Why don’t we go to the word? And I’ve been kind of stuck in a passage that I thought, well it’s going to be about the fourth time that I preach on it, because I’m going through the book of Ephesians, by the way, if you haven’t been here in a while. I think I haven’t preached in two or three weeks because of different situations and we’re going through with a sequence and this passage is so rich in Chapter 4, of Ephesians, that really, I mean, I thought it would be a waste if we skipped over, just in the interest of all saying, well, we’re going ahead.
You know, the scripture is so profound, so multi-layered that you can spend time, as I’ve said before with one passage, and you know, from there go all over the place. I hope to visit other parts of scripture tonight but use this passage as a launching pad to some more diversified kind of readings.
And again, let me just begin in verse 11, but I’m going to go really on verse 12 and 13. I’ll probably, if I know myself, I’ll probably end up staying there. But let’s see what happens; Chapter 4 of Ephesians, verse 11and I’m reading 11 because I want us to have that cumulous of summary and then go on into the new part.
“It was he –meaning God, of course- who gave some to be Apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers –For what purpose?- 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”.
I mean, that’s a mouthful, right there. And if you remember, on a couple of previous sermons, I was talking about the fact in a sense what the Apostle Paul is saying here, God gives his people certain endowments of the spirit, certain energies of the spirit that manifest themselves in different kinds of ways, through different kinds of gifts, different kinds of aptitudes, if you will, in the spirit, different kinds of skills and temperaments, that together complement each other and make it possible for the church of Jesus Christ to advance in its mission, that God has given it.
You could almost see also the gifts as nutrients that, when they exist in balance within a congregation, allow that congregation to prosper, allow that congregation to be diversified, to be effective, to have all the different things that it needs to continue its growth and to continue its mission. Diversity is the soul, the life of the Kingdom of God. I mean God, he loves diversity. Look at nature. Look at the body. And so God instills in his people all the gifts that they need.
You know, congregations, if they grow by the spirit, they will have all the different skills that are needed for that congregation to prosper. So God gives to some prophetic gifts, to others he gives pastoral gifts, to others he might give the teaching gift. And for example, by the way, that list as I’ve said before, is not exhausted. Now, in these times, I believe for example, the counseling gift is a gift that is absolutely crucial in times when there’s so much pain and disruption in the emotional life of our culture, because of all the different situations that we have been facing.
And so, we need to ask the Holy Spirit, as we recognize and as we acknowledge the different needs of a congregation, the different needs of God’s people, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to bring in the various gifts.
I am asking, for example, as our church begins to grow, I keep asking the Lord, ‘Father, send us, send us what is necessary. Send us worshipers, send us musicians, send us teachers, send us people who have finances, send us counselors, because we need to grow.
And so, you know, we need to have that spiritual outlook about the growth of the church. That is why I think the Apostle Paul emphatically says, “… it was he who gave”. It is the Father, it is the Holy Spirit that allows the congregation to grow in a balanced sort of way.
Now, what is the reason, as I’ve said before, what is the purpose for which God gives all these things? Why does God send his spirit? Why does God send his anointing? For one reason: to prepare God’s people for works of service.
And you might remember that I mentioned the word ‘catartismon’, which is the word that is translated ‘prepare’. Some say ‘to equip’ in some translations. And it is the idea of preparing something of… configuring something in such a way that it fulfills the purpose for which it was conceived.
So, in other words, when God gives the different gifts of the spirit, he gives them so that the people of God might be ready to serve. You might remember that I said about, that it’s so important that we understand why we come into the Kingdom and why we come into a church. And it is not necessarily to be rubbed in the back, it is not necessarily even to be encouraged, although I think that all of those things are absolutely important and churches need to have nurturing kinds of environments. And we need to be affirmed in the love of God and God does want to bless us in many ways, but really we are called into the Kingdom of God to be empowered, to be strengthened, to be trained, to be taught to become useful instruments for the Lord.
