September 28, 2022
SPIRITUAL MATURITY – Ephesians 4:1-16
Pastor Eric’s sermon today focused on a topic that is not prevalent in modern society: the importance of character. As opposed to displaying unconventional behaviour, character is about possessing the qualities of Christ. As followers of Jesus, we do not possess Christ’s perfect character but we are to emulate it.
What does spiritually mature mean?
The simple answer – to be more like Jesus!
Read Ephesians 4:1-16
The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 4:1,
I am therefore a prisoner for the Lord…
It is noteworthy that Paul does not just refer to himself as a prisoner. Rather, he refers to himself as a prisoner for the Lord.
Despite the fact that we do not fully understand the meaning of the phrase ‘prisoner for the Lord’ in Canada, it is well understood in other countries where preaching and gathering in the name of Jesus are strictly prohibited.
Even though owning a Bible is illegal in many parts of the world, many missionaries serve the Lord faithfully despite the risk to their own lives.
In the culture in which Paul lived, proclaiming that Jesus Christ was the Messiah was an act of blasphemy, and that cost him his freedom. However, even after losing everything, Paul was determined to carry out his mission to preach the gospel of Christ. Moreover, Paul wrote this letter while imprisoned, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Despite being incarcerated in order to prevent him from preaching, Paul wrote a letter that continues to speak to us today. Pastor Eric, therefore, concludes that God can still use us to reach people regardless of our circumstances. Would we be willing to sacrifice our freedom in order to remain faithful to Jesus? Are we prepared to lose friends and family members, as well as our reputation in order to stand with Christ?
We sense the urgency in Paul’s voice when he says,
I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you… I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
We are not called as a result of our merit, but rather as a result of God’s grace. In fact, the first three chapters of Ephesians describe all the blessings we have received from God, along with the grace we did not earn.
Read Romans 3:23
It is our responsibility to conduct ourselves in a manner that is in keeping with the grace that has been extended to us. We should keep in mind, however, that grace does not constitute a license to sin. Our calling is not determined by our merit, but rather by our ability to live a worthy life. We should strive to live as blameless as possible before God and men with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Christians who attempt to live a blameless life without the assistance of the Holy Spirit are equivalent to those who attempt to live under the Law. The Law serves as a mirror that reflects how imperfect we are and how we are unable to meet our moral obligations without the grace of Christ. In preparation for Jesus’ coming, the Law shows us that we can strive to be perfect, righteous, and holy on our own, but we will always fall short without Him. As stated in Romans 3:23,
Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard.
We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit to live a life worthy of the calling we received.
Read Ephesians 4:2-3 and Romans 8:29
The apostle Paul goes on to describe what it looks like to walk in a manner worthy of the calling we have been given. Ephesians 4:2 states,
Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit and so be at peace with one another.
It is interesting to note that all these attributes are found in Jesus. In essence, Paul is urging us to live as Jesus did. Our lives are to be lived in a manner that emulates Christ and leads us to embody His character in our daily lives.
Spiritual maturity can be defined in many ways. Oftentimes, people are measured on the basis of how long they have been Christians, how many Bible verses they have memorized, or what role they hold within the Church. However, there is no truth to this. The spiritual maturity of new believers sometimes exceeds that of believers who have been Christians for decades. A person’s maturity is not determined by how long he or she has been a believer; rather, it is determined by how closely he or she resembles Christ.
This week, Pastor Eric read an article that stated,
Some Christians end up criticizing other Christians for not being ‘deep’ enough or committed enough to be ‘real’ Christians. (The fact that this may not sound bizarre to you is, in itself, evidence of how bizarre this has gotten.) There is apparently a certain subset of Christians who have maturity figured out, and the rest of us, well, not so much. And yet often what we call spiritual maturity…isn’t.
Read Romans 7:18-19, 1 Timothy 1:15, and Philippians 3:12
A person who is spiritually mature is not one who makes such a claim. There is no indication in the writings of Paul that he regarded himself as a mature spiritual individual. In fact, the opposite is true. According to Romans 7:18-19, he declared that he possessed no good within himself and that he tried to do good, but he was unable to do so. In 1 Timothy 1:15, he claimed to be the worst of sinners. And, although his pursuit of perfection had not yet been achieved, Philippians 3:12 states that he pursued it with perseverance. The spirituality of mature believers is not expressed in words. It is demonstrated through their actions and determined by the depth of their relationship with the Lord.
