February 12, 2017

Grow Up! - Part Two

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


Grow Up!-Part Two

Ephesians 4:14-16
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith

Did you enjoy the Super Bowl?

If you persevered with the game after what appeared to be a blow-out, you enjoyed one of the most amazing football games in recent memory. Love or dislike the Patriots, you can't deny that the team did what they needed to do to pull off a comeback for the ages. Persistence, strategy, execution, teamwork, game plan, focus, effort and personal responsibility all contributed to the team's success. And the absence of these intangibles by the Falcons in the fourth quarter also all contributed to that teamÕs defeat.

The church is no different. We know Jesus will build His church. And we know His church will win in the end. However, that does not mean that each local church is doing well, glorifying God and creating a culture that is productive and edifying.

According to the Scriptures, the local church also needs to likewise understand and execute persistence, strategy, execution, teamwork, a game plan, focus, effort and personal responsibility. The Holy Spirit will provide all the energy and direction we need. Through the Bible, our Head Coach has given to us everything we need to know to be successful. Yet when we ignore His instructions through either ignorance or willful rebellion, we create a culture that is spiritually useless at best or outright toxic at worse. We will not be happy and our Lord will not be pleased.

As we have been learning over the past two months, Paul has given God's specific instructions to the church when he began his points of Christian application in chapter 4. The goal is a church with Christlike maturity.

We learned of the need to be unified - why and how to do it. We learned of the need to use our spiritual gifts to build up the body. We learned of the need for our pastors to teach God's Word to move Christians toward spiritual maturity so they may be equipped to serve Christ and personally reject the false teachers that oppose Him.

Last week we had a rather lengthy discussion on the false teachers that are out there that prey on the spiritually naive, or as Paul put it, the spiritually jellyfish without any theological convictions that jump from bad doctrine to bad doctrine like a jellyfish is driven on the ocean's surface by whatever wind or wave that comes its way.

Therefore the church given pastor-teachers (verse 11). They help the church to mature spiritually (verses 12-13). And a spiritual mature church will be able to see through the cunning, deceptive and vile tactics of the false teachers (verse 14).

Now as we move to the new material, by way of contrast to the false teachers (verse 14), the church should therefore place themselves under true teachers (verse 15), those who "speak the truth in love." In other words, pastors of the church are to be specific people commissioned by God to care about your spiritual progress (that's the love) and teach you God's Word (that's the truth). And this is a necessary component so the church may grow up and be spiritually mature.

Let's not miss the contrast Paul established between the false teacher and true teachers. It's false doctrine from man verses true doctrine from Scripture. It's crafty scheming verse loving concern. It's using people to build up their own kingdom motivated by selfishness (wanting your money, allegiance, etc.) verses serving people to build up God's kingdom in love.

Allow me to be as succinct as possible. True teachers from God present God's Word without compromise, apology, omission or alterations. And they bring it forth not to pad their pockets, promote their name or provide a personally satisfying endeavor.

True Bible teachers care only for God's glory seen by the equipping of God's people toward greater Christlikeness and spiritual usefulness. They are content with our King getting all the honor and strive under His watchful eyes to use His truth in all their instruction as they humbly proclaim it and personally live accountable to it.

True Bible teachers care less about the latest church fads, knee-jerk issues, individuals that seek to derail them, the so-called "success" of their ministry in the eyes of man, their popularity in the church or giving people always what their "felt needs" dictate. As an ambassador of Christ, they are on a divine commission to teach the truth accurately and proclaim it, defend it and live it out.

A number of years ago I was given a little article written a long time ago by a man named Floyd Shafer. Every now and then I review it because I believe it's more direct than anything I have ever read to emphasize my calling as a minister of the Word of God. It's a little longer than a quote I might normally cite in a sermon, but definitely worth reading for your sake and mine.

"Make him a minister of the Word! Fling him into his office, tear the office sign from the door and nail on the sign: 'Study.' Take him off the mailing list, lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts, broken hearts, the flippant lives of a superficial flock, and the Holy God. Force him to be the one man in our [overindulgent] communities who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Let him come out only when he is bruised and beaten into being a blessing. Set a time clock on him that will imprison him with thought and writing about God for 40 hours a week. Shut his [talkative] mouth forever spouting 'remarks' and stop his tongue always tripping lightly over everything nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dare break silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley, fire him from the PTA and cancel his country club membership; burn his eyes with weary study, wreck his emotional poise with worry for God, and make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk before God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone, burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets, refuse his glad hand, and put water in the gas tank of his community buggy. Give him a Bible and tie him in his pulpit and make him preach the Word of the living God. Test him, quiz him and examine him; humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine, and shame him for his glib comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist, scorn his insipid morality, refuse his supine intelligence, and compel him to be a minister of the Word. If he [is fond] on being pleasing, demand that he please God and not man. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." When at long last, he dares [to enter] the pulpit, ask him if he has a Word from God; if he does not, then dismiss him and tell him you can read the morning paper, digest the television commentaries, think through the day's superficial problems, manage the community's myriad drives, and bless assorted baked potatoes and green beans [endlessly] better than he can. Command him not to come back until he has read and re-read, written and re-written, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, "Thus saith the Lord." And when he is burned out by the flaming Word that coursed through him, when he is consumed at last by the fiery Grace blazing through him, and when he who was privileged to translate the truth of God to man is finally translated from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently, blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly, place a two-edged sword on his coffin and raise a tune triumphant, for he was a brave soldier of the Word and [before his death] he had become a spokesman for his God."

