Sermon February 24, 2007 : Ephesians 4 (Part 5)

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Let's go to the word of God in Ephesians, chapter 4 and I want to pick up where I left off last time, it’s verse 13 and we’re going to go on from there to verse 16. Actually I will begin at 11 so that you get a sense of the continuity of what we’re speaking about.

Verse 11 it says: “…it was he who gave some to be Apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up 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. 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 men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is Christ. From him the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament rolls and builds itself up in love as each part does its work…”

Allow me to lead in a moment of prayer. Father, I consecrate this moment to you, I consecrate this word to you. Father, we have come desiring to hear your spirit speak to us tonight, and I pray that you would take me, take us, prepare our minds, our spirits, Holy Spirit that it be you giving us your message, giving us your word that we need. Speak to us prophetically even, Father, speak to us for the now, for this group in particular, for our needs as followers of your gospel, Father. Illuminate us. We render our minds under your control. Lead us now, Father, in the pursuit, in the study of your word. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Let me go back a little, the last time that I spoke regarding this passage, and as I say, I’ve been stuck in it for about 4 meditations, and still there’s so much in it. It’s a very deep, deep passage. We were talking about that balance that is insinuated, that is suggested in verse 12 where it says that we are receiving the benefit of the teaching of the Apostles and the prophets and all the different gifts that God brings into his church in order to become a people who can serve the Lord effectively. That’s why the Apostle Paul says that these evangelists, these different offices of the church, and I would say, any gift of the church exists to prepare God’s people, specifically for works of service.

Remember the context that I put all of this in, which is that the church exists as a body, as an organism to serve the Kingdom of God and we come into that organism to become cells, to become instruments that will be fitted, that will be prepared to be useful for the kingdom. So, it is a very utilitarian conception, if you will, of the Kingdom of God and of the people of God. We come into the kingdom to become useful servants. And we benefit from the teaching and the ministry of the church and all the different nutrients that the church provides, not simply to just gorge ourselves and to grow in knowledge, head knowledge, but really to develop in order to serve the Lord.

So, we come to be prepared for works of service. And also, these different gifts of the church exist to bring us into two things, into the unity of faith and into the knowledge of the Son of God. And I stopped there last time and tried to sort of discern the balance that scripture calls us into as believers of Christ and as followers of Christ, which is in the one hand, the church is called to appreciate doctrine, to seek unity. That terminology of unity in the faith, it’s not faith in the sense of believing in God that the Apostle is referring to, although that is one understanding of faith, but here it’s more unity in the doctrine, unity of belief, unity of teaching, in other words.

So, all these offices exist to teach us, to receive the revelation of the spirit and to channel it into the church so that we all come into a common understanding of the faith of Christianity. So I would have entitled my sermon last time partially, ‘Doctrine matters’ and I was saying that in an age where sometimes doctrine seems to be de-emphasized in the interest of getting people into the church and sometimes a weakened church has the temptation to sacrifice the insistence on doctrine in order to gain converts or feeling somewhat at a disadvantage to sort of de-emphasize those things that might turn people off about the church, or that might make us seem too doctrinally oriented or too rigid.

The tendency might be to de-emphasize that aspect of the church and to just kind of open up to all kinds of different doctrines, or to simply allow people to exist in a kind of fog doctrinally. And I was saying that we saw that in Galatians, for example, and other passages where it is clear that the Apostle Paul is not tolerant at all of heresy or of any kind of teaching that the goal is contrary to that wholesome doctrine that he speaks about, that gospel once given to the saints. I mean, scripture calls us to be attentive to doctrine and to learn doctrine, to learn about the Bible, to learn what the Apostles taught, to learn what Jesus Christ taught and to see the whole system of teaching, which is the scripture.

On the other hand, he also says into the knowledge, that we’d be also guided in the knowledge of the Son of God, and we were wondering why, you know, right there juxtaposes with doctrine the knowledge of the Son of God. And I was suggesting that the Apostle Paul was trying to establish a balance, because sometimes when we are so hooked and so focused on doctrine the tendency also can be to become rigid, sterile, dry, insistent on doctrinal correctness and we turn doctrine into kind of idolatry almost. And we can became pharisaic at times, we can become robotic in our determinations. And the spirit of Christ is a spirit that while remaining faithful to the Father and the revelation that he has given, is also nurturing and compassionate, and loving, and understanding of the moments that a person is living.

