Summary: Once we are firmly established in God’s powerful, life giving grace, we are then able to walk before others--as brothers and sisters in Christ united in our faith and in our mission.
Ephesians 4:1-16 “United in Faith and Mission”
Some people have described the Christian life as not difficult, but impossible. I think we can agree that without the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we would not be able to live in faithful obedience to God and experience the abundant life that is available to us through the cross of Jesus Christ. At the same time, it is important for us to realize that there are key truths to the Christian life that when understood and lived out allow the Spirit to move through us forcefully.
The first set of keys is centered in God’s grace. We were once dead and now we are alive. The new life that we have is a gift from God. As second key focuses on the truth that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. God is not only moving in our lives and world in ways that we do not understand and cannot comprehend. God is also moving in a manner that is beyond our greatest hopes and dreams.
The second set of keys that we will begin to look at today is based on the assumption that faith is more than merely assenting to certainly theological principles like those of the first keys. Christian faith involves living out these truths in the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in the community and world in which we live.
It has been said “Familiarity breeds contempt.” From experience, we know that this can be true. When we first met a person, we may have been attracted to their beaming smile or open personality. The discovery that they have disgusting habits, once we get beyond the smile, can where on us after a while.
One way that Christians exist together over a long period of time is simply by keeping their distance from each other. They meet for worship, and maybe enjoy a good bowl of Jell-o together, but they really don’t get close. This isn’t what the Christian church and the community of believer were meant to be, however. Christians are called to use their experience of God’s overwhelming grace and love to enable them to live as family—close family.
Sometimes when we are family, we decide that the only way to live with other people is to try to make them into the people that WE want them to be. Usually we try to make them into our image. It usually doesn’t work. Trying to change people is not truly loving them and accepting them. We must discover another way.
Don Miller in his book, Blue Like Jazz, makes the observation that it is absolutely necessary for Christians to live in community if they are to grow as Christians and experience the fullness of Christ in their lives. We express of faith and live out our faith in community.
Paul’s solution is that we live together with humility, gentleness, and patience—truly works of the Spirit.
Not only must we understand the importance of living out our faith in the community of others, we must realize that we do so as gifted individuals. We are important members of the community—each and every one of us. To live out the depth of our Christian lives is not to live on the fringes of community, but at its center as an integral part of it.
Each of us has been blessed with gifts. We have been blessed with general gifts of salvation, love, forgiveness, etc. We have also been specifically blessed with gifts and talents that are avenues for us to express our love of God and others and to serve God.
The world would have us use our gifts for just ourselves. God invites us to use the gifts with which God has blessed us for others—for the community and for the mission of the church.
We are given gifts for the benefit of the community, so that the community will grow and mature and be the mission center that God intends it to be.
God challenges us, as individuals and as a community, not to act like infants. Babies are rather self-centered—moms and dads were created for them. They are also easily distracted and don’t rally know what they want (unless they are wet or hungry).
Paul paints a picture of the community of faith as a body. It isn’t a picture of a body shaped by indulging in too many chocolate chip cookies, or a sedentary life style. It is more of a picture of a body that is athletic—built. It is built up and strengthened through the exercise of mission. Not only does it become strong through mission, the body also becomes close—knit together—through mission.
Faith is lived out together in mission. Faith that does not involve community and mission at worst is a perversion and at best is a poor imitation of what God has provided for us through the cross.