Month: August, 2015

“A Worthy Battle”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

In his book, Fuzzy Memories, Jack Handey writes, “There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day. Since I was smaller, I would give it to him. “Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons, but the instructor wanted $5 a lesson. That was a lot of money. I found that it was cheaper to pay the bully, so I gave up karate.”

There was a time in my life, when I had to pay the bully. It was one of my friend’s big brother. He got joy out of terrifying us little kids and I would have given him pretty much anything to avoid a fight.

Well, I’ve gotten older and ornerier and I’m not one to back down from a fight as much as I used to be, especially in my faith life. There has been too much surrender from Christians to the wrong things of the world when we should be surrendering only to Christ.

We need to understand our role in the family of God. If someone slights the name of the family we fight back with the truth. We fight back in love, yes, but we do it with determination.

We defend the name that we have been adopted into. We defend the faith we have been given as a gift.

We do this because we are in a battle and soldiers in the Army of Jesus Christ. And as an army together, we find we have several fronts to defend.

Little by little, worldly values are creeping into our churches. We see them doing things we would never have thought we would do just 50 years ago. If you would have told someone at that time that the church in America would allow gay weddings, and gay clergy you would have been laughed at as someone filled with delusion.

The evil one is making advancements in this front because we have been so weak as to not defend it. We have listened to worldly advice, advice that contradicts the very Word of God, and we have taken it as scripture. We wallow in the corner trying not to make anyone upset and as we do, the worldly front destroys doctrine that we once held as sacred.

Some of you probably had a hard time coming to church today. Last night went a little long and your bed this morning felt so good. You may have even considered skipping. Some of you actually thought about reading the Bible this week but decided not to. Others forgot to pray even though it’s something you wanted to be consistent at. If so, then you have been at battle and the fight for your soul has been waged.

 

Why? Because our old self, that Old Adam in us, is constantly waging a war against us to be one with the world, with worldly advice holding more weight than Godly advice, with worldly values to replace our Christian values.

And that Old Adam in us is a worthy adversary. He tries to control the mind by cluttering it up with other things. He fights, and as he does, our defenses weaken because we’ve done little to defend ourselves. Our itching ears start hearing the tempting chorus of the world and, before we know it, we’ve become like so many others who chose this temporal life over an everlasting one.

Our old Adam fights us on the worldly front but he’s also quite good at fighting us in the battle for our flesh as he fights against the Spirit of God and the things and commands of God. In Galatians 5:16-17 Paul warns us saying, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

He also tells us in Romans 8:22-23, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

The battle rages both in the world and in the flesh and as society separates itself from God, the battle only intensifies. The world and all its trappings are our enemies. 1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world—the lust for flesh, the lust of our eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.”

It’s one big, distracting temptation after another. We are attacked with pictures we shouldn’t see, products we shouldn’t use, advertisements we shouldn’t pay attention to and enticements we shouldn’t listen to. There are no rules, anything goes, the mighty dollar is king. The world tries to convince us to think of ourselves first, enjoy life and don’t worry about the consequences of your sin. Alcohol will make you happier, drugs will open your mind, sex will satisfy you, and, if you get pregnant, well then just take care of it because what truly matters is your happiness not your unborn babies.

This world is teaching us at all times and, unfortunately, it has more time with our children then we do. Worldly television, worldly books, worldly movies, worldly music and worldly advice from worldly people, even those we learn from in school and they are looking for new fresh young minds every day. It becomes easier to follow the world then it is to follow God because it’s from the world that we find our comfort and in what we place our trust. The world is filled with enticements and temptations that many cannot withstand because they go into the world unarmed and unprotected.

We see all of this and it’s amazing that most people do not believe in satan. In a 1999 Gallup poll, more than 86% of Americans believed there was a God, some polls even had it as high as 95%. But only 63% of Americans believe there is a devil. In a poll taken in December of 2013, those statistics changed. Then only 74% believed in a God and 41% believed there is a devil and Satan is just fine with that.

Just as God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life so does the devil hate you and want to destroy your life. He wants you as a Christian to remain weak and unprotected. He wants you to give into those temptations to sleep in on Sunday and ignore your Bible. He wants you to rely on Him and not in your Savior and he makes it easy for us by getting us to give into our sinful Adam. He wants you to become sinfully strong and spiritually weak and too often we become easy targets.

 

So, now that I have depressed you with what looks like a losing battle to sin, I actually have very good news for you. Jesus Christ has given us the opportunity by His blood to defend ourselves. He had given us a choice to choose sides and commit our lives to Him. He has adopted us into the family where He promises to defend His adopted children with a power that can totally overwhelm the power of death and the devil.

But it means you must be willing to put up a fight against the darkness that is all around us. Paul told Timothy in his first letter to him, Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

The war we are asked to fight is a spiritual one. It’s a good fight and worthy of every ounce of energy you can muster because your very soul is at stake. Today, despite the attacks of the devil, people are getting saved everyday.

This brings us to our Epistle lesson in Ephesians 6. The first verse we look at today is the first in our lesson, verse ten where Paul reminds us to, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” Here Paul encourages us as believers to remain strong. Not strong in our opinions or our experiences. He’s not calling us to be strong in our bank accounts or our careers. He is exhorting us to be strong in the Lord, the only one who can save us.

It’s outlined for us in Proverbs 3:5-8 where God tell us to, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

 

Only in the Lord can you find victory over the adversary. Only in Christ can you depend on your salvation apart from the wooing of the world. Only in the Spirit can you find the peace you yearn for and which the world cannot give.

Just as He told Joshua as He was entering the battle field towards the promised land He is also telling us. “Be strong, I go in before you. Be strong, I am with you. Be strong, I have made you and you are my own.” Great words to go into battle with.

