Sunday, August 11, 2019

8th Sunday After Trinity

Sermon Series: Live a Life Worthy of a Child of God

Sermon Theme: Live a Life Worthy of a Child of God!

Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:1-16

Trinity 8 Ephesians 4:1-16 8/11/19

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”  9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Dear Fellow Redeemed, 

What would you think if you were one of the members in my previous congregation who worked as a loan officer in a Credit Union? A man came to her for a loan and was cursing and swearing and just being rude and obnoxious through out the process?  Then she came to the part of the application that asked what his job was.  He said, “Oh, I’m a pastor.”  My member simply replied, “You sure hide that well.”  

Is that as shocking to you as it was to her?  It’s easy to see how wrong that is, and to shake our head in disgust.  A pastor should conduct himself in a more godly manner.  He was giving Christ and His Church a bad name. 

But doesn’t God expect the same thing of all His Children?  That’s what Paul says in our text. After explaining in detail how we are saved by grace alone as a gift from God, Paul begins this chapter of Ephesians by saying, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”  

As we heard a couple of weeks ago, God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”  Col. 1:13  And now He expects us to live like people who have been rescued from the darkness and corruption of this world.  He has separated us from this evil world and so He expects us to show that we are not part of the world, we are different, called to be holy.  

So Paul urges us to walk or live “in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.”  He then goes on in the rest of this letter to explain how to do that.  That is what we are going to focus on in the next several weeks, using these last chapters of Ephesians to remind and encourage each other to “Live a Life Worthy of a Child of God.”  

This section of Ephesians 4 tells us the first thing that we should strive for as we seek to live a life worthy of our calling, that is to “Keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace.” vs. 3.

Paul tells us in verses 4-6, “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.” Everything about God’s true Church is one, a true unity and harmony.  Therefore we should always be diligently working to keep that unity of the Spirit in our midst.  

Satan has always been working to divide the visible church.  He has had a lot of success in a couple of ways.  First, He has done so by stirring up envy and strife among the members of a church.  Many congregations have divided over personal conflicts.  That is why Paul begins by mentioning three qualities that are necessary to live a life worthy of our calling. Do this “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” To keep the unity of the Spirit we need to have all humility and gentleness. Those two really go together.  One who is truly humble will be gentle. The evil ways of the world are driven by pride and putting ones self first.  

We all demonstrated a bit of pride earlier when we were shocked and disgusted at the swearing, rude pastor acting as if we are better than that. Humility would turn that into a learning experience. That was shameful, but do I ever give a bad name to my Savior in my life?  In humility, we will recognize our own great sinfulness and confess your sins to God.  Humility doesn’t look down on others, but considers others better than yourself and always looks out for the needs of others ahead of your own.  Therefore you will be gentle and meek in the way you speak to others and about others, and the way you treat them.  

Next Paul says, “with patience, bearing with one another in love.” The word that is translated “patience” here literally means to bear long or to endure for a long time.  The King James translates it “long-suffering,” but he is not talking about patiently bearing the suffering that comes from pain or illness.  He says to bear with one another, with people who annoy you or make you angry.  This patience or long-suffering is the quality of self-restraint in the face of someone provoking you. This is the quality that doesn’t easily become angry or want to get even. 

Let’s face it, some people can really bug you and make you angry.  But to live in a way that is worthy of your high calling as Children of God and to keep the unity of the Spirit means to bear with them in love.  Continue to treat them with gentleness and love.  You might say, but that person is just so unreasonable!  That is exactly why God says to be “Long-suffering, bearing with them in love.”  If they were easy to get along with, you wouldn’t have to bear with them in love.  

In short, to live a life worthy of a child of God is to be like Christ.  He was the perfect example of humility.  Even though He is God, far above all the people around Him, He humbly served all people, even those who hated Him and attacked Him.  And Gentleness?  There was never anyone who showed more gentleness and compassion than Jesus, always helping everyone who needed and wanted His help.  And He is the epitome of long-suffering forbearance.  The Priests and Pharisees were constantly attacking Him.  He did not strike back, not even when they unjustly condemned Him and crucified Him.  Instead He prayed for His Father to forgive them.  

Perhaps an even better example of His long-suffering, think of how Jesus patiently bears with all the abuse we heap upon him day after day all our lives, as we sin against Him in countless ways.  Yet, He continues to love us. 

Jesus did these things perfectly for us.  He forgives us for all the times that we have been less than humble and gentle.  He forgives us for all the times we have gotten angry and snapped back at those who have annoyed us.  Yes, Jesus forgives us and has rescued us from the power of darkness that we were under so that we can live as children of the Light.  To live a life worthy of our calling, let us always strive to be Christ Like.  We are not going to let Satan divide God’s church because of personal disagreements.

Satan has also had success in dividing the visible church by introducing a wide array of false teachings which have splintered the visible church into many denominations.  God’s Church has gotten a bad name and is blasphemed in the world because of it.  

In this case, the solution is not, as the ecumenical movement seeks, to forget about the differences and just join together; to bear with one another in love and tolerate the differences in teaching.  No that is not love and it does not bring about the unity of the Spirit.  That is unionism which God condemns.  

The unity of the Spirit is what Paul describes in 1 Cor. 1:10, “That you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  Many would say, “That’s impossible.” Yes, it is impossible for us by our own abilities.  But Paul adds, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’”  

In verse 11 Paul mentions the most important gifts that Christ gives His Church to be able to keep the unity of the Spirit.  “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds (or pastors) and teachers.”  Now note carefully what these gifts are given for: They are “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.”  We usually think that the Apostles and Prophets and the Pastors and Teachers are called to carry out the work of the ministry, but God says they are given to the Church to Equip the Saints so that they can carry on the work of the ministry.  The word ministry simply means service.  There are many types of service that are needed in the church and so the pastors and teachers use God’s word to equip the people to do that work.  

They are also given “for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  That is how we attain the unity of the Spirit or the unity of faith, by studying the scriptures so that we become mature in our knowledge of the Son of God and are built up in the faith to be like Him.  

That has two tremendous benefits.  First vs. 14 “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  That is so descriptive of what is happening to so many confessing Christians.  Their churches and pastors are not teaching them the word of God and so they do not have the full knowledge of the Son of God.  As a result they are being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  If they don’t know the truth they believe whatever comes along that appeals to their flesh.  That’s how false teaching arises to divide the church.  We keep the unity of the Spirit by being firmly grounded in the truth. 

Finally we keep the unity by all working together, as Paul concludes: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  When every part is working properly, then the church will be truly united in the bond of peace.  We will delve deeper into that part next week.  What a beautiful thing that is.  

May God fill us with His Spirit so that we can and do keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and truly live a life worthy of al Child of God.  

Amen. 

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