So glad to be here this morning. Thank you Rod, Elders, Grace Church, you guys have just been fantastic. It’s, we’re just so excited to finally be with you. You know it’s only been a few short months since we actually thought that this might happen, be a reality. Yet it seems like it’s just been long and hard. Um, maybe it’s been the same feeling for you. I just want to take the first opportunity I had, which is right now, to thank all of you for the generosity that you as a church have showed toward my family and me, we are just overwhelmed.
You guys have, now, I, I know there have been prayers for us and for this whole transition. You guys have been through quite a year together, but in all of that you’ve looked beyond yourselves and everything to think about us and not only that, but when we arrived here, just an outpouring of love and affection. You know, food in the pantry, gift cards, just people to come over and help us.
It’s just been, it’s just been indescribable how much you guys have poured out for us and I’m so grateful for that. One of my colleagues though back in California, he described my departure as like a, it was kind of like a two-month long tooth extraction. Painful but necessary. And I guess that makes me the bad tooth, which is, hardly flattering.
But at the bittersweet departure from our ministries there in California, it’s made the warm reception that you have given us all the more joyful and meaningful. So we’re excited to get started here. We’re excited to get to know each and every one of you. Ready to serve all of you, just as we see what Christ wants to do in building this church here in Greeley.
So as we get started, and as my books are still going to arrive here tomorrow, I guess, and be unpacked and get the office all set up. I’ve got a lot to do there. We’re settling in. But I’d just like to take a few weeks to explain from the Bible what I intend to do here as your new pastor and why I intend to do it. This is going to help us get our bearings together as a church, set our expectations about the church, about ministry, what we’re to be and to do as a church.
It’s just a, I know you guys have been through a transition as a church. It’s been painful and difficult there have, you’re not the only church going through those kind of transitions and difficulties. There’s been another church that’s had a really rough year. Probably most, and mostly because of the, the pastor that they’ve had serving them. A little over 2 weeks ago, the popular pastor, conference speaker and author Mark Driscoll resigned from the church that he started in 19, 1996.
He and the people there had grown that church over those years to around fifteen thousand people. Those people were attending fifteen different campuses across five states here in the West, and about two hundred thousand more people watched those services online. Religion News Service reports this. Quote “Mark Driscoll, the larger than life mega church pastor who has been accused of plagiarism, bullying, and an unhealthy ego that alienated his most devoted followers, resigned from his Seattle church Tuesday October 14th, according to a document obtained by Religion News Service.” End quote.
Almost more than any other church leader, Mark Driscoll has popularized the multisite church model. That is, when a pastor preaches from one location, they video him and then they feed that video either live or recorded to other congregations at other sites. So he preached from the Ballard campus location in the Seattle area, and then his sermons were played and replayed by video at fourteen other sites, making that a multisite church.
Driscoll also cofounded the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and as an in demand conference speaker, and he had his own resurgence conference. He taught other pastors and church leaders to follow that same model. Many of them young men, the next generation of church leaders. Very influential. It’s hard to understate the significance and influence.
Very few of the people who attended those conferences possess the same charisma, resources, marketing savvy or celebrity status to create multisite church networks of their own. But they paid the conference registration fees to learn how they too could build their own multisite empires.
The Christian Press followed the popularity of Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill and Acts 29 with exuberance and enthusiasm. Anyone who questioned the legitimacy of the multi site model was quickly dismissed as being motivated by envy or sour grapes. Either that or they were just a bunch of fundamentalists, angry and critical of everything.
And yesterday I read this article on one of those Christian press outlets, christianitytoday.com. The reporter there, Morgan Lee. Posted an article on October 31st entitled quote, “Goodbye Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll’s Multisite Empire will sell properties and dissolve,” end quote. That article marks the historic and catastrophic demise of that popular church.
Here’s the quote from the first couple paragraphs, marking its own reformation day of sorts, “Mars Hill Church will dissolve [will dissolve] Mark Driscoll’s multisite network, and let each of its remaining thirteen churches go their own way. By New Year’s Day, the multisite organization and the Mars Hill name will be no more,” end quote.
So after a meteoric rise, unprecedented popularity and influence, Driscoll and his church have gone down in flames. Driscoll himself has besmirched the name of Jesus Christ with his brash arrogance, his prurient speech, and his bullying leadership style. Michael Paulson wrote in the New York Times last August quote, “Mark Driscoll has long been an evangelical bad boy, a gifted orator, and a charismatic leader who built one of the nation’s most influential mega churches despite, or perhaps fueled by, a foul mouth, a sharp temper, and frank talk about sex,” end quote.
By his own admission, and as acknowledged by those who gave him a platform and benefited from the audience he drew, Driscoll was never biblically qualified for pastoral ministry. That reporter Paulson interviewed Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Keller was one of Driscoll’s disciplers and one of his main promoters.
He gave Driscoll a conference speaking platform of the Gospel Coalition and also brought him on to the leadership council of the Gospel Coalition. Here’s what Keller said in August about his young disciple to Michael Paulson. Quote, “he was really important. In the Internet age Mark Driscoll definitely built up the evangelical movement enormously, but the brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness and personal relationships which he himself has confessed repeatedly, was obvious to many from the earliest days and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people,” end quote.
