Ephesians 4 describes four offices that are to govern the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers. A church should be graded on the maturity of the members - a successful local body is made up not only of mature shepherds but also of mature members. Consider how your own life measures up to this blueprint.
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Getting a Grip on What it Means to Love God
Believe What He Has Done, Be Living Like He Has Done It
The Blueprint of the Church, part 2
The Blueprint of the Church, part 1
A Reasonable and Right Response to His Radical, Redemptive Love
The Divine Dimension of Love
The Breadth, Depth, Width and Height of Puppy Love
A Suffering Steward in a Cell: What was True of Paul Ought to be True of Us
Things into Which Angels Long to Look
We have talked about what the purpose of the book of Ephesians is as we've been working our way through it. By the way, someone has told me, "All the Ephesians right now just isn't real alive. It's not as exciting as Song of Solomon, if you will." Well, guess what? We can't go through Song of Solomon on a bimonthly rotation basis.
We need to get on and get into something that's going to change our lives in a way that will make a difference in the long-term, not only in relationships. It will make a difference in your relationships if you're obedient to this. Specifically, that we as a church are to look like this. When you read Ephesians, it is to humble you.
It is to make you go, "We should look like this. We must be this." It should humble you in much the same way that you conduct yourself in dating relationships when you read the Song of Solomon. Let's look at Ephesians. We are in chapter 4 of Ephesians that is really the blueprint of God's church.
We have talked about… Last week we started by going to Mark 11 where Jesus cleansed the temple. We had seen him cleanse the temple just four years prior. As he went back in there toward the end of his ministry, like a child's closet that was clean because mom was there before, it had gone into disarray when the one who needed to continually supervise them had left.
They could not keep it as it was intended to be. We need to ask ourselves, "What would he say if he came to our church? Would he tell us to clean our closet again? Would he say that, 'You do not look like the blueprint which I have designed?'" God has given us his blueprint. We have to ask ourselves, "Are we building our church his way?"
If not, any contribution of men that is contrary to the design of God is in his way. We don't want to do that. If we commission Alexander Lloyd Wright, the most famous architect of the twentieth century, to come and build our church… He has built churches. I've seen some of them. They aren't pretty. Anyway, people say they are.
If he was commissioned by us to build this church, we could have this famous architect who would come and lay out the blueprint. But if we said, "Thanks a lot. We are glad that you have done that. Now we can say that we have a divine and brilliant architect who has given us a blueprint by which we might build a physical structure that looks glorious."
All of sudden we go out and we start swinging hammers and people start doing what they will even with the kindest of hearts. It would not matter how much money we invested in that architect to give us those blueprints. In much the same way, we have some really good hearts that are committed to doing some really good things, but if we're not going by the divine blueprint, it doesn't matter.
We're not going to build it his way. God said that the gates of hell would not stand against his church. He said that when he handed over his instructions for how the church should be built. We need to look and see if we're doing it his way with his power according to his revealed instruction. There's a reason that he has given it to us, that we might be successful and he might receive glory as it is raised according to his design.
Last week we looked at two specific tenets. First, we saw that every single believer is gifted. We saw that starting in verse 7 and all the way down through verse 10. Every single believer is gifted. Here's the second thing that God says is true about his design for his church. He has given some gifted men to the body. First, every single one of us is equipped for service. Second, he has especially equipped some men that they might serve the body in a certain way that the body would then continue to use its gifts in a way that would glorify him.
Last week we ended by talking about how the church is made up of two main things. There is the management of the church and there is the ministry of the church. There is form of the church and the function of the church. There is the structure of the church and the Spirit. I believe that what you have in our country today is a church that, by and large, especially in the old traditional denominational churches…
It often happens in a church once it becomes an innovative church. The church that was the innovators in the 1950s often becomes the embalmers. There are people who later just kind of get stuck in a rut. We must continually ask ourselves, "Are we now guilty of the exact same thing? Are we professionals at form and have we lost our function?
What is the function of the church? Have we become famous in form and failures in function? Have we become masters and maestros of management and miserable in ministry?" God has given every single believer a gift for service. He has given gifted men to the body. He lists them. We looked at them last week.
There are four of them. They are in order of their significance and importance: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers. These four specific gifted men, two of them who are there in the technical sense that they existed before, no longer exist. That is the apostles and the prophets. The evangelists and the pastor/teacher are with us today.
Those individuals, even though you may not be one of those gifted men, every single one of us is commanded to do in part, if not as completely as those gifted men, what every single one of those gifted men are called to do. To fail to do that is to begin to break down the blueprint and to not obey the commands that God has given us. Let's look at it.
