Summary: God asks us to help build His ONE church - and how we measure things can make all the difference in how the local church turns out. What measuring stick does God want us to use in making the right measurements?
(This sermon was preached at our annual “Unity” service, where we bring our English, Spanish, and Burmese churches together for one big worship service. On this occasion, we ordained one Hispanic man to the preaching ministry and another as an Elder for the Hispanic church).
OPEN: Years ago I worked in a mobile home factory making homes for people to live in (they call them manufactured housing now). The trailers were built along an “assembly line” as the trailer made it way from one station to the next. The first stage of the assembly began with the platform. On that platform, the first crew laid down carpet and linoleum. Then the platform was moved on to where carpenters built and installed the walls partitions and trusses. The next station, they put in the ceiling panels and the inside and outside walls. And then the trailer was rolled on to where I worked… I helped put insulation in the walls and ceilings.
Installing the insulation in the ceiling meant walking along the trusses (because the roof was installed later), and one day I was walking along the trusses of the roof of a trailer… and I slipped. My foot through one of the ceiling panels. My boss was furious because that meant the whole operation had to be shut down until that ceiling panel was replaced. I was trying to make up for my mistake so I volunteered to measure and cut ceiling panel replacement.
I was so proud of myself – I had brought my own tape measure with me that day. Well…not actually MY tape measure. It was the cloth tape measure my mom used to measure fabric for dresses and skirts and such. Now, for those of you who don’t understand the problem this created, cloth measuring tapes aren’t designed for construction work. They’re not accurate enough for things… like measuring ceiling panels. So when I measured and cut the replacement ceiling panel I came up… that short (I used my thumb and finger to show how close it had been).
APPLY: Now, why do I tell you that story? Because the passage in Ephesians 4 is telling us how we should help in building Christ’s church, and it’s all about using the RIGHT measurements when we build. If we don’t measure correctly, then we’re going to come up… that short. And we are going to make a mess of things.
Paul writes: “There is ONE body and ONE Spirit — just as you were called to the ONE hope that belongs to your call — ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6
There is only ONE body, and Paul is saying (because there is only one body) we need to be very careful about HOW we measure things. So… what is the right way to measure for that ONE body?
Well... Paul tells us this: “(I) urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3
Now, that seems pretty simple doesn’t it? Just be nice to each other.
But there’s one phrase in that passage that caught my attention - “with all humility.” What’s that all about?
ILLUS: (I took out my metal tape measure and asked a young man from the congregation to come stand beside me. With the help of another person we measured how tall he was – 67 inches tall. Then I had them measure how tall I was – 71 inches).
Now I’m taller than this young man aren’t I? I’m 71 inches tall, and he’s 67 inches. I can literally “look down” on him can’t I? Now, let’s say I’m preaching to a congregation where EVERYBODY’S shorter than I am. Then I could literally look down on everybody at church.
And that’s the danger.
You see – when we became Christians we wanted to please God and we tried hard to live in such a way that we knew would honor Him. We did our best to avoid sinning and sinful situations. We worked at being moral and righteous and holy, because we knew that’s what pleases God. But the danger is that we may get to the point where we think we have arrived. We can start thinking that we’re better at being righteous than others are. And when that happens we can begin to try to measure everyone else by… “ME.” And, you do realize that there are people in churches across the nation who do just that - they measure EVERYONE else by their standards. They compare others with themselves. Because … “Hey, I’m pretty good stuff! I’m better than YOU are.”