June 7, 2010 David Balzer

Core Value 4: We value God’s diverse gifts to his people: Ephesians 4:1-16

The wife of a friend of mine has survived fifty years with about half a working lung. She’s nearly died of infections and suffocation lots of times. For the last few years she’s hardly been able to do anything, and has had to wheel a bottle of oxygen and a face-mask around with her everywhere.

Her condition degenerated so much in the last year / she’s been pushed up the priority list for a heart lung transplant. Without it, her chances of living for long are slim.

It’s a funny thing – transplants. Someone else has to die, before she can live. If it happens, it will be someone else’s lungs inflating and sucking air. Someone else’s heart pumping around her body.

Organ donation. A foreign organism is surgically connected to the rest of the body. And begins to exchange nutrients and wastes. The body helps the organ, the organ helps the body.

And yet for all the GOOD news, there’s a downside. The recipient has to take powerful anti-rejection , which have all sorts of side-effects, for the rest of their life.

Because the reaction of the human body is to REJECT foreign tissue. What’s supposed to be a mutually beneficial relationship turns toxic and destructive.

The body develops antibodies, which work to destroy the new organ. They attack it, treat it as an infection. They break it down, until eventually it stops working, and has to be removed.

And so the need for the anti-rejection .

Let me suggest that this situation is a bit like THE CHURCH. We’re a BODY. Made up of many different parts. Parts that are joined together by a number of things. In lots of ways, it’s quite an un connection.

There’s UNITY, but there’s also DIVERSITY.

ONE BODY, many different parts.

One FUTURE, but many different PASTS.

Unity, but not UNIFORMITY.

We’re really a whole group of transplanted organs connected together. A hand from here. A heart from there. A liver from somewhere else.

And we’re expected to grow together, interact, supply, support and protect each other.

But often there’s a toxic, destructive interaction. Organs that REJECT each other.

Rather than working to SUPPORT each other, we undermine, and criticise, and misunderstand, and work against each other.

Rather than BE INVOLVED with each other. We IGNORE, and ASSUME people don’t need our help. We don’t share ourselves.

On Sundays we sit next to STRANGERS. We build WALLS instead of building bridges.

We emphasise DIFFERENCES, instead of focussing on what we have IN COMMON.

But it shouldn’t be like that.

How can we get beyond the FRICTION? Or perhaps worse, beyond the INDIFFERENCE? Not CARING, not connecting? Beyond the DIFFERENCES, and the DIVERSITY?

How can we get the PARTS working TOGETHER? For the good of all? WHAT IS JESUS’ ANTI-REJECTION FOR HIS BODY, THE CHURCH?

It’s these VERY QUESTIONS our passage this morning is answering.

1. A worthy life (Ch 4-6)

As Paul often does in his letters, in Ephesians he spends the first part of his letter giving TEACHING, or THEOLOGY. “Here’s a description of WHO YOU ARE IN Christ. Here’s what God has Done for You.”

And then in the second part of his letters, he outlines HOW THEY SHOULD LIVE IN RESPONSE TO THAT. The practical section.

And he does the same thing here in Ephesians. He’s spent three chapters describing what the Ephesian’s CALLING is. What God has done. How he’s CHOSEN them, PREDESTINED them, forgiven them, adopted them. Joined them together as one people  – both Jew and Gentile.

And he finishes with an inspiring response to all that God’s done. See it there at the end of Ch 3?

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

That’s Ch 1-3. Now, here in Ch 4, it’s the turning point. The hinge the book swings on. Because of all God’s done. Here’s how we respond. Since God wants all glory to go to him through the church, here’s how that’s going to happen in the church. He says

(Eph 4:1 NIV)  As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF THE CALLING YOU HAVE RECEIVED.

This is your calling (ch 1-3). Now LIVE UP TO IT (ch 4-6).

And that’s what the next three chapters are about. How to live up to the calling.

And this section in particular, is about how to live with EACH OTHER in the church.

Living up to your calling. It’s something Mary Donaldson from Hobart is learning all about. Mary Donaldson, or OUR MARY, as the glossy magazines like to refer to her.

You know Mary? She married Danish Crown Prince Frederik on May 14, 2004.

And from the moment her engagement was announced – and probably even before – she’s been learning how to LIVE UP TO HER CALLING.

She’s had to learn Danish – an incredibly difficult language. She’s had to master Danish history and royal etiquette. There were the deportment lessons, and the diet to make sure she fitted her wedding dress.