If you’re like me, you want, sometimes, just to curl up and let the world have its way with you. The battle for the soul can be an intense one and, often, we feel unworthy and unmotivated to endure the battle. But God reminds us to always be on guard. He wants us to be strengthened by His Word and Led by His mighty Spirit. He calls on you to obey the instructions He has given you because He knows the battle can be hard. We can expect an all out assault on our lives, it goes with the territory. But consider this, having spiritual attacks and being involved in spiritual warfare means your growing closer to God. It means you’re on the right track. If you were simply a casual Christian and lukewarm in your faith, you’d be right where the devil wants you and he’d have very little to fight for.

 

So God gives us instructions starting with verse 11 to be covered for the battle with the whole armor of God. Any good soldier will tell you that it’s vital to have the right equipment in battle. If you have the wrong gear you’re destined for failure.

The devil should not be underestimated. He has had all of history to perfect his craft and he knows all your weaknesses. We can’t go on the battlefield thinking we can win the war alone because the enemy is much stronger than we are and much smarter than we are. We read in 1 Peter 5:8, Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

God through Paul says chapter 13 of our text, “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all stand firm.”

Stand firm with the belt of truth because it is truth that holds all things together. It is by truth in Christ you are saved. It is by truth in God that you have power over your adversary, it is by truth of His Holy Spirit that you may obtain the strength to carry on. Trust in His Word to guide you.

Put on the breastplate of righteousness by having everything you do glorify God. In every instance there is a choice given. Always choose the right, even if it’s the more bumpy road.

Put on your feet the shoes of readiness given by the gospel of peace. Understand the promises of the Savior and rely on Him in all things to make you ready for whatever the devil might attempt to do in your life. Recognize the length that the Savior went so that you might be ready in all instances. By His life you are saved and prepared to make a defense.

 

Take up the shield of faith because it is your faith that will be attacked. Be steadfast in your study of Scripture. Be determined to worship with your fellow believers who are fighting the same battle you are, a battle that sometimes takes all of us battling together to win. Use your faith to extinguish all the devils flaming arrows.

Take the helmet of salvation which is the Word as God. Surrender to the only one that can offer you the strength to make it over the narrow road to heaven. Shield your mind from all of those things that would lead you down the wider path to destruction.

Use the sword of the Spirit to find guidance and instruction along life’s journey. Believe and trust in Him to open your heart to all the amazing opportunities God will put before you. Let Him speak through God’s Word as a guide to the places God has planned for you. Go to God in prayer by the strength of His Spirit so that you may be alert in all the places you must show perseverance.

God has given all of us the power to withstand the devil. Out of His great love, he has given us the armor to resist all the evil overtures by which the devil will try and persuade us. He proved His love for you was worth dying for by offering His only Son’s life as a ransom for our own, so make a worthy attempt to boldly proclaim the mystery of the Gospel to those beyond our walls who go into the battle unprepared and unprotected.

Don’t be sidetracked by fighting with your neighbors, your bosses, your spouses, your friends or your children because there are spiritual forces at work against us to aggravate and escalate the situations. Save your battles for the Lord and against the devil. Fight your battles in truth and with courage as a child of God and a warrior in His army. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Ephesians 6: 10-20

Bible Study Questions – Ephesians 6: 10-20

The phrase “be strong” can also be translated “be strengthened”. What does this mean for us? How do we apply this?

Why is it significant that Paul says twice in this passage (verse 12 & 13) to take up the FULL armor of God?

Who is our enemy and how does he fight?

Why does Paul say our goal is “to stand firm”? Why isn’t our goal to attack and overcome?

Our 4 enemies are identified in v.12. Who are they? Where do these enemies strike from? Where do they reside?

What can be inferred from this as we consider the events that have, are, and will take place here on earth?

Therefore, can “the war” be won on earth using earthly weapons and strategies?

What is Paul trying to convey in requesting we “take up” the armor of God?

Some translations say “having girded your loins with truth”, some “tightened the belt of truth about your loins”. The point is that this is the method by which upper and lower body armor along with the soldier’s robe/tunic is tied together. How do you see the significance of this illustration beginning with truth?

What’s the most important organ protected by the breastplate? What is the significance in the application of righteousness to this item of the armor?

The word shield used in verse 16 is not the small “buckler” shield we might think of a Gladiator using but refers to the large Roman shield measuring approximately 4’ tall by 2-1/2’ wide. What is the significance of wielding our faith as a large, Roman shield?

What lessons can we draw from Satan’s use of “fiery arrows”?

What does the helmet protect? Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:8 and compare how Paul describes the helmet.

What is different about the function of a sword from all the other pieces of armor?

How does the sword imply the participation and role of the Trinity in the armor?

Is our knowledge of God’s Word important? How does it enter battle with Satan and authorities in heavenly places?

How did Christ use “the sword” in the temptation by Satan? Matthew 4:1-11

What part of the body has no armor? What seems to be left completely unprotected?

“Ancient World Military Machinery for $1,000, Alex.” An astute student of this analogy of armor might conclude that an essential item carried into battle by all soldiers of the ancient world is missing. What is it?

Q: Paul doesn’t state it as such, but what might we take as being the “spear” that compliments the armor of God?

Q: In this passage, is Paul advising personal prayer?

Q: Contrast Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:18-20 with Christ’s words in Luke 21:36. What is the end result that both Paul and Christ seek for believers?

“The Heart of Christianity”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

As you may know by now, I am a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are a pro football team that have been my favorite team for as long as I have had the ability, mentally to have a favorite team.

As such, my morning routine always includes looking at the news of what is happening to my favorite team. First I check their website and then I check an app that consolidates sports news from many outlets into one convenient place. I’ve done it so long that I almost have a nervous breakdown when I can’t get to a computer or my smartphone. It’s become a habit with me. It’s something I have come to need to start my day properly.

We are all creatures of habit. I’m sure if you think hard enough you can find something that you do over and over again and there is nothing wrong with that. Routines are helpful and comforting at times and there will always be the routines of life.

The danger comes when we get so accustomed to them that we no longer understand the reason we do them anymore. We just do them because that’s what we’ve always done.