And that is our true destiny. That is what we have been conceived for. And it is important that we have that clear in mind, because that will influence all of our outlook. It will get us away from this thing of being a consumer and of asking all the time, well, what is the church doing for me? And why isn’t the pastor doing this or the worship group doing that? And we become kind of expert wine tasters and we’re always measuring the service and giving one to ten in various sorts of things of our church, instead of saying, you know, I have come… I am here to serve. How can I serve the Lord
I was visiting a family today, as a matter of fact, and they have some concerns about the fact that they went through a period of crisis in their life and I’m safe, by the way, because they don’t speak English, so I don’t think they’ll be watching the program, and they belong to the Latino congregation, and I get that all the time over twenty some years of ministry. And people sometimes complain, oh, I had this need, I had this situation, I had this problem, and you know, nobody sought me out and nobody visited me, and these are people who are mature. They’ve seen the glory of God in their life, I mean, they were telling their testimony of how they came to the Lord here in this congregation four years ago, and I was almost in tears, saying, Father, why don’t we have more of that pentecostal experience of God? I mean, God really is doing some amazing things in their lives and they have grown and they have matured.
You know, so I gave them some explanations about the fact that the Latino church has grown a lot and that it’s very hard for pastors to be visiting people all the time and being aware of every need, unless somehow they join a cell or whatever. But, you know, at one point the congregation turned in another direction and I was able to say, hey, I encourage you to become givers, to become servers, because they have a lot of gift and I said to them, ‘You know, as you serve the Lord, the gifts of the spirit begin to flow in your life and they were like, yes, that’s true. That is right!’ And they began to give me some stories of their own about how that happened, you know, when they gave to the Lord, how the Lord miraculously provided in times of real need and so on.
And so, at the end of the conversation really, I believe that I had been successful in turning their mind from looking at and licking their wounds and looking at what wasn’t done for them and beginning to think, well, what can I do? And how can I become a giver and a server and then begin to discover the gifts of the spirit and the power of the spirit? Because I tell you, as you give to the Lord, the anointing begins to flow. Anointing is given to serve. Anointing is given so that you might give on to others.
So, “…..preparing God’s people for works of service”. Now, for what? “…..That the body of Christ may be built up…”
In other words, that the whole collective entity, which is the church might be edified. And I encouraged you, I think I remember that…. to look at this passage and see all the images of building, of serving, of coherence and of things coming together, of structural imagery. You know, because the church is like that. The church is an edifice. The church is a machine. The church is an organism and all of it with a purpose. The church exists, not that we might kind of grow fat among ourselves and have fun and eat chips and salsa at the end of the service. That’s great! But really that’s purely incidental.
We are being built up. We are being put together. I love to see the church as that advancing entity, that advancing construction that is conquering, that is blessing, that is configuring society to the demands and the expectations of the Kingdom of God. You know, that’s my conception of the church. Others may see it differently and that’s fine, but you know, when I look at scripture I see that muscular advancing conception of the church which I think is typical of the Apostle Paul.
So, that the body of Christ may be built up, and he says two things that are really crucial. This is where I want to sort of dwell a little bit, in verse 13, “… until we all reach –two things- unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.” Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature.
You know, I stopped here at the expression ‘unity in the faith’. One of the things that God wants a congregation to do, and I think his whole body, the universal church, is to attain unity in the faith.
Now, the word ‘faith’ here is not in the sense of believing God for a miracle, that is one sense of faith ‘pistos’, you know, being able to believe in the impossible, be able to transcend reason and to expect that God can do anything. That is one concept of faith which is very important, but here the Apostle uses faith, I believe, in the sense in the unity of the confession, the tenets of the faith, the concepts and the beliefs that make up Christian theology and Christian teaching.
So, one of the things that God wants for his people is to attain unity in the faith. Unity also can be a word that has different connotations. I mean, there can be unity in the spirit, and God does want unity among us and we preached about that in the earlier part of this chapter 4, but we need to be unified in spirit, in emotions. A church should not have divisions among themselves and gossiping and criticism and so on and so forth.
But here unity in the faith means uniqueness of belief, harmony and affinity of confession, of things held in belief. And that is so important. I think God wants, you know, before Jesus comes, I think God really wants his church to be more unified in its belief.
