Good morning and welcome to Journey Church. My name is Phil Human and I am one of the pastors here at Journey and it’s always a privilege to get to talk about Jesus with you all.
This morning we have a pretty sizeable chunk of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus that he wrote about 62ad or so. We remember that Paul started a church in the city of Ephesus – present day turkey – about ten years before he wrote this letter. He spent about 2 and a half years there starting this church before he was run out of town by the Idol maker union who saw all these people coming to faith and they thought Paul was bad for business.
Paul writes this letter from prison in Rome. Can I take a minute to tell you why he is in prison? Basically – Paul heads back to Jerusalem at some point even though he knew he was a marked man. See Paul was a former leader in the Jewish religious establishment – he was an up and coming star, in fact – and made a name for himself as a persecutor of “The Way” – which was the very first name given to Christians. People of “The Way.”
Paul the persecutor becomes Paul the convert – after having an encounter with the risen Jesus on a road to the city of Damascus. And since coming to faith has become a strong leader in the church.
Furthermore – since he has come to faith Paul has realized that there is no longer this Us/Them mentality – us being Jewish people and them being the Gentile people.
There are just people and all of us equally need to be rescued by God – all of us are equal in God’s eyes. We are equally hosed without him. And we are equally blessed with him.
And so here is this former Jewish rabbi – who is becoming friends and preaching to the Gentiles. And so – want to know what got Paul thrown into prison? Someone accused him of bringing one of his Gentile friends into the temple.
Didn’t happen – but the accusation gave the religious leaders an excuse to form a mob of insulted and angry people and they seize him with the intent to kill him. He is arrested by the authorities and kept in prison – for his own safety but also to keep the Jewish leaders happy.
Paul was a Roman citizen and so he eventually appeals to Caesar – which was his right – and is moved to a prison in Rome. You can read about all of this in the book of Acts – chapter 21 and following.
Now we’ve noted that the book of Ephesians is very neatly broken into two halves. The first half is more theological in nature. Paul is teaching people what to know up here about God the Father Son and Holy Spirit. About God’s plan to create a new kind of human being – and about how God’s love must move from our head to our hearts. It’s not enough to know it – we’ve got to know it.
Now we are going to see Paul pivot. From theology to practice.
When we began Journey church ten years ago people would ask us what kind of church we are starting. And one of the things we said was we want to be the kind of church where the practice of Christianity is as important as the instruction of it.
Where the walk matches the talk. Where the walk matches the talk.
Lots of people can talk a good game about God – where’s the outward evidence of the internal change.
Right now there’s a buzz around the music world as Kanye West – who has sold more than 140 million albums – including a rather blashphemous album entitled Yeezus – with the song entitled – I Am a God.
He seems to have had a conversion – like the apostle Paul. And it’s created quite a stir. And no one seems to know what to do with him. Now I don’t know much about rap music – but I do like a good redemption story – and so what I’ve read – it seems everyone is saying – let’s wait and see.
What are they looking for? Evidence. they are looking for markers of a changed life.
You and I are no different. The world looks at us to see if what we say Jesus has done for us makes any difference in the way we live.
Which is why Paul begins this new section by simply saying, 4 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.
There ought to be a difference in the way we live our life. And Paul is going to get specific about a few markers here – indisputable external evidence that we’ve truly been changed on the inside.
Three markers of a God-changed life.
- The change will show up in how you treat other people.
2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
Now let me say this – it’s important – all three evidences of a true change deal with how we interact with other people. If God has really worked in your heart – then it will show in your social aspect of your life.
A change in thinking will lead to a change in the way you interact with other people.
Paul told us in chapter 2 that God was creating a new kind of human – and a mark of this new kind of human – and two of the hallmarks of this new kind of human will be that they are humble. And that they are gentle.
Now why these two things? Well – this is interesting to me- there is only one time in scripture where Jesus describes himself.
Matt 11:28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Paul is saying – listen – this new kind of human is going to begin to look a lot like Jesus. We will be humble people and gentle people.
If there is no God who can fault the person who fights and claws their way to the top? If no God then why wouldn’t we do everything we can to make sure we come out ahead and on top – look out for numero uno?
If there is no God I would want anyone to give me a reasonable philosophical answer as to why I wouldn’t live a completely self-centered life.
But because we know that there is a God who loves us and promises to tend to our needs – well now I can relax and live a different kind of life. I’m loved by an unselfish God – and I can love others unselfishly as well.
Now don’t mistake gentleness for weaknesses. Jesus didn’t arrive to announce, blessed are the doormats, and the pushovers, and the walked upon.
This new kind of human that Jesus is creating is unafraid of anything – and willing to run at an problem – however – we do so with humility an gentleness.
We become the kind of people who are patient with each other, especially when it comes to putting up with the faults of others.
Isn’t that an interesting marker? We become the kinds of people where we make allowances for each other’s faults.
You know where this especially needs to happen? Within the church itself – we will want to become the kinds of people who make allowance for other people’s faults.
Does that sound weird? Shouldn’t the church be the place where we hold one another to the highest levels? Where we hold one another accountable and don’t make allowances for immature behavior?
But Paul is doing something interesting here – he is introducing a concept in verse 14 that is very important – and that is that becoming a follower of Jesus is a process – and when you start it’s like being a newborn. And little kids act, from time to time, immaturely.
And so what it means is this – we must not ever be shocked when someone from our church or any church, acts like an immature believer.
Listen -the streets are littered with the souls of people who have been crushed by well-intentioned churches who have little patience with new believers. Who come down hard when their people fall short of behavior that is expected by church attenders.
When Paul says, make allowance for each other’s faults. He is saying – no one is perfect. Be patient. Treat one another gently – Out of love, don’t expect people to cross the line of faith and all of a sudden act maturely in every aspect of their lives.