Somewhere along the line we’ve lost the meaning and purpose behind the things that have become routine. Sound familiar Lutherans?

This is what tradition can do to us. We’ve only to look back at the lives of the Pharisees to see the mistakes they made because of tradition. When we take our cue from the mistakes of the Pharisees it reminds us not to be too caught up by the outward because it’s what inside us that really counts and don’t get too caught up in what man thinks about you because it’s what God thinks that means most.

In our Gospel lesson in Mark 7: 6-8 it brings back the statement from our Old Testament lesson in Isaiah 29. Let’s read it again: He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

Jesus was very blunt when He needed to be. “You hypocites” he says. This story was also recorded in Matthew 15 and there it says in verse 12: Then the disciples came to Him and asked, “Do you not know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

So, what is wrong with this statement?

First, the disciples were worried about the outward things of man, the things that don’t really count in the eyes of God. What they said was true but their attitudes were wrong.

They were more concerned of what man saw and inwardly their hearts and minds were wrong. Jesus calls this hypocrisy because it looks religious and godly, but the focus is all wrong inside.

This should remind us to question our intent in everything. Did you do it out of love? Was it completely truthful and honest? Or did you do it for your own glory? Someone can give the appearance of prayer without really praying. You can wash your body all you want and not touch the grime of sin that lies within you. You can sing out loud every song in the hymnal and still not know God. It’s not the outward signs of tradition that matter, it’s what’s inside that counts.

Jesus was saying something like, “You are using wonderful words, spiritual words, in all the right places, but you didn’t really mean them because your heart is far from me.” “You talk about love, but you don’t love. You talk of forgiveness but you neglect to forgive. You talk about acceptance but you don’t accept.”

That’s what tradition does to us sometimes when we focus too much on the form and neglect the intent of worship. It externalizes religion.

It makes it an outward thing and not an inward devotion. We think that as long as we do the prescribed outward form then we are somehow more acceptable to God.

We say the word’s, we sing the songs but we don’t really show our inner faith. We get lost in the method and forget the intended benefit. We come to fulfill a habit and fail to learn the lesson.

Its like were “doing” Christianity. I think this has become a great and dangerous problem throughout our country, the right words but with the wrong attitudes. There is great danger in thinking that because we do certain things at certain times in certain ways that they are somehow pleasing to God. That’s why Jesus’ conclusion is, “They worship me in vain…” because no true worship is taking place.

Worship must be genuine and it must come from the heart. It must be something you do inside of you which is deep and meaningful and real. It can’t be something superficial or shallow. It’s not something we can do with the mind apart from the heart. Anything less is hypocrisy.

Worship is also personal. We come together as one body but we as the parts of that body should worship in a more personal way – from our heart of hearts. It is, “in spirit”, your spirit. It’s in understanding the awesomeness of God.

It’s in your response to that goodness and mercy which He has shown. It’s nothing to do with what your body is doing at that moment, whether it’s bowing or kneeling or raising your hands or closing your eyes. It’s not in the way you say your word’s or sing your songs.

God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Worship is, therefore, something very personal and heartfelt.

If your attention is being drawn to the forms or the traditions then you’ve missed it! Just like the Pharisees, man-made traditions have become the focus and God is no longer in the picture. Certain traditions are good in that they remind us of where our focus should be, but if we never get past the tradition, if we don’t allow ourselves to move past that into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God, then the traditions have done a disservice. All the rites and traditions have lost their original meaning and their intended purpose.

The heart of Christianity is the heart. Jesus is much more concerned with the condition of our heart then He is in the condition of our hands. He is more concerned with who we are inside then the outward things we might do to grab His attention. The Prophet Samuel had to remind Jesse, David’s father, that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

Whatever you do, question your heart. Scrutinize it, observe it, test it. Be a person of true integrity. Be authentic. Be real to both God and man.

There is another mistake that we make. It’s found in verses 7 and 8 of our text, They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Don’t get caught up in what man thinks. It’s what God thinks that counts.

That’s another danger with traditions. Over time, the words of man become the norm, the truth. Man begins to let go of the commands of God and holds on to the teachings of men. They take precedence.

We hold onto what man thinks – like astrology, superstitions and myths. We tend to obey and believe these, more then the Word of God.

Recently there have been kids who have gotten deeply involved in a movement or religion started by a rock group called the Insane Clown Posse. Their lead singer claimed to have a vision from God and had started his own church. Wikipedia says this about them, “They center on the mythology of the Dark Carnival, which the duo claims is a spiritual force that has revealed a series of stories known as Joker’s Cards. These stories each offer a specific lesson designed to change the “evil ways” of listeners before “the end consumes us all.”

Insane Clown Posse has a dedicated following, often referred to by the group as Juggalos and Juggalettes.” Ideologies like this show how easy it is for people to get all caught up in the things and the words of man.

At the NW Washington fair last Monday, I picked up a tract from a so-called Christian group that follows the teaching of the self-professed and false prophet William Marrion Branham. He claimed to be the new Elijah the prophet come to usher in the final days. Though he died in 1965 leaving many false and damaging prophacies that have never come true (he said the earth would explode in 1977), he still has a large following throughout the United States and Canada. People get trapped in an ideology and set of conditions and they find it hard to leave for fear of everlasting damnation and they don’t even really know why.

It starts out somewhere, at a point in time and given enough publicity, a superstition can become a truth if enough people believe it and over time, it will be taken as truth without questioning, even if people don’t understand why and how it is so.

Our own faith is certainly not without its own examples. In the early church it was considered a sin for women to be educated or to hold jobs. They were thought of as lesser then men and if given too much responsibility could surely not handle it. This was an edict from our own church.

The word of man binds you but the truth of God sets you free!

We are confronted every day. We are given the choice to believe what God says, or in what people say and what we believe about God is reflected in the choices we make.

