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Measure Up

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God asks us to help build His ONE church - and how we measure things can make all the difference in how the local church turns out. What measuring stick does God want us to use in making the right measurements?

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Measure Up
By Jeff Strite
Summary: God asks us to help build His ONE church - and how we measure things can make all the difference in how the local church turns out. What measuring stick does God want us to use in making the right measurements?
(This sermon was preached at our annual “Unity” service, where we bring our English, Spanish, and Burmese churches together for one big worship service. On this occasion, we ordained one Hispanic man to the preaching ministry and another as an Elder for the Hispanic church).
OPEN: Years ago I worked in a mobile home factory making homes for people to live in (they call them manufactured housing now). The trailers were built along an “assembly line” as the trailer made it way from one station to the next. The first stage of the assembly began with the platform. On that platform, the first crew laid down carpet and linoleum. Then the platform was moved on to where carpenters built and installed the walls partitions and trusses. The next station, they put in the ceiling panels and the inside and outside walls. And then the trailer was rolled on to where I worked… I helped put insulation in the walls and ceilings.
Installing the insulation in the ceiling meant walking along the trusses (because the roof was installed later), and one day I was walking along the trusses of the roof of a trailer… and I slipped. My foot through one of the ceiling panels. My boss was furious because that meant the whole operation had to be shut down until that ceiling panel was replaced. I was trying to make up for my mistake so I volunteered to measure and cut ceiling panel replacement.
I was so proud of myself – I had brought my own tape measure with me that day. Well…not actually MY tape measure. It was the cloth tape measure my mom used to measure fabric for dresses and skirts and such. Now, for those of you who don’t understand the problem this created, cloth measuring tapes aren’t designed for construction work. They’re not accurate enough for things… like measuring ceiling panels. So when I measured and cut the replacement ceiling panel I came up… that short (I used my thumb and finger to show how close it had been).
APPLY: Now, why do I tell you that story? Because the passage in is telling us how we should help in building Christ’s church, and it’s all about using the RIGHT measurements when we build. If we don’t measure correctly, then we’re going to come up… that short. And we are going to make a mess of things.
Paul writes: “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.”
There is only ONE body, and Paul is saying (because there is only one body) we need to be very careful about HOW we measure things. So… what is the right way to measure for that ONE body?
Well... Paul tells us this: “(I) urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Now, that seems pretty simple doesn’t it? Just be nice to each other.
But there’s one phrase in that passage that caught my attention - “with all humility.” What’s that all about?
ILLUS: (I took out my metal tape measure and asked a young man from the congregation to come stand beside me. With the help of another person we measured how tall he was – 67 inches tall. Then I had them measure how tall I was – 71 inches).
Now I’m taller than this young man aren’t I? I’m 71 inches tall, and he’s 67 inches. I can literally “look down” on him can’t I? Now, let’s say I’m preaching to a congregation where EVERYBODY’S shorter than I am. Then I could literally look down on everybody at church.
And that’s the danger.
You see – when we became Christians we wanted to please God and we tried hard to live in such a way that we knew would honor Him. We did our best to avoid sinning and sinful situations. We worked at being moral and righteous and holy, because we knew that’s what pleases God. But the danger is that we may get to the point where we think we have arrived. We can start thinking that we’re better at being righteous than others are. And when that happens we can begin to try to measure everyone else by… “ME.” And, you do realize that there are people in churches across the nation who do just that - they measure EVERYONE else by their standards. They compare others with themselves. Because … “Hey, I’m pretty good stuff! I’m better than YOU are.”
You know what that’s called? It’s called PRIDE. And it’s foolish… because the person who does that is using the wrong measuring tape. tells us that “… When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” They’re not too bright!!! They are foolish. They are ignorant.
The reason they’re not too bright is because they’ve not understood that they are not the right measure for what is righteous. But if I can’t be the right measure… then WHO is?
That’s right – God is! “There is… ONE God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (). God is OVER all. He’s ABOVE all. Compared to God… none of us measures up. As says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Does that mean I have sinned and fallen short? Does that mean Jose (our Spanish preacher) has sinned and fallen short? Does that mean you all have sinned and fallen short? Yep! That's what it means. That’s why – when we work at building up Christ’s church (HIS one body) we should do it with all humility. Because we are NOT the measuring tape.
ILLUS: Years ago I read a passage out of that said “… beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (KJV)
As I read that passage I visualized a staircase. I saw Paul telling us that we are transformed into God’s image one step of the staircase at a time. The more time we spend in Bible Study and prayer and church and working for Christ, the further up the staircase we climb – and we become closer and closer to the image of God. (glory unto glory). When people first come to Christ (standing at the bottom of the steps of the stairs that lead up to the platform) they start out on the ground level. But the longer they spend with other Christians, they begin going up the staircase step by step.