We could wish Driscoll’s supporters would have heeded 1 Timothy 3:6, which specifically names the danger of arrogance. This demise of Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Church is nothing to celebrate at all. Except in this, the fact that one more source of disillusionment and disrepute has been removed. But the entire saga, which has been going on now for almost two decades, while it’s sad, it raises some very important, very fundamental questions that we, as we kind of push restart here, we need to ask and answer.
What is the right way of building a church? What is the right approach of a pastor in the church? Am I your life coach? Am I an angry prophet who scolds you every Sunday and makes you feel guilty for all the bad things you’ve been doing? Am I your therapist in a sweater who’s going to comfort you and put a little blanket around you and make you feel good about yourself?
No, I’m not. I’m a nice guy, but that’s not my role. Not to be a nice guy, my, my role is clear in Scripture and that’s where we need to go for this, to understand from God’s Word how to do church right? So should we cater to the so-called seeker? Making things as comfortable and pleasant as possible for unchurched Harry and Mary? Is the consumer king? Should we always just give the people what they want? Make sure they’re happy at the front, when they come in the front door, and happy when they leave?
Or are we to go completely the opposite direction, not build a big church at all? Let’s just move into the house church movement, everybody meeting homes like we did in Acts 2. Perhaps we should forget about the older generation altogether. Just go after the young, restless and reformed types. Combine our edginess, youthful exuberance and zeal with cool sounding theology. Theological terms, sit down and smoke cigars and drink shots of tequila and talk theology.
Or, maybe we should forget about that younger generation altogether. They’re so fickle anyway, right? Bunch of narcissistic youth, always looking at their iPhones, never paying attention to anybody. Bring back the organ, you’ve got a space over here for an Organ? Bring back the organ and try to recover a 1950s style of church and morality and everything else.
Look, all those things have been tried. All those things have been proselytized around the churches, promoted, promulgated, but we know where to go to find the answers to those questions. We’re going to find out what a church is to be and to do. What the pastor and its leadership, all of us, are to be and to do here in the Scripture. So turn in your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 4.
For the next few weeks we’re going to examine the first sixteen verses of Ephesians 4 to set a good foundation of what we’re going to do here at Grace Church. Ephesians 4:1 to 16 tells us how to build the church. Tells me what I’m supposed to do as your pastor, why I need to do that and what your role is in the church building process. So let me read those verses to you.
Ephesians 4:1-16, “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. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
“Therefore it says, when he ascended on high, he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. In saying he ascended, what does it mean but that he also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the 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, carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness and deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up into 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.”
That only took a couple of minutes to read, but we’ll be working that out for the rest of our lives. It’s quite concise, but just don’t miss the profundity in the simplicity of Scripture. All the best plans are like that. Concise and simple, easy to understand and remember, even if challenging to fulfill.
And if you let your eyes scan over what we just read, you’ll see how the passage divides into sections. Three main sections here, how it moves along from section to section. Verses 1 to 6. God calls us here to walk worthy of our calling, you could say worthy of the gospel. We can see in verses 4 through 6 it has something to do with doctrine.
So we need to understand what doctrine has got to do with our calling, what we as a church are called to, how we’re to walk worthy of that calling. Verses 7 to 12, you can see there how Christ has equipped the church with gifted men, including pastors and teachers. We need to learn why God gave those gifted men, and then set our expectations about what we’re to receive from them and their ministry.
And in verses 13 to 16, we see how God uses the body to build the body. As he uses all of you to build all of you, all right? The church builds itself up in love as it is equipped by the gifted men in the church. Unity and maturity are the key points in that section.
We know we’re growing as a church if we’re more unified in doctrine and more discerning and mature in the application of that doctrine. Now stop just a minute and think about this. We’re supposed to live a life worthy of our calling, which involves doctrine, verses 1 to 6. And that’s why Christ has gifted the church with the gifted teachers to equip the saints, verses 7 to 12. And then he wants the saints to do the work of the ministry that results in unity and maturity in the body, verses 13 to 16.
So walking worthy of our calling is something that we do individually in the context of the local church. Can I give you one huge obvious implication of that? No one can walk worthy of his calling in isolation from the church. Did you buy that?
Like an inter net, interconnected body of flesh and bones and blood, we rely on each individual part to do its part for the benefit of every other part, right? We need each other. We’re not a group of volunteers. We’re not a group of philanthropists who are just getting together to do our service to the community. No, we’re organically connected.
We’re joined together by one Spirit, under one head, Jesus Christ. We can’t grow without each other, but with each other, we can grow healthy and strong. With each other we can grow in unity, and maturity. Now we’re going to have lots to say about that in the coming weeks, but for now you need to see that God doesn’t leave us to guess what we are to be and to do in Christ’s church.
The church builds itself up in love as it is equipped by the gifted men in the church.Travis Allen
We don’t need some expert to come in with programs. All we need to do is look here. It’s explained, let’s observe. Keep our eyes on the Word. Trust God. Do what he says. And he’ll bless our labors. Do you trust that?