Pastors (verse 11) are to equip the church (verse 12) by speaking the truth (verse 15) - God's Word. And as pastors proclaim the truth, they do it with love (verse 15). That means a genuine concern for each individual person's spiritual progress by pouring their lives into the ministry. It's being gentle with the truth, proclaiming it in meekness and humility, but also knowing that love needs at times to be tough as well. They do it with love and they do it in love, knowing that shepherding the sheep according to Scripture (even if the sheep don't want it or understand it) is the most loving thing they can do in their service to God and to God's people.

This is "truth and love." Jesus spoke in 'truth and love" without switching from one to the other. He was all truth and all love all the time. Pastors, and all Christian for that matter must likewise do the same.

In speaking generally of the church, I came across the words of John Stott this week.

"Thank God there are those in the contemporary church who are determined at all costs to defend and uphold God's revealed truth. But sometimes they are conspicuously lacking in love. When they think they smell heresy, their nose begins to twitch, their muscles ripple, and the light of battle enters their eye. They seem to enjoy nothing more than a fight. Others make the opposite mistake. They are determined at all costs to maintain and exhibit brotherly love, but in order to do so are prepared even to sacrifice the central truths of revelation. Both these tendencies are unbalanced and unbiblical. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. The apostle calls us to hold the two together, which should not be difficult for Spirit-filled believers, since the Holy Spirit is Himself "the Spirit of truth," and his first fruit is "love." There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity' (Ephesians, p. 172).

And why should pastors in particular speak the truth in love? So that, verse 15, the pastors' egos will not be built up, but rather the body of Christ may grow up and become more like their Head who is Jesus Christ. That's the goal and in eternity that's all that will matter.

I received an encouraging email this past week from a person in this church that both seems to understand this mission and is growing as a result of it. Listen carefully to his choice of words.

"I can't stress the positive impact Grace Church has had on my spiritual growth in the short time that I've been attending. I am becoming closer with God each day. This has been because of the countless fellowship opportunities, Sunday messages, worship, Wednesday prayer meetings, small group Bible studies, recent ministry opportunity, and solid reading recommendations. At the root of all these opportunities is God's Word, which has helped me get to know who He is [I] realize how [blessed] I am to have been brought to Grace. So above all, thank you for preaching God's word, it has created a special church and brought me closer to God."

Now in verse 16, it appears Paul has received some anatomy and physiology lessons from the "beloved physician" (Col. 4:4), his good friend and missionary companion, Dr. Luke. Still on the metaphor of comparing the church to a human body, Paul gets more specific as he closes out this section in chapter 4 by describing and prescribing a mature church. Let's break down verse 16.

The human body, as you know, is an amazing machine. Just a novice study of how the muscles work their specific function and how the eye sees depth and color and how the many systems fulfill a specific responsibility blows our mind. The ear, the brain, the heart, the nose, the mouth are amazing. It's incredible to think of this body with the ability to heal and reproduce itself. How anyone can come to the most basic understanding of the workings of the human body and say we evolved defines common sense and is beyond my imagination.

So again, as he has done in this chapter, Paul brings us back in verse 16 to contemplate the human body. He mentions in verse 16 how the human body is properly "fitted and held together" by ligaments in every joint. We know that! He mentions in verse 16 how the human body functions because of "the proper working of each individual part." We know that too! And he mentions in verse 16 how the human body grows and is built up in unity. We know that as well!

So how does all this apply to the church? As Paul will begin a new section in verse 17, we can say that verse 16 summarizes all that he covered in verses 1-15. The goal is that the church (or we can say the goal of Grace Bible Church) is what? Answer: spiritual maturity (verse 13). What is spiritual maturity? Answer: Christlikeness, the "fullness of Christ" (verse 13). That is also the same as verse 16 in saying that the church is to "build up itself in love." Without Christlikeness there is no love!

How is the church going to grow into the love of Christ? Answer: They will be given pastors who preach God's Word in and with truth and love (verse 15). That's the rocket fuel so we might all reject false doctrine (verse 14) and (verse 15) grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, [namely] Christ.

Evidence of that mature church will be seen in all its members "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (verse 3). And unity will primarily be accomplished not through trying harder, but when we are filled with the Holy Spirit who produces in us the spiritual fruit of "humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love" (verse 2).

And when the church is filled with God's grace, each member will realize that he or she is an individual part in the body (verse 7). And each member will discover, develop, be thankful for and properly use his or her spiritual gifts. The diversity of the various gifts will be celebrated, but the goal of all the gifts will be to unify and build up the body as each body part remains in submission to, receives sustenance from and desires to glorify the Head, Jesus Christ Himself who directs and holds the whole body together (verse 16). After all, all of this is only "walking in a manner worthy of [our] calling" (verse 1).

According to Scripture, that is what a God-honoring, mature church looks like.

As the human body is built up, Christ is building His church and we are blessed to be used in the process. As the human body has ligaments that connect bone to bone, we are all directly connected to and dependent on one another. As the human body depends on receiving instructions from the brain, we too depend on Jesus Christ (our Head) for our proper functioning. And as the human body is unified in its diversity, we as the church celebrate our diversity only as long as it contributes to our unity.

May we want what God wants for His church. May we cling to Christ and follow His instruction to get us there. May we continue to grow in Christlike, loving maturity. And may we celebrate the amazing work He has done in our midst and joyfully anticipate what He will do for us in the future.

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