Sunday, August 18, 2019

9th Sunday After Trinity

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

Sermon Theme: Use Your God Given Gifts to Edify One Another

Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:1-16

Trinity 9 Ephesians 4:1-16 8/18/19

“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, 

As God’s Children, we want to Live in a Manner Worthy of a Child of God.  As we saw last week, the primary focus of that is to make every effort to “Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Jesus has given us gifts to be able to do that. The first gifts are the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. Christ gave them to equip us for this work of the ministry.  They teach us the word of God so that we grow up and become mature in the faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God.  That is what keeps us unified, all speaking and believing the same thing so that we are not tossed about by every wind of doctrine that blows through.  

Today I want to focus more on the last 2 verses, 15-16. Let’s look at those verses again, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 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.” That is such a great description of what God intends His Church to be.  It’s not just about the Apostles and Prophets, the Pastors and Teachers.  It is One unified body that is growing up in every way to be like our head - Christ.  And that involves every part working properly to edify and build each other up in the faith.  We do that by “speaking the truth in love.”  Christ has given every one of you gifts to be able to do that.  In short, to Live in a Manner Worthy of a Child of God, means to 

Use Your God Given Gifts to Edify One Another.

-I-

You make up the Body of Christ. That means that each one of you has been given different gifts to serve the whole body.  As Paul points out in Romans 12, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.” Rom12:6  Let me ask you, what do you think of when we talk about the gifts God has given each of us?  I would guess that most of us think about our various talents and abilities.  One might have a gift for music, another might have a special ability in math or some other field.  

Those certainly are gifts from God.  We should thank Him for those gifts and seek to use our abilities to serve the Lord and build up His church.  But those talents and abilities are not the only gifts that God has given us. Today, I would like to think about a different area of gifts that God has given each of us, that is our personality or character traits.  

I find it very interesting that we have very little control over our personality.  We are able to develop some traits to a certain extent, but for the most part we are what we are.  And those personality traits usually show up very early in little babies.  That shows that these are something God created us with.  Those personality traits are given to us by Christ.  

Now, as with all gifts, these gifts can be used in God pleasing ways to build up God’s Church, or they can be used in ways that do harm and damage God’s Church.  Our daily Rest devotion a few weeks ago gave the example of Peter.  Peter had a very impulsive nature.  He was a man of action. He was very confident and bold.  Now, those were the character traits that God had given him, they were gifts from God. But when he used those gifts according to his own reason and nature it was disastrous.  It led him to strike with the sword in the garden of Gethsemane, as if Jesus needed his help and protection. He ended up working against what Jesus was trying to accomplish  On another occasion, he contradicted Jesus and worked with Satan to try to prevent Jesus from going to the cross.  His God given confidence used incorrectly became Self-Confidence which boasted, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” “If I have to die with you, I will not deny you!” Mark 14:29&31 His pride went before his fall.  However, when Peter was filled with the Spirit and grew up into Christ, those same traits made him a bold witness to Christ and a great leader in His Church.  

So you see those character traits were truly gifts from God for good, but he had to learn to use them in a godly way.  So it is with each of us.  God has given each of us qualities and character traits that we can either use by our own reason and cause great harm, or we can submit to the guidance of the Spirit and those same qualities become great tools for the building up of Christ’s Church.  Let’s take a few minutes to think about some of the different traits that God has given us and see how they can be used for good or for harm. The hope is that we will all see traits within ourselves and learn how they can all be used by the Spirit for the building up of His church.  

  • Some, like Peter, are endowed with a full measure of confidence.  They are very sure of themselves and of their abilities.  This is a very powerful trait and a great blessing, not always to be second guessing yourself, it makes you able to do many things and do it well.  But it is also one of the most dangerous traits because used by the flesh it becomes SELF-confidence and leads to pride.  And God says, “Pride goes before destruction.”  Pride undermines faith and a relationship with God, and looks down on others rather than building them up.  So if you have a measure of confidence, pray that the Spirit will also give you a good measure of humility so that your confidence isn’t in yourself but in God.  And seek Godly wisdom so that you may know what is pleasing to the Lord. 

  • Another trait that may go along with confidence is to be very pro-active.  To be focused and goal-oriented. You see a problem and right away recognize the steps to take to solve it.  That obviously is a tremendous gift from God and can be used to accomplish a lot of valuable work in God’s Kingdom and organizing people and jobs in the Church.  But it is not without it’s abuses.  That character trait can easily lead one to be very impatient with others who don’t get things done or don’t see things your way.  

  • Others have a very bold, strong nature that is ready to stand up against wrong.  That can be a very useful quality in the hands of the Spirit to make you ready to stand firm on the truth of God’s word and not give in to compromise.  That same trait used by the Flesh just becomes stubborn and unyielding in things that don’t really matter.  When one demands their own way in these areas it breaks down the unity of God’s Church rather than building it up.  That same trait can also cause you to be very critical of others and finding fault rather than building up in love.  You also might be unforgiving, harming yourself and others.  

  • Some have a real gift for talking to people, they can strike up a conversation with anyone.  That is a great gift for witnessing and for edifying and encouraging.  But used by the flesh, that gift can do much harm. That quick tongue can become sharp and be used to tear down instead of build up.  That gift can also lead you not to listen very well and therefore inhibit your ability to really help.

  • Just the opposite of the gift of talking freely, some are very quiet and unassuming.  That might seem more like a weakness.  It certainly makes witnessing more difficult, and even comforting and encouraging others can be difficult.  According to our flesh it can make one timid.  Or one can become withdrawn and self-absorbed which leads to many problems.  Yet in the hands of the Holy Spirit, that quiet nature is also a gift from God for the building up of His Church.  Quiet, unassuming people tend to be better listeners and can be more empathetic.  Then the Spirit can use them even more than the talkative ones to offer comfort and encouragement because they listen to really understand the problem others are having and offer meaning help. 

  • Some might be carefree and fun loving.  That of course can be used for selfish ends that are of no benefit to anyone, not even themselves.  But that same trait can be used by the Spirit very well.  They can make excellent teachers of youth.  They can help keep others from getting down and depressed or lonely.  

I think you get the idea.  Every character trait is given by God and is a gift to be used by the Spirit for the building up of God’s Church.  So don’t think, I wish I could be like so and so.  Or if only I were… then I could a better witness or serve better.  Rather consider what type of character traits God has given you.  He has given them to you for a purpose.  May we all grow up into Christ and consider how we can use those gifts to edify my fellow believers.  In short, think about everything you do and everything you say and ask yourself, “Am I building up Christ’s Church and edifying others in love, or am I tearing down and causing harm?    

Let us all be ready to confess the times when, like Peter, we used our God given traits according to our flesh and made a mess of things.  And look to Christ for our forgiveness.  Then be reassured that just as Jesus came to Peter after his most miserable failures, and reassured him that He had forgiven him and still wanted to use him to feed His sheep and lambs, so He has forgiven you and can and will still use you.  

Seek the Spirit’s guidance and learn from Him how to use your gifts in God Pleasing ways for the building up of others in love and for His glory.

Amen.

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