Summary: Discover the areas and ways the church can mature
We’re in our two-week study of what we believe about the church. Last week, we looked at three essentials of the church, the make-up, the miracle and the mission of the church. This morning, we’ll be looking at the maturation of the church.
This week, a lady and her son moved into our neighborhood. I asked if she went to church. She said she grew up in a Catholic Church, but she couldn’t handle the teaching on sin anymore. She always felt condemned by the Catholic Church. Most people avoid church because their experience with churches has been negative.
I don’t believe that Jesus intended for His church to be a condemning community. If we read the Bible, we would discover that the church, the gathering of believers, is to be a winsome and healing community. After all, Jesus came to save, not to condemn.
There are many other areas that the church falls short of Jesus’ intentions. I’m not criticizing the church; I’m part of the problem and part of the solution. Billy Graham has said, "By all means look for the perfect church, and when you find it, join it. But remember, when you join it, it ceases to be perfect!"
This morning, we are not aiming for perfection but for maturity, and maturity in four areas of church life. When I say church life, I’m not talking about the Sunday Worship Service or the church organization. I’m talking about the Church defined as the believers in Jesus Christ. Our text is Ephesians 4:1-16.
Although I distinguished between the Church as the believers in Christ and the church as an organization, one does affect the other significantly. If the believers are not growing toward maturity, the organization will be unhealthy and unfit to serve each other and those outside the church. Let’s look together at how we need to mature.
First, if we are to be a winsome and healing community to present Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, the church needs to mature in manners. Verses 1-2.
Mark Twain once said that he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment to see if they could get along. They did. So he added a bird, a pig and a goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, a Presbyterian, and a Catholic. Soon there was not a living thing in that cage.
Like Paul, I love Jesus Christ, and I love the Church, the believers in Jesus Christ. But becoming a Christian does not automatically make a person easy to live with or to relate to. That’s why Paul is teaching us some manners here.
Paul reminds us that our manners flow from the fact that God called us to Himself. We are humble because God loves us, even while we were sinners. We are humbled because God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty of our sins. We are gentle and patient with others because we have experienced the gentleness and patience of God.
I’m pretty humble, gentle and patient with you in the church. But you don’t know if I’m that way because you pay my salary. But when it comes to relating with Esther, Susan or a service person on the phone or in the store, I’m not quite that humble, gentle or patient.
When this happens, God impresses on me that I am not practicing Christian manners. God reminds me, "If I treated you the way you’re treating Esther, Susan or the other person, how would you feel? Would you feel encouraged or discouraged? Would you feel loved or devalued?"
We are not humble, gentle and patient with others because we want to be accepted by people, or because others are humble, gentle and patient with us. We are humble, gentle and patient with others in light of God’s humility, gentleness and patience with us. Our manners with others, inside and out the church, flow from God’s manners with us.
Second, if we are to be a winsome and healing community to present Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, the church needs to mature in motive. Verses 3-6.
People come to Sunday Worship Service for many reasons. Some come for friendship. Others come to learn English. Still others come out of routine. I’m not talking about non-believers but believers also.
During my senior year in high school, I began going to Cumberland Presbyterian Chinese Church, because I had heard that the girl I liked in high school went to that church. At first I wasn’t going to church because I wanted to know God. But after going to church a few times and not seeing the girl there, I continued to go to church, because I began to feel a desire to have peace with God.