Summary: Discovering the importance of the whole body of believers using their God given gifts for one another.
A Church Full of Body Builders
Sometimes what we truly are in Christ gets obscured by “normal life,” bad days, imperfect people (all of us!) and low attendance (like today!). But, my dear friends, listen to these words that were written about you:
“She is the people of God created by the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles. She is the body of Christ and . . . his bride. She is the communion of those saved, forgiven, resurrected from death, and made holy. It is her nature to worship God and to be God’s missionary to the world. She is the temple of God in the process of construction and a signal of the new creation that affects all men, powers, and things. God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit create her, rule her, are present in her. [This] is recognized when the church listens to the voice of the Scriptures and of the living witness; when she believes in, and makes her confession to, the one God; and when her conduct corresponds to her high calling.” (Markus Barth, Ephesians, pp 477-478)
Pretty exciting words and descriptions of the church! We have been building up our identity with many of those themes in our series on Ephesians.
This has been a rough week:
• connecting with the pain of my brothers and sisters in Miami.
• The pain of my own lack of “living up to my high calling” (echoing Barth).
Reggie McNeal, in “The Present Future” describes the frustration that many Christians feel that the life they experience bears little resemblance to the “abundant life” they hear preached about on Sunday Morning. McNeal charges that their failure is not so much their fault as it is the fault of “church culture.” Sometimes both Pastors and the church lose their focus on what is important. Instead of measuring church by the number and popularity of their programs, he says we should ask: “What percentage of your congregants feel they grew to be more like Jesus this past year?” He continues: “What if church leaders asked each other, “How is God at work in your people?” or “Where do you see Jesus bustin’ out?” (pp. 73-74)
The “abundant life” which Jesus said is available to all people, is not found in
• higher salaries (certainly not just higher minimum wage)
• better education
• prestigious jobs (Stephen B’s brother Daniel in trouble for grand theft and drugs. Commenting on how a successful role with TV’s “The Sopranos” has no redeeming effect on Daniel, entertainment journalist Roger Friedman sneers: “So that’s the tragedy of addiction: even being on the most prestigious show on television isn’t enough to make him turn his life around. Sad.” (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,228634,00.html)
The abundant life is found in Jesus. The more he lives in us the more we reflect him and the more we have a taste of “abundance” no matter what our external life circumstances.
That is essentially what we call “spiritual maturity” or “being built up spiritually” or becoming “like Jesus” or the more exciting and personal reality of “Jesus being formed in us”
How do we get there?
TEXT: Eph 4:7-16
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
BIG IDEA: Jesus gives us gifts to be used in building each other up in Him
The church is described as many things, but in this text, the dominant image is that of a body. The church with all it parts, people, places is one body. Not just any body but HIS body.