Summary: In order to fulfill Christ's command to share the gospel and build disciples, Christians must be connected with one another.

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LAST WEEK we examined Ephesians 2:21-22 “in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

The theme of this passage and last Sunday’s sermon was Spiritual Unity. Today we will study Ephesians 4:15-16 as we see this theme of unity continuing through Ephesians.

Eph 4:15-16 “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, ESV)

Growing closer to Christ does not happen alone.

We need one another. In his book on the importance of relationships, Paul Tripp emphasizes this importance:

“What happens in the messiness of relationships is that our hearts are revealed, our weaknesses are exposed, and we start coming to the end ourselves. Only when this happens do we reach out for the help God alone can provide.” (Paul Tripp, Relationships, a Mess Worth Making, 12).

For CENTURIES, the early church practiced ASCETICISM, the idea that you draw closer to GOD through isolation, fasting, and poverty.

This movement was bringing great harm to the church, and would have ruined true Christianity if it had not changed.

Marshall Shelley writes.....

Pachomius was an Egyptian soldier won to Christ by the kindness of Christians in Thebes. After his release from the military around A.D. 315, he was baptized. Serious about his new faith and determined to grow, Pachomius became a disciple of Palamon, an ascetic who taught him the self-denial and solitary life of a religious hermit.

In early Christianity, the model of devotion was the recluse, dedicated to resisting the corruption of society. These hermits wandered the desert alone-fasting, praying, and having visions. Many went to extremes: eating nothing but grass, living in trees, or refusing to wash.

But Pachimoius began to question the methods and lifestyle of his mentors.

How can you learn to love if no one else is around?

How can you learn humility living alone?

How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation?

How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?

In short, he concluded, developing spiritual fruit requires being around people-ordinary, ornery people. "To save souls," he said, "you must bring them together."

So Pachomius began an ascetic koinonia, where holiness was developed not in isolation but in community. Instead of each person seeking God in his own way, with the dangers of idleness and eccentricity, Pachomius established a common life based on worship, work, and discipline.

In community with flawed, demanding, sometimes disagreeable people, followers of Pachomius learned to take hurt rather than give it. They discovered that disagreements and opposition provide the opportunity to redeem life situations and experience God's grace. Thus began genuine monastic life.

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