When I look around at the church today, I see so much disunity of belief and I see situations where actually, you know, I see some unity of acknowledgement, of you’re a Christian, I’m a Christian, I see unity sometimes in people getting together, being able to have dinner and so on, but unity of belief, of conviction of certain things, you know, the more I examine the evangelical church in our time, and God has given me a privileged opportunity to do that in my work with Covenant for New England, this organization that we are working in here in Massachusetts and now in a greater reach, the more I have discovered how much division there is and how much lack of unity and how much… it’s more like indifference towards each other, or it’s not that we’re fighting with each other or that we’re holding really opposite views, even within evangelicalism, even among people that confess Christ and the Bible as spirit inspired and so on and so forth, there’s all kinds of disunity, there’s all kinds of subtle and not so subtle beliefs about important tenets of the faith and I worry about a whole segment of evangelicalism that is slowly, and I think, very subtly distancing itself more and more from the center, from the central doctrines of the faith.
And I believe that there’s a whole generation in transition right now in America that considers itself evangelical, that I believe, has already been, without their being aware, contaminated by the levin of the Pharisees which is what Jesus said to the disciples. I think that’s what Jesus meant, when he said, “beware of the levin of the Pharisees” and the disciples didn’t understand what he meant by that. And I don’t think he was talking about beware of being self righteous or legalistic, I think Jesus was speaking about that mentality which was typical of the pharisaic mind, that sees the husk but doesn’t see the nurturing particular of the fruit, that stays with just the outward things and the rational things but looses the essence of the spirit and that ceases to discern the spirit and to therefore, be in deep touch with the life-giving power of Jesus Christ. And that sort of loses its moorings and drifts into, you know, heresy at times or false belief for at the very least debilitating belief and it’s not yoked to the center that is Jesus Christ.
And so we need to be careful about that. I think the time is stronger than ever for the church to insist on sound doctrine, sound teaching. I am committed, as pastor of this congregation, as senior pastor, to insisting on solid teaching and on biblical teaching. This is why, in a sense prophetically, I am going through, well praise God if you want to….. amen, amen.
You know, this is why I’m committed. I’m taking this time to go through scripture. For some it may be a little bit boring, I don’t know, I hope not, but I am doing this because I believe that we must ground ourselves in solid, biblical teaching of the word. And I encourage you each, to become people who love the work, people who are in love with the word, people who love sound doctrine.
You can go far and you could become pharisaic and you can become legalistic. Yes, and you can become sterile in fixation on doctrine. That’s not good. Then I’ll talk perhaps a little bit, there’s a balance. But you know, God takes his teachings seriously, because what you believe will determine your power, your anointing, your nearness to God. As soon as you hold false belief, holes, I believe are opening your spirit through which the anointing of God starts sipping out.
So, to me doctrine is not just some sort of theoretical kind of construct. No, doctrine is bound and it is linked very powerfully to energy, to vibrancy, to the power of the spirit, to the joy of the spirit, to the ability to being tuned with the vibrations of the spirit. And there are doctrines that grieve the Holy Spirit and that when you help the hold them and when you receive them and you ingest them, you are in a sense, you know, separating and distancing yourself from the power of the Holy Spirit .
Scripture is very clear on the importance of doctrine. I was thinking of a few passages, for example, I thought of Galatians, chapter 4 and just to give you a couple of…. How the Apostle Paul, for example, you know, I cannot be more gracious and more compassionate than the Apostle Paul. Forgive me. I never will. And this man, who was so balanced, so loving, so gracious, look how he took, you know, this guy when he saw doctrine, and by the way, the whole Epistle to the Galatians was written to correct one single bad doctrine, which was that you needed to circumcised yourself in addition to believing in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. This is sort of a Judaising doctrine that was running around in Galatia and that some well intentioned Jews were converted to Christianity said, well, ok, yes, Jesus is the Messiah but we still need to be circumcised in order to be saved.
And you know, we might think today, in the XX century, we might think, hey, what’s the big deal. That’s all right, if they want to be circumcised, you know, I mean, why waster your time, write a whole letter for this matter in a time when there weren’t, by the way, typewriters or word processors or anything like that. It was really…. It took a lot of time and he took the effort to write that letter and send it back and fire it to the Galatians and say, ‘Guys, get your doctrine straight.’
Today, when some people tell me about certain points of doctrine that I hold, they say, why do you insist so much in that? I mean that’s…. you know, there’re so many other big things to deal with. No, you see, as believers, when we see one aspect of Christian doctrine, being attacked and being weakened, and we realize and discern that through that attack, other pieces of Christian doctrine may be… because this is all one edifice, you see, it’s all put together, it is a system. And you cannot possibly attack one part of the system without doing serious harm to it.