And we see that all the time. You know, Jesus had a problem with that rigidity and always throughout the gospel we see Jesus misunderstood by the rigid Pharisees that have become so compulsive in doctrinal correctness, that they have forgotten to sort of discern the spirit of God, the spirit that lubricates, that gives life to the law. And so they can’t understand why Jesus would allow a sinful woman to get close to him and anoint him just as also one of the treasures in Jesus’ camp cannot understand why he would allow such expensive perfume to be lavished on him, when there are so many poor people who could benefit from the money.

See, it’s that mechanical understanding of doctrine teaching. And Jesus always, the spirit of Jesus, this Son of God that Paul is speaking about has such an agile, living understanding of holiness. When the disciples are picking wheat, grains of wheat on the Sabbath, the Pharisees are scandalized. ‘You’re breaking the law: the sacredness of the Sabbath’, and Jesus says, ‘Hey, guys, lighten up. I mean if a man loses his ox and it falls into a whole on a Saturday, doesn’t religion allow him to save it and bring it out?’ And Jesus spoke about when David and his men were dieing of hunger in the field and they come into a sacred place, and there’s the bread of the proposition which is sacred, had been consecrated to God and upon pain of death did you violate the sacredness of that bread. And David asked the priest at that moment, ‘Could we eat the bread?’ and the priest said, ‘Yes, of course, go ahead and do it’, because life trumped the Sabbath and life trumped religion. And so Jesus used that as an illustration.

And I’m always struck by one other example of mercy trumping the rigidity of doctrine. In the Old Testament in the passage where Neiman, now converted to the living God, and being a general, a high officer of the Syrian army, realizes that now that he knows the living God he must go back into his country and that the king sometimes brings him, because he’s a high officer into the temple of the false God and leans on his arm and when the king leans to worship, bows to worship this false God, Neiman must also bow just because he must keep the same posture as the king. And Neiman is worried about that, because now he understands that there’s only one living God and that in doing that he may be, and probably is, sort of participating in idolatry of a false God and he instinctively knows that he’s violating the law of God.

And so he asked Elijah, ‘What do I do?’ and you know, I mean, the rigidity of religion would have said, ‘hey, do not for a moment bow in any way. Let them cut your head off. I mean, die like a martyr, do not violate the true living God. What does Elijah say to him, he says, ‘Peace, don’t worry about it. That’s ok, God understands’.

And I’m always struck by that… this most holy being was Jesus Christ, at the same time being so compassionate, so discerning. People couldn’t…. he was slippery, completely elusive. The disciples couldn’t understand, they were concerned. He is talking to a woman in public. What are they going to think of him? And Jesus says, ‘you know, this Samaritan woman needs the gospel, she needs to know.’ So he doesn’t care what people think.

I think that his is what Paul was speaking about in juxtaposition with doctrine and faith. He’s also saying, ‘yeah, but also the knowledge of the Son of God, having the spirit of Christ that enlivens and gives meaning to religion.’ And you know, our faith, our doctrinal correctness must always be tempered and completed and complemented by mercy, by grace, by love.

I’m always reminded of the words of Michael, chapter 6, I don’t even know if I could find it, it’s such a little book, and I confess to you that I don’t know whether it is before Zephaniah or after Zephaniah. If anybody finds it, let me know, Michael chapter 6. I got it, but now to find the passage…. Mika, yes it must be… where it says 6:8. Thank you, I have at least one scholar here.

It says, “… he has showed you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

You know, I see in scripture time and time again this call, to simple religion. You know, God is not a very complicated being. I mean, he is infinitely complex but he is also amazingly approachable and accessible and he really doesn’t demand as Mika rhetorically asks, thousand barrels of oil and the life of your newborn to be pleased. You know, he wants a contrite heart.

David says in psalm 51, “….a contrite heart, a humble heart you will not reject”. And so Paul is speaking about here, in this unity of faith of the knowledge of the Son of God, you know that balance between the two.

