As we continue to look Ephesians 4:11-16, there are points I did not mention in my questions that are extremely important.
1) The principle of maturity is for all in the Body of Christ. When Jesus chose the twelve disciples, His goal for Judas was the same for Peter and John. What made the difference in their maturing was their own willingness to be taught and to learn. I have found this to be true in many I have tried to disciple. Some love to search the Word of God, learn, be taught and transformed, while some make other priorities greater than being discipled. From a leadership viewpoint, we must work for the maturity of EVERY believer.
2) In verse 13, Paul sets this goal very clearly; “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.” Be sure that we understand that this mature includes “unity of the faith.” God never intended that the Church He formed through the death of His Son Jesus ever be fractured by division or disagreements on doctrine and truth. Such immaturity has been caused by not being unified in the Holy Spirit (see verse 3).
3) What is the standard of maturity? “The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” When we use human, man-made standards of maturity, we fail ourselves and we fail others, to keep that standard before every believer. God has one measurement for maturity – His Son.
We often make excuses for ourselves and others for not growing in faith and practice. These excuses come from not understanding the power of God in us through the Holy Spirit. Let us work together to promote unity, maturity and spiritual growth through the present work of the Spirit.
As we continue to look at Ephesians 4, we must answer our first question; Why did Christ give gifts to individuals in the Church? To start answering that question, we must go back to the verses and the context of the verses. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (1) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, (2) for building up the body of Christ” (4:11-12).
Before I comment on these two purposes, I want you to look at the larger context. Chapter 1 reveals the enormous scope of God’s blessing on us who believe “that we…might be to the praise of His glory” (1:12-14). Chapter 2 bases our salvation on grace alone through faith, not by works. This reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ is in view of “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (2:22). Chapter 3 unfolds a mystery in God putting together both Jew and Gentile in one body “so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (3:10). That is a divine view of God’s plan for the Church!
When we come to Chapter 4, we see God’s plan for accomplishing this comes through certain gifts used so everyone is equipped for doing ministry. Every ministry should have as its goal that it produces greater maturity for “building up” the body. Ask yourself, is my part in the Body of Christ helping to mature others? It does not matter what gift you have, small or great, it must have this element as its goal.
The whole idea of spiritual maturity comes together in Paul’s summary of why the Church was given a variety of gifts for individuals to use through “the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3). The quote below from this same chapter is long, but I urge you to read it carefully. Tomorrow, I will go over some very important points. See if you can identify what they are before the next blog.
“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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (4:11–16).
Try to answer these questions before tomorrow:
1. Why did Christ give the gift to individuals in the Church?
2. Give at least two purposes for using the gifts.
3. What are the dangers of not becoming mature?
4. Give at least three reasons why we should “speak the truth in love.”
5. Is this process for just a few in the Church, the body of Christ?
Looking forward to meeting with you right here tomorrow.
Paul was right when he said that it takes maturity to have the proper perspective on the past and correct vision for the future. Let’s look at the context of Paul’s statement.
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you” (Philippians 3:13–15).
At the beginning of Chapter 3, Paul recounted his past and called everything he accomplished as “rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (3:8). In that phrase, we see how Paul looked at the past and what consumed his vision for the future. It was spiritually accurate to consider all his accomplishments as “rubbish” because they had no value in comparison to what he was gaining by making Christ his only pursuit.
This is a challenge for every Christian. The world we live in keeps preaching to us that we must achieve human goals and aspirations in order to be successful. God says through Jeremiah, “let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24). This is what maturity will do if we allow it to work. We will think the same way Paul did if we are mature; placing proper labels on what does not matter and high value on what is eternal and glorifies God.
One of the most convicting passages of Scripture on maturity is Hebrews 5:11-14. The writer chastises these believers for not grasping what they were taught “since you have become dull in hearing” (5:11). The word “dull” literally means “lazy as to one’s ears or slow to understand.”
The cause of this ‘dullness’ is linked to their immaturity. This is evident by verse 12 and 13; “You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” On a physical level, we all know that living on milk does not promote growth. To be “unskilled” is to “lack knowledge or capacity to do something, or unacquainted” with the truth that helps us act according to God’s will and purpose.
We now come to the core reason for this blog post. “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (5:14). Spiritual food with substance is necessary if we are going to become mature and able to discern between good and evil. There is no short-cut to spiritual maturity. We must examine the kind of food we put into our minds and hearts. If we keep feeding on things that do not promote transformation (growth), we become stunted in our ability to make choices that glorify God and help the Body of Christ to grow together.
Were Paul and the other apostles the only ones concerned about being mature? Notice the words of Jesus as He taught the disciples on the mountain:
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The word “perfect” (teleios) means to “be mature, grown-up, genuine, and true in behavior.” God the Father is the only model and example to follow. As we read the Sermon on the Mount, we see that Jesus gives details so we will know what this maturity looks like. It will almost always be the opposite to what we normally think and how we behave. Our sinful nature must be put to death by the Spirit and we allow grace to train us “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).