You know, it is the idea, the caricature I’ve seen, the cartoon where you know, three guys are in a boat and one guy who’s is in one extreme of the boat is drilling a hole into the boat and they two other guys are very concerned and the guy who’s drilling the hole into the boat is saying, hey, what are you concerned about? It’s my side of the boat. Well, you know, I mean, they’re all in one single boat.
And so, I think, we need to realize that there are systems. And the Apostle Paul understood that apparently little thing about circumcision, you know, what harm did it do? It wasn’t taking away from Christ, I mean, they were saying yes, you have to believe in Christ, he’s the Messiah, but be circumcised also.
But the Apostle Paul understood the underlying principle that it took away the uniqueness of Christ as the mediating element between man and God, the saving element. It added another thing and he, as a good man who had been trained in the study of the law, and in logic, understood the implications, the legal precedent that was being established there, and he said, ‘No way’. And he sent all, he marshaled all his powerful energy to buttress that aspect of doctrine and to strengthen it, because he knew the underlying power of that seemingly small element.
This is why, for example, as you know well, this whole issue of homosexuality and gay marriage, you know, we have stood our ground. And, by the way, I believe that that issue is so much more powerful, and has so many more implications than mere circumcision in many ways. We’re talking about human sexuality and people say, well, you know, let them live, that’s ok, it’s no problem, this and that. It is a powerful thing in the system, in the hole construct, in the seamless body which is the teaching the faith, it is a very powerful thing and we must discern that. And now the body is sending its energy to that part of the crisis, as the body does when you, for example, once you eat, what happens? You get groggy, why? Because the body is saying, lets send blood to the stomach to digest food, because that’s where the action is at that moment. Right? And so your brain is not getting a lot and you’re feeling woozy, you want to take a siesta and that’s what happens. You know, the body is very intelligent.
In the same way, the body of Christ, when it discerns one area of teaching that is being destroyed and threatened, the energy, the nutrients, the vision of the body goes in that direction, to strengthen that part. When the crisis is over, it goes back to its normal stands. I hope may the Lord allow soon that we can be through with that whole thing. And by the way, we need to strengthen the church, that’s where it is. The church, is where the problem lies ultimately.
If we do not succeed in strengthening the church, in strengthening the doctrine of the church, in strengthening the holiness of the church, in strengthening marriage in the church, in strengthening, you know, the morality of the church and the ethics of the church, then forget it, we won’t ……. It, but for the moment this crisis is calling for the church to harness its energies and to send it in that direction. You understand what I’m saying?
And this is what the Apostle Paul was saying in Galatians, you know. When he wrote this letter, and look at the terminology that he uses. In chapter 3, for example, verse 1 “…You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you before your very eyes was clearly portrayed as crucified…”
Boy, if I said to you guys on Saturdays, you foolish English service people,…. You’ll probably fire me on the spot. But, there are times when the passion, there are times for passion, there are times for clarity, there are times for confrontation. This wimpy understanding of the gospel that circulates in these days, everything, you know, do not confront, do not scandalize, do not make people feel bad.
Let me tell you, sometimes you need caustic medicine in order to fight an infection. And we are being anti-biblical actually, sometimes, by not being clear on what the word of God dictates. And there is a place for passion, there is a place for sound confrontation, there is a place for honest confrontation in the truth, even as we see ourselves and say, hey, I don’t have it all together. But that doesn’t mean, man, I tell you, if I had to wait until I had everything together to preach, I would never preach in a Sunday. You know, if I had to make sure that everything that I preach, I had it processed in my life, half of the time I’d be out of commission. I preach the word of God, the word of God judges me, even as it goes through me and I’m the first one many times that is preaching the word to myself and saying, man, I’d better work on that. I’m preaching it here and I’d better be careful, you know.
We should not hold back from proclaiming the truth, even as we acknowledge our own brokenness and our need for God’s grace. As a matter of fact even as we do that, and even as we are consumed by that understanding.
But look what, you know, I even lost the spot where I was on that…. But you know, look for example, in chapter 5, verse 7, the Apostle Paul says, “… you were running a good race, who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth. That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.”
