Good morning church. We are going to be in Ephesians 4 this morning, with a message entitled “Grow Up!” Now if you’re not offended by the title, hold on I’m not done. Actually, it is so easy to offend people when talking about certain things, so before we get started, we should pray before doing anything else…Lord, let your Word have your way in this room today, in our hearts, our minds, our souls, and in our relationships. In Jesus name, amen.
If you are joining us for the very first time this morning, or for the first time in our study of Ephesians, welcome. We are in the fourth chapter of the book so you’ve missed some stuff, if the rest of you will be gracious and patient for a moment I think I can catch you up pretty quickly.
....Because Adam, the first man created, sinned against God, we were all born into trespasses and sins,... when we grew old enough to chose sin, we proved that what I just said was true, by sinning against God by choice. Therefore, we all either are, or were, on our way to Hell. Because that’s what we deserve…man, I’m not even at the part I thought might be offensive. Those that are on their way to Hell have not chosen Jesus, have not accepted Him as their Savior and Lord, or the boss, over their life.
In the first three chapters of Ephesians Paul tells us that if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, then guess what, He actually chose you first, you have full adoption status with God the father, Acceptance in the Beloved Jesus, we have redemption, we have forgiveness from sin! He has given us the revelation of the mystery of His will, We are sealed, and the Holy Spirit in my life and in your life, is the down-payment, the assurance that guarantees that we will someday be in Heaven!
AND, none of this was done because you’re awesome, or because you deserved it, He did it because He’s awesome and He loves you. Not because you’re so lovable, but because He is love. The first three chapters tell us how awesome it is to be saved, what a miracle it is, that it’s all by grace, unearned favor that we don’t deserve, yet we have abundantly. Chapters 1-3 if you are a Christian, you are by far the most blessed people on the face of the earth, right now, not just someday when you go to Heaven. Chapter 4 and the rest of the book, here is what you should do about it. This should be your response…OK, we should all be on even ground.
I actually don’t always know what to do when I come to a passage of Scripture that might offend, it might correct, it may affirm,…actually, I learned last week, while listening to my wife teach the ladies while I was recording it for the website, that “THEY” say…you’re supposed to start with a funny story, or a humorous anecdote, something fascinating, you know, to grab and hold your attention, or to pop the tension in the room and put the audience at ease…so…give me a second....I got nothing! See I’m not an entertainer. I’m a teacher, a pastor teacher actually and we’ll talk about that if we get that far in our chapter today... So, I’ll start this morning with a question...
Have you ever been in a church gathering, been listening to a podcast or a teaching, perhaps even listening to a song…and suddenly it felt like that person was talking directly to you? As if there was no one else in the room? I’m not sure it happens as much as pastors like to think it happens, but you always hear stories like that. Someone comes up to the pastor after words, happy, sad, angry, glad, with something to the effect of Pastor when you said such and such, it was like you, or more dramatic God, was speaking directly to me. And the Pastor will say, I don’t remember saying what they heard, or that they think I said, or praise God!
Then there’s the other times when you get accused of meddling in their business, or conspiring with a spouse…and after the message its... she told you didn’t she!?! She told you what I’ve been doing...So now you’ve got to talk about my stuff in front of the whole church and now everybody knows my business! And you’re standing there trying to go back through your whole message to figure out what one of your deacons has been up to!
What’s worse, not worse, harder…is when you faithfully teach through the Word of God, and you come to a place in the book where it hits a topic that you know some people are struggling with. Or have been wounded by…and when I say some people, I mean our people, us, those in the room. That can be hard.
You guys know that when you are given opportunities to teach here, whether it be up front from the pulpit, a men’s study or ladies study, or even in our children’s ministry. I always encourage you to pray, Lord, you know all the things that I don’t know, the struggles people are facing, the trials that they are in, so Lord, for this group of people, for this time, what would You have me to say? I try to pray that in preparation for every single teaching opportunity that I have.