So, those are two things that you know, we are being called to receive as a result of the moving of God’s ministers: to be prepared for the works of service. Actually three: to come into the unity of faith and also to have that knowledge of the Son of God which I developed more deeply last time and I hope I made my point, that there is a balance here that is sought.

And now, there’s another element that should come as a result of participating in the life of the church and of the ministry of the church. It says “to become mature attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…” That is another element that is so important.

The word that is translated ‘mature’, is 'andra teleion' which means a complete man. I like the Greek is so much more expressive. Until we become a complete person, a complete man, a complete woman: 'andra teleion'.

And I think that that’s an important distinction to be made because to me that understanding of ‘complete’ means that there are different parts. When I think, until we become a complete man, a complete person, it’s suggestion progression. It’s suggestion adding things. It’s suggesting a process through which we go as believers in the Christian faith, that culminates at least theoretically, and ideally, into completeness which is perfection. In the scripture often the word that is translated perfection is really meaning completion, the fulfillment of a process and that understanding opens me up to a whole lot of considerations.

It led me to several passages in scripture where this is sort of filled out a little bit more. And even before I think of completeness, you know, I find it illuminating to think of incompleteness and immaturity and childishness and scripture has something to say about that.

In Hebrews, chapters 5 and 6, for example, Hebrews 5:11, for example, the writer of Hebrews chides the readers by saying “… we have much to say about this but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need somehow, someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food. Anyone who lives on milk being still and infant is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness, but solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

So, you see, I mean, the spirit is kind of bothered and annoyed by inappropriate immaturity. I think there is a tolerance that God has of course for us when we are beginning in the faith, and God will forgive a lot of things and overlook a lot of things while we are being formed and shaped in the Christian walk. But you know, we are expected to grow. We are not expected to remain infantile all the time. You know, the Christian faith is not a static thing where we simply come to church and we’re sort of a foreign body coming into a building and into a ritual and when we leave, everything sort of stays the same: the building is there, the ritual goes back into the closet, the priest takes off his sacred clothing and puts it in the closet, we go back to our home and to our job and nothing has happened. And then until we come back the next Saturday or Sunday, or whatever, and the same process repeats itself.

You know, the Christian life, the Christian walk is supposed to be a journey into maturity, into perfection. I have said many times that my favorite image of the Christian walk if of an arrow flying in the air, going toward its mark, and never reaching it really. That’s how I conceive the Christian life, the Christian walk.

And so, for us you know, every day should be an opportunity to grow into the image of Jesus Christ, to acquire something new for a repertoire, for our arsenal of resources and of knowledge of God, to be as the Apostle Paul says in Romans, chapter 12, to continually lay ourselves as a living sacrifice, holly and acceptable before the Lord, because this Paul says, is what constitutes our true worship.

And, you know, the Christian life is that continual laying of ourselves, laying of our defects, our flaws, our wounds, our fears, our sins, our tendencies to disobey the Lord, our temperamental weaknesses and flaws, and to be willing to lay all of that, like a statue that is being continually sculpted by the divine chisel, we are continually submitting ourselves before the Lord. God do as you will in my life, take away that which does not please you. Take away anything that serves as an obstacle in the communion between you and I.

And you know, the Christian walk has to be that, we should always be transcending ourselves. It’s a life of continual self transcendence, of continual improvement, of continual dieing to self and becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. And if we don’t do that, then you know, God does get impatient with us. The Christian life is not just a life of static existence, it is a continual journey of sacrifice. And we should see ourselves as that, we’re always in interaction with the spirit. God is always teaching us something, confronting us in a certain way, blessing us in a certain way, teaching us lessons and the whole of life should be one, big, open, living text book from which we are gleaning all kinds of new information and new lessons in order to become better, and better, and better.

There is a parable that Jesus offers where the owner of the vineyard comes to the vineyard and finds that the vine is not producing any fruit, and he tells the caretaker ‘hey, this vine is taking up land, and it’s not giving any fruit. Cut it’.