And then in chapter 1, verse 6: “I am astonished that you were so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
And look at these words that are so savage almost, “… but even if we, or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned. Let him be anathema.”
The word anathema means, let him be so condemned that God will be glorified in condemning him, that’s redundant, but that’s the depth of….
“….As we have already said, so now I say again, if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you have accepted, let him be eternally condemned. Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ….”
Guau! You know, to me that’s a challenge, because I have learned, brothers and sisters, that my, I cannot second-guess God, I cannot have a better publicity campaign or advertising strategy than God. And God has never compromised the proclaiming of his truth in order to win anybody to the gospel or to the kingdom. And when the church of Jesus Christ begins to run around a certain comfortable things in order not to scandalize people, or to make them uncomfortable, we have made a pact inadvertently and subtly with the devil, because now we are saying that the word of God is not powerful enough to ensure the growth of his church and the bringing of unbelievers to the kingdom and that we need to have access to a more subtle kind of strategy.
Now, I don’t mean that we need to go around banging people on the head and you know, scandalizing, confronting them left and right. That’s not Godly. But I am saying that when the word of God compels us to speak something, to say something, to declare something, we’re serving God, we’re not serving men. We should not be pleasers of men, we do men a favor by preaching the gospel to them. Can you understand that?
God does mankind a favor by offering them the gospel. The only one that is healed, the only one that is saved, the only one that is benefited, is the person who comes into the Kingdom of God with all its demands and teachings. It is for the sustaining of life, when you violate the gospel and its truth, you violate the very foundations of life. So when we remain glued and insist on the truth of scripture and the truth of the faith, we are simply saying, hey, if we gave you a different gospel we would be like a doctor that in order not to scandalize the patient, because they like to smoke, or they like to overeat or don’t like to exercise, we say, ‘that’s ok, you have a heart condition but eat all you want. Don’t worry about it. That’s all right. I don’t want to scandalize you. I want you to keep coming and paying me my 50 dollars or 100 dollars an hour or whatever it is.’
You know, the church has a saving doctrine. That doctrine is for the blessing, it is for the sustaining of life, it is for the advancement of life and we cannot second-guess God and say, well, you know, this could be a problem, they may not like that and we may appear to be legalistic or self-righteous.
You know, people need to walk into the kingdom by bowing. I believe that the door into the Kingdom of God is very low, so that everyone who enters through it has to bow and humble themselves. I don’t care who they are: the greatest intellectual, the richest person in the world, whatever. We always have to bow in order to come into the Kingdom of God.
And the church cannot become so insecure that it lowers the gospel in order to… lower the price to find some buyers, you know. I think the church is insecure in the XXI century, particularly in the Western world. The Southern world and the Third world doesn’t have that problem, that’s why actually it’s growing so quickly.
But when you abandon the sufficiency of the gospel, of the faith, of the doctrine of the gospel and you make a subtle pact with the enemy that somehow, you know, an advertising campaign in Madison Ave. tactics are more powerful, you’re saying, you’re making a confession, a spiritual confession that is discerned in the heavenly realm and all of a sudden now your power will come from human artifice and human skill, because you have traded that skill, or rather you have traded the power of God for that human skill.
So, all of a sudden your energy is transferred now to the human realm. You’re left on your own now. I prefer to take my lot any time with the power of the gospel. Let the devil be damned, let people get angry. I will stand there.
And I believe as we are faithful God blesses. If we are willing to pay up front and inconvenience and make a few people uncomfortable, maybe even those people themselves will come into the kingdom, because often the Kingdom of God in times of great turmoil and moral incertitude, it first needs to have a confrontation of power. It needs to break through.
The Bible says that the Kingdom of God advances forcefully and forceful men and women take hold of it. That’s what the word says. That’s why I’m saying, the imagery of the church of Jesus Christ is a muscular image, it’s an image of power, it’s a conquering image. It’s not a wimpy church there, oh, would you buy my wears, please, I’ll sell it to whatever price you want it. That’s not it! The church stand joyfully and sufficiently before the king and says, we have something that is so beautiful, so precious, would you like to pay in the sense…. And all that you need to pay is simply humbling yourself, that’s all it is, and take it all. You take it all or you don’t take anything. It’s like Jesus’ garment, one piece. The guards had to play for it and had to take the whole thing or nothing at all. That’s the unity of the faith.
