Healthy Church | Ephesians 4:1-16

Sermon | Week 5

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

In the Western Meadows Values Series, we have been studying the primary values that we hold as a church. We began with the Great Commission, Jesus’ final command for His disciples to continue making disciples. The great purpose and mission of each Christian and church is, therefore, to make disciples, and we do so because by making more disciples of Jesus we continue to fill the earth with Christ’s image and glory.

Like the Christian walk, making disciples happens on two fronts: individually and corporately. As individuals, we live our lives as a witness for Christ, proclaim His gospel to nonbelievers, and teach other Christians to obey all that He has commanded us. Corporately, we make disciples by devoting ourselves to Scripture (by faithfully preaching and hearing them), prayer (specifically praying for boldness to proclaim the gospel), and community (by loving one another as Christ has loved us).

Having now studied our values, we will finish by spending two weeks in Ephesians 4 where Paul provides a wonderful glimpse at what healthy churches and church members look like. In the first sixteen verses, Paul gives to us a description of a healthy church, noting that it will be a church of diverse members united and growing one another into the maturity of Christ.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read verses 1-6 and discuss the following.

  1. Why does Paul emphasize the importance of unity within the church? What might a united church look like? What might a divided church look like?

Read verses 7-13 and discuss the following.

  1. What is the main purpose of leadership within the church? What are some common gifts found within churches? How does the diversity of gifts benefit the church?

Read verses 13-16 and discuss the following.

  1. What are some characteristics of Christian maturity? Which characteristic is most convicting? Why?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.
Advertisements

All Scripture Is Profitable

All Scripture is… profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV

After informing us that all Scripture is inspired by God, Paul lists the second truth about Scripture: it is profitable. When it comes to owning a business, profit is great. Making profit is the only means of sustaining a business. When Paul speaks of Scripture being profitable, we could also use synonyms like helpful, valuable, or advantageous. In essence, we need Scripture, and we should want it. It is beneficial to us.

Why is Scripture profitable to us?

Paul gives us four answers to that question.

First, all Scripture is profitable for teaching.

This is the same root word from which we get the word doctrine, which are the teachings of Scripture. As noted previously because the Scriptures are the revealed Word of God, they primarily teach us about God. We come to the Scriptures in order that we may know God. If He is the one who breathed them out, He did so that we may know Him.

It is pretentiousness of the highest order to claim to know God without reading His Word. We cannot be a people who know God if we never hear what He has to say about Himself. If we speak of God without the teaching of Scripture to guide us, we either put words in God’s mouth or we create for ourselves a false god within our own imagination. All Scripture is profitable for teaching us what God is like.

Second, all Scripture is profitable for reproof.

This is not a fun one at all. Reproof literally means to convict us of sin or to show us our faults. To be honest, it is not my default setting to ask God during my devotion times, “Lord would you reprove me through Your Word this morning? God, please speak to me here and show me the areas of my life where I am wrong.” My natural inclination is not to pray things like that. Yet Paul is listing reproof as one of the chief benefits of Scripture.

In the book of Hebrews, we find reproof to be part of the God’s discipline process: “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.’” (Hebrews 12:5) In fact, God sees this discipline as so necessary that He establishes it as one of the primary responsibilities of church pastors: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9) God as our Father rebukes and convicts of sin, and He places church leaders in place as instruments to do so as well.

Many of us have false views that have come about through human tradition. Angels are a great example. While statues of angels as chubby babies are quite popular, the biblical truth is that angels are terrifying. Nearly every time someone in the Bible meets an angel, they need to immediately be told not to fear. Angels are not cute and cuddly. They are glorious and frightening. It is, therefore, important that we allow Scripture to combat our false thinking. If we do not allow Scripture to reprove us, we will never reap the benefits of the next point.

Third, all Scripture is profitable for correction.

You cannot be corrected of something until you first become aware that you need correcting. Reproof and correction go hand-in-hand. Correction literally means to be straighten up again. Imagine a picture frame that has fallen over and needs to be set up again. That is the notion of correction. In many areas, we are wrong, and we need to be corrected.