The apostles are ones who literally are sent forth. There are those who have seen, we see in the Scriptures, like we said last week, the risen Lord. They have walked with him and have been testified to by him. That's why Paul said that he was an apostle, untimely born. Because he saw Christ after his ascension. Christ revealed himself to him on the Damascus road.
Paul was one who was specifically commissioned by Jesus Christ. The word apostle meant one who is sent forth. We are not apostles, but we are ambassadors. We too are sent forth. He has sent us into the world. It says that in 2 Corinthians 5:20. "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
Then there are the prophets. A prophet was one who, during New Testament times until the Bible was put together, spoke the truth. With the Spirit of God immediately working in them, he taught the people the tenets of God. He gave them the blueprints. There are no longer New Testament prophets in the technical sense that there were then.
We said that. All of us are commanded to speak the truth. Are we not? We don't do it immediately through the Holy Spirit. We do it immediately through God's Word. God's Word or his Spirit continually gives us the truth that we are to speak from his Word. We're going to find that we need to speak that truth in love.
Then there is the evangelist. We are not to get confused that we are all to be Billy Grahams or Luis Palaus. Every single one of us is commanded to go forth. You guys have heard it. It's the Great Commission. It shows up in Matthew 28. Listen to what I say. Tell me again what I misquote about this verse.
He goes and he says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them…all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always…" What did I say incorrectly about that verse? It's not just "…teaching them…all that I have commanded you…" It's "…teaching them to observe [obey] all that I commanded you…"
The Christian church was never just to be an education place. It is education which leads to service. You cannot be a church that is just committed to service and never be rooted and grounded in truth. You have to have both. It is not an either/or. It is a both/and. So many churches today have made a bunch of mules.
We have taken a male donkey and a female horse and they have been brought together. They can work and they can sweat, but what can a mule not do? It cannot reproduce. We are steers. I will not get into the specific description of how you make a steer. You can go home and look it up. I will spare you the details. I will tell you this. A steer cannot do one thing: reproduce.
It is not our job as pastors to make you work and sweat. You are not to be mules and you're not to be steers. That is a failure in terms of what God has revealed for us to be about. We are to make effective believers who are equipped to do the work of the service to reproduce. That you would go also, not just the evangelists who are specially equipped and gifted to do this.
We thank God for them. We pray for them. We support them because where they go there is no support. We also, the pastor/teacher that every single one of us… We are maybe not gifted in a specific way to be a pastor/teacher, a shepherd, and a guide, but every single one of us is commanded to shepherd others, especially the mature believers.
If you will turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5. There is a verse in here I wish every single one of you would memorize. Let's look at it together. Let's look at verse 12. Look what it says. It says, "But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work."
Let me say that one more time. A good verse for my congregation, for Kurt and my congregation, for this body to memorize. It talks about the way you view and treat pastors. Let me read it one more time. "But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work."
Do you all have it? Should I read it a third time? Let me tell you what I really wanted to do when I turned here. I hope that every single one of you thought about, "Hey, how do I treat those who are shepherding and teaching me?" More than that, I hope that somebody came into your mind who you thought, "When old Ernie, who I've been pouring my life into, reads that he ought to think not of Wagner, not of Neal. He ought to think of me."
Is there anybody in your life that when they read 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, verses 12 and 13, that they think of you? Because what I want to encourage you with is that there are especially gifted me that God has given to the body. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that if you're not one of these gifted men, that you're not to do part of the work that God has especially gifted those men to do.
I want to tell you. I was at a church. I picked up their little Focus magazine. I kid you not. It was in there. There was a note from the minister of evangelism. That note said, "We have been encouraging you now for week upon week to participate in our evangelism efforts to the community. We have had one response over the last six weeks. Due to a lack of interest, we are abandoning our evangelism effort." I want to go, "That's not an option."
There is somebody in that church that has confused those people that it's not the job of the sheep to hire the shepherd to do the work of the ministry. It is the job of God to give gifted men to the sheep that he might equip them that they might then do the work of the ministry. Period. That is his blueprint. That is why at this church we want to walk with you, teach you God's Word, and put you in a small group.
Eventually, those small groups will pop up more and more in the form of home churches where somebody will sit with you and will teach you God's Word. We will put you through a system where you can memorize 60 verses in a year. Those verses can be hidden in your heart that you might begin to think like God thinks. We'll put you in a system that you can learn to share your faith. Give a verbal witness. We'll teach you how to study your Bible. We will teach you how to share your witness clearly with another, as I've said.
If you do that with us, if you walk with us well for 52 weeks, we will have built into you everything that you need to be effective in ministry in terms of the knowledge. We'll work with you and walk with you in that process that you might have a relational model that goes with you. You can begin to go, "I know what this looks like. I know what love feels like now."