Big lead in to today’s message, because in a few minutes you might be sitting here thinking... oh man, he’s talking to me today, yup bullseye. Or maybe ouch, he’s clearly talking to them today, nope, it’s you. Or, I have no idea why I even came today, I’m not getting anything out of this at all. That’s the problem, you’re the one that’s bugging everyone else and disrupting unity but you don’t even see it! Or, last one, maybe you’re the pastor and you’re trying to figure out what to say and how to say it to the people that might be listening today, either in person, or online, but it’s really for you. Time for you to examine your own heart…Lord for this group of people at this time, what would You say to us?…So my ask of you this morning…after having prayed that prayer is to listen and consider, what God might be saying to the person on your left, no…what God might be saying to you. Verse one...
1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,
Because God saved you, chose you, adopted you, forgave you, and gave you all the riches that you have in Christ Jesus right now because He is awesome, because He is worthy, not you, respond with a heart of gratitude that is worthy of the calling with which you were called. And rather than just sit and learn, what does Paul encourage, oh wait, I’m sorry beg us to do, to walk it out. To live it, to put it into action in our lives. Really, Paul spends the rest of the book giving us a description of what real Christians look like.
Now If you didn’t read ahead, I’m kind of wondering what you’re anticipating Paul laying out for us. Take care of the needy. The widows, the orphans, the poor. Give to the church, get baptised, learn to like to sing songs you’ve never heard of. Be for this thing, and against all this other stuff, vote this way, not that way....nope, nope, and nope. He starts with the really hard stuff. He says you come from different backgrounds, you’re a jew and you’re a gentile, you’re from Maine and you’re from away, you like hymns and you like hip hop, here’s what I want from you kids, you brothers and sisters in the Lord, I want you to get along.
And maybe you already do,... with your people. Your group, but not that group. See when it comes to how we get along, our Heavenly Father is not a whole lot different than us as fathers in what He desires for His kids. I don’t ever remember riding along with Nicole and the kids in the purple, Barney mobile, our mini van we got a good deal on, and hearing an argument brewing in the back and her and I being like, shh, shh, shh, let it go, it sounds like it’s going to be a really good one.
And hearing the voices start to rise, Susan telling them to stop it, and then hearing a smack, oh honey did you happen to see that? Caleb clocked his older brother! If he could get that kind of velocity on his slap shot, coach might start letting him play center. AND did you heard Jacob’s come back? Not only did he pick on his cowlick, but he remembered that he wet the bed last Thursday…that kids attention to detail is so wonderful…No, it was never that in the Barney mobile…if I was driving, it was knock it off, don’t make me pull over....and if Nicole was behind the wheel, there were no words....it was just this…Poor Susan sitting behind her, would be going Mom I didn’t do anything, well, you better duck then....swing…seriously, that’s why we don’t do parenting classes.
2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Now with these instructions, it seems like this should be so easy. He just tells us to try to keep the unity. We don’t have to create it, manufacture it somehow. We know from chapter 2 that concerning Jews and Gentiles He created in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, one new man, one new woman, the Christian, the Christ like one, and He make peace between us even with our diversity. And Paul here just says keep the peace, don’t mess it up!
I’ll even tell you how…in verse two with all lowliness, translated in Maine as being wicked humble, be gentle with one another not all pushy and bossy, longsuffering, again translated in Maine as the ability to suffer for a long time. Or wicked patient. And bear with one another in love. Translation, you’re not perfect either Bub, so you ought to extend a little grace toward other people. You ought to choose not to seek revenge. Does all that make sense?
Notice what it does say and what it doesn’t say. Remember our good Bible hermeneutics. What does it say, what does it mean, in the context and culture that it’s written in... and then the so what? or what does it mean for us?
I think we covered what it says - Some might define unity as agreement, or oneness. When Nicole and I do premarital counseling, we tell the man and the wife, that in marriage they are going into the ceremony as two completely independent individuals that are then united as ONE in the Lord. After the wedding, we often see them again as they fight about which one they are going to become. And we remind them again that God is taking two individuals and changing both of them to bring them into unity.
It is the same in the body of Christ. We are called to unity, it doesn’t say we are called to uniformity. We are not all called to be identical, that really bugs some of you, we are not called to be in total and complete agreement on all things, or even all biblical things. There is stuff that Paul calls doubtful things that between you and the Lord might be ok for you, and between me and the Lord might not be ok for me…remember in Romans when we talked about the pagan taco truck?...our problem with unity comes when what you’re doing is not alright with me, or the same as what is right for me. And I start talking about it, to everybody except for you. Or even to you when I should just mind my own business and endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit.
