Summary: Pal teaches us how God is shpaing up His Church.
“Connected: Shaping Up”
Romans 8:5-11; Eph. 4:1-16
Throughout this series we have been considering how we, as individuals, get and stay connected with God, each other, and the world in which we live. But thinking about connectedness would not be complete unless we also consider what it means for the Body of Christ – His Church – to be connected in these ways. Paul, in fact, wrote about it in his letter to the Ephesian church: “…live a life worthy of the calling you have received... in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up…” Paul teaches us how God is shaping up His church.
The Church begins shaping up by DEVELOPING TENACITY (1). “As a prisoner for the Lord then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Paul’s tenacious commitment to Jesus, led him to prison. Paul was, in fact, imprisoned in two ways: he was bound to Christ by chains of love and in custody of earthly rulers out of loyalty to the gospel. No matter what the circumstances, Paul adhered to Jesus. To be the Church God has designed us to be WE MUST ADHERE TO JESUS CHRIST. This tape adheres to my skin; it goes wherever I go and holds this microphone in place. So we must adhere to Jesus. One of the reformers said that we need to stick to Christ like a burr to a topcoat. Whatever we do, we must do it for the Lord. This is the acid test of church life. Am I doing this for the Lord? Am I saying this for the Lord? Is this what Jesus wants? Any other motive, any other reasoning, stunts upward growth. To live a life worthy of your calling, adhere to Jesus Christ.
Shaping up also involves LIVING WITH CHARITY. Paul lists four attitudes. Verse 2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Humility, gentleness, patience, and love. The shape of any church is partially dependent upon MEMBERS ATTITUDES TOWARDS EACH OTHER – how we treat each other, how we talk about each other determines whether or not we shaping and growing up. Those who walk worthy of their calling aren’t worried about feeling slighted and under-appreciated; they aren’t out to prove at any cost that they are right and others are wrong; they don’t busy themselves saying, “Our church would be so much better off without him or her. It’s people like that who destroy the church.” To be the community Christ calls us to be, every member must be willing to replace self-interest with Christ-interest. To live a life worthy of your calling, humbly and patiently bear with one another in love.
The third step in shaping up is STRIVING FOR UNITY. (4-6) “4There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Our lives are bound up with each other because they are bound up with God. God has given us unity; God has already united us through His Son and His Holy Spirit. This is what Paul addressed in chapter 2 of this letter. But UNITY WILL ONLY BE REALIZED AS WE STRIVE FOR IT (3): “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Make every effort. Literally, “Spare no effort.” The tense of the word means it is to be a continuous action. It was the wise preacher, in Proverbs, who wrote that the worst of the seven abominations against the Lord is to stir up discord within a body. In stating it a positive way the Psalmist proclaimed, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Jesus put it simply, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons (children) of God.”
Consider California’s giant redwood trees. Some of them have grown to 300 feet in height (that’s the length of a football field) – the tallest trees in the world. Yet the trees do not have an elaborate root structure with roots deep into the ground. Rather, the redwoods have fairly shallow roots but they grow together with the roots of other trees. As a result, the roots strengthen one another and protect the trees during storms. It’s a picture of the intertwining that Christ desires in His Church. So do you connect with, or disconnect from others? Do you sow seeds of peace or discord? Do you seek unity or division? It is so easy to have the right opinion but the wrong attitude, so simple to be right in the head and wrong in the heart. If we adhere to Jesus, if we are charitable, if we speak and act for Jesus, we will sow peace and live in unity. We are not walking worthy of our calling if we are busy doing and demanding our own way and ideas at the expense of unity within Christ’s body.