Now some folks get up 12 or 13 steps and they stop and look down the staircase at the others. And they think to themselves “Fools. Why aren’t they at my level? Why don’t they tithe like I tithe? Why aren’t they as faithful in attending church or Sunday School like I am? Why don’t they help in this ministry or that ministry like I do?” And they think those on the lower steps are literally “beneath them.” They’ve “arrived” and those other folks haven’t.
Now, if you think that you’ve “arrived” and that God should be impressed by your righteousness … you’ve missed the point. When we stand before God on Judgement Day and try to impress Him by how far you’ve made it up the staircase – God will ask you where the rest of the people are. I think He’ll ask you why YOU didn’t work harder at helping those other Christians in their journey of going from “Glory unto Glory.” Because that is what church is all about. It’s not about ME, and it’s not about YOU… it’s about US.
(PAUSE – Introduction to our Ordination Ceremony)
Now today we have a special ceremony that we’re excited about. We are ordaining two men in the Hispanic church to leadership. Marlon is being set apart for preaching and Max is being set apart for Eldership. This is a very important thing we’re doing because we’re saying these men have a vital ministry. We are setting them aside for the ministry of helping people make their way up the staircase.
Marlon is being ordained to be a preacher. A man who will study God’s Word to help guide others in worship and train them to be better workers for the Kingdom. His ministry is like that Timothy or Titus’s described in the New Testament.
Max is being set apart to be an Elder or Pastor (). Since the Bible never seems to talk about there being only one Elder in a church, we are making him part of the Anglo eldership of this congregation. He will represent the Hispanic church in the Eldership and he will be part of the group responsible for protecting and guiding the English and Spanish members of our congregation.
Max’s job is described in where Paul instructs the Elders to “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!”
The church will not belong to Marlon… or to Max… or to (naming each of the Anglo Elders in turn) or to me or even to you. The church belongs to Christ. And we who are Elders and preachers are responsible before Christ to guard and uphold His local church. Our job is to help people work their way up the staircase toward God.
(At this point the Anglo Eldership and I laid hands on Marlon and Max and an Anglo Elder led us in prayer for them.)
A couple more thoughts.
1st - Ephesians says there is ONE faith. What does that mean? It means that there is ONLY ONE FAITH! And where do we learn about that ONE FAITH? (The Bible) That one faith is what we believe and what we teach.
ILLUS: I’ve met folks who talk very proudly about THEIR church’s doctrine. They have creeds and they have books of doctrine that spell out exactly what you have to believe if you are going to belong to THEIR church.
But this isn’t OUR church! And what we teach doesn’t belong to us. Who does it belong to? (Jesus)
So who gets to decide what we need to believe? (Jesus)
And where does Jesus tell us what we should believe? (Bible)
Do you see how simple that is? We don’t need a creed; we don’t need a book of doctrine. All we need is the BIBLE!!! And it is the job of the church’s preachers and elders and teachers to teach and hold up that Bible as our standard of our ONE faith.
And what about the ONE BAPTISM? Baptism is the place where we become Christians. It is ONE baptism because it is the ONE common place where we share our faith.
Again, this baptism doesn’t belong to us. It belong to Jesus doesn’t it? He commanded us to be baptized to become Christians. In Jesus says “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved…”
And Jesus gave us an example when He was baptized by John the Baptist.
And His Word teaches us that this is the place where we share in His death and His burial and His resurrection.
(Going over to the baptistery) When someone becomes a Christian they die to who they were, they die to their sins. And what do we do with dead people? We bury them don’t we? And so a person dies to their sins and they are buried in a watery grave… and eventually we let them back up.
In baptism we are saying “We are all equal”; “We’ve all sinned”; “We all deserve to die.”
ILLUS: Someone once said “Baptism is the great equalizer. No matter who you are, how successful you are, or who you know, we all have to go under the waters in the same way. There may be people who come forward in expensive suits, expensive jewelry, and $100 hairdos. But the suits are exchanged for a humble white robe, the jewelry comes off, and they may as well say goodbye to their $100 hairdo. Because we are all equal when we go under the water.”
In that ONE baptism God gives us two promises. The first promise is that, when we go under the water, our sins stay there. God will remember them no more. And the 2nd promise is that when we rise from those waters we rise to walk as a newborn Christian. And later, when we finally are laid to rest in an earthly grave – when Jesus comes again, that grave will not be able to hold us. Just like we’ve risen out of the waters of our Christian baptism, we WILL rise from the dead – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will rise to be Christ forever.
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