You see, there is a lesson there. This merciful God, this loving God that we serve also expects fruit from us and that’s why Jesus said, you know, I have put you that you might bear fruit and that your fruit might last. And that, by the way, connects with what we said that we are called into the kingdom for works of service.

You see, all these different roads lead to the same concepts. And so, I think in that initial moment, what the spirit is saying through the parable, ‘God expects you to bear fruit. I mean, a fruit tree is expected to bear good fruit and if not, God is going to be there like, all right, come on, when is this going to happen? When are you going to start rendering fruit and benefit for the kingdom?

So, we’ve got to be careful. You know, it’s not an optional thing. I think Christians should always be a little restless. You know, how can I serve the Lord? How can I give benefit to the kingdom? How can I bless the God that I serve? How can I be useful at work, in school, in my church? You know, we are expected to bear fruit and God’s gifts channel themselves and grow in us as we give that fruit, as we invest that for his kingdom.

And so, the owner of the vineyard, sort of an image of the father in a sense, says, ‘you know, cut it off, take it off’, and the caretaker says, ‘you know, why don’t we wait… let’s wait one more year and let me dig around it and let me prune it, and let’s see what happens. And if when we come back it hasn’t borne fruit, then we’ll cut it.’

So, I mean, there is hope, there is an implicit threat as well there. And I see that caretaker as an image of the Holy Spirit perhaps, or of Jesus himself, our intercessor, in dialogue with… you know the Trinity in dialogue with itself in a way. You know, this is why many of the experiences that we have in the Christian life are provided for us, because God is always in the business of preparing us to bear fruit, and so when we enter into the economy of the kingdom, we will enter into a machinery designed to format us and to conform us in such a way that we will become fruit bearers and that we will become useful to the kingdom.

So, will God will engineer all kinds of situations, relationships, encounters, experiences, even tragedies, failures, betrayals, difficulties, all of them, you enter into an economy where is nothing is wasted. When you become a child of the Kingdom of God understand, that you enter into a field of energy where everything is designed to lead you into conformity with the image of Jesus Christ and to become a person who can bear fruit.

So, everything that happens to you, you must assume that it is happening for a purpose. It is that divine caretaker preparing you to bear fruit and to become useful to the Kingdom of God.

This is why the Apostle says in Romans chapter 8, that to those who love the Lord, everything works for good, that is those who have been called according to the will of God. You see, because that’s what’s happening. And you know, it’s so useful to live life like that, assuming that everything that happens to you has a purpose, has a reason, even the terrible things that seem unexplainable, they have a reason.

So, it is so useful to ask, God, why is this happening to me? But not in the sense of God, why is this happening to me? No, God, why is this happening to me? What is the lesson behind it? What can I learn? What is the meaning behind this event and how are you using that event, what is the encoded language in this event so that I can understand what you are leading me to? What aspect of the Christian walk you are channeling this energy to, to shape me? Everything that happens in your life.

I mean, isn’t that a better way of living life? With a sense of purpose, with a sense of coherence, that everything is designed. The Holy Spirit can do that. Each of us can be led in a different way and the more we understand that, and the more we integrate ourselves into that process, and the more we participate with it, the faster the growth and the sooner, by the way, we are released from our discipline.

So, it’s better for us. The more we cooperate with God working in our lives, through pain and also through good experiences, the faster we complete the process. The more you resist is, the more you rebel against it, the more you deny it, the more you protest, the more you try to escape it, the tighter the discipline grows in your life.

So, let’s cooperate with it, because the purpose of the Lord is to lead into that maturity, and the Lord is really impatient with a child that remains a child always. Time and time again the Lord shows that those who are expected to have grown to a certain degree and don’t, they are at a disadvantage in the kingdom.

Now, look also what Paul says in Philippians, chapter 3, verses 12 through 14. Paul exemplified a person who was always growing, I mean, Paul came from the extreme of persecuting the church, hating Christians, and being very secure in his Pharisaic system that he was living in, and having a whole program that he operated in, all of a sudden all of that was just thrown into the garbage and he had be reprogrammed and he had to start all over again from zero, from scratch.