If we truly value the Scriptures as God’s Word, we will humbly approach them, asking the LORD to show us our errors and how to correct them. The LORD will never leave us with the conviction of sin alone. He will always provide in His Word the means of correction.

Fourth, all Scripture is profitable for training in righteousness.

Hebrews 12 translates this word as discipline. God lovingly disciplines us toward righteousness because we are His sons and daughters. Likewise, Paul uses this word in Ephesians 6:4, where he charges fathers to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the LORD. Anyone with any degree of serious commitment to sports knows the value of training. Without the repetitive conditioning of the body throughout the week, no one would be able to play their best in an actual game. Training is not always pleasant, but it is necessary.

The goal of the Christian is to be holy as God is holy. We desire to live a righteous life in the likeness of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist’s prayer must be the prayer of every follower of Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) Everyday we should long to be conformed ever more into the image of Christ. Scripture is the vehicle for this process. The Bible trains us toward being more and more like Christ.

Community | 1 Peter 4:7-11

Sermon | Week 4

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11)

A new command I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

OPENING THOUGHT

Through the Western Meadows Values Series, we are studying the biblical values that we hold as a church. Jesus’ Great Commission is our foundation. With those final words, Jesus commanded His disciples to make disciples of all nations. Our Lord calls us to fill the earth with His disciples, His image-bearers, so refusing to do so is disobedience.

Knowing Jesus’ command is important, but it is also necessary that we know how to make disciples. Like our Christian walk, disciples are made on two levels: individually and communally. Individually, we make disciples through witnessing about Christ with our lives, sharing the gospel with our words, and teaching one another to obey everything that He has commanded us. Communally, we make disciples as the church through the proclamation of the Scriptures, praying together, and loving one another in community.

Since we have addressed the importance of Scripture and prayer, we will now study the necessity of community. Though there are many texts that describe Christian community, Peter writes one of the best. He emphasizes that godly love must be earnest, and it will display itself through hospitality and using our gifts to serve one another. While this type of community is evangelistic, it is predominately a means of discipleship, building one another further in their walk with Christ.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read verse 7 and discuss the following.

  1. Peter states that we are living in the last days. How does this fact connect to both prayer and community? How does Jesus’ coming impact how we live now?

Read verse 8 and discuss the following.

  1. Why is it important that our love for one another be earnest? How does love cover a multitude of sins?

Read verses 9-11 and discuss the following.

  1. Peter describes two ways that we love one another: by showing hospitality and by serving. Why should our hospitality be free from grumbling? Are you hospitable? What things typically cause you to grumble?
  2. What gift has God given you to serve the church? How can we speak “as one who speaks oracles of God”? How can we serve in the strength God provides?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Teaching (Making Disciples: part six)

Too often, we think of discipleship and evangelism as two entirely distinct enterprises, but they are, in reality, two sides of the same coin. 

Both are sharing, proclaiming, and teaching the gospel. 

They only differ in their audience. 

During evangelism, we share the gospel with non-Christians, and during discipleship, we share the gospel with Christians. 

Therefore, discipleship is evangelism for believers, and evangelism is discipleship for non-Christians.

The process of discipleship is important because our call to make disciples is not complete after someone becomes a Christian. 

Jesus did not command us to make converts; He told us to make disciples.

How then do we continue the process of discipleship after someone becomes a Christian?

Our Lord answered the question Himself in the Great Commission: by teaching them to obey all that He commanded us. We are meant to teach Jesus’ teachings to the next wave of disciples.

As with evangelism, God does give to some in the church the specific gift of teaching; however, each Christian is still called to teach in some capacity. Consider Paul’s charge to Timothy, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2) Paul encourages Timothy to continue the process of teaching other men what it means to follow Christ.

But the process is not only for men. In Titus 2:3-6, Paul gives Titus these words for women:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanders or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Notice that Paul commands older women to teach and train younger women.

Both men and women are called by the Scriptures to teach those who are younger in the faith. I say younger in the faith because physical maturity is not necessarily indicative of spiritual maturity. A young man might be quite mature in Christ, while an older man is an infant in the faith.