See we only have to endeavor to keep the unity when we’re not all alike. Some people think that there shouldn’t be differences in the church. There shouldn’t be Baptists, and Presbyterians, Methodists, Wesleyan, Calvary Chapel, Pentecostals, etc, etc, etc,. I think all of those differences are great. There are things here that make us like minded. We have a book that we love here so much that we really, want to learn all that it has for us, it is our practice to teach through it every week. We actually have another book, called Calvary Distinctives that talks about those things that make us distinctively different from some of the other flavors. What it doesn’t say is that because of these things we are right and everyone else is wrong. It just says here’s why we do things the way we do things.
Other denominations have different emphasis, some are stronger on social issues, some on missions, the problem occurs when we trash talk them and what they are doing, rather than recognizing their strengths are probably our weaknesses, regardless, we are called to unity, not uniformity. So I should shut my mouth about other denominations and endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit. That God has given to us. Not in agreement in all things, but in the bond of peace.
Nicole and I aren’t in agreement in all things, but we live in unity and in peace with each other, except sometimes on the way to church…Here’s why we are supposed to do this with one another…Paul tells us that despite our differences there are at least 7 things that we Christians share in common, and because we do, we need to share the bond of peace, verse 4 Eph 4:4-6
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
One hope of our calling
One God and Father of all…who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Christians).
This is so important, we might not make it as far as I thought we would. I want you to know that this is not the only place the Bible talks about unity. What was Pastor Jim talking about last time he was in Philippians? Unity. Jesus tells us that is not optional for the Christian, it is a requirement for the Christian. It is not an elective that we can take, it is a mandate. You can right the reference down, I’m just going to read it to you to save time, rather than have you turn there, John 13:34-35 Jesus says John 13:34-35
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So the world shouldn’t look at us, or even look at all of the various denominations and think, well, the problem with Christians is that they just can’t get along with each other. They should look at us and think, wow! God made them all so different, yet they act like brothers and sisters that love each other! Instead, they don’t just see division within denominations, they see church splits, fights, gossip, within local the church... and they want nothing to do with your Jesus. Again, we don’t have to be identical, we don’t even have to agree on everything. It’s unity, not uniformity.
What we need to be able to do is disagree on things and still love each other like Jesus loved us. I sort of think modeling this was part of the reason Jesus picked the guys he picked for His Apostles. You’ve got fishermen, Judas was a thief, Simon, what did they call him? Simon the Zealot. Do you know what a zealot was? A zealot is anyone who fervently supports a particular cause, someone that strongly supports any of the multiple causes we’ve seen rise up in the past 5 years could be considered a zealot. In the NT, a zealot would have been considered a radical patriot for the Jews. One that would do anything to overthrow the oppression of Rome on the Jews, then you’ve got Matthew a tax collector, one that volunteered to collect money from his own people to give to the Roman government. How do you think those two got along? It would be like one of your family members taking one of the 87,000 new jobs as an IRS agent, and the first thing they do is audit your own family. These guys were very, very, different, but Jesus expected them to get along despite their differences, to live in peace, to love each other, to live in unity, not uniformity.
God talks about this too. In Proverbs He actually says that he hates disunity. Check this out! Proverbs 6:16-19
16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
The one that stirs junk up in the church. That runs their mouth among the brethren…often times its the one who thinks they are the capped crusader, making you aware of what so and so did or said, to protect you. Or it might be someone who thinks they are a watchdog, maybe an internet blogger, calling everyone else out for what they are doing different from them, what they think is the only way.
The biggest issues that we’ve had in this church ever…have been over stuff like that. Not doing things the way someone else thought they should be done. The biggest issues have never ever been about theology, always methodology, the way we do things. Everything is going along fine and then covid, and then suddenly everyone knows exactly how every single thing should be handled or not handled... and then when we don’t agree, or I don’t agree, then we begin to sow discord among the Brethren. Can you believe he thinks we should do this, or he is going to start doing that. 57 other Maine pastors are doing this, or Calvary chapel in Bismark, North Dakota is not following this or that, don’t you think Brian is so wrong?
