Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Growing Together 4.3.2016
Good Morning, dear friend!

This morning as I sat at my desk in the office, I was reflecting on the Christian fellowship that we are privileged to be a part of and as the message today speaks of growth in the Christian graces, I paused for awhile and thought of the ways that many in our congregation exhibit and demonstrate this reality. I thought of the many that are doing their part as an individual, but ones who has come to recognize that they have been given the gifts by Christ and that their gifts are to be used for the benefit of others.

Thank you to parents for teaching your children at home, for bringing them to Sunday School, to church.

Thank you to teachers and mentors who are praying for your children and teaching them about the love of Jesus.

Thank you to each of you, who in many ways give of your time, of your
money and of your abilities to serve those both in our congregation and out of our congregation. I would go so far to say that I know that all of you present here this morning give in ways that you yourself may not even realize the extent of it. May God bless each of you as you continue to demonstrate the heart of Jesus towards your neighbor.

Today we are resuming our studies in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. (4:1-16) We now move from the doctrinal part of the letter (1-3) to the practical application of his letter. In other words, Paul has explained that we have been brought into union with Christ through faith, and so we might approach the rest of this letter with this question: We are saved, we are assured of heaven, so what does that mean for me in my life here in the meantime? By what Paul under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit writes, that seems like an apt question. Let us hear what he writes... I have put headings over the paragraphs, so let us go through it and I will provide some comments as we go along.

Now that Christ has redeemed us, we are to fulfull our calling.
KJV Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is only One Church of Jesus Christ
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Everyone of us have been gifted by Christ.
7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Different Gifts are Given
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

For these Purposes
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

For how long?
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

Each of us work together to grow the body of Christ through connections with one another, not forgetting that Christ is the Head of the body.
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Now let us draw some conclusions to what we have heard....

Since we are Christians who have been called by God through the Gospel, we are to walk in a manner suitable to our calling. He points immediately to the reality that we are a part of a group, and now that we are part of a group, it is no longer about ourselves as an individual. We have been brought into joint fellowship by the Spirit of Christ and it is this same union that Paul exhorts us to continue in. He then points out that there is only one Church, the church of Jesus Christ, which we testify of in the Apostle's Creed..

"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting."

He is not referring to the physical church, but the invisible church which is made up of all those who have come to know and experience the true God as is written in John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

He then goes on to write that within this church (and in individual representations of the True Church) gifts are given by Christ Himself who is the Head of the Church, they are given to individuals so that collectively the whole would be served. He lists some of the particular gifts and the purpose for which they are given., And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 4:11-12

He then speaks to the matter of Christian growth and cautions against remaining as an infant spiritually speaking. He is not talking about growth in numbers of people, but he is addressing the importance of growing in the Christian graces. What does this mean? It is said in a number of ways in the scriptures, but it all points to the same truth. Allow me to list a few references here.

KJV John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

Peter in his first letter speaks to the importance of humbly seeking the "milk of the Word", so that we may grow. He later adds to this thought by writing in the last verse of his second letter, that we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. (2 Peter 3:18)
1 Peter 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
KJV 1 Peter 2:1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

The writer to the Hebrew congregation cautions against our being dull of hearing and thus are in need of being taught again the basics.
Hebrews 5:11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Paul writes of the difference between being childlike in our faith and being childish our understanding of the teachings of faith.
KJV 1 Corinthians 14:20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.

May we walk in a suitable manner in the place that we have been called by God. We are His child, we have been gifted with His gifts by grace, we have been placed into our families and church families for their benefit. May we take this calling seriously, may we seek to increase our knowledge of Christ through joint fellowship, learning opportunities, teaching opportunities, and so on so that we would not be those who would remain as children in knowledge and understanding of the things of God. May I close with a couple of quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer which will give us some of his thoughts on what we have discussed today from the Word of God.

Praying for one another
"A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner."

Be careful in our estimation of another's progress
"Christian community is like the Christian's sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May the Word of God dwell richly in us and amongst us today and always!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala

Posted on 03 Apr 2016 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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The Cross of Christ 2.25.2018
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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