February 6, 2017

Grow Up! - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Ephesians Scripture: Ephesians 4:14–16


Grow Up! - Part One

Ephesians 4:14-16
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith

It's a busy day today. Before I take you to the new material from Ephesians, permit me to take a few minutes so you can see the big picture, the outline, the overview, of what we have been covering in chapter 4 of this letter. I want you to notice how Paul's thoughts are very organized and sequential.

First, God's Word taught us of the need to be unified in our church and in our homes. We do that because such an environment represents the order and oneness of God (verses 4-6). As He is one, therefore as His people, we should be one with Him and each other. We should be diligent to preserve this unity (verse 3) and we do that through God's Spirit, producing in us spiritual fruit such as (verse 2) humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love.

As you know I challenged all of you to examine your own lives by asking someone who knows you well if they believe your demonstrate these traits. Remember, you have nothing to lose except your pride!

Then in verses 7-10 we learned that God wants unity, but He wants our unity to be in the celebration of our diversity. Specifically, each of us as Christians has been given a unique blend of spiritual gifts that we are expected to use to serve in the church. So the church, also known as the body of Christ is to be unified just like a human body. And in a similar way, its unity is seen in all the individual body parts working in harmony with each other, receiving their marching orders from the Head which in this case is Jesus Christ.

Again, I challenged all of you to be obedient to Scripture and discover your gifts and use them in some way through the formal and informal ministries here at Grace.

Then two weeks ago we learned in verse 11 that God has given the church pastor-teachers (verse 11) to equip you, to help you be the Christian and do the work that God has entrusted to your care (verse 12). The pastors here at Grace (and we have 9 of them - 4 staff and 5 lay) are in place to shepherd you so that you might (verse 13) promote unity, contribute to the building up of the body in using your gifts and mature in your faith.

As pastors, we seek to always do that through the Word of God as we are called to bring it to you by personal example and verbal instruction. Obviously there are many venues where that takes place, but the primary one we all participate in is the pulpit ministry here at Grace.

So as I gave you application points earlier, allow me to present another one. How well do you do in attending Sunday mornings so you can be here, paying attending to the Word of God when it is taught and then putting what you hear into practice?

I've told other leaders in the past that it does not matter how much we prepare for a lesson if the people in attendance and not receiving it as good students of the Word. We need some good Bible teachers at this church, but we all need to know how to be good Bible listeners!

I know time is limited, but let me give you a few examples. Here are some stereotypes of poor students of the Bible that I created. Yet they are ones that no doubt every pastor in the world has experienced.

First there is "Sentimental Sally." Sally is here for the sentimental experience of wanting to "feel good." She cares not for the truth of Scripture. She only wants to hear what is aligned with her feelings. You preach the Word, but against her emotions, especially if it brings conviction, and she'll be sure to let you know how much smarter she is than the Bible.

Then there is "Movie-Going Mack." Mack is here for the show. Stretched out on his imaginary recliner, he's excited about the funny illustrations, intriguing word studies, exegetical complexities and polished rhetorical skills. He likes to listen, but totally misses the point in his quest to be entertained on how to hear and apply God's Word to His life.

"Religious Rachel" is only here out of obligation. She already made up her mind that she has no desire to intently pay attention, moreover put anything she hears into practice. She's here out of duty. She'd rather be almost anywhere else, but she's driven by a low grade sense of guilt that gets her to check in every Sunday to appease God and fulfill her religious obligation.

"Sleepy Stan" oftentimes comes only to please his wife. He stays up late on Saturday night and is totally bored to death with the whole church experience. He's normally a nice guy, but not long after introduction he just can't keep his eyes open any longer. He comes to life after a few elbow bumps from his kids, but for the rest of the sermon his mind is on the upcoming yardwork and football games he plans to watch after church

Finally meet "Referee Ron." Ron is not here to humbly sit under the Word and grow spiritually because Ron thinks it is his calling in life to correct everything he hears. Rarely if ever he comments about how he enjoyed the sermon or how God used the message in his life. He's just sitting there, whistle in his mouth looking for the smallest infractions. And he'll be quick to blow it at any historical inconsistency, mispronounced word or dangling participle.

Here's an example I from an email just received. "Occasionally I click on the sermons from different churches I once served in. I did notice several mistakes in your sermon runs, but I do need to mention on this one. U made a big mistake. Donald John Trump is the 45 President of the United States, not the 44." That's it! There was nothing about, "Thanks for making these sermons available for free" or "I'm learning a lot" or "God is using you" or "Appreciate your work."

Well then, how about a good example? Let me introduce you to "Blessed Betty." Betty is excited to be coming to church and arrives prepared physically and spiritually to receive God's Word. She listens intently, takes some notes and asks the Lord how she can specifically apply His Word to her life. She'll talk about the application of the sermon to others in the church. She shares her thoughts if she disagrees with the interpretation or is not sure about something that was said (and that is okay!), but she mainly seeks to encourage the pastors in their work. She is here on Sunday morning to personally learn God's Word because she wants to grow in Christ. Thankfully we have many, many, many "Blessed Bettys" here at this church!

