Discipleship 3: Together by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – TOGETHERNESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Together

Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Resources, did a Twitter survey sometime back on the really strange reasons people give for not attending church. Here are a few of my favorites:“We were out of peanut butter.” “My wife cooked bacon for breakfast, and our entire family smelled like bacon.” “The pastor stays in the Bible too much.” “The worship leader pulls up his pants too often. It’s distracting.” “The church is too close to drive, and too far to walk.” “We got burned out at church and have been taking a break for the past seven years.” I’ve been pastoring this church, my only church, for the past 20 years and I’ve met people who are always looking for reasons to skip church. Today’s message is on the importance of togetherness in discipleship. You can grow alone in a flower pot for only so long. True and ultimate discipleship is long term and it happens only in the soil of community. You need others to be a true disciple.

Acts 2   42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Question: The early church understood the value of togetherness. Do you understand the importance of being together in the body of Christ? Are you a part of the body of Christ? Are you saved? What binds us together is the same Holy Spirit? Is he in you?

Context: In the first message in our series on discipleship, I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. We’ve already looked at the first two letters W and A and, in this message, we will focus on the third letter T = Togetherness. 3 main things we need to understand about Togetherness:

 I. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS TRAINED IN TOGETHERNESS BY JESUS.

Background:When people read in Acts about how the early church was together, loving and caring for one another, and putting each other first, they assume that it was some organic movement that just happened. Not true. For e.g.When you watch your favorite ball team play a great game, you know that it didn’t just happen. You know that the coach has been training them.So also, Coach Jesus had been training his disciples on the importance of being together and they were simply living it out.

I want us to look at a major training session that Jesus had with his disciples towards the close of his ministry. You remember in John 13, after the Last Supper, how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Itwas unthinkable for a master to wash his disciples’ feet.Peter even tried to stop Jesus but he warned him that this was a must if he was going to be his disciple. Why was this so important? Listen carefully to how Jesus explained to them the meaning of what he had done for them – 12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 14If I then, yourLord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”Don’t misunderstand:This was much more than “Y’all get along when I’m gone. Wash each other’s feet until I return.” Listen carefully –34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Loving one another was the mark of a disciple before the watching world. The key words here are “one another.” I can wash my own feet but that is not keeping this commandment, that is not proving my discipleship before the watching world. I can even try to wash the feet of the world (feed the hungry, house the homeless, take care of the needy) but that is still not keeping this commandment and proving my discipleship before the watching world. This commandment can only be obeyed in the context of “one another.” This is why the early church was doing what they were doing!

Application:If you are a disciple of Christ, the same commandment applies to you. Do you love others in the body of Christ? Do you care to prove your discipleship to the watching world?

II. IT IS NATURAL FOR DISCIPLES TO NEGLECT TOGETHERNESS. 

Background:Very early on in the church’s life, the disciples began to drift away from each other. They forgot Jesus’ commandment of being together. A major evidence for this is found in the book of Hebrews. By the way, a key phrase in this book is “let us.”Listen to chapter 10verse 22let usdraw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let ushold fast the confession of ourhope without wavering, for He who promisedisfaithful. 24And let usconsider one anotherin order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, asisthe manner of some, but exhortingone another,and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Why did the writer of Hebrews have to exhort the early Christians to keep meeting? Or why did the early Christians stop meeting? I believe for the same reasons that Christians or disciples stop meeting even today. Here are a few that I’ve come across:

  • I don’t have to be in church in order to be a Christian.If you say that, you do not understand what the church is. It is not a building. In fact, it is described in different ways. Paul gives several ways in his letter to the Ephesians. He calls it the body of Christ.Ephesians 1 22And He gave Him(Christ)to behead over allthingsto the church, 23which is His body…” What if I told you, “I love you very much but I hate your body”? Other times, he calls it the family of Jesus. Ephesians 2:19“…you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your family”? Sometimes, he calls the church the bride/wife of Christ. Ephesians 5:25“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your wife”?
  • I’m very busy and Sunday is my only day off.We always find time for things that are important. Time is not the problem. Understanding is. If you understanding the value of being with other believers, you will make time for it. Also, we have services several times on Sunday mornings and even on Saturday evenings.
  • There are a lot of hypocrites in church.What’s your point? In fact, what better place for hypocrites to be than at church where they can hear the truth. By the way, be careful about pointing fingers at others. As a pastor once said to someone who said that – “Come on in. We have room for one more.”
  • I did until something bad happened to me.I’m very sorry for what happened to you. This is one I do understand. When I first came here from India, I went to church. Little did I expect what was about to happen or not happen. This church was known as a good church and bible believing church but no one shook my hand. I was so hurt that I didn’t go to church for almost 2 years. God had to use circumstances and people to bring me back. Here’s my encouragement to you – When you stop going for one reason or another, no matter how legitimate your reason is, you are no longer able to demonstrate your discipleship.