If you guys get involved, we have a program here that comes out of the EE program. We'll train you how to share your faith. We'll do it in a way that's very tender and considerate. If you come with us, the first week you don't have to do anything. You go out. I'll go out and share my testimony. All you have to do the first week, I'll turn to you and say, "That's true for you. Isn't it, Ernie?"
You'll go, "Yep, that's true for me." That's all you have to do. The next week we'll go out. I'll say, "Hey, why don't you tell them about your relationship with Christ?" We'll have taught you how to do it. You can give a very brief testimony. Then we'll go out a third time. I'll begin to pitch you something else. I'll share my testimony. I'll give the fact that it's true.
Then I'll say, "Why don't you tell them about grace?" The next week I'll say, "Why don't you tell them about grace and man? Then grace and man and God? Then grace and man and Christ? And grace and man and faith?" Before you know it, I'm your student. You're out sharing your faith.
In 10 weeks, we'll teach you how to do it. Not just in a book, but we'll walk you through it. It is our job to equip you, not to beg you to pay money so that our salary can be paid so that we can do it. That doesn't match up with his plan. You may not be one of those gifted men, but you are called to do every single thing that those gifted men are doing.
You are sent forth as an ambassador. You are a prophet of God who is to speak the truth. Not in the technical sense, but in a very real sense. You are an evangelist who is called to go forth into all the world. You are to pastor and shepherd others. There's the second thing. Now we're going to get into the third.
Turn back with me to Ephesians, chapter 4. Paul says this is how you grade a church. Let me just start by saying you do not grade a church based on its stable financial situation. It is a horrible mistake to go, "Look. We have a $2 million budget. We are meeting it every year. Lo and behold, we're increasing it in small percentage. We must be a healthy church."
That's not the way Paul tells us we're going to grade the church. You don't grade the church the way most people do it. When they say, "Hey, man. That is a great church." they're usually talking about one thing. What is it? The pastor. Or they'll say, "Man, that is a great place of worship." Those things may be true, but Paul says that is not how you grade a church.
It is not based on the choir. It is not based on whether or not the pastor has a prayer or a tape ministry. It is based on the things we're about to see unfolded. Every believer is gifted. One we're going to see. We already talked about it. For service, God has given gifted men. He doesn't use the church as a stepping stone to promotion to a bigger church or for the purpose of his own exaltation, but he's given gifted men that they might build into the body.
Your gift, my gift is not a toy to play with. It is a tool to build with. Let me say that again. Your gift is not a toy to play with that God has given you. Every believer has a gift. It is a tool to build with. Here it comes. This is then how God says, "You want to judge a church? Paul is going to lay it out on you."
We need to ask ourselves, "How do we look? Is this a good, godly model of what a church ought to look like?" The blueprint for it has already been given, and here comes what it looks like when it's built. Let's read through it and we'll come back and attack it a little bit at a time. Look with me right there in verse 11. We'll pick it up.
It says, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…" This is what they do. "…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…" That is what we are to do. I want to take another little rabbit trail for a second. Because I want to tell you what the churches became.
You could go to a lot of churches. They became masters at form. They became masters in management. It's fine that you manage a church well, but that's not enough. You cannot stop there. You can go to a church and be punctual, but a lot of times in America, you couldn't go to church anymore as a layperson and be effective.
You watch. Starting at about the 1950s in America, what happened is the birth of something called the parachurch ministry. That is when Campus Crusade started. That is when Young Life started. That is when Navigators started. That's when Intervarsity started. That is when Youth for Christ started.
Because people found that if you wanted to be effective, you couldn't do it at the church. Because they were all about getting you involved in their program, but you never could really get serious about sinking your teeth in, because then you're running from one thing to another. You really couldn't do the work of the ministry.
Men said, "You know what? I have to be faithful to the Lord." They looked for an outlet to do it. Boy, that's why we support. I encourage those ministries. I want you guys out there. We want to build into you in this church so that you can be effective for Young Life so that God can use you over at SMU Campus Crusade or one of the community colleges around here.
I pray that you build into KLIFE kids' lives around here in Dallas. I pray that God is using you. We as a church shouldn't just equip you so that parachurch can do it. That's our blueprint as well. We have to do it right here. We ought to do (this is embarrassing to say) all that the parachurch is doing in America today. There's no need for the parachurch when the church does what it does.
I'm thankful for the parachurch. I got saved through it. I have a heart for it. Do you know what I really have a heart for? I didn't think I'd ever be in a church. Do you know why? Because I equated church with deadness. I equated church with form. I wanted to be effective. For years, I was in a parachurch ministry. Until God, lo and behold, led me here. He said, "You know what, Todd? Let's go do church right. Let's go do it my way." That's my passion now.