Now, in these verses from Mark, Jesus is not condemning all the traditions of men. He is not saying that washing your hands is wrong. He is talking about what they aren’t doing right. Not worshipping God with their hearts, not loving and caring for each other but rather using man-made rules to cover up the shortcomings of the heart. The heart preparation is what truly counts, not the external actions. The thrust of Jesus’ argument is this: “If you Pharisees are violating one of the Ten Commandments, how can you judge my disciples for breaking your man-made rules?” The Pharisees were hiding behind their “spirituality” and finding excuses for not doing what was right.

Don’t get caught up in what man thinks. It’s what God thinks that counts!

Don’t get too worried about the external – what the world thinks about you or how other people see you. Nothing external can make you unclean. Be very concerned with the internal because that is what can truly make you unclean. It doesn’t matter if the cup we drink from is gold, silver or glass, what matters is that it is clean and you can use it.

The heart of Christianity is the heart. Jesus looks for the transformation of the inner man not the outer man. He cares more about our heart condition then our religious tradition.

Never mind what people think. Be concerned with what God thinks and then the world will see God in you. Don’t repeat the mistakes of the Pharisees. Be true to your self and more importantly, be true to God. Focus on the heart.

Now, before anyone thinks this is a critique on how we do the traditional services here at Redeemer, you would be wrong. I truly believe that we glorify God in many ways. I believe that every time we are blessed with having Confession and Absolution, we glorify God by following His command, I feel the same way about the Sacraments, our faith confession, our Scripture readings and our prayers. We do all these things to glorify God and that so many have decided against them in their services is a travesty.

But if we are doing them because we think they somehow glorify God more because this is how we have always done them, then we have a real problem. Christ died for us, not because we do series two instead of series four. Our worship is not more worthy because we use the organ more than the guitar. Jesus Christ doesn’t save the people who wore suits to church before he does those who decided to wear jeans. He frankly doesn’t care if our songs were written in 1715 or 2015 as long as they bring glory to Him.

Jesus Christ is only interested in our hearts, our true devotion, our faith built on love. Jesus died so that He could unite His church, not so that we could see someone else more worthy than another because they happen to be Lutheran or Catholic or Evangelical. The time we have left to reach out to the world with the greatest promises is too short for us to worry about things. There are too many people who remain unsaved to trouble ourselves with things that have little or nothing to do with our salvation. He wants us to love each other like He loved us, unconditionally and with urgency in our hearts. May we be those who can see a brighter future because Jesus waits for us on the other side. May we be those whose hearts are conditioned by Christ. Amen

Bible Study Questions – Mark 7:1-13

Bible Study Questions – Mark 7:1-13

What are your favorite family traditions?

 

Why did the religious leaders from Jerusalem come to find fault and to ask questions about the failure of the disciples to observe ceremonial washings?

 

Can it be said that the religious leaders were just doing their jobs?

 

In the Jewish religious system of Jesus’ day, ritualistic ceremonial washing before eating had become an indicator, an external marker, of a person’s spirituality and of their devotion to God. Why did Jesus have so little regard for this kind of religious ritual? Exodus 30:17-21; Isaiah 29:13; Luke 11:37-40; Colossians 2:16-23

 

What makes a person unclean or unfit to offer God acceptable worship?

The word hypocrite in the ancient Greek language referred to “an actor” or “someone who wears a mask.” The image they promote is more important to them than what they actually are. Would God say something similar to us?

Why does Jesus call the religious leaders hypocrites?

What are some external markers that Christians use today to measure their own or someone else’s spirituality or devotion?

 

According to Jesus, what is essential to true worship?

Are all man made traditions in the church wrong? explain

What traditions do we often place above God’s Word?

Why do you think man made traditions in the church are so popular?

In 7:9, Jesus says, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition.” How do verses 10 –13 illustrate this statement?

 

What religious traditions influence your life? Is that influence good or bad? Explain.

 

What sorts of traditions do we observe today that get in the way of really honoring God?

 

In what ways do you sometimes emphasize appearance over internal reality?

“The Ultimate Superhero”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

How many of you were fans of superhero’s growing up? Me too. I especially was a Batman and Robin fan because when I was young the series was on television. I see reruns sometimes now and I wonder what I had gotten so excited over. With all of today’s special effects it kind of looks silly today. Maybe it was the elaborate costumes or the words Bang! Smash! Bop! Or any other words thrown onto the screen during their fights with the bad guys. Maybe it was because, as a kid I always wished I could be the one to save the day.

Our kids had their own favorites. I can’t remember what Erik’s favorite was, but for Alex it was the Ninja Turtles and for Emily it was Superman. In fact, Emily and I made a trip to Metropolis Illinois to see the Superman museum during one of her Spring breaks from school. If she were to be honest, I think she still has a little crush on him.

One of the Old Testament super hero’s was Elijah whose power came from God Himself. Last week in our Old Testament reading he was running from Queen Jezebel.

Well, he was running because, after showing the power of God to the priests of Baal he had 450 of them executed.

It’s one of my favorite Old Testament stories. Here was Elijah facing off against the evil priests of Baal. Each side wanted to show that they had the greatest and most powerful God. We can imagine Elijah making the challenge, “If the Lord is God follow Him; but if Baal is God, then follow him. So they set up alters with bull sacrifices and the plan was to call upon the name of their God to answer with fire and accept the sacrifice. The priests of Baal go first. They begin their prayers in earnest but they get no answer. They start dancing around the alter but still hear and see nothing. Elijah starts to taunt them saying, Cry aloud, for he is a god, either he is daydreaming or he is relieving himself.” They start cutting themselves but are rewarded with only silence. Then it Elijah’s turn. First he has several buckets of water thrown on to make it extra hard and then he calls on the name of the one true God and God sends such a mighty fire that it burns up everything, even the alter. Once again God saves the day. After this Elijah has the priests executed and this did not make the arch villain Jezebel very happy.

When I was a kid, I imagined God as a sort of superhero.