They are the one that thinks they are helping out, and making the church a better place, and God says it is sowing discord among my kids, you’re stirring things up and I hate it and it makes Me sick!
It is so serious that Jesus actually prays for it, He asked God for it. John 17:20-21
20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
So Jesus commands unity, God says He hates disunity, Jesus prays for unity…not to make us feel extra guilty, but so that God will help us maintain what He has given us, because its a hard thing to do. Unity doesn’t come naturally, and it never just happens. In fact if you look back at verse 3 Eph 4:3
3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
That word endeavoring - Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. For clarity the word endeavor here is not a half hearted attempt. The word is hasten, so quickly see to it, and try with great exertion. So with great exertion we are to keep the unity. Old slate pool table with St. Nicholas. Unity is never easy, even with Christians. Why do you think we give you choices with which Growth group you attend?
We don’t just group you together by geography, we tell you to chose whatever group you want to be in…but then we also tell you that you can try it for a week or two and then jump to a different group…and after all of that, we designed them to only last for 10 weeks, just in case you need to graciously take an exit ramp from that group and try a different one the next quarter. Why do we do that? Cuz some of us are hard to take, tough to get along with. We can be in unity, I won’t say bad stuff about you and you don’t sow discord about me, but I’ll hang out on this side of the church, or in this Growth Group and you can be in that growth group. We don’t have to have uniformity, just unity.
You guys that are starting to panic because of the first slide....
Lets change that....verses 1-16 to
Unity - it isn’t for wimps....a couple more points though because it is so hard…Paul knew it was hard....there was a point in his life where he had a major disagreement. With a guy names Joses. Do you guys remember Joses? Perhaps by his nickname.... Barnabas. The name means Son of Encouragement, or Son of Exhortation. Joses was so much of an encourager that Barnabas became his name, it was what he was known by. Barnabas was a partner in ministry with Paul, some say he may have even been a mentor to Paul, they traveled together, they served together, but they had a disagreement about Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark. We don’t know why, but in Act 13 it tells us that for some reason during their first missions trip John Mark bailed on them and returned to Jerusalem. Paul was done with him. Barnabas wasn’t and wanted young Mark to go with them again.
In Acts 15:36-39
36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus;
And we really don’t hear a whole lot more about Barnabas, he just kind of drops off the face of the earth…so we might assume that Paul was right and he was wrong…except for this little letter that Paul writes shortly before his death called 2 Timothy…and at the end of the book we find this verse....2 Tim 4:11
11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.
So he and Paul reconciled and served together in unity in ministry…so this guy that Paul rejected and refused to let him go on a short term missions trip, Paul later found him useful in ministry, oh yeah, and God chose him to write one of the gospels…same guy...
But there is a bigger lesson here. If a guy like Paul and a man known for being an encourager to everyone by his service to others had a contention so strong a disunity that they separated in ministry…and Jesus prayed for not just His Disciples in what is called his high priestly prayer, but also for us…those who would believe in Him through their word…then this unity thing must not be for wimps, it must be hard at times. Just to maintain it. Another verse and I want you to turn to it, so you can see it. Because here we get some clarity on the endeavoring piece, the great exertion, what that looks like...
18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
I don’t know if you write in your Bible or not, but in my Bible, I have the “IF” circled. For me, Romans 12:18 is the so what? Or the practical application of Eph 4:1-6,
Because sometimes its not possible. The reality is this verse....If it is possible, as much as it depends on you. You can endeavor for peace, you can do all that you can do, and sometimes the other party is just not willing to live at peace. It happens between friends, in families, sadly in marriages, and among Christians in churches, so then what? This passage in Ephesians doesn’t require that before our heads hit the pillow, we have to have all relationships repaired, restored, and we have to be besties with all people. Invite them to our fire pit on Friday nights, toast their marshmallow for them, and hold hands and sing kumbaya.