Application:What is your reason for rejecting togetherness with other disciples? Are you willing to give that hurt to God and forgive that person or church and let God prove your discipleship before the watching world?

III. TOGETHERNESS IS A MEASURING STICK FOR DISCIPLESHIP. 

In the first message in this series on discipleship, I explained to you how Jesus moved people through 3 concentric circles.Outside the circles was the CROWD, the vast majority who were not following Jesus. Then came the first circle, the CONGREGATION.These were the multitudes that followed Jesus, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Then came the second circle,theCOMMUNITY. These were the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 from Luke 10as well. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Finally came the third circle, the CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. From these, Jesus expected much more. What I want you to understand is that to each of this groups Jesus had a different call:

  • To the crowd, it was “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • To the multitudes, it was “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.”
  • To the disciples, it was “Love one another as I have loved you.”
  • To the inner circle, it was “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

This applies to us today:

  • Crowd (people out in our neighborhood, workplaces, friends) – get saved
  • Congregation (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) – commit yourself;
  • Community (disciples – Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Studies) – love one another, learn to be together;
  • Circle (Accountability groups) – help each other.

Invitation:Which group do you belong to? Do you understand the value of togetherness? What are you doing to move through these circles? Are you saved?

Discipleship 2: Accountable by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – ACCOUNTABILITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Accountable

Introduction: About 9 years ago, Nicole and I decided to take our kids out west. Many of you know that I love the Old West. So, we drove all the way through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and came back through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and all those states. It was a fun trip except for one part. When we left Estes Park, Colorado, we had 2 choices: go the long way on the interstate to Utah or take the short way through the Rockies. Of course, I chose the short scenic route. Thirty minutes into the trip we realized that it was a big mistake. The scenery was gorgeous but the road was narrow without any guard rails and sheer drop on either side. I’d never been so nervous in my life. Thank God we made it safely.Here’s the point: Accountability is like guardrails on the road of discipleship. It is imperative for a disciple to have someone in life of the same gender who is trustworthy, mature, and godly, and willing to question your bad behaviors and encourage your good behaviors on a regular basis.

Mark 6:7“And He called the twelve toHimself,and began to send them out twobytwo, and gave them power over unclean spirits.”

Luke 10:1“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.

Question: Both with the 12 disciples and then with the 70 disciples, Jesus sent them out two by two. He paired them up, among other reasons, to hold each other accountable. If you are a disciple, who do you have in your life who holds you accountable? Who is willing to question your bad behavior and encourage your good behavior? No accountability = no guardrails down the steep mountain of life. It’s a matter of time. Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Context: In the first message in our series on discipleship, I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym – W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. Last weekend we looked at the first letter W = WITNESSES and today we will look at the second letter A = Accountability. 2 main things we need to understand about Accountability:

I. JESUS KNEW THE VALUE OF ACCOUNTABILITY.

Background:To start with, the 2 verses we just read: In Mark 6, Jesus sent out the 12 disciples with power over unclean spirits. That’s incredible power but it did not cancel out the need for accountability. He sent them two by two. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out the 70 disciples and they came back rejoicing that even the demons were subject to them in his name. That’s again incredible power but again it did not cancel out the need for accountability because again he sent them two by two. We also find 2 instances when Jesus sent his disciples to do some very important tasks. The first was to bring a donkey so he could ride into Jerusalem and fulfill a very important prophecy. Listen to Luke 19:29“And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, thatHe sent two of His disciples.” Couple of days later he wanted to eat a very important meal with his disciples before the cross. Listen to Luke 22    7Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.8And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.”

There’s one more very important example of how Jesus valued accountability.When Matthew and Luke recorded the names of the disciples, they put them in the pairs with minor differences. Matthew 10   2Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the sonof Zebedee, and John his brother; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the sonof Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” By the way, later, the accountability group waschanged – Acts 1:13“And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; Jamesthe sonof Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judasthe sonof James.” More than likely, Jesus reassigned them.