So pastors are here to teach you through God's Word. And another responsibility pastors have, as we finally go to our new material in verses 14-16, is that there are here to help you stay spiritually strong so you can mature in Christ.

Part of that is protecting the church from spiritual wolves and part of that is to train you to make personal decisions that enable you as a sheep to feed yourself on what is good and have the discernment to reject what is bad.

Look with me at verse 14. "As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming."

So in contrast with verse 13 where God calls us to be mature men and women in Christ, the point is made in verse 14 that we should no longer be "children" in Christ.

What we are talking about is spiritual maturity. There is nothing wrong with being a spiritual child when you first come to Christ. It's okay to be fed spiritual milk and have someone assist you with your first spiritual steps. There is a problem if you stay a spiritual child.

Paul encountered this problem with the immature Corinthian church. To them he said, "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food [that's expected - they were new believers. Yet here is the problem years later]; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men" (1 Cor. 3:1-3)? How were the Corinthians acting like spiritual babies? There was jealousy and strife in the church.

And how were the Ephesians in our passage acting like spiritual babies? They were falling for every huckster, latest fad and bad doctrine that came down the spiritual pike. In verse 14 that Paul compared them to a jellyfish (or piece of driftwood), tossed around by the waves and the wind of the sea. We are talking about no backbone. No direction. No ability to tell the difference between good and false doctrine. No understanding of how to evaluate the spiritually helpful from the spiritually damaging. They were just driven by whatever influence came their way.

Paul says in verse 14 that people came to them using "trickery" (a term in the day used for throwing dice - used for dishonesty and manipulation, like using loaded dice). He says these false teachers were "crafty." Dressing up error and making it look like truth. He says they were "deceitful [in their] scheming." Words ascribed in the Bible to Satan.

We are talking about false teachers, whether they know it or not, that are used by the Devil (cf. Eph. 6:11) to deceive the church by teaching things that are contrary to Scripture (good doctrine/theology) in an effort to leads God's people astray.

And my friends, I've got news for you. These false teachers are still around, more accessible than ever, and will only increase as we see the Lord's return drawing near.

You ask, how do I avoid their error? Very simple. You do what the verses say before and after verse 14. You mature in the faith (verse 13) and you grow in the faith (verse 15). Then you will develop settled convictions based upon a firm understanding of God's Word. Then by the sound mind that God provides, you are able to evaluate all that comes across your path. You, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "Examine everything carefully; [and] hold fast to that which is good."

You ask, can you provide some specific examples of false teaching? I am not going to do that. One, because Paul did not do that with the Ephesians and two, because you are best served not with a checklist, but rather the tools so you can evaluate these matters for yourself. So let me provide some general guidelines with Bible verses.

The Godliness Test: 1 Timothy 6:3, "If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness." Ask yourself, does this belief promote godliness? Is reading this particular Christian book going to make me more godly? I've seen people get caught up in so many so-called spiritual pursuits that were nothing more than a useless obsession that pulled them away from their genuine devotion to Christ and primary desire to be like Him (cf. 1 Sa.12:21).

The Unity Test: 1 Timothy 6:4, "He is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions." Does what you believe seek to edify the church because it comes directly from Scripture or does conversation regarding that subject cause needless division, controversy and disputes over words among other believers?

The Heavenward Test: Colossians 3:2, "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." Will that Christian passion of yours really matter for an eternity in heaven? That belief that you are promoting, those YouTube videos that you are continually watching - will they carry any spiritual weight ten thousand years from now or will they all be seen as a big waste of time?

The Legacy Test: Ecclesiastes 1:9, "There is nothing new under the sun." If someone is bringing to you a Christian doctrine or thought that supposedly has been missed by everyone in the first 2,000 years of church history, be very wary.

The Spiritual Test: 1 Corinthians 2:14, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." If there is a new bestseller and it's flying off the shelves at Walmart, loved by those who do not even profess Christ, there are very good chances it's not of the Lord.

The Submission Test: Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account." If there is a worldwide craving for a certain book or a certain author and we do not carry those specific materials in our bookstore, there is a very good reason for it.

The Scriptural Test: And lastly and most important, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." Bottom line, does what you are hearing or reading line-up with the authoritative and sufficient teaching in the Bible?

Don't be a jellyfish! First John 4:1, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

So we are talking about spiritual maturity. Stability in your faith. The ability to discern for yourself. Grounded in the truth of God's Word and not like a jellyfish that gets tossed in various directions on the ocean surface based upon the latest spiritual wave or wind that comes its way.

We'll need to break for the Lord's Table and finish up the remaining two verses next week.

other sermons in this series

Jul 30


Three Final Thoughts

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Ephesians 6:18–24 Series: Ephesians

Jul 16


The Believer's Spiritual Armour - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Ephesians 6:14–17 Series: Ephesians

Jul 9


The Believer's Spiritual Armour - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Ephesians 6:10–13 Series: Ephesians