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Celebrating *New Year’s in September* - Our Fall Ministries Kick-Off Sunday!
Looking forward to Sunday, September 7, 2008 – Closing Day to a Week of Prayer! – Communion Sunday –
*Raising our view of church*
Ephesians 4:1-32
/16 //From// Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work./
Ephesians 4:16 NIV
-----------
When I was *in seminary* in the mid 70s, there was much debate about the *reliability and inerrancy of Scripture*.
Many *impressively intelligent people* were making their arguments on *how we should think* about the Scriptures.
But really, the *bottom line* in all the *discussions and debate *was this: *what are we going to do* with what *the Bible says*?
Are we going to *obey God* or are we going to *ignore and disobey God*?
Probably the *most surprising observation* I have made over the years is to find *those who say they believe* in the *inerrancy* of Scripture, that is, that the *Bible* does *not contain any errors in the original manuscripts* that alter any teaching of the Bible, yet, *they manipulate Scripture* to accommodate their own *self interest*.
Though I do *not* present *Mark Twain* as having been a *godly man*, he is credited with a *very remarkable state*ment.
He said, “It’s *not the things in the Bible I don't understand* that *bothers* me, it’s *the ones I do*.”
C.J. Mahaney says, “The *purpose of Scripture* is to *provoke obedience* and *produce change* in our lives.”
(Mahaney, /Why Small Groups/, p.9)
I submit to you that in *practical terms*, our debate is *not* about the *accuracy* of the Scriptures.
*Our debate* is about the *authority* of the Scriptures.
When *the teaching of Scripture *is more than *adequately clear*, are we going to *submit our lives to obeying* what God tells us or are we going to *stand as the sole and arbitrary judge* of Scripture and *do what we want to do*, regardless?
I believe we *must face that question nearly every tim*e we find that *our behavior is not a match* for God’s command.
We have spent the *month of August* in the *4th* chapter of *Ephesians* and I submit to you that *Paul has presented to us* a much *higher view of the church* than is our practice.
And the *question* we face today is, *what are we going to do about it*?
Paul has outlined for us a *strategy* for how a *local church family* is able to *grow* and *build itself up* in love.
*His strategy* calls for a *very intentional focus* on Jesus Christ.
*Paul’s strategy* also calls for a *very intentional effort* to maintain the *unity of the team* by expressing *support and encouragement *at every turn and in every situation.
It is Christ who has *put this team together*.
As a result, all of us are *brothers and sisters* and are called to humbly serve our Lord *side by side* in worship and evangelism.
I believe the *Scriptures tell us* that it is *through the local body of Christ* that *our love for Christ* is given the *best opportunity* to develop and be *employed*.
It is in the context of a *local assembly* of believers where our *faith is best lived out*, not in isolation from the world, but in its *most effective impact* on the world.
*Faithful, obedient, loving Christians*, who are committed to the mission of a local church that is faithfully serving Christ, have the *greatest potential for impacting the unbelieving world* that surrounds them.
So, one more time I hope to *persuade you* through the *truth of Ephesians 4* and through the *work of the Holy Spirit* applying the truth to your life, that *there is not one thing* that you would want to *commit yourself to more* than to *Christ*, to *His Church* and to *His work* in the world.
And Paul is giving us *a strategy* to make that *happen right here* at New Heights Christian Church.
Let’s read together the first 6 verses of Ephesians 4.
*Ephesians 4:1-13 (NIV)*
*/1 /**/As/**/ a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received./*/
2 //Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
3 //Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
4 //There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 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 to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
8 //This is why it says: /
/“When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train and gave gifts to men.”/
/9 //(What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 //He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
11 //It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 //to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 //until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
/
Is there any doubt that Paul is saying that we must *always bear in mind* that it was *through God’s mercy and grace* that each of us were *placed on His team*, call the church?
So, anytime we are *tempted to withhold love* and *forgiveness* from another team member, we need to *remember* on what *basis* we, ourselves, were *made members on the team*.
It *wasn’t* because of *our own righteousness*.
It was strictly on the *merits of Christ’s righteousness*.
Paul goes on to say that as owner of the team, *Jesus has appointed a team of coaches* to train, equip and prepare *the entire team* for *works of service* that will *build up the whole team* to be effective in bringing others *into a saving and sanctifying relationship* with Jesus Christ.