And so Paul knew about journeys, Paul knew about beginning like a baby, not understanding anything about the world that all of a sudden you were thrown into and having to grow into understanding of this new faith that he had been thrust into. So, he says in chapter 3, verse 7 “…. But whatever was to my prophet, I now consider lost, for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ, Jesus my Lord…”

By the way, that connects with “… and to know the Son of God”, remember that in the earlier….?

“…..greatness of knowing Christ, Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ…”

And then further, in verse 12 he says “… not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect…?

You see, the word again, the perfect or completely mature. You know, I don’t pretend to have achieved at all, I mean, I haven’t gained that perfect understanding of Christ, I haven’t gained that full maturity. I mean, I have left everything for it, and I have sort of let go of everything that encumbers me in order to run the race, as he says in another passage, more lightly and more comfortably, but I haven’t attained it yet. you know, I’m still involved in this. But I press on.

You see, that is the Christian journey, pressing on, pressing on through whatever adversity, trials, failures, difficulties, problems, setbacks, you press on. You keep pushing. It is a life of agony. It is a life of struggle, you know, the life of a believers is the life of a hero, a tragic hero, fit for Greek narrative, giant, maybe blinded because of the battle, but with muscles bulging and sword in hand continuing to chop away and to strike at the enemy. He continues on. He doesn’t stop. I mean, he presses on. We press on towards the calling that Jesus Christ has given us.

In another passage he says, you know, to take hold, it says here, to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold me. It’s like two wrestlers almost, you know, trying to grab each other and it reminds me all of a sudden of Jacob wrestling with the angel. In a sense you know, it’s like that, God is trying to grab you and you are trying to grab God. God wants a piece of you and you definitely want a piece of God and you’re struggling in there. You’re after the blessing, you want the fullness of the Christian life. You want the full passion, the full joy, the full pathos of the Christian life. You will not be content with just a mediocre experience. You’re pressing on, you’re pushing on and you’re grabbing hold of God and God is saying, ‘I’m grabbing hold of you and as long as you grab a hold of me I’m going to grab a hold of you and nobody is going to take you away from me.

Romans chapter 8, you know, “he who gave the son, won’t he give everything else because I mean, God has made sure…. The security of the believer is such, you know, as long as you hold on to the Lord, nothing that is created, devils, angels, experiences, death, hurricanes, trials, nothing will be able to separate you from the love of God that is with Jesus Christ. So you hold on to him, you know.

And Paul says, “….I have taken hold of that for Jesus Christ took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it, but one thing I do, he repeats his image of the beginning, forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead….”, again that image of heroic, athletic straining. The Christian life is not easy, it’s not a wimpy thing. I would not follow Jesus Christ, I would not be in the gospel if it were something easy and simple and spontaneous only. It is heroic, it is agonic. It takes struggle, but man, what beauty, what joy, what height there is in living the Christian life like that, “…..forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on towards the goal, to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus…..”

And look what he says: “…. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things”.

You see, I think when you reach a fuller understanding of the Christian life, you begin to see it that way. You see that the Christian life is not just nice experiences, sweet things, rest, affirmation, high self esteem, feeling good about yourself. You know, you’re going to have to struggle, but that struggle, if lived in faith and assuming that God makes sense that he is coherent, that he doesn’t allow anything to come into your life because he fell asleep on the wheel, but that he has a meaning behind it, you know, when you live the Christian life like that, man, you will never be bored. You’ll become a giant. You will enjoy all of life, even in the suffering you will find glory because you are pursuing, you’re an athlete, you’re pressing on because you want that reward. You want the blessing of knowing that you have authority, you have earned that authority.

It’s like a soldier that we see in the airport or in a plane, you know, they have their medals and they have their nice uniform on and people gape at them, you know, kind to pretend that you’re not seeing them but you’re watching these guys with medals. They’ve earned those medals, you know, they walk with authority. And I think as believers that’s the way we do. We have our wounds, we have a few scars and we also have a few medals to remind us and to remind the demons around us that we have earned every piece of authority that we use as we serve the Lord and as we walk in the Kingdom of God. We have paid the price. We are on our journey, we understand the cost of the Christian life.