By the way, the early church in the Book of Acts continued the same pattern of accountability established by Jesus. Acts 3:1“Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer…”and healed the man born lame.Acts 13:2As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” In Acts 15 there was a contention between Paul and Barnabas over taking John Mark with them because he had gone AWOL in the middle of ministry. Nonetheless, Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas. Later Paul took Timothy and Titus with him. Then there were other pairs like Silas and Timothy and Timothy and Erastus. Here’s the point: Accountability is not a 21stcentury concept. It was something that was valued greatly by Jesus and the early church. Bill Hull in his book The Disciple Making Pastor says this about accountability in making disciples – “To believe you can make disciples or develop true maturity in others without some form of accountability is like believing that you can raise children without discipline, run a company without rules, or lead an army without authority. Accountability is to the Great Commission what tracks are to a train.”

Question: If Jesus emphasized the value of accountability and the early church practiced it, why is that we are reluctant to practice accountability in our lives?

II. THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUE AND FALSE ACCOUNTABILITY.

There are reasons why Christians are reluctant to have accountability in their lives:

  1. False understanding of Accountability:
  2. Coming to church is not accountability. Coming to church is about fueling our faith. Accountability is about guarding our steps. Coming to church is about celebration as a family. Accountability is about reflection on our personal walk. Coming to church is about soul uplifting. Accountability is about soul searching. Also, Sunday School or Bible Study is not accountability either because they are not the place for hard questions, honest answers, and trusted confidentiality.
  3. Controlling others is not accountability. Invading privacy, legalistic rules, and manipulative tactics are not biblical accountability. True accountability doesn’t seek to keep people depended on you. True accountability is freeing and uplifting.
  4. Lack of understanding of the benefits of Accountability:

Sin came into the world when Adam failed to be the accountability partner to his wife. Satan isolated her and then overpowered her. For married people, your spouse should be the first ring of accountability and then someone of the same gender who is trustworthy, mature, and godly. Listen to what the wise King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4    9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his classic book Life Togethersaid, “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.”

Don’t think of the benefits of accountability as only negative. Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”1 Thessalonians 5:11“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”

Application:Do you understand the benefits of biblical accountability? Let me ask it differently, “Are you struggling with some sin that you can’t seem to free yourself from?“Are you struggling to grow in your spiritual walk?”

What’s the next step?

  1. Accept the Importance of Biblical Accountability. Saddest thing for me as a pastor is to see is good men and women fall apart due to lack of accountability or false accountability. Do you have any guardrails in your life?

Note: Being someone’s guardrail will also keep your from going off the edge.

  1. Be willing to sacrifice. This may require getting up early and meeting with a couple of guys. This may require getting together with a couple of ladies at lunch. You don’t have to come to church for this. It can happen right where you are.
  2. Pray. Ask God to show you the right person/people to help you stay accountable.
  3. Be Patient.Robby Gallaty said, “Finding individuals whom we can trust is not an overnight process— it takestime to develop the kind of trust where deep secrets can be shared with confidence and confidentiality.”
  4. Become a Disciple. Unless you are saved, you do not have the most important accountability partner, the Holy Spirit. He confronts and comforts.

Training Part Two by Pastor Abidan Shah

TRAINING Part 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Training 2

Introduction:  I don’t usually use movie illustrations but just for today, can you identify which movie this line comes from – “No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.” How about “Wax on, wax off.” It’s from the popular 80’s movie “Karate Kid.” I love that line because it truly explains why kids do what they do. You could say, “No such thing as a bad kid, only bad parents.” Last week we looked at Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he (she) should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” We focused on 4 things in that verse: Child, Way, Training, and Promise. In today’s message we will focus on the fifth element that we briefly touched on – the Trainer, the parent.

Psalm 50    16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you?”

Question:  You cannot hate God’s word and disobey it and tell your kids to love God’s Word and obey it in their lives. They will do what you do. Do you love and obey God’s word? Have you received the Word of God, Jesus, as your Savior? Are you saved?

Bridge: Last week I briefly touched on the character of the trainer. I even gave the example of King David and how he failed to be a good father. In today’s message, I want to step back and try to understand why and how David lost his way. This is important because a parent cannot train the child in the way if he/she has lost the way. To understand this, we have to turn to Psalm 50. You may not know this but scholars in recent years have come to realize that the Book of Psalms is not just a random collection of the songs of Israel. There is an order to them. If you want to know why David sinned and had to repent in Psalm 51, read Psalm 50. How do we know that? To start with, there are many similarities in words and concepts between Psalm 50 and 51. But, there’s something more. Psalm 50 begins with the title “A Psalm of Asaph.” Asaph was a worship leader appointed by King David and a wonderful composer. In fact, he composed Psalms 73-83. What’s really interesting is that Psalm 50 is not in that collection. It appears that someone took it and placed it before Psalm 51. I believe the Holy Spirit did that. Why is that? To give us an insight into why and how David lost his way. I don’t have time to go into the whole psalm. Asaph addressed 2 groups of people in this psalm. First, he addressed the righteous people and reminded them of God’s blessings and promises. Then, he addressed the righteous who had turned to wickedness and reminded them of God’s discipline if they didn’t repent. This is what happened to David.

