Ephesians 4:1-16 New International Version (NIV)
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
“the members of a Presbyterian church in Waterloo, Iowa, have constructed a new church building out of a single large rock. Stone was scarce, and while looking about for a possible quarry their attention was called to this huge boulder which stood in the middle of a plain about eight miles from the town. This mass of rock was like an island in the midst of a vast sea. About eight feet of it projected above ground. The work of excavating this gigantic boulder was at once begun. When exposed to view, it was found to be twenty-eight feet high, thirty feet long, and twenty feet wide. On this monolith the workmen began their labors with drill, hammer, and dynamite, and the enormous rock was converted into building-stones, which were removed to the town and built into a beautiful church.”
What a beautiful metaphor for this scripture
. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
When you gaze around the church this morning just sneaking a look at those people around you might notice we are all different but the amazing thing is we have all been hewn from the same rock – we are the body of Christ together and every stone is important.
What is it that holds Christians together?
We have been hewn from the same rock!
When Jesus Christ died and was buried and rose again 2000 years ago some words he had said echoed through the corridors of history down through the ages to this day.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.
What defines you as people whether you are Christian or not will deeply depend on your resonse to these words of Jesus. As jesus said earlier that day: ” 3Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
When you are born again you become part of the Kingdom of God and are no longer of the world – you are in it but not of it.
What is the church?
It is the people who have been hewn from the same rock.
It is the people who have chosen to be born again and pick up their cross and follow Jesus.
As we read in Ephesians this morning. 4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
I think in the end we must define the church of jesus as those who live a life worthy of the calling they have received.
Paul begins by saying as a prisoner for the Lord, then -------------------- His belonging to the church had ended up in prison. Why because he was living a life worthy of the calling he had received.
The call of Apostleship was strong on Paul’s life and expressing that call often ended up in trouble. The church is those who are attempting to live a life worthy of the calling they have received.
Systems and countries change, but neither Christ nor the Gospel nor the Great Commission will ever change!
Paul said 4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Friends we belong to the same body of Christ – Paul urges us – from prison to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. Paul’s life was one of placing as absolute urgency living the life Christ requires him to live. That means sharing great fellowship with the body – Like there is great value in meeting together:- 1 Thessalonians
10:25 not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near. ©NET
The first thing we do as Christians – I believe is hang out together in grace with other believers. When we do remarkable things happen 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his 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 people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of 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.
Sometimes I meet people, and often they have been the most amazing Christians who decide to hang out somewhere else on the Lord’s day – but you see it stunts the process.
14 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.
Heather and I used to have a commercial glasshouse. One of the things you had to do every year was tie a piece of string around the tomato and to wires running above it. Now take the bit of string away and the tomatoes are lying on the floor many will be ruined. Can’t you just hear the bit of string saying – I’m not turning up today I am not that important – but the string is important – you are important you just might be supporting the most important plant in the kingdom without realising it.
Holocaust activist and Nazi Germany survivor, Corrie ten Boom, once wrote “Be united with other Christians. A wall with loose bricks is not good. The bricks must be cemented together.” Weak things united become strong but they must be united in love, gentleness, humility, patience, and love. the film 127 Hours. It's the story of Aron Ralston, an adventurer from Indiana who got trapped in a canyon in Utah when a falling rock trapped his arm. Nobody knew where Aron was, and he waited 127 hours with his dying arm trapped behind an unmovable rock. In the end there was only one solution. With a dull knife, Aron cut off his own arm. It was the only way to survive.
Aaron can get along without his right arm, but he would surely be glad if there was a way for him to get it back. That's how it is with the church. One writer, George Philip, speaks about "amputated saints" severed from the body—"Detached members belonging nowhere, have neither the capacity to grow nor the opportunity to serve." Have you committed yourself as a member of a local church? If not, why not? Why do you stay detached? Why would you think that staying detached is something Christ wants you to do?
The fourth commandment hasn’t changed remember the sabbath and keep it holy.
First point about being the church is the vitalness of being united to other christians.
But there is a purpose in being together – worship and flowing out of worship 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his 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.
2.Church is an equipping centre. Christians are to be enabled to be what Christ wants them to be. Last year in a small church in India I interviewed a former hindu man who gave his life to Christ. He told me how, when he gave his life to jesus his family persecuted him. I could see that it was the life of the local church that sustained him and equipped him to be a strong Christian. In the end his family stopped persecuting him because they could see the difference that Jesus was making.
Churches that equip and enable people to become disciples of jesus are full of life and ekk out the spirit of God. We see that in the early church wher in Acts chapter 2 we read The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
There is something vital and exciting happening here – and there are no tomatoes lying on the ground – the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Some of the principles that are self evident are in the church in Iran
Growth Amid Persecution
The Iranian revolution of 1979 established a hard-line Islamic regime. Over the next two decades, Christians faced increasing opposition and persecution: All missionaries were kicked out, evangelism was outlawed, Bibles in Persian were banned and soon became scarce, and several pastors were killed.
Despite continued hostility from the late 1970s until now, Iranians have become the Muslim people most open to the gospel in the Middle East.
How did this happen? Two factors have contributed to this openness. First, violence in the name of Islam has caused widespread disillusionment with the regime and led many Iranians to question their beliefs. Second, many Iranian Christians have continued to boldly and faithfully tell others about Christ, in the face of persecution.
As a result, more Iranians have become Christians in the last 20 years than in the previous 13 centuries put together since Islam came to Iran. In 1979, there were an estimated 500 Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today, there are hundreds of thousands—some say more than 1 million. Whatever the exact number, many Iranians are turning to Jesus as Lord and Savior.
More Iranians have become Christians in the last 20 years than in the previous 13 centuries put together.
In fact, last year the mission research organization Operation World named Iran as having the fastest-growing evangelical church in the world. According to the same organization, the second-fastest growing church is in Afghanistan—and Afghans are being reached in part by Iranians, since their languages are similar.
A Changed Lives
The testimonies of Iranian men and women who’ve come to Christ are powerful.
Kamran was a violent man who used to sell drugs and weapons. One day, a friend gave him a New Testament. After reading for five consecutive days, Kamran gave his life to Jesus. When his family and friends saw his transformed life over the ensuing months, many of them also came to faith. A church now meets in Kamran’s house.
Two things happened – Outside conditions produced disillusionment – The same thing is happening in New Zealand as we try to figure why the rugby union are launching into a moral debate with no moral compass – this and other intimidatory tactics will produce a wonderful opportunity for the church.
Secondly Wittnesing. In a highly secularised and propaganda based society like we are living in the gospel becomes very very powerful When the church begins to equip its people to witness in this new environment disciples will inevitably tumble into the Kingdom and the church.
The third point is unity. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Un
Unity is so important in the body of Christ. But not just lip service unity. Deep unity caused by serving Christ together. When you play a rugby game a great closeness grows between the players. I was interested at the Waikaia reunion last year or when I meet friends from the Lumsden Balfour teams I used to play in what closeness still exists because we did the hard yards on the rugby field together.
But this is nothing like the deep unity and mutual understanding I have with those I have been on mission together with. When you have been risking all for Christ a special bond grows together which is over and beyond social connections and Sport.
I remember well taking van loads of brothers and sisters down to the Invercargill prison and the deep fellowship that rose between us as result of those trips,
In his book The Pursuit of God, author A.W. Tozer wrote the following:
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
Christ is the head of the church. The church belongs to Christ, not because we've decided to make him the Head, but because he is the Head and he's decided to make us the body. Christ has gathered us together. We are his people. The body serves at the direction of the head. Our calling is to be responsive to him.