You get a group of people who can do it together. Not in a disjointed way, but can do it in community. Who can do it in a way where they really have to love each other and are joined and are humbled and show forbearance to one another, not hopping from one organization to another, but really develop the community that God says.
He says, "You do that. You use your gifts to build in them, to pastor, to teach them, to shepherd them. Then this is what they'll look like." This is God's church. You judge a church by the combined maturity of the individuals in it. Let me say it again. This is the way you judge a church. Is it God's church? What is the combined maturity of the believers who are in it?
You look at the NFL today, and every single team has some great players. The truly great teams don't have just one or two great players. They not only have a great quarterback, which almost every team in the NFL looks for. They don't just have a great running back. They have a great offensive line. They have a great quarterback.
They have a Troy Aikman. They have an Emmitt Smith. They have a Michael Irvin. They have an Erik Williams, a Larry Allen. They had a Mark Stepnoski, but now they're saving for Ray Donaldson. They have a fine offensive line. They have a fine defensive line. They have good defensive backs. They have good coaches. That's a great football team. It isn't because you have Barry Sanders in the backfield. It's because you have a combined maturity. You have…
A couple years ago I remember how shocked I was when they listed the All-Pro team and eight of the eleven starters on offense were Cowboys. People said, "That's a great football team," and well they should. My question is this. If God came in here today and said, "I want to list my All-Pro people," as it says in 2 Chronicles 16:9, "For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His," how many times would his eyes stop if he went across these pews?
See, I will tell you something. If it just stopped here on me, I have failed as a pastor. If it stopped on me and Kurt and on the elders, we have failed as pastors. You judge a church based on the combined maturity of the individuals in it. Here are the five areas that he says that you should see maturity.
Let's look at it. We'll read all the way through and come back and get it now. "…until we all…" Verse 13. Paul says this is what it's going to look like. "…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…" Read verse 16 with me. It says, "…from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."
The gifted believers and the gifted men to the believers are to begin to build in a maturity in the body that looks like this. Here is the first thing. Write it down. First, "…until we all attain to the unity of the faith…" God says that a good church will have this, a combined maturity of the believers. The very first thing is they will have unity of the faith.
When you look at us, you should not see speculation. You should not see pluralism hopping around out here. There should be a unified agreement about us. When I ask you who the Son of God is, you ought to agree with me. We ought to all respond together who the Son of God is, who Jesus Christ is.
That is why, by the way, it used to be given in creeds. The Apostles' Creed was originally given that we might know what we believe. That is why the catechism used to take place. They'd teach children what the faith was. When they'd say, "What is the chief end of men?" That's the way parents would drill and teach their children. The child would respond in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, "The chief end of men is to know God and enjoy him forever."
Then go to the next one. There were a hundred of them. You could spit out a line to a kid and he could respond to you. A kid who was taught the doctrines of the faith. There was a unity of the faith. When I ask you who the Son of God is, we ought to respond together that, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who came to earth, was born of the Virgin Mary that he might escape the fall of Eden.
That he lived in this life and died on a cross and had my sin imputed on him. He went to the grave and was risen from it that I might by faith believe in him and be delivered up and declared righteous as I'm delivered by his Spirit in his body and sealed in that same Spirit that one day I would wait to be raised by him to take up into glory to come back with him in glory to be established here on earth that we might forever accomplish his purposes."
We ought to be able to say it together. You may not be able to say it just like that, but you ought to learn to say it. We ought to agree who Jesus Christ is. It says that in the Scriptures when Paul wrote the Corinthians, he said, I pray that you are of "…the same mind and in the same judgment."
Paul writes to the Philippians. He says very simply there, "Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit…" It's insinuated that there is. "…make my joy complete…" How? "…by being of the same mind…"
There ought to be a unity of the faith. We ought to know who Christ is. We ought to make him known. It is amazing to me one of the great shames that I see out in our society today is we don't have people… We don't know what we believe. The cults have never had such a harvest. False teachers have never had it so easy to raise money.
Because there are more evangelicals or people who profess to be evangelicals in America today than ever before. Yet there is so much trash being taught. People just go, "Oh, he mentioned the name Jesus. I think he carries a Bible. Let me just fire him a few bucks in the mail. I'm for that." I'll tell you what.
There are people who are doing all kinds of things in the name of Jesus, who throw out a few words that seem vaguely familiar to you, but you don't know what the faith is. You align yourself with it. Next thing you know you got yourself caught way off in left field. We ought to know what the unity of the faith is.
I had a guy who was talking to me about coming and doing something one place. He said, "Todd, I just need to tell you right now. I am amazed." There is a group of people in their 20s and 30s that he's ministering to. He said, "I am amazed at the biblical illiteracy which sits out there. People don't have a clue."