Again, it’s not the clarity of strategy that is our problem here.
Rather, it’s our compliance with it.
Now, let’s read together the next section, verses 17-24.
/17 //So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
18 //They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
19 //Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
/
/ /
/20 //You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.
21 //Surely you heard of Him and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.
*22 */*/You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 /**/to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 /**/and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
/*
Paul states in nearly graphic terms that *our past still tries to pull us back* into its grip and beckon us to *return to the lifestyle* we left behind.
Thus, it is important that we are *committed to take full advantage of being members of a united body of believers*, making certain that we are *keeping our focus on living in Christ* and that we are *in a healthy relationship* with our *coaches* and the *fellow members* of our team.
Based on *what we have heard* from Paul in Ephesians 4 *so far*, I presented *a challenge for all of us*.
Practically speaking, *are we being equipped here *at New Heights Christian Church for *works of service* so that this church is *being built up?*
I stressed the issue of *making a deal with each other*.
If those *whom God has appointed as equippers *are willing and prepared to do equipping, are *those whom God has instructed to be equipped* willing to report in and get the training?
Many of *you responded* by saying that *you want to be equipped* for works of service and that *after being equipped* you will *do your part* to see that New Heights is *built up in love.*
Your *responses* were, and continue to be, *greatly encouraging* to me.
For any of *you who have* or *will today* declare to us that you *want to be equipped* for *works of service* and to apply yourself to seeing *New Heights built up in love*, at *noon* today for *one hour* the elders are *hosting a lun*ch where we can *gain clarity* about how to *really apply this instruction *from God’s word.
The *final section* of Ephesians 4 *amplified* some earlier teaching that was *shot like an arrow*, striking the very *core of our being*.
Let’s read that section together.
*Ephesians 4:25-32 **(NIV)*
/25 //Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
26 //“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 //and do not give the devil a foothold//.
28 //He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
/
/ /
*/29 /**/Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
/*/30 //And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 //Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
32 //Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
/
We *rightfully conclude* from these words that *to not speak truthfully to our neighbor, to withhold truth from a fellow member of the body of Christ, we will injure the whole body in some way*, as a result.
Thus, we *must filter all our grievances through a disposition or attitude of love and patience and forbearance*.
Plotting *revenge* is *unacceptable *for us as a Christians.
*Our thoughts need to be made new through a new attitude that is being bathed in righteousness and holiness*.
I believe Paul is making clear that *some* of our *thoughts* are actually *corrupted data* because they were *filtered through deceitful desires*.
As members of Christ’s body, we must always be having our attitudes renewed in righteousness and holiness.
That’s because, as Christians, *our words have been tagged with an assignment*.
They are to be *truthful*.
Our words are to be *spoken in love*.
And, our words are to *assist Christ’s body to grow up* into Christ.
That is to say, the *words* that we speak should *result in other members* of Christ’s body to *become more tightly bonded to Christ* as our head and for our fellow members to be *more tightly bonded to each other*.
So, Paul is *not just saying*, “Look, we are *all in the same family* so *get along*.”
He is saying that we *all have a calling* to bring *honor* to our Lord in *how we live* in His family.
*Chuck Miller*, in his book, The Spiritual Formation of Leaders, writes: “*Living as a Christian *involves being *enfolded into the body* of Christ, into a *local community* of Christ-followers.
Though we *come to Christ alone*, we *grow in Christ together*.”
(Miller, /The Formation of Spiritual Leaders/, p.176)
*Dave Harvey* writes in his contribution to the book, /Why Small Groups/?, “God *does not call us out* from this ‘corrupt generation’ so we can *meander aimlessly *over the Christian landscape – a *meeting* here, a *teaching* there, some *occasional small group involvement* just for variety.
We have been */called out/ to be /added in/*!
All believers should be *committed to a local church* that *cares* for their souls, *equips* them for ministry, and *benefits* from their service.
“Church *can’t be a mere accessory*.
We must be *added*.”
(Harvey in Mahaney, /Why Small Groups/, p.9)
*Chuck Colson* has written, ‘It is *scandalous* that so many believers today have *such a low view* of the church.
They see their *Christian lives as a solitary exercise* – Jesus and me – or they treat church as *a building* or a *social center*.
They flit from *congregation to congregation* – or they *don’t associate* with any church at all.
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