Of course, this does not mean that younger believers have nothing to share. Just as we are told to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, so should we teach another the truths of God that we find in Scripture. (Ephesians 5:21) We should mutually build one another up in the Lord, teaching one another to continue walking faithfully with the Christ.

This process can be as intentional as meeting regularly with someone or a small group to study and discuss Scripture, or it could be as relaxed as two families eating together, discussing what God has been teaching them recently. The key is to actually discuss the Scriptures and what God is doing. If we meet with brothers and sisters in Christ without discussing the goodness of the gospel, what makes us any different than the world?

Prayer | Ephesians 6:18-20

Sermon | Week 3

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:18-20)

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

OPENING THOUGHT

The purpose of the Western Meadows Values Series is to articulate the primary values that we hold at Western Meadows Baptist Church. Our study began with the Great Commission, which is Jesus’ final command for His disciples to make disciples. This call toward perpetual discipleship is the mission and purpose of each Christian as individuals and of each church as a community. Because making disciples fills the earth with the glory of God, the Great Commission is not optional for Christ’s followers.

The command, of course, means little to us unless we know how to obey it. Like our walk of faith, discipleship happens at both an individual and communal level. As individuals, we make disciples by witnessing (adorning the gospel with our lives), evangelism (the verbal proclamation of the gospel), and teaching other believers how the gospel applies to their lives. Likewise, there are three broad ways discipleship occurs at the community level: through the preaching of the Scriptures and the devotion to prayer and community.

Last week, we studied the importance of the Scriptures and how the preaching of them is an essential component toward making disciples. Today we will discuss the importance of prayer. Because making disciples is the expansion of God’s kingdom, discipleship is essentially an act of spiritual warfare. In Ephesians 6, Paul carefully illustrates this truth by urging us to equip ourselves with the armor of God. He then closes the section by reminding us of the importance of prayer in expanding God’s kingdom, especially prayer for the bold and faithful proclamation of the Scriptures.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read verses 10-17 and discuss the following.

  1. In these verses, Paul describes the Christian life as being encompassed within spiritual warfare. Do you regularly consider yourself to be a part of spiritual warfare? How should this knowledge impact our daily lives?

Read verses 18-20 and discuss the following.

  1. How does Paul expect a Christian to pray at all time?
  2. What might be the all forms of prayer that Paul encourages us to pray?
  3. Why does Paul call us to pray with alertness and all perseverance?
  4. Why is it necessary for us to pray for all saints? How does Paul’s prayer for boldness display the importance of prayer in making disciples?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Evangelism (Making Disciples: part five)

To be honest, I never thought of evangelism and witnessing as two separate actions until recently. In his short (and free!) ebook, What Is the Great Commission?, R. C. Sproul writes:

Evangelism, on the other hand, is the actual proclamation—either oral or written, but certainly verbal—of the gospel. It is declaring the message of the person and work of Christ, who His is and what He has done on behalf of sinners like you and me.

That means there are several reasons that evangelism is not. It is not living your life as an example. It is not building relationships with people. It is not giving one’s personal testimony. And it is not inviting someone to church. These things may be good and helpful, but they are not evangelism. They may lay the groundwork for evangelism. They may allow others to relate to us, or they may cause someone to be curious about why we live the way we do. But they are not evangelism, because they don’t proclaim the gospel. They may say something about Jesus, but they do not proclaim the person and work of Christ.

Witnessing does not necessitate words, but evangelism must use words, either written or spoken. We see this thought from the word evangelism itself. It comes from the Greek word for gospel, which means good news or good message. Therefore, evangelism is gospelism. It is making known the gospel, and because the gospel is a message and messages must be expressed, evangelism is a verbal act.

Many Christians become incredibly fearful at the thought of doing evangelism, while others write it off as a special gifting for some Christians. While there are some Christians with the passion and gifting of evangelism, all followers are called to the task.

We see this principle in the book of Acts. Following the death of the Stephen, the first martyr within the church, the Christians of Jerusalem fled across the Roman Empire. Here is how Luke describes the act: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4)

As they fled from Jerusalem, they continued to preach the word wherever they went. They continued to tell the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord. They kept proclaiming the truth that God saves sinners from the consequences of their sins.

