Matt. 10:22, Jesus warned His disciples saying, “you will be hated by all for my name's sake..”
1 Timothy 4:10 “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
Hebrews 13:13 “Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.”
1 Peter 4:14 “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
But the modern church avoids that reproach like the plague. Christianity has become a matter of convenience. The consumer driven culture of the world has been adopted by the church. We are at the place where the average Christian avoids and even ridicules bible preaching churches and gravitates to pulpits that tickle their ears and pets their egos.
But friends if you are to grow up in all things; if you are going to reach your capacity in Christ –you will do so by being rooted and grounded in the fertile soil of a Christ honoring, Bible preaching church. Your commitment there will not be based on convenience or what you feel like. It will be based on doing what honors and pleases the Lord!
I still believe the Bible is right when it says in Hebrews 10:25, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
We grow best in the Soil of the Local Church
Secondly, we grow best:
2. In the Showers of Truth 13-15
Three times in this chapter Paul mentions TRUTH.
Vs. 15 “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
Vs. 21 “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.”
Vs. 25 “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Never before has our country been so intolerant of the TRUTH. It would seem that the adopted motto of the age is, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.” God’s people need truth in order to grow.
It is not as popular. It is counterculture and against the grain. Truth often challenges what is acceptable and expected. No wonder it is not appreciated as much as it should be. But if you grow –you will do so because of truth.
Too many Christians can be described by verse 14. They are like “children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Why are they so gullible? Why are Christians so easily misled and deceived? Because they have not been showered with truth!
ILL: For more than 1000 years Japanese people have practiced and mastered the art of bonsai trees. The bonsai tree is not a unique or special species of tree. It is the product of purposefully clipping the roots. During the early stages of growth, the shoots are taken out of the soil and the main root is cut short. Because the roots are cut back and confined, the tree is unable to grow.
You may not realize this, but churches are filled with bonsai believers. Their roots have been clipped and their faith is confined. I am not talking about pruning here.
God the Father is the Vinedresser and He carefully prunes us so that we might bear fruit. But the adversary, the devil, is at work trying his best to cut the roots in order to prevent your growth. Truth is substituted for error. Right doctrine is replaced with false doctrine. And soon the potential growth and fruitfulness of that new born Christian is destroyed.
If you want to grow understand these essentials. We grow best in the soil of the local church and the showers of truth that rain down on us.
Thirdly, we grow best
3. In the Sunshine of a Godly Walk 16-32
Paul begins this chapter with an exhortation of walking worthy and concludes this chapter with a detailed description of what it means to walk Godly. Read verses 1, 16-32.
Why would Paul take so much time to develop and expound upon this matter of walking godly?
Is there a connection between growing up in all things and walking worthy of our vocation? Absolutely. Every step of obedience is an exercise in growth. The more we say yes to God, the more we yield ourselves to Him; the more we are conformed to the image of His dear Son. Your obedience brings you closer in line with the likeness of Christ Jesus. As we obey the Lord and walk with Him, we are growing up unto the stature of the fullness of Christ.
There are people in this church, just like every other church, who have ceased to grow simply because they told God “no”. In the course of your growth and development, you came to a place where God ask of you something you were unwilling to give up or do.
As a result, your growth was impeded. God called you to preach, but that was more than you were willing to do. God called you to be a missionary, but that life did not offer enough. God called you to serve as a teacher, to be involved in this local assembly, but that demanded too much –too inconvenient.
God challenged you in the area of stewardship and putting Him first in your finances –but again that was too much to ask. God asked you to give up something that was more important than He was. Whatever it was –you said no and now you no longer grow.
Obedience is an essential element for Christian growth. Paul said in Romans 12:2, "do not be conformed to this world". Instead we are exhorted in Romans 8:29, “be conformed to the image of His Son.”
We are conformed as we yield. If you yield to the world –you will be conformed, shaped in the likeness of the world; left to emulate dead men. But if you yield yourself to God, you will be conformed into the image of Christ Jesus, fashioned in the likeness of our living Savior!
How do you measure up? Are you growing? Have you allowed the roots to be cut back? Are you yielding yourself to anyone or anything that is hindering your walk with God? If so, make it right.
God desires for you to grow and you grow best:
In the soil of the local church
In the showers of truth
In the sunshine of a Godly walk