The reality is, it just doesn’t always go that way. Some of you with family, friends, or brothers and sisters in the Lord, have tried to see if it is possible, and as much as depends upon you, you’ve extended an olive branch of peace and they set a pigeon on it till it left a white mark and then sent it back. You extended another one and this time they snapped it in half and marked it return to sender. As much as depends on you, doesn’t mean you send another…or go over to their house and lay down behind their car unless they want to run you over while your weak, while your wounded. Peace may not be possible as much as depends on you. The reality is, most of us usually can go way farther toward peace than we are willing to go, but sometimes we’ve done our part and now the next move is totally on them and you are free from maintaining this peace. That doesn’t mean you go to war...
Why is it so hard? Why is unity not for wimps? I’ll give you a couple reasons....Pride being the biggest. We are right, you are wrong, how dare you do this or do that, or not consider me…my way. Most of the things that we fight about in the church, and I’m talking about the Christian church as a whole....I love where our church is right now on unity and will ferociously defend it and fight to maintain it. God hates it and it makes him sick when someone tries to stir the pot and your pastor does too and will confront the smallest bit of it. But most of the things we fight about in the church today are maters of preference, opinion, or issues that Paul called doubtful things, disputable things, not doctrine.
Because I know more than you, or better than you, and I deserve a little status…its pride.
There’s another way we can do it to others in the church, by turning something that is supposed to be beautiful into division. The diversity of our gifts. 1 Corinthians 12 and other places in the Bible talk about how we all have different gifts. Gifts that the Holy Spirit gives by His will, to who He wants to, not how we choose. The bible describes that because some have a gift of hearing, so some are the ear, some are the arm, some the heart, and it is all supposed to work in beautiful unity…but sometimes rather than use our gift for the benefit of all like, we are supposed to..we get mad because you don’t do what I do, You don’t see like I see, because you’re an elbow not an eye.
I may have the gift of helps or service, so when there is a work day, or an opportunity to help someone move, or to cook a meal for someone who is sick, I’m the first to sign up, show up, work hard, but before I leave, I’m looking around to see who didn’t, and now I’m bugged by you, and talking about you....disrupting unity.
Pride, when it comes to the gifts, diversity dumping, I’m dumping on you, because you’re not me, selfishness…I’d explain it, but I don’t have to. I’ll read another verse and the Holy Spirit will tell you if your selfish....Phil 2:3-5
3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
We want what we want. Our preferences, our traditions, the church we grew up in did it this way, so we have to do it that way, or we can’t do it that way. Finally....
And finally impatience, not everyone is going to be as mature as you....at the same rate as you....we get frustrated with others who aren’t in the same place that we are, those that can eat at the taco truck and those that can’t. We are to honor one another…and always remember that we were baby Christians once too, or maybe you’re not as right as you think you are. I went for a hike this week with a friend, well he was a friend before the hike, no we just have unity...
We were hiking a trail I had hiked before, to a hidden pond, really, really remote spot. When I say I’ve done this hike before I mean I had two prior unsuccessful attempts and one successful attempt. But now there was a map on all trails. It was a 5 mile hike, I’m not where I once was, but I’m working my way back.
There were a series of places where this map on all trails was taking me on a different route than I had been before, so we kept trying to follow it, we thought it was right. We came across an active bear den, almost directly walked into two flooded bogs, and barely made it out in time for me to make it to a meeting I had scheduled, actually, I was exactly 5 minutes late to the meeting, but I was showered. The route that we thought was the right way ended up being a total of 7 miles rather than 5 and that was because on the way back we nearly disregarded it and cut corners to shorten the distance. We were frustrated because we once thought we were on the right trail, but found out there was an better way. Any of you ever been wrong? SO lets maybe not be so impatient with others as they are learning the path themselves.
So pride stands in our way, diversity dumping and you can come up with a better label like gift expectation, or gift projection, selfishness, impatience, so what do we do when unity is hard to maintain? Verse 2 again....Eph 4:2
2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,
We are to act humbly, remember these things are like love, not feelings, but choices. We are to walk humbly, we are to be gentle, we must suffer-long, and it is a requirement for us to bear with one another in love…and if, or when it breaks, If is is possible, as much as depends on us, we are to be at peace with our brothers and sisters. And where peace can’t be had, Paul and Barnabas chose a separation and both went their separate ways in ministry.
If you have a particular situation that you need prayer for, Pastors and elders and their wives will be up front to do just that.
Grace and Peace, Have a blessed week!