Sermon Titled “Living Beyond Myself” (Ephesians 4:7-16) – Sunday, March 23rd, 2014
In last weekend’s sermon by Pastor Timothy Dull, we moved on from the concept of being “one” church body, to the idea that we are also unique individuals with unique gifts and talents. These gifts were freely given to us by the Holy Spirit, and we are to use them in accordance with God’s will.
- Ephesians 4:7-16: 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 took many captive and gave gifts to his people.” (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 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up13 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.14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 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.
When we received Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell within us, and it is from the Holy Spirit that we receive our spiritual gifts. They are given to us that we might be edified, that Christ would be glorified – and ultimately, that the lost might be saved.
Examples of the various types of spiritual gifts distributed to the saints include: wisdom, knowledge, healing, tongues, helping, serving, teaching, giving, and leading (but there are many more). Verse 11 also says that Christ gave to His church “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.” These church leaders are responsible for building up the saints so that they are well-equipped to carry out the work of the ministry.
It’s very easy, says Pastor Tull, to fall into a “consumerism” type mindset, where we attend church each Sunday and gladly receive all of the services (free coffee, praise and worship, great sermon), yet make no effort at all to get involved in any of the church ministries. We’d rather do more “consuming” and less “working.”
We are to be reminded however that while our pastors are working (and meeting our “consumer” needs), their intent is not simply to cater to our needs and send us home each week with “feel-good” messages; their purpose is to equip us with knowledge that will help us understand how our God-given gifts are to be put to work in God’s ministry. And by work, there are two kinds of ministry work that we can get involved in:
- Outreach – being aware of the various needs out in the community and beyond, and extending services or benefits to help meet those needs.
- In reach – serving within the church itself
In addition to attending church and listening to sermons, we should aim to increase our knowledge of God’s word by attending a small group, or a bible study, or by studying on our own at home. Ephesians 6:10-18 encourages all believers to walk around wearing the “Armor of God,” simply meaning that we should know God’s truths so well that we are able to stand up to any false doctrines that threaten to lure us away from our Christian beliefs.
New Christians are especially vulnerable to worldly temptations and false doctrines, which is why small groups and bible studies are so beneficial; they provide a source of learning apart from weekend church services, as well as the support of other Christians, some of whom are advanced in their faith and able to provide answers to questions that new Christians might be seeking.
Pastor Tull shared a great analogy that explains how older and more mature Christians are responsible for protecting the younger “flock.” He described a wild-life documentary he had seen, in which a group of wolves were chasing down a herd of buffalo with the intent of snatching one of the baby calves. When it looked as if they were about to succeed, the mother buffalo (of the calf that was being dragged off), and some of the other adults, suddenly charged towards the wolves, causing them to separate and abandon their catch.
We live in a world where we will always be under attack, and where the young ones (new Christians) will be most susceptible. We can maintain the upper-hand if we strive to mature “corporately,” as a group, with each person doing their part to a) stay involved within the church, b) study continuously, and c) use the spiritual gifts that have been entrusted to us to do the work we have been called to do.
A final word: if you are unsure of what your spiritual gift is, (and there may be more than one), take this online spiritual test. It takes just a few minutes and will help you discover the areas of ministry that will bring you the most joy.
John 13:34-35 sums up beautifully what our motives should be when we take steps to get involved in God’s ministry:
- 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”