Starting in verse 16 But to the wicked (righteous) God says: “What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth, 17 Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you? God is confronting those wicked righteous who declare his words and speak his truth but lately they have come to despise his word and disregard his truth. God is telling them that unless they have the right attitude towards his word, they have no right to declare his words. In other words, I lose the right to preach God’s word and demand obedience if I reject it in my life. David was the sweet psalmist of Israel who had an incredible love for God’s word. Listen to Psalm 19   7 “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. 11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. 13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Wow! For whatever reason, lately he hasn’t had the same love for God’s word. When we begin to lose our love for God’s word, it’s a sign that something is horribly wrong. By the way, this is how sin entered the world when Adam and Eve questioned God’s Word and disobeyed him. That old adage is still true – “This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.”

How does this apply to training our children? Imagine if I were to take my children to my favorite restaurant and tell them that it’s awesome and they need to try this dish or that but when the food came, I made the ugliest face and as I was walking out, I threatened them to eat it all! How do you think they’d respond? Confused, frustrated, and angry. There are people who want their children and grandchildren to go to church, Sunday School, Blaze, AWANA, children’s camp, youth retreats but they themselves could care less about God’s Word, preaching, Sunday School, Bible Study, and all of that. What do you think is going through their kids minds?

Let’s go back to Psalm 50. When you turn away from God’s Word, it opens the floodgate to sin. Listen to the list of sins that follow. By the way, they are a clear violation of the Ten Commandments, especially 7-10.

  1. Sin of Stealing – 18 “When you saw a thief, you consented with him…” Stealing is a violation of the 8th commandment in Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.” With no word in your life, you start “consenting,” the Hebrew word “ratsa” means be accepting, be pleased, get along very well with people who steal. Stealing doesn’t have to be pickpocketing or holding up a bank. You can steal money or time from your employer, employees, family, friends, and even God.
  2. Sin of Adultery – 18 “…and have been a partaker with adulterers.” This is a violation of the 7th and the 10th commandment in Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery” and Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” With no word in your life, you start “partaking,” the Hebrew word is “khalak,” which means “common ground.” Adultery never starts out with an outright affair. Many times, it starts out with being with people who condone and even justify adultery. They watch adulterous shows and read adulterous books and admire adulterous lives. All because the standard of God’s word is absent from your life.
  3. Sin of Slander – 19 “You give your mouth to evil, And your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son.” This is a violation of the 9th commandment in Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” I think we can add to this the 6th commandment in Exodus 20:13 “You shall not murder.” The word for “slander is the Hebrew word “dopeh,” which means you sit there finding faults in everyone. Some people may not do any physically assassinations but they do plenty of character assassinations. They gossip against others. They spread rumors against others. They spew bitterness towards others. You cannot be saved and be forever bitter and unforgiving towards others.

What will God do about it? 21 These things you have done, and I kept silent…” Just because God does not immediately deal with your sin does not mean that he approves it. Silence is not approval. When we are silent, we are approving. When God is silent, he is extending mercy. But listen to what God concludes – 21 “…You thought that I was altogether like you…” This is the sin of misrepresenting God because it suits your purpose and your love for your pet sin. Think about it – Parents are like gods to children. When we start making God in our image, imagine the confusion that it causes for the children.

Application: Do you twist the Bible to justify your behavior, your sin? The worst thing you can do to any person is misrepresent him/her. Yet, people do that to God to justify their sinful action and lives. This is especially dangerous when it comes to our children.

What is the consequence? 21 “…But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.” If you are a child of God, the Holy Spirit will not let you off easily. He will convict you and expose to you the error of your ways. What if you still don’t change? 22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver:” Now it’s no longer private but public exposure. The old principle is true – “You uncover your sin and God will cover it. You cover your sin and God will uncover it.”

Here’s the solution – 23 “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God.” What will you do? True praise cannot come from a contaminated, sin-filled heart.

Invitation: What kind of a trainer are you? Do you love God’s Word? Do you obey God’s Word? Are you saved?

