Summary: The marks of a mature Christian
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. Ephesians 4:14-16 (NRSV)
A recurrent and prevailing theme in Paul’s theology is spiritual maturity. In our text Paul makes it clear that maturity isn’t the goal, but maturity is the strength that will allow us to accomplish the goal of a church built and operating on love.
An elderly nun ran out of gas on the seedier side of town. She found that she didn’t have a gas can, but there was a hospital bedpan in the back seat. So she walked to the nearest gas station, filled the bedpan and walked slowly back to her car. As the nun carefully poured the gas into the tank two slightly inebriated atheists happened to pass by. One of them saw what the nun was doing and poked the other: Hey, hold on, I gotta see this; if that car starts I’m joinin’ the church! It is always a good thing to stop and check to see if what you’re built for is what you’re running on.
This morning I’d like for us to do that. The church was constructed by Christ to run on love, mature love. In our text Paul gives us four marks of a mature believer. Let’s all check our tanks…
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. Ephesians 4:14 (NRSV)
Paul knew that good people are always targets for those who want something and don’t have much of a conscience when it comes to how they achieve their goals.
Stability in the life of a Christian is something that develops because the believer takes the time and patience to become a disciple. And it doesn’t happen overnight, but rather over time, and with attention given to God’s Word. Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NRSV)
2. Speaking Truth in Love
But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, Ephesians 4:15 (NRSV)
Jesus Christ is our standard for how we act. Everywhere you look in the Scriptures Jesus told people the truth, and it was always because he loved.
It is one maddening trait we humans have that we’d rather see a train run over a friend than take the risk that in speaking truth we might hurt feelings. It’s true that some people are like a pit bull charging through a china shop when it comes to interpersonal relationships. But that still does not get us off the hook about telling the truth. Truth without love is brutality so we must be sensitive and caring when we talk to each other, but love without truth doesn’t exist!
from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. Ephesians 4:16 (NRSV)
A physical body is inter-dependant on the various parts. My stomach would have a tough time digesting food and sending nutrition through the bloodstream if my hands and arms decided to go on strike. If my eyes go on vacation I’m going to have a hard time not bumping into things.
The Body of Christ isn’t any different. We need each other, and cooperation in Christ’s family enables us to be missional. This is what Paul calls being “knit” together. This is the same concept we’ve been talking about the past three weeks. Chaos is brokenness; Christ, our peace heals us, knits us back together.
Why is this so vital?
All of what the apostle Paul wrote promotes the growth of the Body of Christ. Imagine what happens when you have stable, mature Christian believers refusing to settle for less than truth with each other, and cooperating with everything they’ve got in the mission of the church to share the love of Jesus. Just imagine.
The church was designed to run on the fuel of love. With the stability of truth and love cooperating we can function in our mission to this community to bring about peace, mercy and justice in the name of Christ. We can do that together.