I mean, don’t we want to live that life? I mean, that’s why people get bored when they leave the church and they go around doing different things, they come back 3 years later, because they forget. When you life the Christian life fully you can never leave the gospel. You are marked for life. You have been seared with the consciousness of who you are and of the glory of being a servant of the living God. It is so much more sublime than the cheap stuff that we see many times in the XXI century, the cheap understanding of the church.

Another passage that I find, and I’m winding down here, that I find very revealing, this sense of this quest to become mature to attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, redundancy. Paul is so redundant many times, because he just wants us to get it. He wants us to get the message, so he becomes redundant and over abounding in his imagery.

But in Second Peter now, chapter 1, verses 5 through 9 there’s one of the nicest passages about maturity. Because now maturity is presented in a different way, it’s that accumulation of qualities that I was saying, you know, when I said about completeness. That completeness presupposes a certain kind of accumulation of things until you have fulfilled a pre-established measure. And so here, Peter speaks to his audience about godliness and about participating in the divine nature, that’s verse 4. You know, and that’s such a beautiful image, participating in the divine nature. You know, in a sense that’s what we are being called as believers to become fully participating in the divine nature as we are chiseled by the divine sculpture and submitted to experiences that bring us closer into the perfection of Jesus Christ. We become less earthy, less animal-like and more ethereal, more divine-like. We become more like Christ. We become closer to the divine nature, we become perfected, and so that’s the beauty of the Christian life.

So, he says, he’s inviting us to “……participating in the divine nature and to escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires, the flesh….”

And then he says in verse 5 “…. For this very reason, in other words, in order for you to become that, intimate with the divine nature and to become more like that divine angelic being, that you are being called to become, make every effort, -again, here’s the image of the Christian walk, heroic, striving, full of effort and lucidity-…. Make every effort to add to your faith goodness…”

Guau! Here’s the beauty again. Faith must be tempered by a few other things. Faith by itself is not enough. Doctrinal correctness is not enough, it must be tempered by goodness, that generosity of heart that I spoke about Jesus, that grandfatherly mentality that is typical of the believer who has been crushed and broken by the experiences of life led by the Holy Spirit. Goodness.

“…add to your faith goodness and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge self control, and to self control, perseverance…..”

By the way, there’s a beautiful, logical chain, there is ethical coherence in the progression. We don’t have time to break it down, but take time and try to find the connections between these different things, you know, “…to goodness, knowledge”, because goodness by itself, you know, goodness needs to be tempered by knowledge. It needs that steel bar going through it, because goodness without that is mushy and formless and sentimental. But goodness needs knowledge and knowledge by itself it’s not enough, you need self control. Many people have knowledge but they don’t have self control. They don’t have that self discipline.

“… and to self control add perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness the crowning jewel of the pyramid of Christian virtues, love.”

Because love summarizes everything and encompasses everything.

“… for if you possess these qualities in increasing measure –see the image of again growth towards something, accumulation. You know, as believers the Christian virtues are like wonderful…. It is a leather bag that you carry throughout life and you’re adding these virtues with the passing of time, becoming more like Christ. You grow in one area one day, but then you realize, ‘hey, I need this other area’.

How many people we know who are very again strong on teaching, and knowledge, and doctrine, but intolerant of the weaknesses of others and puffed up with themselves? How many people are very loving and good but they’re dominated by all kinds of passions that are raging inside of them? And as a matter of fact, a compassionate attitude is a way of compensating actually for the things that they do not have control inside themselves. So really their goodness is compulsive and psychological, it’s not really spiritual.

So, all of these different virtues, they complement each other and that’s what we need always to say, ‘Holy Spirit, teach me the complexity of true ethics, of true morality, of true spirituality. Help me to be able to break down this formless mass of goodness and to be able to name it and to know what I’m striving for.’

And you only get that through the word of God. The Bible speaks that you know, only those who have been tested and tried and experienced in the use of the word of God, those become mature. And as you read the word of God with humility and then you learn about these different pieces that come together, you know, for if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I mean, the circle closes right there. We’re seeking maturity, we’re seeking to become useful for the Kingdom of God. Read Ephesians 4:13 again, 12 and 13. How do you do that? You add these qualities, you live your life striving to become more and more like the Son of God who embodied all of these qualities. You accept an ethic in life of perpetual growth and development. You see yourself as continually adding new virtues, new qualities to your character, new jewels to your crown. You become hungry and thirsty for growth and you’re like an explorer collecting wonderful jewels or wonderful paintings to adorn your collection.