He was all powerful, unbeatable and very wise and there was no kryptonite to slow Him down. We all love superheroes but God transcended that because He was real.

Then I grew up and as I did, I would rely more and more on my own strength to get me through. I guess I wanted to be my own superhero. Too often, though, I would lose the fight, come home after a less than fruitful day of work, slump into the couch saying, “there has got to be more to life than this.”

Since then, God has showered me with great news such as we find in John 10:10 which says, “…I came that (you) may have life and have it abundantly.” But is a life like this really possible? Yes it is! Not only does the Lord want us to have it, He actually gives us the power to live life to the fullest.

Let’s look at the last section of our New Testament lesson, Ephesians 5: 18-21, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This doesn’t just apply to religious activities. Forgive me if this sounds like a pep talk but were talking real power here. Holy Power. Spiritual power.

Take for example, Bezalel, the master craftsman of the bible. He was chosen by God to build His temple and he was, “filled with the Spirit of God.” God gave him skill, understanding, and knowledge in a lot of different areas. He gave him the skills to do artistic design, to work with gold and silver and bronze, to cut stone and wood and every artistic craft.

Or when the apostles faced the problem of the daily distribution of food to the widows. If you look at Acts 6 you’ll notice the qualifications needed to head the program: “Brothers, choose 7 men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn the responsibility over to them…” This was not a simple job. It would require administrative skill and people skills. The apostles knew that they would need the empowering of the Holy Spirit to do the job.

When we describe the Holy Spirit we are describing the very essence of God. Just as God is invisible, so is His Holy Spirit. The word “spirit” translated from the Greek is Pneuma which means “wind.” This tells us that it is a powerful force that is unseen.

Pneuma is also translated “breath.” As the breath is essential to our worldly life, so is God’s spirit essential to our spiritual life.

John 4:24 tells us. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The Spirit doesn’t just serve us when we’re at our religious best, the Spirit can empower you as you go about your daily chores, as you bring the crops in, as you teach children at school or anything else in your daily lives. You don’t have to be a superhero to have the strength to face the challenges of life. You just have to experience the empowering of the Spirit.

So what does it means to be “filled with the Spirit?” Look at verse 18 and the word, “but.” It contrasts between a person who is drunk with wine and one filled with the Spirit. In John Stotts commentary on Ephesians he wrote, “A person who is drunk, we say, is ‘under the influence’ of alcohol; and certainly a Spirit-filled Christian is under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. But if excessive alcohol dehumanizes, turning a human being into a beast, the fullness of the Spirit makes us more human, for he makes us like Christ.” So basically, the filling of the Spirit means control. We don’t get more of the Spirit, the Spirit gets more of us. So, to be controlled means to be empowered.

We need the power of the Spirit in every part of our lives.

When he tells us to be filled, it’s a command. It is our responsibility to follow the Spirit. We don’t need to wait for the right moment or some strange experience or when our emotions are at their peak. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Let the Word of God dwell in you richly. To be filled with the Spirit is to obey or be filled with the Word of God. As we make our way in the world as people of faith, God empowers us to ACT on that faith.

But it requires something from us. We must yield to the Spirit. We must surrender ourselves. We are like a glove and the Spirit is the hand. Without the hand, the glove can’t move. The glove follows the hand. We need to yield, to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, to accept the control of the Holy Spirit. It is not something we do ourselves, but we surrender our lives so that the Spirit can work in us. And if we do the Spirit will do mighty things in us.

This section of Ephesians also teaches us another power of the Spirit. In verse 19 it says, “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”

So, let’s look again at the verse in Colossians where we are told to “ let the Word of the Lord dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” In both sections of scripture it’s talking about public worship, but it’s not limited to that. We need to watch the way that we talk to each other at all times because people judge us by the way we speak to them and each other. What God is telling us here is that, through the Spirit, we can control the way we communicate with each other.

The Spirit also encourages us to depend on the Lord. “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” This affects the way we relate to God during worship and, through the Spirit, we can make a real connection with God. John Stott’s commentary says, “Without doubt Spirit-filled Christians have a song of joy in their hearts, and Spirit-filled public worship is a joyful celebration of God’s mighty acts.” Again, though the verse talks about public gatherings, it’s not limited to that. As we face the trials of life, we need the strength of the Lord. I’m not saying to break out in song whenever we face a trial, but the Spirit empowers us to make music in our hearts. Face the world knowing the Spirit enables you to do so.

The Spirit enables us to face our circumstances differently. Verse 20 says “…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Just as we heard last week, whatever problems we’re facing, we give thanks. We don’t grumble and complain. We give thanks in any and all circumstances. In everything give thanks. We don’t give thanks for the problem. We give thanks in the problem or despite the problem because we know we can conquer it through the Spirit of God.

Finally, through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us our relationships are strengthened both at home and away from home. Verse 21 says, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

The power of the Holy Spirit is a no nonsense type of power. It reaches into every part of our relationship with others. Later in this chapter it speaks about wives submitting to their husbands. So wives of Redeemer, if you are empowered by the Spirit, you will submit to your husbands. Then it goes on in verses 25-33 telling husbands to love their wives. So, husbands of Zion, if you are truly empowered by the Holy Spirit, you will love your wives.

It even goes on in chapter 6 talking of children obeying their parents. So, children of Redeemer, if you are empowered by the Holy Spirit, you will obey your parents. In verse 4 of chapter 6 it talks about father’s disciplining their children. So, fathers of Redeemer, if you are empowered with the Holy Spirit you will bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Finally, Paul discusses the slave-master or employee-employer relationship in verses 5-9. Even the way you work with others needs the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirits work in us we can commit to these relationships as God has willed us to do.

It’s easy to display a spirit-filled life for an hour or two at church, but it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to show that same attitude of love and understanding in everyday relationships such as between a husband and a wife, children and parents, and employees and employers.