Read Matthew 11:29
Jesus exemplifies humility and gentleness. In Matthew 11:29, he said,
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Do we feel at peace within our souls? In Pastor Eric’s opinion, we sometimes lack rest because we attempt to accomplish things on our own. However, Jesus said, “Learn from Me”. Are we following His advice? Is He an integral part of our daily lives? Are we spending time in communion with Jesus?
Read Ephesians 4:3
In Ephesians 4:3, the word eager describes the Spirit’s eagerness to preserve unity and to bring about peace. The word eager in Greek means to give diligence to, or to be zealous for. Essentially, Paul is instructing us to be zealous in maintaining unity. Thus, unity among believers should be of paramount importance to us. It is therefore imperative that we approach a brother or sister directly when he or she offends us, without involving anyone else. Every effort should be made to resolve the issue. In the event that the problem cannot be resolved, spiritual guidance should be sought. Upon failure of this approach, the Church is to be notified.
Our unity in Christ is our strength; therefore, maintaining unity within the Church should be our top priority. The fact remains, however, that we will never agree with each other on all matters. Despite this, we should strive to be united and committed to working together.
Read John 17:21
Jesus prayed, in the above passage, that we would be one as He was one with the Father. The Lord Jesus prayed for unity within the Church, and we should be committed to maintaining that unity; to promote it, value it, pray for it, and to correct anyone who attempts to undermine it. Using the words of Charles Spurgeon,
We want unity in the truth of God through the Spirit of God. This let us seek after; let us live near to Christ, for this is the best way of promoting unity. Divisions in Churches never begin with those full of love to the Saviour.
Read Ephesians 4:4-8
Our commonalities outweigh our differences. According to Ephesians 4:4-8,
…there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.
In maintaining unity, we mature and grow in Christ. It is not we who create unity, but the Spirit. We are merely the means by which it can be maintained, defended, prayed for, and protected.
Read Ephesians 4:11
Although not all Christians are called to be evangelists, we know that we are all called to evangelize. We are all commanded to live out our faith and to make it known to others through our words and actions. As believers, we are all called to teach, but not all of us are called to be teachers. We are called to shepherd those around us, but we are not all called to be shepherds. It appears that God has assigned certain individuals a calling and an office in order to assist the Church with certain roles and responsibilities.
The grace of God has endowed us all with spiritual gifts that enable us to serve in a variety of capacities. This is one of the many reasons why belonging to a local church is so important. Without the involvement of every member of the church, there is a high probability that the Body of Christ will be negatively affected or limited since those of us who have been gifted to assist others are absent. Furthermore, we too will be limited because there are others who are gifted in ways we are not and who could edify, bless, and equip us. Therefore, our spiritual maturity could be enhanced by the involvement of other believers.
A Christian who does not go to church is like a finger cut off and placed in a freezer. He is preserved, but limited until he is reattached to the body.
For believers, the church is more than a place of worship: it is an integral part of who we are. In light of this, rather than leading an independent Christian life, we should be conscious of our dependency on others. And, although it is important to develop competency in the Church through spiritual gifts, it is even more important to develop a Christ-like character. In order to live like Jesus, we must have a character that resembles His. Scripture and Jesus are both perfect, but we are not. We are a work in progress.
Read Ephesians 4:12-15
Paul explains in the passage above why God gave us apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. He did so to
equip God’s people to do His work and build up the Church, the Body of Christ. It will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 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.
It can thus be said that God’s various ministries are designed to provide believers with a means of maturing in their relationship with Him. If we wish to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus, we should not attend church merely for the purpose of listening to sermons. If we do not practice what we learn, we will become spiritually obese.
Read Luke 12:48
According to Luke 12:48,
Those who have been given much, much will be required, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be expected.
This refers to the extent of revelation received. Hence, the more we understand God’s will, the more our responsibility increases, and the more our knowledge increases, the more accountable we become.
Read James 2:26 and James 1:22-25
Faith apart from works is dead.
He also declares that we must not only listen to the Word, but we are also to act upon it. It is for this reason that we hold connection groups during the week. The continuation of the teaching from Sunday is essential in order to apply what we have learned. Asking the questions who? what? where? why? and how? will ensure that we are not just forgetful listeners, but rather people who live out the Word of God.
Pastor Eric concurs with Billy Graham’s statement,
When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.
Read 1 John 2:6 and 2 Corinthians 3:18
The more we look like Christ, the more spiritually mature we are.
How closely do you resemble Jesus?
Watch the video here.