I went. This is a true story this semester. I was going to teach at a retreat. The leader of this group came to me and he sat down. He said, "Listen, we understand you like to teach some out of the Old Testament. We don't want you teaching us nothing out of the book of Hezekiah." I waited to see if he was kidding. I looked him in the eye and said, "I can assure you this. I'm not sure yet what I'll teach, but I promise you we will not turn to the book of Hezekiah." Because it doesn't exist!
It's a pitiful and sad thing sometimes when I'm sitting with people in my office. They come for help. They come because they need to be equipped. We said last week what that word means. It means. It's the same word that God used or that they used during that day for mending nets. It's the same word they used for doctors setting bones. They come to have their bones set.
Some of them, God bless them, you ask them to turn with you to a book in the Bible, and you may as well just have spoken Latin to them. Because they haven't got a clue. They don't know if their Old Testament, their New Testament. They don't know if it's in the Apocrypha. They don't know if it's the Book of Mormon they ought to pull off the shelf.
I went and sat with some guys and did a Bible study recently. There were some guys who had been believers for over a decade. I had to wait for them. I had to tell them the page number to find Matthew. You see, it's amazing how we aren't unified in the faith. We don't even know the book that God has given us.
You get one of these knocks at your door. You let them in. You find it's some Jehovah's Witnesses. They will run circles around your book, not their book. Because they know this book better than you do. They've been reading your game plan. They will pick it apart with trickery. We'll talk about that.
We ought to be unified in the faith. If you're in a church where a guy is not teaching the Bible, get out! I'll tell you what. You ought to fire the shepherd who doesn't teach you the way that God says that you ought to be taught. Don't stand for it! I'll tell you one thing that we're going to get to in a minute.
The pastor who stays at a church and will not respond to what God teaches ought to leave also. It's my responsibility to take these things that I've been given into the presence of many men. Entrust them to what? Faithful men who will give them to others also. God has given gifted men to take people who are disjointed and disconnected because of sin and literally equip them, restore them, and put them back together into a body which glorifies him that looks like it should.
If that body continually says, "No, we're committed to being dislocated and disconnected," after a while, you no longer throw your pearls before swine. Is there a unity of the faith? Do you know what the faith is? Are you committed to finding out what it is? That's the first mark of a mature church, Paul says.
Here's the second one. That we would "…all attain to the unity of the faith…" Here's the second. "…and of the knowledge of the Son of God…" Let me talk about this for a minute. Because it's not the number of words that mean know or knowledge in your New Testament in the Greek. One is oida, and it means to have seen or to perceive.
There's another word. Gnosis means to have a relationship with and to experience. This is yet another. This is epignosis, which is to have a relationship which is experienced, realized, and complete. What he says is a real mature church is going to have a knowledge of Jesus Christ, a relationship which is realized, complete. Every single individual in that body is intimate with Jesus Christ.
When people find out I went to the University of Missouri and the time that I was there they ask me if I know Brad Pitt. I do. I used to walk to class with him. I would say that he is an acquaintance, but I don't know, have a knowledge of, Brad Pitt anymore. I don't know him. I never really did. They ask me if I know Sheryl Crow. I do. I knew her better than Brad Pitt.
I spent a lot of time with Sheryl. She and I were good friends while we were at the University of Missouri. I would not say that I epignosis Sheryl Crow. People ask me if I know Michael W. Smith. Yeah, I do. We've written a song together. We sang it at my wedding. He did the music. I did the words. I say, "I know Michael W. Smith."
He's a friend, but he's not somebody that I epignosis. He's not somebody I have a deep relationship with. We exchange Christmas cards. We touch base every now and then. I can't say that we're deep and lasting friends. They ask me, "Do you know Kurt Neale? Do you know Kurt Neale?"
I say, "Yeah, I know Kurt Neale. We've buried a friend together. We've prayed together. We've confronted sin in each other's lives. I know Kurt Neale. He can't sing like Sheryl or Michael. He's better looking than Brad. I know him." Let me ask you something. Do you know Jesus Christ? I mean, not have you had your picture taken with him like my buddy did last night with President George Bush.
He'd be mistaken to say, "I've had my picture. I know George Bush." No, you've had your picture taken with him. Have you guys had your picture taken on a mission trip and you think you know him? Not have you met him, not have you been acquainted with him, not have you read about him. Do you know him?
My Bible says that we as believers can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I want to know what Jesus Christ is doing in your life. Not in Billy Graham's life, not in the world, in your life! What's he doing with your Bible in your life to confront sin? What's he doing in your life with your Bible to conform you to the image of Christ? Do you know him?