There was a missionary who got a car that would not start without a push. So, every time he would use the car, he would have people push it. Then he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He did this for two years. When he was about to leave the mission field, he turned over the car to another missionary. When he explained his technique for starting the car, the new man looked under the hood. Then he said, “I believe the only trouble is this loose cable.”

He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to the missionary’s surprise, the engine roared to life. For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept the missionary from putting that power to work.

Is there a loose connection in our lives that is keeping us from experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Is there a faulty switch keeping us from living our lives to the fullest? Let’s not suffer unnecessarily. From now on, let’s surrender to the Spirit’s control. From now on, let’s accept the power that’s been offered.

Acts 2: 38-39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”   Amen

 

 

Bible Study Questions – Ephesians 5:6-21

Bible Study Questions – Ephesians 5:6-21

What are some examples of the empty words others are saying?

Who are the “Sons of Disobedience?” Is this a charge against believers and/or disbelievers?

What could happen if you “partner” with a Son of Disobedience? How do we see this in the church today?

Contrast the darkness verses the light in verse 8. What is Paul saying?

How can we find out what pleases the Lord (verse 10)?

How can we expose the fruitless deeds of darkness (Verse 11)?   John 8:12; John 9:5; Acts 13:47; 2 Corinthians 4:6; and 2 Timothy 1:10.

Do you think the church in America is doing well in this regard? If not, how must we change?

Explain what Paul means in verses 13 & 14.

What does walking in the light have to do with wisdom?

Give some examples of foolish Christians.

In the following verses we are told to do certain things detailed below.

  • Verse 7 – Therefore do not be partners with them
  • Verse 15 – Be very careful, then, how you live
  • Verse 17 – Therefore do not be foolish
  • Verse 18 – Do not get drunk on wine

Each example also has a contrasting command(s). List the contrasting verse(s) for each and the contrasting command(s).

How does someone live wisely in our horizontal relationship with each other? How about in our vertical relationship with God?

How do we understand what God’s will is in both of these relationships?

Why does Paul contrast getting drunk with being filled with the Spirit? Are there any similarities? What is either the means or the evidence of one filled with the Spirit?

Why is getting drunk a sin?

What does it mean to submit ourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ (verse 21)?   Romans 12:10,16; 13:8; 14:13; 15:7

Who are the two audiences in verse 19 and how are they different, and how are they the same?

“Advice to Annie”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Well Annie, you’ve worked hard to get this far in your faith and now you’ve made it to the start of your journey. Many kids think that when they finally get confirmed they’ve made it and their journey is done but they have it completely wrong. Confirmation is not an ending, it’s a new beginning, because now you have been equipped to take the next step. Now you are more prepared to take your faith seriously and share it with the world. In fact, it could be properly said that your work has just begun.

But as in anything Annie, what you do from here on is up to you. Are you up for the challenge? Do you see yourself courageously stepping out in faith? What is your attitude going to be now that you’re finished with your confirmation?

In our Epistle text, Paul urged the early church to replace their old self, that sinful corrupt part of you, and to begin anew with a new attitude. He warns his readers not to live like unbelievers do in the futility of their thinking but to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. So, Annie, I’m going to give you a few guidelines to help you learn to replace any negative attitudes you have with new Christlike ones. By knowing and believing in these attitudes you will demonstrate to the world who you are in Christ. Who knows, maybe the congregation might even learn something from our little talk.

You heard me tell you several times during our sessions that to get where God wants you to be you must continue doing the right thing, the good thing, the thing that glorifies God. Romans 12:21 warns us, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” That means doing the right thing, all the time, even if it costs you, even if it takes all your will to do it. Those people who choose to glorify God always by doing the right thing are taking the steps to get to those places the Lord has prepared in advance for them.

Next it’s good to remember that not all of life will be kind to you. You will be challenged and tempted throughout your life. You will be prone to worrying and fretting about things that seem out of your control, well Paul gives us good advice here also. This time his advice can be found in his letter to the Phillipians chapter 4:6-7 where he says, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In life, when things don’t go your way, when you feel like giving up, remember to always do the right thing with the understanding that even during times of discouragement, God hears your prayer and is building you up to righteousness.

My next bit of advice would be to replace those times of discouragement with Hope. For this bit of advice we go to the Psalms, Psalm 33:18 to be specific where it says, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love.” By fear we mean respect and by steadfast we mean unchanging and eternal.

All through your life, God prepares you and gives you reason for hope. It’s that hope that will sustain you even when times are tough. During times of trials and temptation, use that hope within you to continue your walk with Christ. Hope in God instead of yourself, your friends or your circumstances.

In every life there are peaks and valleys. In the peaks of our life we feel good. Everything is going well and it’s easier to be optimistic. In the valleys, however, we feel at our worst, life seems a burden and sometimes love turns to anger. During these times it’s good to remember Jonah and the faith he had even during the dark times when He ran from God. Chapter 4:2 of his letter shows this when we here Jonah’s words, I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” In 1 Corinthians 13 it tells us that “Love is patient and kind, it does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong-doing but rejoices in the truth.”

The truth is Annie, if you are to always do the right thing, everything you do should be out of love, even if it doesn’t seem fair, even if it means you must swallow your pride, even when your valleys are deep.

 

And love always rejoices in the truth so my next bit of advice to you is that you replace your doubt with trust. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. God has promised you many wonderful things, but He never promised that life would be easy. In fact, because of sin He tells us that it’s just the opposite. You can count on people challenging you, belittling you and cursing you because of your faith. During these times it is good to remember the treatment that was given to Christ when He walked that path to the cross. He too was belittled, cursed and spat upon but He never strayed off the path, even knowing it was to cost Him His life. He knew the Father’s plan and He stuck with it for you and for me. Sometimes that’s hard to believe.

But replace your Skepticism with belief. The world we live in is becoming more cynical by the day it seems that our faith is being challenged more and more. The devil uses this to confuse us and to lead us away from Christ. We all deal with it at one time or another. Even Abraham had to deal with it but his belief would sustain him.