That’s why it is so important. I could give you more passages, but you know, I remit you to First Timothy, chapter 4, verses 6 through 8 and chapter 6, verses 3 through 5, so that you can see how crucial, how important is the idea of doctrine, teaching.
But you know, let me just give me a few more minutes because I want to balance what I’ve just said with another consideration, because I believe in ………things. The Apostle Paul says, “… until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God…”
And you know, that struck me. I have learned, whenever I read scripture, I have learned to always ask myself, why did that go in there? I don’t believe that scripture is redundant or lacks. To me the Bible is like a book of chemical formulae and I believe that every word conceivably has a purpose and has a meaning. After all it was conceived by the Holy Spirit, through the mind of men and women, men in this case, let me not be too politically correct, unfortunately there weren’t that I know of, no woman wrote any part of the gospel or the word. But, you know, and I believe that every word has a purpose and a meaning and a function. And I like to read the word of God in that direction.
I’m sharing that with you because I encourage you to do the same thing. Do not take for granted anything in scripture and if you detain yourself long enough and stay long enough in a passage and you ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind and to allow you to actually jump into the scripture.
I see scripture as a powerful, deep, bottomless ocean, that I really jump into and I lose myself in it and it speaks to me. I don’t see myself kind of dissecting it or operating on it. I see it really absorbing and teaching me viscerally its teachings.
And so, I wrestle with that, you know, this whole thing also in the context and in the knowledge of the Son of God and you know, I have come to the conclusion, you may not share this with me, that there’s a balance of these two elements: unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. One speaks to doctrine, speaks to things that are theoretical and declaratory, and even perhaps to a certain degree, cerebral, because doctrine is like that, it’s logical, it’s theology. I mean it’s more than that, of course, but it has that aspect of it: coherence and….
The point is this: if we don’t watch it and if we’re not careful and we insist too much on doctrine, we can become pharisaic, we can become rigid, we can become fascinated and obsessed with correctness and literalness and we insist on doing this and doing that.
And I’m teaching in the Hispanic church on the book of Romans and Paul’s insistence that when we enter into the Kingdom of God, we abandon the yoke of the law and by law, in one sense, the Apostle Paul means religiosity, religion, dead religion, the letter. That insistence that Jesus abhorred in the Pharisees of keeping the letter and not discerning the spirit and not breathing into the teaching and doctrine.
Doctrine by itself is nothing. Now, when it is God-breathed, when it has the spirit of Christ in it, it comes alive, it is beautiful, it is attractive. There’s life, there’s joy in it. A congregation where the spirit is has intensity, has vibrancy, has laughter, you can joke around. I love to see people sitting on the floor, praise the Lord, anybody whoever wants to sit on the floor or lie on the floor, any time, please feel free to do that. I love…. You know, it exemplifies something. You come into the…. You’re in the womb of God when you come into his presence. And if you want to cry, laugh, stand on your head, I mean, within reason, understand me, but you know, man, that’s wonderful! This is the time for some of those impurities to be sweated and left here and for you to go out of here lighter.
You know, the Christian life should be joy, should be intensity, it should be life, it should be tears and laughter and joking and having fun and being friends with each other and being transparent and fragile and falling and getting up again, and being encouraging to each other. I mean, it’s a beautiful thing!
When the spirit of Jesus Christ is infusing the doctrinal armor, the skeleton or the church, you have the best of both worlds. You have the spirit that takes the teaching and adjusts it every day without the need for clumsy, amendment procedures. You know, because life is unpredictable and many times you won’t find the verse that’s going to give you the clue to a particularly difficult situation in life and you will have to depend on the spirit of Christ that is in you to get you out of the jam.
You know, Jesus did many things that were sometimes abhorrent and weird and contradictory to the Pharisees, because the Pharisees were like these robots. You know, they only knew square movements, ninety degrees. They had no curves. And life has curves, life has joints that we don’t even imagine exist. And you cannot depend on the law to help you navigate life, the spirit of Christ has to be in you and many times mercy and grace will lead you to do things that people say, oh that’s sinful, that contradicts the Bible, as Jesus did several times, because he was navigating totally yoked to the Father, and the Father was downloading every moment his perfect will and perfect instructions for life. And so, he was receiving it directly, it was in him, it was in his bones, it was in his marrow, it was in his tendons, it was in his muscles, it was everywhere, because God consumed him, God possessed him.