There were rigorous background checks by the royal minders – to make sure she didn’t have any skeletons in her closet. The scrutiny’s been intense. And now she’s even produced heirs to the throne.

It seems like our Mary is passing with flying colours. Living up to her calling.

And if takes effort for MARY, how much more important is it FOR US? We’ve got a calling that’s much more important, and longer-lasting. We’ve been called by God. For an eternity with him. To be his children and his ambassadors. To give all glory to him in the church.

Live up to your calling. It’s an incredible privilege – make the most of it.

For Paul, a life worthy of his calling has meant JAIL. The consequence of obedience to his Lord. And so he says

(Eph 4:1 NIV)  As A PRISONER FOR THE LORD, then, I urge YOU to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

That’s PAUL’S calling. So what does a worthy life look like in practice for the REST of us? What are the nuts and bolts? For the Ephesians, and for US?

2. Keep the unity (1-6)

For Paul, it begins with the way you treat EACH OTHER. Keep the unity. V3.

(Eph 4:3 NIV)  Make every effort to KEEP THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT through the bond of peace.

All Christians are UNITED to each other because they all have God’s Spirit. Whatever our denomination, theology, language, age, upbringing, social status, culture. We are UNITED to each other because God lives in each one of us.

That seems like an obvious thing to say. But it often looks like the complete opposite of reality. Christians seem to CRITICISE, and DISAGREE with each other more than they do with non-Christians.

We disagree about WORSHIP, or GIFTS, or Christian EDUCATION, or BAPTISM, or women’s ministry.

And the media and the watching public, LOVE it when we do that.

Instead, Jesus says,

(John 13:34-35 NIV)  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. {35} By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

That’s the message we SHOULD be sending the world.

We’re to keep the unity of the Spirit.

And down in v4, Paul outlines the other ways in which we’re united.

(Eph 4:4-6 NIV)  There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called– {5} one Lord, one faith, one baptism; {6} one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

All the things believers share in common. A shared hope – forgiveness, assurance, eternity with Christ, new bodies. We all long for the same FUTURE.

We serve one LORD. We are all saved through ONE FAITH – faith in the work of Jesus for us on the cross.

We share one BAPTISM – a sign of our washing from sin, and being born again.

And finally we worship ONE GOD. Who is our FATHER. Who’s OVER all – he MADE it, and RULES it.

And he’s THROUGH all and IN all – living by his Spirit.

They’re the ways in which we are UNITED.

And they’re ties that are much stronger than the things which might SEPARATE us. Perhaps we like different music. Or have been Christians for different lengths of time. Or have different politics. Or personalities. Or hair styles. Or fashion.

How insignificant is all of that/ compared to the BONDS which UNITE us.

Notice from v3. how it’s a unity which already EXISTS. Paul says we are to KEEP the unity of the Spirit. Our job is to work hard to MAINTAIN it.

Don’t let things get in the way of the unity. Don’t let walls be built up. Don’t let bridges be knocked down. KEEP the unity of the Spirit.

And how can we do that? Paul says through the BOND of peace. Working at being PEACEABLE with each other. Don’t pick fights. Don’t look for DIFFERENCES. Work to MINIMISE differences. To maximise AGREEMENTS.

V2 Gives us some MORE hints.

(Eph 4:2 NIV)  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Be HUMBLE. Assume the OTHER person is valuable, and important, and has something to offer. Don’t assume that YOU’RE always right. That’s humility.

And even if you ARE right. BE GENTLE about it. Don’t force your opinion, or plan, onto others. Be GENTLE. Be TOLERANT.

And be PATIENT. Some people take longer to come round to a position than you, so be patient with them. Give them time to get used to an idea.

And while you’re waiting, BEAR WITH ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE. Forgive. Then forgive again. And again. Don’t hold a grudge.

And don’t assume the worst. Don’t demonise the other person. Assume that because they’ve done a certain thing, or said a certain thing, that they MEAN SOMETHING TERRIBLE by it. Assume the BEST of a person.

And down in v15 it says speak the truth IN LOVE. There’s a nice BALANCE in that, isn’t there? It doesn’t say JUST GIVE IN. You’re to speak TRUTH when someone’s wrong, but do it LOVINGLY. With consideration, and gentleness, respecting their right to hold their opinion, even if you don’t agree with it.

These are all PRACTICAL ways to KEEP the unity of the Spirit.