Paul speaks of Abraham in Romans 4:20-21, it says, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” Abraham kept the faith just as you are being asked to do. When you have questions, go to God’s Word, remember what God has promised you. If you can do this then, one day, you too will be fully convinced because you’ll be able to see God at work in your life, molding and shaping you into something even more beautiful then you are today.

But even if we believe, our days of sorrow will come. All of us will die one day and many you love will go before you, it’s the result of sin. Many you love might let you down or betray you and during these times you will feel sorrow. But God would have you replace your sorrow with joy. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “I am sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” A good attitude in Christ allows one to get through the tough times. Take an inventory of all God has given you and has done for you. During your sorrow remember all those things that bring you joy. Philippians 4:4 says, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Especially when we are our lowest, happiness is a choice that requires a certain measure of determination. Rejoice in your Savior even when times are tough. Remember your trials are only temporary but your salvation lasts forever.

Next I advise you to find your security in God at all times. Have confidence in His power and take advantage of His love. Psalm 71:5, “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.” Be assured that our God is in control and always will be. Trust in His will for you. He works in ways we could never understand but His promises are clear and His wish for you is great.

Learn to find contentment in the life God has given you and do what you can to find joy is all things. Paul again says in Philippians 4 that he had, “learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in. I can do everything God asks me to do with the help of Christ who gives me strength and power.” Your source of power should always come from the Holy Spirit working in you. Christ sent His Holy Spirit as a helper and guide. Find contentment in His direction.

When the world gets you down, attack it with prayer, “Casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” I have to do this every morning. I imagine myself during my morning prayer, unloading all my anxieties, all my struggles, all my ugliness, all my sin and ungodliness at Christ’s feet. Remember, your enemy the devil prowls around you like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. He wants you to keep all that ugliness, all the anxiety, all of your mistakes and he wants you to wear them. In that way you’ve done most the work for him in advance. Don’t fall for His tricks, trust only in the Lord and give to Him anything that might come between you and Him

So, you getting all this Annie? Good. Let’s continue then.

At many times as you grow in faith, you will come upon something that might confuse you. I urge you then to trade your confusion for wisdom by asking God to open your mind. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given him.” God longs to help you during those times of confusion. He wants you to have all the knowledge you need to make sense of things. Remember, His is a supernatural wisdom and perfect for counsel.

Remember to remain disciplined in your approach to life. Discipline yourself, therefore, into godliness, As it says in 1 Timothy 4:7-8,

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” With godliness comes blessings but with the lack of discipline comes captivity in all our sinful desires.

Also, understand that you are going to make mistakes, we all do. Sometimes our greatest lessons come from the blunders we have in life. So, if you’re going to error, error with truth. Jesus said that sometimes when we make a mistake it’s because we’re not educated enough in His Word. If we are uncertain of His Word, we might not be aware of His power to help us to overcome things.

But even the most committed Christians make many mistakes. Even the holiest people are sinners like we are. God understands out shortfalls and He’s got a plan to help us. Trust in Him in all things.

Whew. Well, are you more prepared now? Do you think the congregation might have learned something too?

Annie, this is a big day for you as we celebrate your confirmation. You worked hard and you remained committed to the task. It wasn’t always easy but you always brought a great attitude with you to class and for that I thank you.

But now the real work begins. Now you are tasked with taking that faith that has grown in you to the world so that they too might benefit. God has given you a strong Christian family, a church that truly cares for you and, best of all, He has given you Himself so that you never have to face the world alone. May God continue to do great things in your life Annie. He has a grand plan for you. Enjoy the journey and always do what is right.

Amen.

 

 

 

“The Call to Unity”

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Last weekend I went on a motorcycle ride as a member of the Warriors of Faith. This ride is the highlight of the year as groups from all over NW Washington and Southern BC come together representing many different motorcycle ministry groups in what we call our Unity Ride. It’s called Unity in that, no matter what Christian denomination, no matter what color, sex, disability, or trial you are facing, it’s a time to put differences aside and ride as one Christian church on earth.

From its inception, Christian unity has been in the forefront of the Warrior of Faith ministry. Our goal is to reach out to all people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not worrying about what separates us, but focusing, rather, on what we all share as God’s children in His kingdom here on earth.

I’ve chosen to speak again from the book of Ephesians because, 1) it’s my favorite book of Scripture, and 2) it’s speaks a lot about unity and I feel we all need to hear what God has to say about unity in times that seem to be tearing the church apart.

Really, Ephesians is all about unity. It touches on the calling of the church and the major tasks confronting her. It speaks of goals for us to be working towards together as one church. Here God tells us through Paul of the goals that we should all be striving for. In chapter one we are told to be holy and blameless in His sight. In chapter two it reminds us that we have been created for good works and in Chapter three it calls us to share the manifold wisdom of God with the rest of creation.

The church, it says, is called to be brought together under one head, even Christ. These goals are for all believers, not just Lutheran believers or evangelical believers. Our task is to do God’s work together as one church, because we are much more effective in unity.

But, of course, human pride and overthinking has done away with much of the unity we are all called to share. Today there are thousands of different church bodies all claiming to be the most unique, the most true, the most holy or the most entertaining. Instead of binding ourselves as Christ has called us to do, we have focused on reasons to keep ourselves fractured. In other words, we have not been walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.

So, if the calling from God is a calling of unity, what does that look like?

 

This calling is one in which we find ourselves bound together with Christ, so Paul goes on in our Epistle lesson for this morning to outline how being the new people of God is to be accomplished down here on earth, with the realities that we find ourselves in. We see that God has called on us to be different than the world, one people, without distinction. A Holy people set apart as children of our creator, showing through our works, a purity and righteousness that one should expect from the people of God.

Our goal should be that we fight the battles together under Christ. It’s a matter of Christian character and Paul shows in his letter the five characteristics of Christian unity. He tells us that, if we are to be united in our efforts it will call us to be humble, gentle, patient, self-controlled and filled with love.