And so you become avid for growth and for perfection and you don’t do it out of pride or out of just one more hobby. No, you do it because you know that that’s what you’ve been called for. That is your identity. That is your calling. You add virtues, because you know that once you have those virtues nothing will be able to stop you.

Many people want to be used in the kingdom. I run into people all the time who want to be used. They feel that God has called me to do this and do that, and so sometimes we shove ourselves into service and we push people around and we manipulate in the church that we will be placed in positions of service and we want to make our knowledge known and our skills known and what we can, and so on and so forth. And I say, don’t worry about that, just make sure that you have the spirit of Christ and the gifts of Christ in you and people will come clamoring for your services, people will be after you. You will have to run away from them because they will be knocking at your door continually asking for your support, your service, your help, your contribution if you have the character of Christ in you.

That is the equivalent of fruitfulness, when you add these virtues. Don’t worry about the end result, the ends result will be blessing life, joy, fruit. Worry about becoming a receptacle for the virtues of the spirit. Everything will take care of itself then. That’s the journey that God invites us into tonight to become mature, to attain to the full measure of the stature of Jesus Christ. And then nothing will be able to shake us. We’ll be strong, we will be useful.

Let us stand for a moment and let us ask the Holy Spirit to just refresh that teaching in our being right now. Let us reject in a deliberate sort of way mediocrity. Let’s not be passive, let’s reject being passive in a Christian walk and let’s embrace excellence. Let’s embrace the Christian journey, let’s say, ‘Holy Spirit, I embrace your call to be always seeking more, to be always going toward the perfection that I have been called to, and I embrace that, I receive that today.’

And you might ask the Holy Spirit to show you what areas need to be chiseled, what areas need to be added into your life. And you know, God is very much into helping you. He will not ask you to do anything that he is not committed to helping you achieve. That’s the beautiful thing. This is not striving in the flesh, it is string with all the benefits of heaven and the approval of God and the encouragement of the divine parakeet behind you, saying yes, go for it. Go for it. I’m one hundred per cent with you. I’m going to send my nutrients. I’m going to send my blessing into you as you strive to become like my son, I am fully committed to make you sure that you achieve that goal.

So, embrace that call right now, that heroic call to become an olympic athlete in the Kingdom of God, to become mature, to become a complete woman, a complete man. You say, Father, I will not be content with mediocrity. I will not be content with the things that chain me now, that enslave me now, that prevent me from being the man, the woman that you want me to be. I do not receive them. I do not accommodate myself to them. I know that they are but they will be there, only for me to struggle with them, but I will not give them any quarter. And I will not be comfortable and I will not let them be comfortable, because I am committed to becoming your man, your woman, your servant, your instrument and to glorify the Christ that I have been called to reflect.

So, let’s embrace that tonight, church. Father, we embrace excellence. We embrace spiritual greatness. We embrace heroism, Lord. We embrace a consuming Christian walk, a journey of adventure, of exploration, of self discovery, of striving in the spirit and of becoming like our Lord Jesus Christ more and more every day. Father we are in that journey and you who have started us on that journey, will make sure that we complete it and we thank you for that Father.

I pray that this church will always be a striving church in the best spiritual sense of the word. We embrace that tonight. We embrace those values, Father, of godliness, of maturity, of perfection, of completion, of attention to the virtues and the fruit of the spirit. We worship you, Father. Thank you, thank you, Lord. Thank you in your strength, Holy Spirit. We can do it. We shall achieve what we have set out to do and we will give you all the honor and all the glory in the precious, glorious name of Jesus, to run the race and complete it victoriously and set an example for all of us. We express this prayer. Amen. Amen.


Sermon delivered by Dr. Roberto Miranda taped February 24, 2007 at Congregation Lion of Judah Listen | View (100K) | View (400K)

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