Spiritual maturity will always reflect God the Father in some way. Many use the excuse that Romans 7:7-24 shows there is the “law of sin” in us that makes us do what we don’t want to do. But that excuse does not stand up when we “serve the law of God with [our] mind” (7:25) and “be transformed by the renewal of [our] mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (12:2).
Let the Spirit through the Word of God renew your mind and develop maturity in your life.
The New Testament is full of references from various angles to the need and importance of maturity; often a rare quality. I want to take the next few days to focus our attention on this subject. In the fourth letter that Paul wrote, he is very blunt in his words to the Corinthians. This is not surprising when we consider the issues they struggled with and Paul had to address.
“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20). Notice how he relates the rejection of sin and evil to being a child, but proper maturity to the way we think.
This verse is in the context of Paul’s teaching on the body of Christ and how the gifts are used to “build up the church” (14:4, 12, 26). At the root of many problems in Corinth was placing self first which is not love for others. This is childish and immature. In the ‘Love Chapter 13,’ he says; “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Love for God and what belongs to him requires that we “give up childish ways” and act as those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This is a lesson I have had to learn over and over, because maturity is a quality that grows as we walk with the Lord. We will look at this more in the days ahead, but it is good to ask yourself whether you are still acting like a child or becoming a man or woman of God who reflects growth through the Scriptures planted in your life.
Beginning June 24th, there will be an intense four-week training of students (mostly young) in Yangon. This type of training has been very successful because it immerses the students into the Scriptures and helps them make practical and immediate application of the timeless principles that can be used in any culture and under any conditions. They will begin with God’s Plan for His Disciples in the first week and then advance into God’s Plan for His Church in the second, third and fourth weeks.
Tim will be there through July 2nd and then he leaves for a conference in Oslo, Norway (see below). Terry will arrive July 5th to help finish the training. Please pray for these two servants; for their health and energy. This is the first time Terry has trained solo, so he would appreciate any who hold him up in prayer. Also, pray for the students to grasp the principles in the power of the Holy Spirit and make immediate application to their lives and ministry
One of the most exciting aspects of this ministry is watching God work in places we least expect. The places where we find extreme poverty, suffering and persecution is where we also find the greatest hunger for God’s Word. When persons in these circumstances discover for themselves what the Bible says about God’s purpose, plan, and power is for them through the Spirit, they realize the power that is theirs to follow the principles of Scripture.
Next week, Randy will be back in a special location in Nigeria for a follow-up training. Remember last time that over 260 showed up from many different backgrounds and denominations. While he worked with EMS (Evangelical Missions Society), as part of ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All), God is bringing many who want to know God's Word. This location is the very headquarters of a radical group that has killed many Christians! Please pray for these dear brothers and sisters who live every day in the hotbed of oppression.
After leaving there, he will go to Kogon River, a very impoverished area that often is oppressed by a radical people group that are killing Christians, yet God is bringing many of them to Himself! There are many stories of how they watch and are amazed at the way the Christians die. As they kill them, they see brave, peace-filled people who even pray for them and show no signs of hatred. This has impacted many of them, but the persecution still prevails.
Remember the effect of Stephen’s death on Saul. His powerful testimony and “all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). Pray that these believers will have the same powerful witness and lead many to the Savior.
Randy reports from Nigeria: “We thank God for the work He continues to do here in Nigeria. I am in the third and final week of teaching at JETS (Jos ECWA Theological Seminary).
"The Evangelical Church Winning All, previously known as the Evangelical Church of West Africa, is one of the largest Christian denominations in Nigeria, with about ten million members. ECWA is a partner church of the international Christian mission organization, Serving In Mission (SIM), formerly Sudan Interior Mission. ECWA was founded in 1954 when the SIM-related churches (initially in Nigeria) came together to form an indigenous body." (Wikipedia)
My partnership with SIM missionaries, who are developing and releasing indigenous leaders into the difficult, yet the “white harvest” of West Africa and beyond. At JETS I have 12 very eager students who want to break out of the strangle hold of contemporary missions and ministry and return to the Word of God for His Plan for His Church.
These 12 are from several denominations, even though the seminary is part of ECWA, and two of these are opening new doors with the key leaders of their denominations in other parts of the country. Lord-willing, I will be back in September to introduce GPHD & GPHC to these new leaders while I do at least two other follow-up meetings and one graduation.
What excites me most about the doors God is opening here is two-fold: First, the people are not about money! They see it and experience it, like other places in Africa, but they do not see this ministry that way. For now, they are willing to sacrifice to get God's Word out in a self-sustaining way. Second, they have the potential to bring the gospel north to the 10/40 Window! For this I pray and give thanks. May He empower many to go to the Unreached and Least Reached. Please pray with me on this.”
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