And as we live in Christ, and the spirit of Christ is in us, has consumed us and has penetrated every pour of our being, Christ judges life and Christ navigates life and Christ teaches us how to go through dilemmas of life and Christ teaches us when to have mercy, when to confront, when to stay silent, when to say you have sinned, when to look at myself first, when to look at the other.
You know, it’s a beautiful thing and you don’t have to do it going back to the manual. The manual is inside of you. You are the manual actually, because it lives in you and you are it. And that can only come through powerful compenetration with the energy, with the spirit of Jesus Christ. When you have lived looking at Jesus, and his face has been sort of configuring your face, this is why he talks about we go from glory to glory, because we contemplate the face of Christ. It’s really like we become like him.
It’s like Moses when he was all those days in the mountain, and when he came down the glory of God was in him and you know, when people looked at him they were terrified, because the glory of God had come into his life. And that’s… we need to gaze at Christ so deeply and we need to have him become so much a part of us, that it is Christ living life through us and the mercy of Christ, the grace of Christ, the love of Christ, the humility of Christ, the meekness of Christ, but also the power of Christ and the holiness of Christ, manifesting itself through us spontaneously, organically, fluidly, beautifully and you can never see ‘las costuras’, the seams, everything is just seamless. You cannot see where one thing ends and one things begins.
It’s like the body. Can you tell me exactly where, at what point, what inch, my hand ends and my forearm begins? It’s just one big thing, and yet how glorious, how coherent is the body. That’s the way I want life and holiness to be. I want the spirit of Christ to be so powerful in me that I…. Christ will be living himself in every situation through my life, and that will prevent me from being Pharisaic, that will prevent me from being self-righteous, that will prevent me from being rigid and ugly and carton-like, because the anointing of Christ will be lubricating my life at every moment. That’s what I want for you.
You notice that balance that we are talking about. Yes, we are seeking unity in the faith and we will insist in faith, but we must, above all, have the spirit of Christ in us that will enliven that faith and turn it into something living, fluid, organic, attractive that people will be intrigued by and will say, what’s that thing that’s pulsating, what’s that translucent bulb that I seen in the belly of that individual? I can’t figure out but there’s something there. It’s the presence of Christ that attracts the flies, where there’s light life will come to it.
So this is why I think, and in the knowledge of Son of God. You know, the Apostle Paul was always wanting that…. Let me just give you….. I’m not being just merely emotional here, I’m being very biblical. For example, I remit you to Philippians, chapter 3. This knowledge of Christ, this intimacy with Christ is so important, knowing Christ, knowing Christ is not some sort of nice metaphor, it’s not some sort of poetic expression. It is something that is required for every believer and our life must be one huge unimpeded lust to know Christ, and to have him know us and to become one with him. Because there’s something mystical, very powerful.
Once you have Christ in you, you can shortcut a lot of cerebral, sequential stuff. You get right to the center of things and you can forgo a lot of the other stuff, so much more powerful to have, to be seated with Christ and have him whispering to you all the time what you need to do.
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 for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ. The righteousness that comes from God and is by faith..”
See, there’s a whole thing right there. The holiness doesn’t come from that external conforming to a set of precepts. It is by being in Christ and having another …., his justice and his holiness imputed to you. When God sees you, he doesn’t see you, he sees Christ with all his holiness and all his perfection in you. As you dwell in Christ, not only do you get an instinctive understanding of God’s will, but you also receive Christ’s holiness.
It says in verse 10, “…. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing his sufferings, becoming like him in his death and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
You see, that is that whole thing of knowing Christ and I don’t know if you guys, if the team can…. That beautiful chorus ‘knowing you, Jesus’ if it is possible, I don’t know. Do you know it, John? Knowing you, Jesus? Too bad. We don’t have Stephen here today to help us, but it is a gorgeous chorus regarding that element of knowing Christ and it’s the power of his resurrection.
