Getting involved in a church takes work.
With all the different things you have going on in your life, why should you make sacrifices to really be a vital part of the church?
One reason is because Jesus has given you a gift He wants you to use for the good of others and, I want to encourage you by looking at the impact these gifts can make when we’re all functioning the way we should.
Ephesians 4, Verse 13 and following.
“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith.”
And this is going to be a beautiful picture that Paul gives.
Because as we use our gifts, and teachers equip us to use our gifts, we grow more and more united in the faith, which of course refers to the truth, we believe about Jesus.
It says the faith.
It’s kind of like we all gather together.
And when we first get together we don’t know much, we’ve got all kinds of funny ideas and those funny ideas obviously impact us, and so we’re going this way and that way, and our relationships sometimes suffer as a result, but what’s supposed to happen as we use our gifts, is that we all come to understand the truth better and better, and not just in an abstract way, but we experience these realities more and more deeply in our hearts, and the result is that there’s less and less of me going this way and that and more and more of us moving in harmony together.
Another way to picture it.
It’s like when we first get saved.
We are dropped off in this room filled with all these musical instruments and all these other people and we are supposed to form a musical group, which is awesome, except that none of us has much of an idea of how to actually play an instrument or how these instruments are supposed to sound, and so at the beginning, we are all just playing however we want, and yet, over time, there’s someone there who is actually teaching us, he’s not playing all the instruments obviously, but he’s helping us learn how to play the instrument we’ve been given, and as we are each learning how to use our instrument slowly but surely the day comes where we are not just playing random notes any longer and making all kinds of noise, but we are actually united together, and we are beginning to make beautiful music. And that’s, I think, what is supposed to be happening in the church, as we use the gifts Jesus gave us, Paul says, we are going to be growing more and more united in the faith, and in the knowledge of the Son of God.
He doesn’t want us to think of this as just like more facts.
The word knowledge here.
It’s the kind of knowledge you have not of a subject, but of a person, really.
And so he’s saying.
God uses the relationships we have with one another to help us grow in our relationship with Jesus, and as we grow in this relationship with Jesus, it’s like we go from being like this crazy child who is just running around to acting like a mature man.
And that’s probably even a better picture than of the music.
You’ve got this baby.
Who is crying all the time and going to the bathroom everywhere and doesn’t even know how to feed himself.
If you are a parent.
You know what this is like.
It’s all the sudden.
Like twenty five years later and you’ve got this man, standing there.
Who is a gentleman. Who is respectful. Who is working hard. Who knows how to treat other people. And you are thinking how did this become this? And if you are following, that’s really what we’ve been asking this whole time, isn’t it?
About the church.
Because, you know, a lot of the time, maybe the local church looks more like that baby spitting up over everyone, and so we are looking at this baby church and wondering how in the world, can something like that ever become this mature man, that in Paul’s words.
“attains…to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Which is huge, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ and it’s a little hard to understand actually but at the very least it has to do with putting Christ’s beauty and glory on display.
I think it’s almost like Christ is the standard, the measuring stick, and Paul’s hope is that our life together, reflects His.
In other words.
When people actually look at this local church, they see at least a glimpse of the beauty of Jesus.
And, I mean, how does that happen?
That’s the question.
And Paul’s answer, as we’ve been stressing and stressing and stressing over and over again, as to do with the members of the church learning to use their gifts.
I know you want to be involved in something significant.
I want you to see this.
Because I meet people all the time who want to be involved somehow on making an impact on say Africa. I know people who don’t even go to church anymore because they are involved in politics or whatever.
It’s like, they are trying so hard to be part of something significant.
And, yet, what’s the biggest problem in Africa, and in the world?
I mean, even as we look at Pretoria, you know, we’ve got all these people who think they are Christians, and yet, the truth is making basically no impact on their lives. I think that’s the most significant problem.
We’ve got these people.
All around us.
And they are kind of like children in the ocean.
Who don’t know how to swim.
With the waves beating them.
They have no stability.
And their whole lives, it’s like they are going this way and that, just doing whatever someone in a position of leadership says to them.
