We’ve been camped out on Eph. 4:11-16 past several weeks. Paul introduces 4 characteristics of the Body of Christ- the Church: UNITY, DIVERSITY, MINISTRY and MATURITY.
When you hear MATURITY… what do you think of? Someone older? Someone who has a lot of experience? Someone who can behave themselves?? (That would exclude me!)
Driving Dad’s truck… 13! I could drive it, I just couldn’t control it!!
We speak about “spiritual maturity”, “spiritual growth”, “spiritual development/discipleship” all the time in church, but do all our sermons, classes, groups, processes, ministries, etc. automatically make us spiritually mature?? Is spiritual maturity what we’ve bee told it is?? Or is it something else all together??
MATURITY IS NOT:
Maturity is not age. It has nothing to do with how long you’ve lived or how long you’ve been a Christian. Maturity is not appearance. Some people just look mature. Maturity has nothing to do with achievement, what you accomplish. You can accomplish a lot and still be very immature. Maturity has nothing to do with academics, how many degrees you have, etc.
SO WHAT IS SPIRITUAL MATURITY ANYWAY?? The plain and simple of what Paul says spiritual maturity looks like is that IT LOOKS A LOT LIKE JESUS!!
Eph. 4:15-16 “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.”
Paul says “spiritual maturity is growing in every way more and more like Christ!” Okay, most of us get that and have heard that a lot in church. BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN EXACTLY?? Consider…
St. Teresa of Avila: ”Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world, yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours, yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST… The Church is the representation of Jesus in the world. We can’t afford to mess this up. We can’t afford to be immature when it comes to our roles and responsibilities. The Church is God’s chosen means of bringing Jesus into our culture…
AND IT’S NOT MERELY ABOUT MINISTRY; IT’S MORE ABOUT MATURITY- GROWING IN EVERY WAY MORE AND MORE LIKE CHRIST!
What does “spiritual maturity” look like? Paul says, “We know we’re becoming “more and more like Christ…”
WHEN WE ARE MOTIVATED BY LOVE! “Instead, we will speak the truth in love…”
“to bring reality into a person’s life.” Here’s what I think Paul means by this from one of his other letters…
1 Cor. 13:1-7, 11, 13 “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. …Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
“…but didn’t LOVE OTHERS…” Paul says without love for others we’re just a very annoying noise, we’re nothing! How much “ministry” is just noise and nothing?? Just banging on cymbals is obnoxious! Ministry that is no motivated by love is just a lot of noise! And the world says, “Will you please stop!”
Jesus said, “Love God with everything and love others as yourself (Mt. 22)!” And Jesus pulled that off! It was his utmost motivation for ministry, for serving others.
Love is both a characteristic and a command (Mt. 22:37-40) AND it is the greatest mark of maturity!
Paul specifically says we mark or measure maturity when we are able to “speak the truth in love!” There’s the difference maker right there. This is more about serving than speaking; walking it out more than talking it!
The difference between Jesus and the Pharisees (religious leaders)?? Both spoke “truth.” But Jesus was received and the religious leaders were rejected! WHY?? One spoke truth “in love” the other spoke some truth “in legalism!” One walked the talk, the other just talked! One brought compassion; the other only condemnation!
How could Jesus speak truth into people’s lives and at the same time, they received it?? Because everything he said was enveloped in acts of love, mercy, grace, compassion!!
Guy on soapbox at after Broncos game. On a megaphone telling everyone leaving the game they were sinners and gong to hell! He even had some Bible verses written out on a big sign. That’s easy! Anyone can get up on a platform and do that!! BUT walking with people, on a journey of forgiveness, healing, overcoming… is an entirely different deal!!
IMMATURE “CHRISTIANS” MISS THE POINT THAT LOVE IS BOTH A NOUN AND A VERB!! Truth merely spoken without substantial acts of service that solidify that “truth” is the essence of hypocrisy! The profound difference between Jesus, who spoke truth and the Pharisees, who spoke truth, was that Jesus was motivated by LOVE; whereas the religious leaders were motivated by PRIDE! One or the other is what will motivate all of us.
Again, the woman caught in the act of adultery proves the point. Truth says what she did is sin. Love says she can be forgiven. Truth spoken in love says, “Go and sin no more!” WHICH MEANS- overcoming your guilt, the consequences of your actions is not an immediate dynamic; it takes time, it takes healing, it takes responsibility, it takes a community of faith, the body of Christ, who all have something they’ve overcoming or are in the process of overcoming!!! THIS IS SPIRITUAL MATURITY!!
Paul says, we know we’re becoming more and more like Christ…
WHEN WE ACTUALLY ARE MORE AND MORE LIKE CHRIST! “…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.”
Again from his other letter he expounds on this…
1 Cor. 12:12-18, 27 “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? 18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
“Growing in every way more and more like Christ” has a lot to do with understanding that “TOGETHER we are Christ’s body!”
“More and more like Christ” has more to do with how we see others, value others… than anything else! TOGETHER we are CHRIST’S BODY!! Maturity is when we realize it not only takes every part, every person to BE the BODY OF CHRIST; but that every PART IS IMPORTANT!
“Growing to be more and more like Christ” means I’m not only doing my part, I’m helping to make “the whole body fit together perfectly!”
Paul says, “HE MAKES- Jesus… the body fit together!” That means, part of the work of Jesus in my life, my becoming more mature, is my efforts in valuing and embracing all the “other parts!”
One part is not more important than another… because every person matters! “Christlikeness” is cultivated at the Cross (Phil. 2:6-8)!
NETWORKING- “I need you and you need me- we get more done together than apart!” That’s the best- perfect picture of the kingdom, of the Church, of the Body of Christ- how we come together, we don’t care who gets the credit; God get’s the glory!
Finally, Paul says we are becoming more and more like Christ…
WHEN WE ARE MAKING OTHERS GROW! “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.”
1 Cor. 12:4-7, 24-26 4 “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.”
Paul says the bottom line is “you grow yourself when you help to grow others!” Yes, we all have a part, but part of doing our part is helping the other parts- people to grow! Paul says a “healthy body- church” is one where people are serving each other!
“I’m not getting fed!” “The church isn’t meeting my needs!” WHAT THEY’RE REALLY SAYING IS- “I’M NOT GROWING BECAUSE I’M NOT GIVING TO HELP OTHERS GROW!”
Guess what?? We get “fed” when we “feed” others! We are blessed when we bless others! We grow when we grow others!
THE DEAD SEA- NO OUTLET!! Life goes in, but life doesn’t go out and so everything dies! That’s been the problem with the “church” in America- we’ve become big ole spiritually obese babies!! Inflow without outflow is not only what makes us unhealthy, it’s what makes us “dead” when it comes to our impact on our culture. It’s as if “the church” doesn’t exist; no one even pays any attention. But when they see “truth spoken through acts of love and compassion…” When they see that we “value and appreciate others….” When they see that we are “looking out for the interested of others more than our own…” THAT LOOKS A LOT LIKE JESUS and people are attracted to that!
Unity, Diversity, Ministry, and Maturity- Let’s put these to work for EASTER!
Am I motivated by love? Am I more and more like Christ by valuing others? Am I growing because I’m helping others to grow?
Which of these 3 do you need to work on??
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