That's the second mark of a mature church. First, that they are unified in the faith. They know what it is. When you ask them who Jesus is, they respond, "I'll tell you who he is. He is God in the flesh who came, lived, and died for me that I might be one and reconciled to God again." Do you have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ?
Here's the third. Let's look at it together. Look down there in verse 13 again. Let's read it all. "…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." This takes us back a little bit to where he went earlier. It is an amazing truth that you're about to see here.
Not only are you to be people who know the book, not only are you to be people who have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, but you are to be mature people who are growing to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Colossians 2:9 says this: "For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…"
What is says right here is that you, Christian church, are the body. You are the fullness of Christ. In fact, there are seven pictures in the Scriptures that say that we as a church are to be the fullness of Christ. Catch these. Watch how we are always the fullness of him, the expression of him. He is the vine. What are you? The branches. He is shepherd. What are you? Sheep.
He is the last Adam. You are the new creation. He is the foundation. You are the temple. He is the head. You are the body. He is the Word. You are the witness. There are seven of them, the perfect picture of fullness and completion. That's what he ought to find here. He is the bridegroom. We are the bride.
See, it's always an idea of completeness and fullness when we become the full measure of who he is. It is the mystery of the New Testament. We become, gang, a big picture of Jesus Christ. It's what I've said before. I ought to be able to pull somebody in off the street. They ought to look at the love, the patience, and the kindness in you and me.
They ought to say, "Who are these people who are beholding as in a mirror the full glory of God and are being conformed into his image from glory to glory just as the Lord said he would by the Spirit? Who are these people who look like Jesus?" I would say, "They are the fullness of Christ. They are his church."
Can we bring people in here and see that? That's the mark of a good church. That God would say, "I want to hold you people up as a picture of who I am in society. That you are my hands. That you are my mouth. That you are my compassion. That you continue." That's what Paul meant when he says, "I fulfill what is lacking in Christ."
There's nothing lacking in Christ. Except that Christ sometimes intended to use us and commissioned us to do things for him that we say we're not going to do. He'll get it done. What is lacking in Christ might be you, stagnant in your faith and not conforming yourself more and more to his image.
We ought to become three things. We ought to become smart in the book. We ought to become intimate with Jesus Christ, have a personal relationship. We ought to become more like Jesus. By the way, that is why nothing encourages me more when I take a group of 400 singles down to Sky Ranch and I get a letter back from the director of Sky Ranch.
He says, "We've had a lot of people come down here before. But my kitchen staff, which is not made up of believers, said 'Something is different about that group.'" Nothing encourages me like that. Nothing encourages me more when a group of folks go out from the church in the morning after they're done they go fellowship someplace to California Pizza Kitchen.
They have church groups come there all the time. They set up a little deal to save you space. The manager will call back over here and say, "I want to tell you something. I have never seen a body of people come in and be so courteous to our wait staff. I just want to thank you." That just makes me smile.
I hear some stories sometimes. I want to go tell the elders just so I can get a raise, just tell them what happened. Because that's what ought to… You know what's going on? If we begin to look like him, people are just drawn to Jesus. Is that true of us? That we are unified in the faith. That you personally have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. When people see you they go, "Who is the God behind this man?" Who are you the fullest expression of? That's what we have.
Here's the fourth. Look at it with me. "As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming…" The fourth thing that you ought to be is mature, consistent, anchored in the truth. You have to be effective in a world that is fluctuating left and right.
What do you think would happen if you tried to trim your sails, one man has said, or set your course based on the Dallas Morning News' opinion of morality? Of the psychological world? Of what the right way to counsel is? The right way to establish relationships, and sex, and dating, and the roles of men and women? Do you think you'd have a consistent course? I think not.
They used to say this. Do not wed yourself to the spirit of the age, for you will be a widow in five years. Let me tell you what they meant by that. The world is constantly changing. The world is constantly going to throw new information at you. If you wed yourself to it, if you mark yourself, if you say, "I'm going to wear bell bottoms for the rest of my life. I promise," you will look like a genius from 1965 to 1972.
Then slowly, you're going to lose out as we moved into polyester suits and you're still stuck in your bell bottoms. You have wed yourself to the spirit of the age in your dress. I'll tell you what. Our society changes values more often than we change fashion. It was just Fashion Week a couple of weeks ago in New York.
You saw them parade out all the new fashions. They always do it. I'll tell you what. Our society does the exact same thing with parades. They tell you how you are to act as an individual. They parade it down the streets of New York. They get NBC to cover it so you can see that you're missing out if you're not strapped in leather and somebody is walking you on a leash and urinating on you and calling it pleasure.
If you're not doing that, you're missing out. Because this is the fullness of the expression. We're no longer into bondage with the rules of religion. We are feeling freedom in our expression of love and physical pleasure with one another. You see? As a Christian, you guys are not… Women, let me tell you something.