They can be so smart.
It doesn’t take hardly anything to fool them.
And I mean, seriously, it doesn’t take anything.
I was seeing last week a church where the pastor says, he loses the anointing, if his feet touch the ground and so he has to have someone carry him the whole time he preaches, or there are some men who come up to the front, and then he stands on their backs as he talks.
I think, you’ve all heard about this idea of spirit husbands or spirit wives*, haven’t you?
Apparently, there are these people who are saying, if you have problems in your marriage, or maybe if you can’t seem to find someone who will marry you, the reason is because there’s this spirit husband or spirit wife, who is causing troubles for you, and you know, obviously, then the say, what you need is deliverance, which I am just saying, again, is absolute nonsense.
And it’s almost like, you can go home and you can sit down and come up with the strangest idea possible, I mean, just try to be as far off from Scripture as you can be, and then you can go out and say it, and you’ll get people to believe it. And sometimes when you first hear about what’s going on, it’s almost funny, because you think how is this possible, but when you get to know the people who are being deceived, you see it’s not funny at all.
It’s very, very sad.
I just don’t think there’s a bigger problem going on in Africa, and yet, you know, a big part of God’s basic solution, to all this stuff that I am talking about?
This is where it gets exciting.
It’s you getting involved and using your gifts in the life of the local church.
This is seriously.
Just continues Paul’s argument.
In other words, this is why God’s given you this gifts.
“…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
It’s kind of like.
If you are going to understand the church.
And why it’s so important you are using your gifts.
It’s kind of like.
I guess, if you walk into a room and you see a child you don’t know acting wild and hurting others and hurting themselves, what’s the first thing you usually ask?
It’s not very complicated.
You ask, where’s this child’s mother?
You don’t say, I’ve got to write a governmental policy.
When you see this child acting wild.
There’s a lot of things you could do of course that might help. Get the child some toys. Put the child in school. Um. Call a policeman. I don’t know. But there’s something that even comes before all that, and I would say is even more important, and that is you’ve got to find the child’s mom.
And I am saying, spiritually, the church is supposed to be our mother, spiritually. As we look out for each other and use our gifts in each other’s lives, God enables us as a local church, to really be a good mom, using all those different relationships and gifts to nurture us, protect us, and help us grow.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…”
I know a lot of people who go through life pretty pessimistic, that means without a lot of hope, even as they think about the local church, so these kinds of descriptions we read about in the Bible, like the ones in Acts 2 and the beginning of Ephesians 4, don’t even get them excited, because they don’t even think it’s possible.
And I get that, I really do.
I would think most of us have been disappointed, but I don’t want you to ever grow so discouraged, that you stop believing it’s possible for God to use the local church in absolutely stunning ways.
That’s Paul’s basic expectation.
You even see it.
Instead of being children.
We are to grow up.
This is normal.
And we are to grow up in every way.
And into this more and more intimate relationship with Jesus.
You know Jesus is committed to making this body grow.
“the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself in love.”
I know we’re all sinners.
So as we talk about the local church in the weeks ahead. It’s possible for us to overestimate our own abilities.
At the same time.
It’s also possible for us to underestimate what Jesus can do. Jesus can make this church grow exactly the way He wants to, and He will, I am convinced He will, if we each feel our responsibility to do what He’s called us to.
He makes the body grow.
When each part is working properly.
We are not spectators.
In this growth process. That’s my burden. And I want to lay it on your heart.
It’s possible for us to be a really, really beautiful local church, because of Jesus, but Jesus isn’t going to help us become this beautiful local church, if we are unwilling, to actually step up and fulfill the role He’s given us.
It’s not enough for you to just come on Sundays and sort of watch what’s going on here.
If you are Christian.
You need to use your gifts.
And if you need motivation.
I want you to stop and think about who gave you this gift, what it cost him to give you this gift, why he gave you the gift, and the impact you can make if you are faithful to use it in the life of the local church.
*(For more, see Conrad Mbewe’s blog, “A Letter from Kabwata“)