When the Body Grows by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN THE BODY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When the Body Grows

Introduction:  Back in 2009 our family decided to take a trip out west. We were all able to get in my truck with our luggage under the bed cover. We all had plenty of room. It was a trip of a lifetime! The other day I said to Nicole – “That was so much fun! Maybe we can do that again one day.” To which she replied – “If we all tried to get in your truck and ride 5000 miles, we would kill each other.” So also with our church body. There was a time when 20 people on a Sunday morning was a good Sunday. The children’s ministry had 2 kids, that’s Rebecca and Abigail. We would count anything that breathed. Things have changed since then. God has truly blessed us and our church body keeps growing. If were not careful, we would kill each other. With that said, let’s turn to the book of Ephesians for our message titled “WHEN THE BODY GROWS.” We will do a series through this book soon but for now just a few verses from chapter 4.

Ephesians 4   14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Question: How do you relate with others in the body? What is your role in this church body at Clearview? Are you helping to edify this body in love? To be a part of this church body, you have to be saved. Are you saved?

Context: Before we can understand the meaning and application of the passage we just read, we need to first ask “Why did Paul write this letter to the Ephesians?” Although there is no clear consensus, most scholars believe that Paul’s main purpose was to promote unity and love among the Ephesian Christians. He wanted them to love one another with the same deep love with which they love God and Christ. Those two are interconnected. Why did he feel that this was important? Maybe because he sensed that they were losing their grip on love. Was he right? Yes. Just a few years later, listen to what John wrote in Revelation 2   1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: (that’s Jesus) 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” What will people say of our church a few years from now?

With that in mind, let’s return to the passage but let’s begin in Ephesians 4 verse 1 to truly understand what we read. 1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord…” Meaning: He is bound to Christ. He goes where Christ goes, does what Christ tells him to do, and says what Christ tells him to say. In other words, he is not writing on his own authority but Christ’s. What does Christ demand? 1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” Paul begins this section by urging the Ephesians to remember the Christian graces. They are given in 2 Peter but some are here as well. Lowliness means humility. Nothing will destroy unity faster than pride. Gentleness means meekness. It is not weakness. Instead, it is knowing when to be angry and when not. Longsuffering means patience. It means don’t say what comes to your mind and your mouth. Bearing with one another in love means learn to tolerate each other and do it with “agape” love. Don’t resent the other person. What’s the goal? 3 “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It makes a difference in how you treat and interact with each other.

Application: Are you marked by Christian graces?

Now, if I were to end the message here and tell you to remember the Christian graces and be nice, kind, and loving to each other, it probably won’t last 10 minutes. Our Christian graces are linked to our foundational beliefs. We stand upon a 7-layered foundation:

  1. One Universal Church – 4 “There is one body…” Paul was dealing with issue of Jews and Gentiles coming together. So also today, there are many churches and denominations but if you are willing to receive Jesus Christ as your only Savior and God, then we are part of that one body.
  2. One Spirit4 “There is one body and one Spirit…” The same Holy Spirit indwells you who indwells me.
  3. One Hope – 4 “…just as you were called in one hope of your calling…” We have the same expectation that God will work his plan out for us and this world and Christ will ultimately come for us (the blessed hope and glorious appearing).
  4. One Master – 5 “one Lord…” The same second person of the godhead who became man and died for me and rose again on the third day is your master as well.
  5. One Faith – 5 “…one faith…” There is one settled body of truth which Jude calls 3 “…faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
  6. One Baptism – 5 “…one baptism…” This refers to the baptism Paul talks about in Romans 6 where we “were baptized into His death,” “buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised with him to “walk in newness of life.” The water baptism is the demonstration of this inward spiritual baptism.
  7. One God and Father – 6 “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Through Christ we have the same God the Father and we belong to the same family. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my father” but “our father.”

If you are willing to stand on this 7-layered foundation, we can work out any other disagreements we may have. If we step off any of these layers, no amount of pretend niceness is going to hold us together.

Application: Do you know our foundational beliefs?

Remember our Christian graces. Remember our Foundational Beliefs.

Remember our role in the body.  7 “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, (established churches along with signs and wonders and miracles. Today we don’t have this gift but we do have missionaries) some prophets, (communicated the divine revelation of God. Today we don’t have this gift because we have the New Testament but we do have revivalists) some evangelists, (preach and explain the good news of salvation like Philip the evangelist to the Ethiopian eunuch but today Billy Graham) and some pastors and teachers 12 for the equipping (katartismos = “mending” restoring, putting things right) of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (This is my goal as the pastor/shepherd of Clearview) 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” It’s like a spiral. The more it turns the deeper the unity grows.

Our church body is growing but we need to be aware of our Christian graces, our foundational beliefs, and our role in the body.

Are you doing your part in the body? Are you in the body? Are you saved?

%d bloggers like this: