“ADULTHOOD: MATURE & MATURING” Eph. 4:1-16
INTRO – Clayton Jennings video: “When I Became a Man” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHSOQdyNNXg)
Clayton’s spoken word is a challenge to us to continuing moving forward in spiritual maturity. There’s a great temptation to be complacent in our progress in spiritual growth after we accept Christ. We get saved, we’re fired up for a while, we are passionately serving God, then the fire begins to cool some, maybe getting to the point that it is just a smoldering ember that’s barely glowing. It just becomes so easy to neglect our walk w/ Christ.
- The busyness of our lives works against us
- The stress of our lives works against us
- The pressures of our lives work against us
- The fears in our lives work against us
- And, of course, Satan is working against us!
This means that we are going to have to stay vigilant in our pursuit of the things of God if we are going to progress in our faith, pressing on from the moment of our spiritual birth, through infancy & childhood, battling through the struggles of spiritual adolescence, & moving into a maturing walk w/ Christ. This should be our goal b/c it is definitely God’s will for us.
When Paul was writing this letter to the Ephesian Christians, this is what he had in mind. His intention in writing this letter was that all those believers who truly wanted to grow in Christ would receive this letter. The aim of this letter is to equip a maturing church. And that’s should be the aim of a strong NT church today. That’s why our purpose statement here at CWBC states that we are Developing Devoted Disciples.
As we look at Eph. 4, we see some features of those who are mature & maturing in their walk w/ Christ:
They are striving to live a life worthy of their calling – v. 1-3 – Our lives are a living billboard. Our conduct advertises what we truly believe about Jesus Christ & our relationship to Him. We can talk all day long about how much we love the Lord & how committed we are to Him & living the Christian life. But, the proof of our lives is seen in how we live every day.
Those who are maturing in their faith are deeply concerned that they are walking worthy of their calling. And the calling that Paul is speaking about is not a calling to vocational ministry, but the calling upon each of our lives to know Jesus Christ in a personal way. We are called to be a “prisoner for the Lord.” Doesn’t necessarily mean that we are in a literal prison, as Paul was when he wrote this. But it means that we are willingly held captive by the love of Christ. In fact, the literal translation of this phrase would be a “prisoner IN the Lord.” As a prisoner is totally under the control by his captors, we are to be totally under the control of the Lord Jesus. Paul had given up his freedom for the cause of Christ & for the Gospel. You & I are called to do the same thing. We are not free to live any way we want to live, but we are held captive to the wonderful, life-changing Gospel & the Word of God. And when our hearts & lives are taken captive by the Lord Jesus, we will strive to live out the character traits we see in v. 2-3.
They are strong in their faith – v. 4-6, 14a – The 2016 Olympics will begin on Aug. 5 in Rio. Hundreds of talented athletes will descend upon that city & try to win the gold medal in their sport. But their quest for gold began long before they arrive in Rio in a few weeks.
You have athletes like Dartanyon Crockett who grew up in the slums of Cleveland, OH. Legally blind due to a degenerative condition from birth, Crockett will compete in the Paralympics & try to win the gold medal in judo. His mom died when he was 8 yrs. old, & his alcoholic father couldn’t provide for him, which meant that Crockett was mostly homeless & survived on school lunches. His best friend & sparring partner lost his legs when hit by a train. Crockett would carry him on his back up & down the stairs at their high school b/c there was no elevator. Quoted in an interview: “I will win gold in Rio; I have no doubt about that,” he said. “I still have the want.” It’s that kind of strength & single-minded focus that will carry him into & through the Paralympic games.
Those who are mature & maturing in their faith have that kind of strength & single-minded devotion, too. But, the difference is that they understand that their strength comes from the Lord & His Spirit that is within them. The Psalmist said it this way in Ps. 121:1-2 – “I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven & earth” (ESV). Heb. word for “help” means “strength.”
The strength of the mature & maturing Christian comes from the Lord & our single-minded laser-like devotion to Him. Look how many times in 3 verses Paul uses the word “one” – “one body…Spirit…hope…Lord…faith…baptism…God & Father of all…” These truths form the foundation for our faith system, our doctrine & theology. The mature & maturing Christians are those who hold to these truths w/ a Spirit-empowered tenacity. They study them, they think about them, they wrestle w/ them, & they live them out. B/c of that, they are “no longer infants” (v. 14a). Gk word actually means, “childish, infantile, babyish.” They’re strong in the Lord & in their faith! They’re spiritual marathon runners, spiritual judo wrestlers, spiritual Olympians, running the race to win the prize of the upward calling in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). And their spiritual strength leads to the next trait:
They are steady in the storms – v. 14b-15 – You can’t be steady in the storms of this life if you’re not strong in your faith. And the storms that Paul is referring to here are probably not the storms you & I normally think about. Usually we think about the storms that we face that come in the form of the troubles, trials, & tribulations in this life – sickness, disease, death, financial struggles, relationship battles, emotional pain, etc.
The storms that Paul is talking about that we, as Christians, ARE facing RIGHT NOW are the waves & winds of wrong beliefs & false teachings & doctrines that are being spewed out from all directions in our society right now. Our faith is being challenged today in ways none of us have ever experienced. It’s as if we are standing in the middle of an arena or coliseum, & the stands are filled w/ thousands of people who are all screaming at us at the same time.
- “You’re wrong on the transgender bathroom issue, on homosexuals, on gay marriage, on abortion! You’ve got to change your beliefs & accept the changes in our society. It’s the law now, so you may as well just give in.”
- “You’ve got to stop trying to convert Muslims & Mormons & Jehovah’s Witnesses to your Jesus. Your Jesus is not the only way to get to heaven, so quit trying to convert everybody you see. You’re being so judgmental! What business is it of yours if I believe in Allah, or believe that God used to be a man on another planet, or believe that Jesus was only a perfect man, not God in flesh?”
- “You’re not nearly as intelligent as those of us who are atheists & agnostics. You’ll never win an argument w/ us.”
- “You’re so old-fashioned in your beliefs b/c there’s nothing wrong w/ people living together before they get married, or having sex before they get married, or getting a divorce, so quit holding your Bible up as having all the answers.”
- “Racial issues are never going to be solved by this Gospel stuff you keep talking about! Don’t you know that Black Lives Matter!”…or those screaming the opposite of that viewpoint… “My confederate flag matters & my rights are more important than all that stuff you say you believe!”
When all of these competing voices begin to grow, those who are mature & maturing in their faith will be able to remain steady. We are different from the world. Our belief system is different than the world’s system. We are called to live differently, even as the waves get higher & the winds blow harder. Russell Moore, a native Mississippian, & the head of the Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission of the SBC, said this: “The world system around us, the cultural matrix we inhabit, is alien to the kingdom of God—with different priorities, different strategies, and a different vision of the future. If we don’t see that we are walking a narrow and counter-intuitive road, we will have nothing distinctive to say because we will have forgotten who we are…Forgetting who we are and forgetting our mission can leave us particularly vulnerable to false teaching that doesn’t sound false because it comes from ‘our side.’” (http://www.russellmoore.com/2016/06/21/politics-cant-drive-the-gospel/)
They are strengthening the Body through their service – v. 16 – Look at that last phrase in v. 16 – “…as each part does its work.” This is how the Body of Christ – the Church – is strengthened. It’s when “EACH PART” does its work. Let me share w/ you what that looks like: THAD’S BLOG.