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Maturity

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(4/11) Introduction Ė This past Monday was my brideís birthday. She doesnít look a day over 39 does she? Tonight my children are making her a dinner and dessert and bringing it to our home and we are going to celebrate the gift she is to me, our children and grandchildren. But I have a gift that I want to give her now. Debbie, would you come up here. Happy Birthday, dear! (Debbie opens and discards gift) Why would you do that? I bought that just for you.

Wow! Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever made or purchased or given a gift that you assumed would be perfect for someone only for them to never use it, or to discard it, or put it out for a yard sale, or worse, to re-gift it back to you? How does that make you feel? That sounds like a therapistís question, doesnít it? How does that make you feel? Horrible, angry, disappointed, sad, or what?

Now, what I am about to teach you is either going to affirm you, or it is going to anger you, or it is going to make you tune me out. You may start saying in your head, "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah," just so you donít have to listen. What Debbie just did is a picture of what many, many Christians, have done. I know this is not going to get me Pastor of the Year awards, but it is the truth.

Many Christians think that being saved and going to church is about God meeting their needs and their wants. Church has become a spectator sport. It is an accessory, and not a necessity. We come to be entertained, to watch, to be inspired, to feel good, but not to participate. And that is sad, because Church, as Jesus designed it, is to be 100% participation of those who have been saved by grace, as they continue the life and ministry of Jesus Christ to the world, (Repeat). (Acts 2)

We spent 3 months looking at the 1st 3 chapters of Ephesians and seeing all that God our Father has done for us by grace. Our Salvation from beginning to end is all Godís grace. Thatís why the key verse (1:3) says that we should Bless, speak well of, or Praise God. And because everyone in the world that believes in Jesus Christ is given the same grace, there must be every effort to attain and maintain peace and unity (4:3); that is, a oneness among Christians, so the rest of the world will know that Jesus Christ is truly Godís Son and the only way, the only truth, and the only life. Only Jesus and His love and grace can bring people and all their differences, together in peace, in one body. Letís stand and read 4:1-16.

I. Every Christ Follower has been given a Grace Gift (v.7-10).

Paul doesnít go into great detail in this letter like he does in 1 Cor. 12, or Romans 12, or as Peter does in 1 Peter 4. Perhaps he had already taught this to the Ephesianís when he spent several years there and so this is a given for them. I donít know. But just so we understand this truth letís just quickly look at these passages.

A. Romans 12:3-6a

B. 1 Cor. 12:4-13

C. 1 Peter 4:8-11-

Several things should be obvious as we read these. Everyone has received a grace gift. A Charisma, or a Dorea, that is, a free gift of grace, from our Lord Jesus. Everyone, without exception, has been called and equipped to minister grace to others. Being a couch potato is not a gift. Neither a local church nor the universal church will ever be complete, whole, or mature if everyone isnít using their gift. Look at 4:16. This church nor any church you attend will ever be mature, unless the people are faithfully ministering the grace they have been given.

Paul uses an illustration that most people of the first century could understand. He draws from the Psalm of David (68), that probably refers to David capturing Jerusalem and making it the capital of Israel. When a king led a successful campaign and conquered his adversary, he may have found those who have been captured by the enemy as POWís or slaves. His victory was the freedom of those captives such as David did in 1 Samuel 30 after his wives and the families of his army were captured at Ziglag, or as Abraham did in Genesis 14 when Lot and the people of Sodom were captured. As a display of the victory, the king would ascend a hill and proclaim the victory and the releasing of those who had been held prisoner, and then the spoils, taken from the enemy, would be given to his people.

Paul is saying that this is what Jesus has done for us. He uses language similar to that which our Himself used in John 3:13, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." He descended into dark enemy territory to release those held captive by the enemy; that is, us! And when He ascended back to heaven He gave gifts to us. The gift of His Holy Spirit and a gift of grace by which we bless each other and those who need to know Jesus. These are usually referred to as Spiritual gifts. Do you understand this? We are still in a battle field. And we are still in a sphere where our three enemies come at us every day. The world, the flesh, and the devil, never leave us alone. We need each other and we need to use the gifts that our Lord Jesus has given us. Watch this (Chronicles of Narnia Ė Merry Christmas Scene).

Now we are not going to go into great detail, but these spiritual gifts of grace can be divided into three groups.