You don't need to look to Gloria Steinem to have her tell you how you are to act as a woman. You have the book. Men, you don't have to wait to see what the latest Men's Journal or GQ is going to say about how you ought to act and how you ought to think. You don't have to wait to get U.S. News & World Report or Forbes to tell you how to handle your money.
I don't care what Spock (the doctor, not the Vulcan) says about how I raise my kids. I have a book that tells me how to do it. I'm not going to be blown here and there by their advice. I don't have to wait for Marianne Williamson to write her latest book to find out how I can love somebody.
I don't need to wait until humanistic Shirley MacLaine, who's getting her information from a voice that tells her how to find true peace and significance and hope. I don't need it. I am not blown about. Because I am anchored. Children are a wonderful thing, but they're also frightening. Do you know why? Because they'll follow anybody.
I have a little girl. You guys have seen her around here. Cute little blonde. I could convince her of anything. By the way, it's wearing off. She's growing up a little bit. I used to be able to say to her, "Ally," just with a little change in my voice and some little subtle manipulation I'll say, "Ally, do you want ice cream, milk, cookies, or broccoli?" She'd go, "Broccoli!"
You're a child. You're ignorant. I'm manipulating you. There will be a day when it doesn't matter what Dad does. It's getting closer than I thought. "Do you want your peas? Do you want your processed turkey with meat? Or do you want dessert a little later?" "I want dessert, Dad! I want it now!" Because she's growing up. You are not to be a child. It says do not be as children.
That word literally means one who has not learned to speak. There are so many of us. It says, "How can a young man keep his way pure?" in the Scripture. It says by hiding God's word in your heart. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." When you guys learn to speak God's word when somebody walks up to you and says, "Hey, this is how you can establish yourself in the community. You can get to know a higher power. You can release the giant within."
You can go, "You know what? I don't need to release the giant within. I need to yield to the Spirit within. Because I want to tell you who I am. I am a son of God whose infinite, holy, divine, and complete Spirit has given me everything necessary in pertaining to godliness. What I need to do is yield to him. I will have a love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control that listening to 60 hours of Tony Robbins tapes will never give me. I can tell you that.
Because I am grounded in the Word. I am unified in doctrine. I am intimate with Jesus Christ. I am looking more and more like him each day. I am not blown about." The word for trickery is literally kubeia. It comes from the word that they use for dice. Back then, just like today there are folks who fix dice game. It would be loaded dice or it was rigged to be advantageous toward the gamblers of the day.
That word came to mean all trickery. It is intellectual sleight of hand that is going around in society today. God says is a mature church is not vulnerable to David Koresh. It is not vulnerable to a subtle manipulation of the text to buy into a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. They know the Word. They know Jesus. They are not blown about. They are anchored in truth. Is that true of us?
Here's the fifth one. It simply is this. It says that we would… Verse 15: "…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…" Do you catch that? It says, in contrast to being children who are blown about every which way, that every wind and every wave would cause you to drift and keep you from getting to your desired place of rest, to the harbor that will bring solace to your soul.
You are not to be children. You are to be adults. You are to grow up. When you grow up, you do this. You are to speak the truth in love. Catch this, gang. We are not to go out (excuse the expression) and just barf truth on people, to just spew out words like, "This is what God's Word says." It's not what we're to do. We are not…
Only a mature person can do this, can speak the truth in love. An immature person takes truth and it becomes a club. They walk up and they are excited. "You know what? You're going to hell! I'm glad!" They'll say that to you. It becomes a club. An immature person can't speak truth in a way that is full of love. They don't even know what love is.
In fact, what it becomes is a condescending pat on the head. "Oh, yeah. We'll come down and visit you. We'll give you a turkey this Thanksgiving." That's not love. That's a very small part of what love is about. We are to learn to speak the truth in love as adults. One of the problems that I see with the church is that sometimes we get you guys so busy… We tell you that you have to do this on Sundays, and this on Mondays, and make sure you don't miss this good thing on Tuesday mornings.
Make sure you come to our deal on Wednesday nights too. By the way, you have to disciple somebody and get discipled and on and on and on. Don't miss the choir program. You really ought to come to this prayer thing. Don't miss this. Then we're telling you to go out and make a difference in the world. We don't give you any time to do it!
So much of what the church has been about is we have all this form, all this management, and very little ministry. That's one of the reasons when we do our Angel Tree at Christmas, we don't just tell you to drop a gift off. That's form. We're going to say, "Learn to share your faith. If you don't know how to do it, we're going to train you." Then we're going to take you.
If you don't know how to do it, I will personally take a family this year. If you don't know how to share your faith, you can come with my family this year and you can watch me share the gospel. I'll do it if you promise me you'll go through EE come January. Then next year, you take me with you. I'll show you what it's like to share your faith.
I'll equip you. I'll put you in a place that you can begin to be loved and held accountable and get to the fullness of the stature of Christ. Gang, let me ask you a question. Do you know him personally? Do you know the faith? Are you maturing so that you have the love of Christ, not just the truth of Christ? Are you anchored down in it? Are you telling people about it in a loving way?
I love that verse. You guys have heard me say it a lot, 1 Peter 3:15. It simply says to "…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…" That's a good way to combine one, two, and three. To know doctrine, to know Jesus, and to look like him. Have your life just drip with purity and clarity and kindness and gentleness and the love of Jesus.
Then it says, "…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…" Then it gets to the fifth one. It simply says this, "…yet with gentleness and reverence…" Gentleness and respect. Speak the truth in love. How are we doing?
If Paul was here grading us tonight, he would not grade us based on the worship that we did and the people who lead us in it. He would not grade us based on how your pastor did. He would stop and he would go, "Do these people know God's Word? Do they know God, intimately, personally?
Do they look like him in their work relationships, in their marriage relationships, in their friendships, in their dating relationship, in the way that they treat their waiters and waitresses, the way that they treat their neighbors? Are they anchored in truth or are they waiting for the new New York Times Best Seller list to come out to make sure they didn't miss something? Are they telling people about it in a kind way?"
God has told you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling that you have been called. That is a divine command. Then out of kindness, he then gives you the divine provision, the divine enablement by which you might accomplish the divine command. Ephesians, chapter 4:1-3 says, "This is what you ought to do." Then from verse 7 on down he says, "This is how you do it."
Gang, we can stand together if we build according to the blueprint of God's word. Not to get hunkered down in doing things or get hunkered down in being who he's told us to be. We want you to be a part of a community that will hold you to God's Word that you'll study it. That you'll learn to pray. That you'll learn to spend extended time alone with him.
That you'll learn to share your faith. We will help you do it. We can stand together if we do it. That's all that this little passage ends with. That's what it means. We're just going to read it. We're not going to really teach it. Look at verses 15 and 16. He says that you ought "…to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body…" Which is the fullness of the expression of the head. The whole body is "…fitted and held together…"
Do you know what a joint is? It's a place where conflicting parts are brought together. It's the Spirit of God who allows us who are disjointed to be reconnected and to work in a way which makes the body shine. It's the Holy Spirit which does that for us. "…according to the proper working of each individual part…"
See if you refuse to be your part… I want to be a healthy upper arm. The joint of the Holy Spirit wants to connect us. If you refuse to operate as a wrist and as a hand and as fingers the way you should, there's going to be something lacking in the body. We need you to grow with us. We need you to not be a weak link.
We need you to respond to God's Word if we're going to be the body that Christ intends. Together as we do this, we will stand. Together as we do this, the gates of hell will not stand against us. You're my brother. You're my sister. I don't know what body part you are, specifically, but I know that you are gifted as a believer.
I know that God has given you gifted men to the body, that you might be equipped. That you might become adequate for every good work. Will you stand with us? Will you become individuals who will be the fullness of Jesus Christ, anchored in his truth, speaking that truth to others in love? Let's pray.
Father, there is a lot that is here. We know that we as men are way too quick to sometimes think of men when we think of what is good and what is right and what is glorious. Too many of us have used our gifts for our own pleasure and not for the edification of the body. We confess tonight that we have been corrected again.
We have been encouraged by your Word to not use our gifts and our abilities as toys to play with, but as tools to build with. I pray that individuals in here who are mature in their faith, they would begin to be shepherds for others, that when people read 1 Thessalonians 5:12 and 13, that their faces and their names would come to mind.
That there would be shepherds in every pew out there guiding a flock. All that we could be doing is equipping others and building them up. That the body might find its fullness in us. That, Father, we might be the branches that extend way out from your vine. That we might be a glorious bride for you the bridegroom.
That we might be a new generation of people who come out of the last Adam. That we would be faithful witnesses to your Word. That we would be a temple which raises up from you the foundation. God, I pray that would be the case. That we would stand together in obedience. Help us when we evaluate, "Are we a good church," to think first of us, "Do I know God's truth? Do I know Jesus Christ personally and intimately? What is he doing in my life today? Can I testify of it?"
God, help each of us to examine our lives and see how we reflect the fullness of the maturity of Jesus. Ask us, Father, and convict us if we are blown about with every wind and wave. Lord, we do pray for your gentleness, for your kindness, for your love for the lost and for the wounded among us, that we could speak the truth to each other in love. Help us to stand. In Jesus' name.
Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ. Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 3:1 through Ephesians 4:32.