So let’s think of these and see how we’re doing. First and, to me, most obvious, we must be humble. That same kind of humble that we see in Christ. That same kind of humble that always puts others first. Humble in mind, body and soul that recognizes the worth and value of all of God’s creation. Humility is, by definition, unity. Whereas pride promotes disunity, humility calls all people to come together, no matter what fault we might find in each other, recognizing also that we are all damaged souls.

Think about it. The people we like most are those who show us the respect we feel we deserve aren’t they? The ones we try to keep our distance from are the selfish ones, the conceited ones, the ones that don’t like us.

But we must remember, that unity calls for us to find the value in all people, even the ones I just listed. Humility asks us to reach out in love, even to those who have upset us, with gentleness, patience and self-control. Jesus never said it would be easy to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.

The one I find most difficult to exercise on those who have upset me somehow is gentleness. My over-reaction is usually to write them off and have nothing to do with them anymore. Gentleness is hard in these cases because gentleness in this world is seen as weakness. We too often imagine meek and feeble when we think of gentleness. It’s doing things in moderation when all we want to do is lash out.

Aristotle described gentleness as, “The mean between being too angry and never being angry at all.” I think I like that definition better. Strength under control. It’s really a trait of someone who is passionate but not ruled by His passion. It’s a strength that allows us to serve those we might have dismissed as undeserving.

In 2 Timothy 2 Paul uses this term, gentleness, to describe how the new pastor, Timothy, is to deal with those who oppose the Gospel. It reads, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves; if God will, without doubt, give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”

Really, humility cannot be properly reached unless one is gentle and likewise, gentleness is only achieved in humility. Jesus’ ministry was all about these traits. In Matthew 11:29 He describes Himself as “Gentle and lowly of heart.” If God Himself can reach out in humility and gentleness, we must learn to follow His example.

The next two attributes in Paul’s list are also connected in a lot of ways. Patience and self-control cannot be attained apart from each other. By definition, patience involves a sense of self-control while self-control cannot not be done if one is not patient.

Again, Christ Himself serves as our greatest of examples. Christ remains patient with His disciples who never really got it until He rose from the dead. Christ showed patience with those who were caught in evil but were willing to listen and learn. Christ showed patience when Peter denied Him, when Martha complained, when His own disciples questioned him and He remains patient and self-controlled still, even as He sees His church falling into disrepair because of their disunity.

Finally, we are called to unite in love, the greatest of the virtues. Without love, none of the other virtues could exist. Love enables humbleness and gentleness, it allows for patience and self-control. It should be the controlling force of everything we do.

And our unity with each other can only come from the unity we find that we have with God. Verses 4-6 tell us that, There is one body, and one Spirit just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Our unity derives from the fact that the one Father has created His one family. The one and only Son is the focus of our one united faith, hope and Baptism. When people attack the unity of the church what their really doing is attacking the oneness of God, the unity of the Godhead.

Even with this is mind, the church has found excuse after excuse to keep themselves broken. Martin Luther longed for the one church to be unified as it had been at the time of Christ but, because of human pride driven by human desires, we chose to use the reformation as an excuse for disunity. Though we were asked by God to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, we have risen in contempt for one another, each claiming superiority over the other. Even as Jesus Christ came to bring us together under Him, we have created other Christ’s who allows us to gloat over all our pious attempts at ministry.

Jesus Christ taught us to think as one body with a variety of gifts, each complimenting the other. He taught us to overcome strife among ourselves by holding each other accountable in love. We are to be enriched and built up in diversity, not spread apart because of it. Although there is only one church, that body is made up of many individual pieces, every piece different from the other. But the gifts that were supposed to complement each other have come to serve the created more than the Creator.

God made us unique for a reason, each being given God’s grace according to the measure of His gift. In other words, we are different because we all serve a different purpose in support of the whole. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle that needs all the pieces to complete the picture. If one is missing, the picture in incomplete. If you want to really upset a person who loves jigsaw puzzles, give them one that takes a 1000 pieces to make a picture but only give them 999 pieces. We can imagine God feels much the same way if someone decides to keep his piece to himself in disunity.

God gave some of us gifts, as it says in verse 11, to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers and He did this so that we might prepare God’s people for works of what? Of service. All our gifts, no matter how petty we might think they are, are to be used to serve each other in unity, so that we might all be built up in unity.

If our church is to be built on one foundation, it will take all people of the church to unite, using their own individual gifts towards the goal of building up the church. And as we build up the church we are, in turn, built up ourselves in faith. Our specific gifts are vital to the church and the unity within her. These are prized by the church because, without them, the church cannot survive.

As we are built up then, we mature in our faith. Our gifts were not just given so that the church might benefit, they were also given so that we might benefit in our own distinct ways. The body of Christ is being built up until all of us come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the fullness of Christ.

This is what all of us should be striving for, a mature faith. It’s what we should long for. The unity we are called to is the same unity that Jesus Christ shares with the Father and the Spirit shares with Christ. We are called to have one voice just as the Godhead does, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

In John 17:20-21, Jesus says in His prayer for us, “My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”

This was the prayer he prayed at the last supper. It was the prayer that was a culmination of all His previous prayers. It was a call for all believers to be one. This is what it means to attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, to be one with each other and with God the Father. To be able to stand against the wild storms of the world and all its temptations. “No longer infants to be tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”

If we are to save the church, we must do so in unity. If we are to build up the church, we must do so in unity. If we are to bring back the glory of the church, it must be done in unity, unity with each other and unity between all believers and the Godhead. If we can manage to do this, the end result would be glorious, every joint knit together with every ligament to strengthen and provide. Our first step is to build ourselves up in love for all of God’s creation because every part is needed so that the body might be built up.

My wish for all of us would be that we would join together in faith, with confidence, to defend the church against all those who would want to rip her apart. It will take courage and determination but more than anything it will take faith, found in love. May we be so blessed. Amen