1. There were Sign Gifts. These were of a supernatural nature. Healings, miracles, languages, and the such were mostly confined to the infancy of the church during the time of the Apostles. These for the most part ended with the Apostles. This is not to say that God doesnít do the supernatural, we all know that He does. But it means that no Christ-Follower can raise the dead, or touch and heal, or touch a handkerchief and heal, etc. These supernatural gifts helped confirm what God was doing in laying the foundation of the church and once that foundation was laid, they ceased.

2. There are Speaking Gifts. These are teaching and preaching, encouraging, knowledge, wisdom, discernment, evangelism and the like as they help people to understand grace and the meaning of Godís Bible.

3. There are Serving Gifts. These are hospitality, serving, mercy, helps, and administration.

Now, no person, especially your pastor, has all these gifts. God intended His church to be like the human body which needs all the different parts working together to be healthy and to accomplish the purposes it was designed for. We are as unique as snowflakes or fingerprints. When everyone, not just 10-20% is doing what they have been gifted to do, the result will be that the church will look like Jesus is in the House. Thatís the point of 4:12-16. Someone once said that the church more closely looks like a football game on Sunday. On the field are 22 people who desperately need rest and there are 70 thousand in attendance that desperately need to exercise.

What is your gift? I donít know, and the older I get the more convinced I am that you donít have to be able to identify it. Then how do I know what to do? Great question. I want to spend next week talking about it. But for today remember that one of the reasons that the Holy Spirit is in you, and He is if you have truly received Jesus, is to minister grace through you. Do you understand this? He wants to use you to bless the body of Christ, the church, OR, to show people outside of the church, the grace of God.

Simply, ask yourself, and God your Father, this question, every day, "What can I do to bless my church, or someone in my church, or someone in my community with grace today." Then wait a few moments and think it through. I donít know if you have to be able to identify your specific gift. How you minister to that person is probably your gift. But what you must do is realize that grace has been measured out to you to give away, and whatever you give away is replenished every day, so you never exhaust it, (like one of those toy baby bottles).

ē It may be to call or write a note to encourage someone

ē It may be to give a financial blessing to someone (Not just for the wealthy)

ē It may be to take some time to help someone with a chore; for example, when you are mowing grass, or raking leaves, or cleaning your rain gutters, or changing your oil, or getting your groceries, ask, "I wonder who is doing this for Ö?" Then, go and do it.

ē It may be mentoring a young person in a single parent home or a young family. Did you see, The War Room? The older lady mentored the younger lady in how to pray. Who are you mentoring? BTW this is an instruction for older women in Titus 2

ē It may be starting a small group for people who are struggling with what you are struggling with or to learn somethings together.

ē It may be a need you notice at church or that you know the church has and you know that with Godís enabling, someone should & could do it. Then you do it.

ē Again, chair sitting, or being a couch potato, is not a gift.

If Christians donít ask this daily, if church is just a spectator sport, or church is about oneís comfort and needs or wants, then the church will never be complete. We will never be whole, and we will never be mature. We will not grow numerically or spiritually. We will be a weak, crippled, and immature church like the Corinthian Church. Listen to Paul, And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Cor. 3:1-3). And, apparently the Hebrews of whom the book of the same name was addressed were similar, listen, "Ö of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb. 5:11-14) To help us:

II. Christ has given the Church Gifted Men (vv.11-15).

The Church, Paul said, is built on the foundation which was laid by the Apostles and Prophets (2:20).

A. Apostles were those who had seen or been with Jesus and heard Him and were taught by Him. These were endowed with special giftedness to so signs and wonders to validate the word they were proclaiming. Paul said (2 Cor. 12:11-12), "For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds." Though there a few more than 12, these ended when the last apostle (John) died. These men took the gospel throughout much of the known world thus establishing the church and sharing the teachings of Jesus as we have in the Gospels and Acts.

B. Prophets, were preachers who knew how to take the word already spoken by God and make it relevant. Prophets also often though not always received new revelation from God. Prophets were used to call nations back to repentance and faith in God. While there are men that who have been called to understand the scriptures and proclaim it to the nations like a Chuck Colson, God is not giving new revelation. He has given it all already I this book.

C. Evangelists. While Billy Graham is an Evangelist, I think of him as more of a prophet. I do not believe that a man with a tent or that goes for a week or two of meetings is the New Testament gift of evangelist. I believe this gift is referring to what we call missionaries. Men who go where the gospel is not known and proclaim the good news with the intent of planting churches. These men like Paul, will go into a city or country, proclaim the truth of Jesus and get a church grounded, perhaps training a pastor and then moving on to do it again in another place that hasnít hear the good news.

D. Pastors-Teachers, or Shepherds-Teachers. Many people like myself believe that this is not referring to two kinds of people, but just one. He is the man that has been called, taught, and gifted to teach the Word of God to the church. His job is to make sure that the church is hearing the truth and knowing how to apply it to their lives. His job is to protect them from false teaching and to tenderly care for them for the chief Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, our Lord Jesus.

III. There are 6 reasons that our Lord gave the church these men (v. 12).

A. Öfor the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to teach you the grace and love of Jesus, and what Jesus did, and encourage you to do the same things. Right now, you must get it out of your heads, that we pay a preacher to do the work of the ministry for us. That is so Catholic, and so bogus. You have been gifted and equipped to do the work of the ministry, of meeting each otherís needs and fulfilling the 30 or so one another verses in the New Testament. A Shepherdís job is to study this book and live this book and teach you this book, and to pray for you to use this book to serve each other.

Remember the first church fight? Acts 6:1-4, turn back there. Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

B. Öfor the edifying of the body of Christ. The word edifying means the building of the house. The pastors and teachers lay out and explain the blueprints and the people build the church. Bam!

C. till we all come to the unity of the faith. This is what we talked about the last three weeks. When shepherds pour themselves into teaching truth, and seeing people changed the result is that the church agrees and is united around the body of truth we call our faith. This is a major part of the shepherd teacherís job. Encouraging and promoting peace and unity in the body with truth because Satan is promoting disunity and he is very persistent. (Sadly, too many shepherds are guilty of dividing the flock)

D. and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;. A Shepherd teacher is to help you know Jesus personally, intimately, experientially, so you can imitate Him. And the focus of our times together will be - Him and His glory - and not ourselves. The Result should be that we as a church will together be known as a people who truly know Jesus.

E. that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, Pastors and teachers spend so much of their lives studying this book so that what they teach you is truth and so they can recognize lies and deceit and protect you from it. They also want you to be able know truth from lies so you wonít be caught up in a fade that may contain a little truth and a lot of lie. Do I need to give examples, like the cults, or the counterfeit revivals, or the prosperity preachers, or the ones who tell you that you donít have it all if you are not healed or ????

F. but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the headóChristó Speaking the truth in love means telling the truth to people even when it hurts, because it is necessary to heal. Speaking the truth in love means speaking it with grace knowing that it is the Holy Spiritís job not ours to convince people that it is the truth. Shepherd -teachers speak the truth in love so that you will do the same and we together will be mature people in a mature church reflecting the life and ministry of Jesus.

IV. Maturity requires/demands that we all work together in love. (vv.15-16) " Öbut, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the headóChristó 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." Let me wrap this up for you. Church as Jesus designed it to be is not a George or a Gary show. Itís not about a praise team or praise band or contemporary or traditional music, or about stained glass, or technology. What it is about is realizing that the church that Jesus wants is one where Shepherds/ Teachers teach the truth in love, not hype, or social or governmental reform, but the truth of Godís word, the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, and where the people learn and intentionally apply what they have learned, relying on the Holy Spirit to show and help them to use their grace gift to help each other. The church that Jesus Christ designed and desires is one in which we donít wait for someone else to do something, we look for what needs or should be done and we do it (Acts 2). When we all do that together, the body, the church of Jesus Christ will be mature and grow and will continue the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We will be the church that He prayed for in John 17:20-23, and the world will know that we are His disciples by our love (John 13:34-35). Here are some tough questions:

1. What are you doing with our Charisma? How are you serving your Church or Community with the Grace of God?

2. What needs to be done for people in our church (individually or as a whole), or in our community? Will you ask God to show you how to do it? Everything cannot be pastor led. He doesnít have all the gifts. Ask God to show you.

3. Have you been disobedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Is there something that you know that you should be doing but you have not obeyed? You need to repent and commit today. Will you do that?

4. Will you commit to being part of a small group of believers who will meet together each week to study Godís word and learn together how to use your Charisma?

5. Do you know the Savior who wants to bless you both subjectively with forgiveness, adoption, life and more, and bless you objectively by giving you a purpose in life? If not, you can know Him and you can have all of this if you will receive Him into your life. These promises are to you and to your children and to whoever will call upon the name of the Lord.

Letís pray about it.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman