Summary: To beat discouragement and defeat, learn the secret of our co-ownership in Christ, share the secret, and live the secret in our relationships with each other.
Three preachers were on a non-productive fishing trip when they began to discuss various topics to pass the time. One preacher said he thought it would be nice if they confessed their biggest sins to each other and then prayed for each other. They all agreed, and the first preacher said that his biggest sin was that he liked to sit at the beach now and then and watch pretty women stroll by.
The second preacher confessed that his biggest sin was that he went to the horse racing track every so often and put a small bet on a horse.
Turning to the third preacher, they asked, “Brother, what is your biggest sin?”
With a grin, he said, “My biggest sin is gossiping, and I can’t wait to get out of here!” (Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky)
Some secrets are never meant to be told.
Did you know God has a secret? It’s a secret He kept hidden for centuries, but now He wants everybody to know it. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Ephesians 3, Ephesians 3, where God reveals His secret.
Ephesians 3:1-2 “For this reason” [i.e., because we are all one nation, one body, and one building (Eph. 2:11-22)] “I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles – assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you… (ESV)
It’s like Paul interrupts his thought and says, “Surely, you know what I’m all about. Surely, you know that I’m responsible to manage what God has so freely given to me for your benefit. Surely, you know the secret God revealed to me.
Ephesians 3:3-5 …how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. (ESV)
For centuries, God had a secret, which He has only now revealed to his apostles and prophets. Do you know what that secret (or mystery) is?
Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (ESV)
We Gentile believers in Jesus, along with ALL the Jewish believers in Jesus, share together in ALL of the promises of God. We ALL have the same wonderful benefits in Christ. We are “FELLOW heirs”, “members of the SAME body”, and “PARTAKERS of the promise”. Or more literally, we are heirs TOGETHER, members TOGETHER, and partakers TOGETHER.
No one class of believers is more privileged than the other. We ALL share ownership in Christ’s Kingdom. It’s not just that the Gentiles are “welcome” in the Kingdom. That was no secret. It’s that we are co-owners of that Kingdom. Now, that was a revolutionary concept.
There is a church in Raleigh, North Carolina, that has tried to apply this concept to the way they do church. The name of the church is Vintage21, and they have replaced the concept of “membership” for what they believe is a more appropriate description for the body of Christ: ownership.
Gyms and clubs have members. Vintage21 contends that these memberships are “painless to obtain and even easier to discard.” Ownership, on the other hand, communicates the idea that as “co-heirs” of the kingdom we all possess a piece of the church. Vintage21 wants God’s people to feel responsibility for the church, rather than just coming to services and taking off.
They hope to get rid of a consumer mindset and move into an investor's outlook. “An owner makes the organization happen,” Vintage21 explains. “Jesus wants his followers to make the church happen—to go out and love people, to nurture each other, and to serve with your whole life. Ownership is a higher call than membership.” (Leadership journal, Fall, 2007, p. 14)
And that’s especially true in times of trouble. That’s especially true during times of discouragement, because if we see ourselves simply as recipients of services, then when times get tough, we cut and run. But if we see ourselves as responsible co-owners of God’s business, then we do what’s necessary to fix the problems.
So if we want to make it through the tough times together, then we must…
LEARN THE SECRET.
We must understand the mystery that we are co-owners together of Christ’s kingdom. We must know in our hearts that we are in this thing called “the church” together, all of us equally responsible and privileged to make it work.
When Paul wrote these words, the early church was in a time of persecution. Paul, their leader, was in prison, and the believers were discouraged. I’m sure many of them thought about quitting.