We shouldn’t be surprised when we see spiritual immaturity in other believers – but that said, we must never make allowance for it in our own lives. We don’t want to be the kind of people who say – oh well – I’m acting immaturely – and use that as an excuse to do what we want to do.
So where’s the line, right? Between Paul saying “I urge you to live a life that reflects your calling” – Paul is clearly calling them to high standards… and Paul saying, “make allowances for faults.”
How do we do both? And the answer has to be – that we speak the truth in love.
The biblical way of living with each other is that we speak the truth in love to one another. If you have truth and no love – you get – well – graceless moralistic churches that grind people to stumps.
However – on the flip side – how is it loving to sit by and never speak truth into one another’s lives. Is not loving at all, is it.
Let’s be these kinds of people – Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
This is the first marker of a changed life. Lord, help us, to become the kind of people who are patient with others – who speaks out of humility and gentleness – who loves others enough to know that we are in the process of being transformed. We are in the process of growing up in our faith.
Secondly. The change will be evidenced by the unity in your church.
Unity. One of the reasons that the Roman Empire grew to fear Christianity in it’s early days, was the incredible way that faith in Jesus united people. They looked around and saw rich people treating poor people like brothers and sister. Black people and white people – brothers and sisters. Jewish and gentile. Slave and free. Men and women. Packers fans and Chiefs fans – sitting in the same room – brothers and sisters.
All of those divisions that we use to separate US from the THEM were disappearing. Why? Because through faith in Jesus a group – like this group here even today – what unites us is far greater than anything that divides us.
3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.
Paul tells us that one of the markers of a changed life is recognizing that what now unites us is far stronger than anything that might divide us.
Anyone ever have the misfortunate of having to be part of a church that split? a church split?
Basically it’s when what divides us becomes stronger than what unites us. And often times in a church people factions end up pitting against other factions in a fight to see who will control the property or whatever. We’re going to start Second Journey Church on the corner!
No let me say – that sometimes there comes times when you know it’s time to part ways with a church. I’m not talking about that. Even the Apostle Paul had a time in his life when he couldn’t seem to get on the same page with another church leader – Barnabas, for instance, and they parted ways – still brothers – without malice – only love – still united by one God, One Lord, One Mission.
And so sometimes there comes a time when people say, it’s time to move on to another church. And some have come into Journey and some leave Journey – and without malice or division – it’s time to move on.
I do think it’s worth praying about as a church that we will be one. Especially as we enter this season where we are planning to build a building. We’re going to find a lot more things to disagree about. There will be no end to the ultimately insignificant issues that need to be decided – like are we going to have carpet in the auditorium? What kinds of chairs? What colors?
Because we are invested spiritually, financially – we are invested in this church – and so it’s only natural that we have opinions…. but even though we are a year and a half awry from starting this building – let’s begin praying now – that we will not get bent out of shape about minor things like a building.
Instead, we will 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
If God has truly changed us on the inside- it will be shown in how we treat one another – with patience and gentleness – making allowance for our faults. And if God has changed us on the inside – it will be shown in the unity within our church.
Lastly, if God has really changed us – The change will be shown by how you use your talents and gifts.
7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
If we are truly changed on the inside – it will lead us to using our gifts and talents to serve other people and make our church stronger and healthier and full of love.
And the bible is very clear – each of us have a gift from God that will contribute to the health of the body – each of us have abilities, gifts from God that he wants us to employ for the health and growth of the church.
Did you know that you have gifts and talents – that God created you and blessed you with spiritual gifts? Do you know what they are? If you have no idea – you can go online after church or now and take a spiritual gifts test online. Just type in spiritual gifts test.
But don’t do it unless you are willing to put your gifts to work. If you just want to take a test to feel good about yourself then take what character am I most like from friends?
Do you have an idea of your strengths? Your talents and gifts? If you know what they are, have you found a way to use them to strengthen the church? To Strengthen Journey Church?
Now some people have opportunities to use their gifts outside of the local church. But – most of the gifts of the spirit are meant to strengthen the body of believers in the church.
It’s important to know what you enjoy doing so that when you serve it might make you tired but it doesn’t wear you out.
And you know – Journey has many needs – okay? And the deal is this – that we will not be as healthy as church as we ought if you are not finding a way to use your gifts in the Kingdom of God.
Do you like to serve? Let us know and we will include you on the text to let you know when we set up. Can you help us tear down? That screen needs to be carried to the back wall every week.
We have a continental breakfast for 500 people every Sunday between 10 and 10:30. Do you have the gift of hospitality? Can you make coffee? Let us know and we can help you find a place to serve in our hospitality area.
Do you know that usually for every two people in this room there is one little kid in our children’s ministry? We take their spiritual formation quite seriously and could use help. Because we value the safety of our kids as well as our volunteers – we always want two adults in each classroom – which means you can serve in the children’s ministry even if you don’t have the gift of teaching.
One of the spiritual gifts is helping. Are you good at telling stories? Maybe you are into acting or drama? You can help us perhaps by being a story teller.
I’d encourage you to ask – how have I been gifted by God? And where is there a place I can use my gifts? Can you make things? Are you crafty? Are you a musician? Are you a computer person? Are you good at communications? Graphic arts? Website management? Can you organize? Write? Do you connect with teenagers?
What is it that God has made you good at?
Are you good at helping other people get connected with other people? You are a networker. Are you good at making people feel welcome.
All of these talents are needed for Journey right now and these things and more will be needed when we move into a new building someday.
To what end? The entire church matures – we grow up as we together, united, changed, devoted, use our gifts to build up the body of Jesus here at Journey.
The world is watching Kanye and you. They are curious about whether this faith of yours actually affects the way you live your life. May they see in you – a life of love – unity and service.
It is the life of Jesus.