And I don’t have time to unpack this whole dimension of knowing Christ, but let me just give you one more verse on that, which is so important and here you can see more clearly this balance between rigid teaching and law and the beautiful life that is in Christ.
Let’s go to chapter 2, verse 1 of Colossians, which by the way, Colossians is that most powerful declaration of Christ’s uniqueness and sufficiency in all of scripture, particularly that first chapter, and chapter 2. Why did Paul write Colossians, by the way? Because, there, also there was another problem, the Colossians heresy which tried also to do the same thing. Whenever you see the devil bring heresy you always see him trying to reduce the importance of Christ, and the Colossians were being drawn into a doctrine about diets and about demi Gods and all kinds of other things that took away and Paul said, ah, I’m going to send some reinforcement in that direction as well.
So, Colossians insists a lot on the headship of Christ, the deity of Christ and so on. It says, verse 2, “…. My purpose is that they –chapter 2, verse 2, Colossians- …. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding….”
You see, the Christian life is not just about teaching, but it’s also about love and about being united in love and in heart. It’s not just about being united in faith.
“…. In order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ….”
See? Again, that insistence ‘knowing the mystery of God, namely Christ…” I don’t have time to use ….. how the word mystery applies here, but it is in that sense that God is sending all of the elements of creation in one direction, where they will come to a head, will come together and everything will be submitted to the headship of Jesus Christ. He speaks about it in Ephesians, you might remember, chapter 1, chapter 2. That is the purpose of all creation, all history, it is all going like lines that seem parallel but they’re not, they’re subtly converging at the end of time and coming together, all the elements of existence, all the threads of history into one thing, Jesus Christ. That’s the mystery.
“… in order they may know the mystery of God, name Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
See? When you have Christ, you have the whole revelation. It is so much more economical to see Christ, to learn who Christ is, to have Christ coming to ingest Christ, and have him ingest you. Because when you have that, you have the whole…. You have the motor force there, you have the basic piece.
“…. In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine sounding arguments”
Again, that whole insistence. Be careful. Things that are flattering to the mind.
“…. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”
Isn’t it beautiful? I mean, even there you see that sense. You know, the insistence on faith, but also love and all these different elements. That’s what the Christian life is all about. That’s what I’m seeking in my life, that’s what I’m seeking for my congregation. That’s what I’m seeking for the people that I’m yoking myself spiritually to. It is that vibrant, powerful, lovely, indefinable, I mean, hard to box in faith that is continually breathing, continually receiving renewal from the energy that comes endlessly from intimacy with Jesus Christ.
Faith and Christ together. Let’s never become rigid and let’s never become wimpy either. Balanced. Let’s not become so poetic and so mystical, we’re like a bunch of mystics of … running around without shoes, you know. Everything is beautiful, everything is acceptable. It’s not like that.
It’s a balance. It’s wonderful. That’s what Christ was. Liberals claimed him and Pharisees claim him as their patron saint because they recognize themselves in him, but the thing is that they only recognize in one part of him. I want to know all Christ, all of him, the manly, hairy Christ and the feminine Christ, the nurturing Christ.
You see, we need to have both parts in our being. Christ was feminine and masculine in a very beautiful way, accepting gracious nurturing, knowing instinctively the need of the person, but also clear on order, on law which is distinctive of the male, to our disadvantage many times, but it is that beautiful balance that we have to seek in our faith. Amen.
Let us stand for a moment. Let’s welcome that understanding of the faith, that call. And, Father, we stand on what you stand on and we want to be flexible and open in those things that you want us to be. Now, teach us.
We want Christ, especially, Lord. We want his life in us. We want his beauty and his energy in us. We want his inscrutable balance, his elusive complexity within us. Teach us how to do that, Father, tonight, and we call your spirit for this congregation, this body growing congregation. We want that for this body, always, Father. We want to be exactly where you are, always. Teach us how to navigate life illuminated by your spirit, having that love of Jesus, that nurturing attitude, that compassionate, gracious, accepting, affirming attitude, while at the same time we gain our strength and our power from the order that comes through your kingdom.
Teach how to live life that way, Father. I bless my brothers and sisters tonight, Lord. May your word continue reverberating, echoing in our souls tonight and tomorrow and always, for we do receive and we welcome it in the beautiful, beautiful name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, amen and amen.