3. Diversity whose aim is unity (7-16)

But that’s not the only characteristic of God’s people. Not only is there to be UNITY. But DIVERSITY as well. And that’s what the next section emphasises. Look at v7.

(Eph 4:7 NIV)  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

The previous paragraph has been all about ONE. One Lord, one faith, one Spirit , One baptism, one God. And so on.

And in v7, it’s ONE again. Just EACH one. Individuals, rather than a group.

And it’s individuals who are DIFFERENT. Each one has been given grace as Christ apportioned it. Some have been given ONE thing, others ANOTHER. Different distributions.

The picture is of a victorious king returning from battle. And as he rides through the city streets in triumph, he distributes the spoils of war to his people. Throwing jewellery to the crowds by the handful. Rich ornaments. Wads of cash. His citizens BENEFIT from his victory.

And his spoils are mentioned down in v11.

(Eph 4:11 NIV)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,

In other places Paul mentions a whole range of gifts, but here he just mentions WORD-based gifts. Those to do with TEACHING, or PROCLAIMING, or SHARING the truth about God with others.

Apostles are those sent out by Jesus, witnesses of his resurrection. The first to share the gospel, and then to teach new Christians.

Prophets receive WORDS from God, and share it with those around them. Evangelists share the gospel with people – WORDS AGAIN.

And then there’s PASTOR/ TEACHERS. Paul’s probably thinking of the same job description here. Leaders of a group of God’s people who pastor by teaching, and who teach by pastoring.

And what’s the POINT of all these WORDS? What’s the goal? V12.

(Eph 4:12-13 NIV)  to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up {13} until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become , attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

It’s a two-step process. The teachers and pastors declare God’s Words – one, so that God’s people might be PREPARED for works of service. Equipping the saints. Providing the tools for Christians to serve other Christians. The reasons, the motives, the strategies, the goals, the attitudes, the training, the background, the worldview, the perspective. Every tool that Christians need to serve.

And the second step is the goal of THE WORKS OF SERVICE THEMSELVES. That’s a job for EVERY ONE OF US. It’s about BODY- BUILDING. “So that the body of Christ may be BUILT UP {13} until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become , attaining to the whole measure of the FULLNESS OF CHRIST.

The various works of service we all do for each other should all have the GOAL of BUILDING-UP. Which is more than just flattering, or making someone feel nice. Christian body-building is about MATURITY. Well-rounded, Christ-likeness. Knowing who you are and where you’re headed. Living like Jesus. Thinking like Jesus. Responding to situations like Jesus.

The whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

And so whatever work of service you’re involved in – make sure it’s goal is to make your fellow-Christians MATURE. Talking to people after church. Phoning people who’ve been missing for a while. Helping set-up the chairs. Helping pack them away. Meeting to PRAY with someone.

Modelling how a Christian lives to one of the young people. Take an interest in another ministry – like FUSION, or COBIS. Adopt a missionary to write to, or present their needs before us.

Help with Christmas carols, or movie nights. Set-up lights. Letterbox leaflets. Photocopy programs. Teach Scripture. Start up the homework club here at school I’ve been talking about for a few years.

All sorts of DIVERSE works of service. All for the purpose of BUILDING UP to MATURITY.

And when individuals are all doing that – each using their DIFFERENT gifts to build others up, moving them on in maturity. See what the result is? UNITY.

True Christian diversity doesn’t lead to ORGAN REJECTION – the different body part being attacked and cut off. It leads to the OPPOSITE. UNITY.

The PURPOSE of our diversity is that we become MORE UNITED. MORE TOGETHER in our likeness to Jesus. More unified in our service of him as our King.

The key to DIVERSITY WITHIN UNITY/ is that our DIFFERENCES should always be aiming to build-up others – to them.

And the result of that is that our UNITY will grow. As we ALL grow in Christ-likeness.

It’s beautifully put down in v16.

(Eph 4:16 NIV)  From HIM THE WHOLE BODY, JOINED AND HELD TOGETHER by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as EACH PART does its work.

The supporting ligaments of our one Spirit, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father.

The supporting ligaments of our humility and gentleness, our patience and love for each other.

As each part does its work – each work different and diverse. But each work done with the genuine desire to see others GROW MATURE.

That’s the picture of BODY BUILDING. Of a coordinated, united, self-supporting, body. Growing into Christ, growing in unity.

It’s a WONDERFUL picture. And it’s why, at Western Blacktown, we VALUE God’s diverse gifts to his people.

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