This powerful statement is only made more powerful by who Luke is describing. He is not merely writing about the original disciples of Jesus, like Peter or John. He is not talking about the newly formed church leaders, like Stephen’s fellow deacons. No, Luke is describing the Christians in general. Normal, everyday followers of Christ preached the word of God wherever they went, and the world was irrevocably changed.

Evangelism is the work of every believer, but please realize that this does not mean you need to have a PHD in theology. John writes that Christians overcome satanic forces “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)

You do not need to know the ins and outs of systematic theology in order to share the gospel; you only need to have experienced the power of Christ’s saving blood and be able to express how He saved you in words. If Christ’s blood and our proclamation of how He saved us is enough to conquer Satan, it is also entirely sufficient for delivering the gospel message to a heart that is dead in sin.

One more thought on evangelism before I move on. Your salvation was the work of God, not yourself. You were dead in sin, an object of God’s wrath, but Christ made you alive because of God’s great grace and love. Therefore, lay aside the weight of thinking that you will save people with evangelism. We can save no one. Even if we argue someone into Christianity, someone else can always argue them out.

We are simply called to share the gospel, proclaim the good news.

God does everything else.

As a farmer sows seed but God produces the growth, may we also be faithful to share His truth, knowing that God alone can bring the dead to life.

Witnessing (Making Disciples: part four)

We know that we have found the good news that Christ saves sinners from the wrath of God, but that truth is invisible to the outside world unless we make it known to them. One way we can do this is by living as a witness for Christ. Witnessing, or testifying, is about displaying Jesus to a lost and dying world. When we witness, we attempt to live like Christ before the world in order that they might get a glimpse of His beauty and grace.

The word martyr comes from the Greek word for witnessing. Martyrs, therefore, witnessed about Christ to the world via their deaths. By boldly and joyfully facing their end, they displayed the hope and victory of Jesus to the world. Their actions were a living portrait of Christ.

In the same way, our lives should be a constant testimony of who Jesus is. We see this principle in the word Christian. Likely started as a derogatory term, Christian means little Christ or Christ-like, but it is entirely fitting. We are meant to be small, imperfect versions of Christ before the world. We are the only Jesus they get to see.

This is why Paul gives us commands like the one in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” What a blanket statement! Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. There is nothing so small or insignificant that it cannot be done worshipfully to God.

Colossians 3:17 speaks the same theme, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” We all called to do EVERYTHING in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Throughout high school and college, I worked as a teller in a bank. The bank would provide us with shirts to wear that sported the banks logo above the left breast. Whenever I went to a restaurant or ran an errand during lunch, I would be slightly more conscious of how I behaved because since I wore the bank’s logo, I knew that my behaviors (for good or bad) would be attributed to the bank. Even if it was subconscious, it was inevitable. As long as I sported the bank’s name, I was their representative to the world.

This is true of the Christian life as well. We bear the name of Christ in all that we do. We are His representatives to the world, so we should do everything in such a way as to bring Him glory.

Writing to His disciple, Titus, Paul applied this principle to how bondservants should work for their masters: “Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” (Titus 2:9-10)

Some have interpreted adorning the doctrine of God to mean that our lives beautify the teachings of Scripture, but that is not what it means to adorn something.

Consider this example. My wife is gorgeous. She is a smoking hot, Colombian supermodel. And she loves scarves and hats. She loves them to the point that I had to declare that our holding capacity is reached, so if she gets a new hat or scarf, she has to give away an old one. Honestly, I think she pulls off scarves and hats beautifully, but like any good accessory, they merely accent and call attention to her beauty. They in no way beautify her.

In the same way, the doctrines of God are beautiful. Far more beautiful, in fact, than we presently understand or realize. Our lives can do nothing to increase the beauty of God; they only call people’s attention to His beauty.

When employers begin to notice that their best employees are all Christians, the doctrine of God is adorned. 

When teachers realize that their kindest and most respectable students come from Christian households, the gospel is adorned. 

When Christian marriages are seen to be healthier and happier than most marriages of the world, the teachings of Scripture are adorned.

The call to witness of Christ is the call for each and every Christian to adorn the gospel by living our lives to the glory of God.