Measuring Up To Jesus
And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct], [and He did this] to fully equip perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church]; until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity].
A Christian leader once commented, “Christ’s followers today have done what His enemies could never do- we’ve made Him boring.” What a travesty! If we focus our attention on bad news and gossip about Christians, we will miss God’s incredible, visionary, optimistic purpose for every believer: to grow so much in our faith that we shine like beacons to everyone around us!
Yes, the road is long and tough, and yes, God is working with clay that has a lot of lumps in it, but God is able to work miracles if we’ll trust Him. One of those miracles, one that our neighbors are looking for, is love among Christians. Our friends and neighbors have heard about church members arguing about the flowers planted out front or the extra things done for the wedding of someone’s daughter. They know about the viscous arguments and church splits, and they’re sick of hearing about them! So are we.
God’s vision for each church is that we would grow so much in our love for God that we’d love people the way He loves them: unconditionally and passionately. He wants us to be filled up with Christ’s grace, truth, and purpose so that everything we do do will reflect Him to those around us.
Can that vision really happen? Not if we’re content with having lukewarm affection for God, tolerating people instead of loving them, and just getting by in our efforts to touch others’ lives.
If a hypocrite is standing between you and God, it just means the hypocrite is closer to God than you are.
Often when we think about church we think about the institution, structured programs, and the building. The biblical view of what the church is looks quite different. There is a move now to disconnect with the “church” and I suppose there are those who have become weary with the corporate bureaucracy of the institutionalized church. It’s really nothing new. For a number of years now, there have been congregations that disassociated with established denominations. They branded themselves as “non-denominational.” But in reality they imitate mostly what they thought they had left behind. We could no doubt spend a lot of time talking about all that’s wrong with the “church.”
In today’s world of consumerism and the seeking for personal preferences it’s easy to disconnect with a fellowship especially if they aren’t meeting our desires. As divided as our society is, I don’t think that any institutionalized church body will be able to satisfy everyone. That’s because we have distorted the definition of church. For far too many church is the place that provides programs and activities that meets our needs. Our music preferences, our style of preaching/ teaching, and relevant activities for our families ranging from nursery to senior adult ministries are the things that either attract us or push us away. We all know how “church should be done.”
But let’s look at biblical church. The biblical definition of church calls it an organism-the Living Body of Christ. It’s made up of people who gather first and foremost to worship God. Worship is more than participating in rituals. Worship is ascribing to God praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and obedience. The church doesn’t live at a certain address or in a building. The church resides in every believer who has received Christ Jesus as their Savior and have made Him their Lord. The church is alive in the hearts of humans and wherever they go, the church goes. Jesus said that anywhere two or three are gathered together in His name, He would be in their midst. That’s church.
Paul describes the church as the gathering of believers and each believer contributes something to the whole.
“From Him the whole body [the church, in all its various parts], joined and knitted firmly together by what every joint supplies, when each part is working properly, causes the body to grow and mature, building itself up in [unselfish] love.”
In the biblical definition there are no spectators, only participants with each one providing something necessary for the whole. We all know that our human body functions much better when every part of it functions properly. To be sure when there are nonfunctional parts the other parts compensate but the abilities of the body is limited. A few years ago, I broke my left hand. As I am left hand dominant, I can tell you it was a challenge. I’m quite sure that had it been my right, it would have been challenging. One of the things I learned or became aware of was the number of things we do that requires both hands. In my case trying to learn to eat with my right hand was a struggle. I quickly learned to eat things that didn’t need to be cut. Or if I wanted to eat a steak, Sherry would have to cut it for me. There are many I’m sure who know the struggle and often the pain as one part of their body has to be compensated for and that puts a strain on the rest. After putting all the load on my right hand, it too began to hurt.
When we look at the failures of the “church” and if we look honestly and closely we will find only a few “joints supplying” while the rest are basically nonfunctional. What we find is those who give it their best but are often operating outside their gifting. Like my right hand, they give it their best but they are no substitute for “two-handed” work.
We, if we’re honest with ourselves, would say that we are a work on process but we must also see that so is everyone else. We ought to give as much grace to others as we require ourselves. When every joint is supplying and when they are taking their strength from the Head- Jesus Christ, the whole body grows stronger and closely knit.
Our text today defines what we call “vocational ministry.” It also defines it’s role and purpose. The five-fold ministry gift that Christ gives to the church is to “fully equip the saints(members) for the work of ministry(service) so that the church can grow spiritually and numerically. The end goal is to come together in unified purpose-becoming “the full measure of the stature of Christ.” In other words, each believer begins to think, to live, and to work in the same manner that Christ worked while here on earth. After it was Christ who said that we would do the works that He did and greater works because He was going back to the Father.
We can continue to be those who complain about the church or we can be of those who decide to be the church. We can be the problem or we can be the solution. Every church has its struggles, sinners, hypocrites, and troublemakers. Every church has its share of disagreements and arguments. The reason that is so is because we are those. We struggle, we sin, we pretend, and we are often the source of disruption. So were the disciples. Read John 12, 13 about the power struggle. Read about them all running away when Christ was arrested. Read about Peter’s denial and how he and the others went back to their old lives as fishermen. But God took this diverse group and molded them by the Holy Spirit until they became beneficial to the kingdom of God and to each other. It can happen to us too!
Dr. John Thompson