And notice how Paul opens chapter 4 with the word “therefore.” “I therefore” in verse 1. It’s a turning point in the letter. And after he explains who the Ephesians are in Christ in chapters 1 and 3, or 1 through 3, Paul command, commands them in chapters 4 through 6 then how to live in a way that’s consistent with their new identity in Christ. Paul tells them where they’ve come from, both individually and corporately. Then he tells them who they are now in Christ, again both individually and corporately.
It’s all for the purpose of teaching us how to walk worthy of our calling, all of this we’re to apply this. So, big picture, we’re going to start off with this section, how to walk worthy of our calling in verses 1 to 6. Then we’re going to see how Christ has equipped and gifted us to do that in verses 7 to 12 and then, we’re going to talk about how we grow in unity and maturity together as a body versus 13 to 16, which ensures that we will walk worthy of the gospel right back here to verse 1.
So for today, we want to start there in that first section verses 1 to 6 about walking worthy of our calling. We’re going to focus on those first couple verses. Probably won’t get too far today, you know, got to cut it off. But look at them again verses 1 to 3. “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.”
Let’s make a few observations here. Notice first of all that this passage is an apostolic exhortation. It’s an exhortation that reaches us as well, because this is the foundation that Paul, as an apostle for the church universal, made to this Ephesian church. That’s the significance of this apostolic letter. It reaches to all the body throughout all of time.
And this opening verb here parakaleo, it’s translated urge or appeal. You can see that here in the ESV. And that could sound like Paul is suggesting something to us. Maybe, maybe offering something to us for our consideration, making an appeal to us.
But this is not an invitation merely to join Paul on his spiritual journey. That is, if you want to. An invitation, you can accept or let pass. Don’t make that mistake. This is stronger than making just a, a minor appeal, a light appeal, much stronger. Paul is not here in the position of an, of inferiority, making his appeal to someone in a superior position to himself, us. As if we are sovereign in this equation, God is.
He’s an apostle of Jesus Christ. He’s in a position of authority in the church. He’s in a foundational position. And this, that’s the word exhort, which this verb is often translated exhort. The word exhort is probably going to convey that thought more accurately here. You need to take this as a command from Christ himself, the one who speaks through the apostle, by the Holy Spirit. That’s what an apostolic exhortation is.
Secondly, you need to understand that this exhortation is to a new way of living. Paul uses a common metaphor, “to walk,” which refers to our path of life, refers to our way of living. Our manner of living. In fact, the verb parakaleo is in the present tense here, which indicates a continual or a habitual or a regular action. So Paul is here exhorting us to change our lifestyle, our habits, our behavior, our daily practice, our way of life.
Now, are you okay with that? Is that okay with you? After all, don’t you think pretty highly of the way you live now? That’s why you live that way, right? You’ve done okay, right, haven’t you? You’ve kind of carved out a comfortable way to live life that’s pretty good. Fairly honest, you don’t cheat on your taxes. You don’t hold up banks or anything like that. You may be better than most, but look at this again.
I mean, you pick up this letter. And Paul is here writing to Christians, right? Y’all are Christians. You pick up this letter, and right away, as you start reading, this author is already getting in your kitchen. This exhortation to live consistently with your calling, it’s pretty invasive. In fact, if you flip the pages, he’s going to be getting into your homes, right in the middle of your marriage. He’s going to get involved in your parenting. Like I said, you okay with that?
It’s getting pretty uncomfortable, isn’t it? You just got to let that sink in for a minute. Don’t read so fast through the Scripture. Slow down. What is Paul’s assumption here? Here it is. You are not okay as you are. You need to change. You need to grow. In a word, you need to repent. Yes, that includes you, Christian. Me too.
Two days ago. We remembered Reformation Day. It’s marked by Martin Luther’s publication of the ninety-five theses, October 31st, 1517, All Saints Eve, when Luther nailed his theses of protest against the Roman Catholic Church to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg. Listen to the very first statement of the ninety-five, thesis. Number one, quote, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said repent he called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” End Quote.
For a Christian, all of life is repentance. We are not okay wherever we are. We need to change. We need to grow. Look the way we live now, the way we live tomorrow, the way we live in a year from now. That is going to be an extension of what we value. Of what we care about, what we want, what we believe, what’s important to us, right?
Our decisions about the use of our resources like time and money and energy. Those are all reflections of what we believe, reflections of what we worship. So if we’re not living a life worthy of our calling, we’re going to find that this section of Scripture rocks the boat fairly significantly.
This passage confronts our lifestyle, so I hope you’re ready for that. Paul is exhorting us here. He’s exhorting us to a new way of living. And just one more observation. Third one here, just by way of introduction. The emphasis here in the Greek is on that little adverb worthy. Worthy. What does that mean?
Worthy here means fitting, appropriate. It refers to a measurement. The idea of worthiness has to do with measuring something that’s lesser against the standard of something greater, okay? So we measure our lives, which is, let’s admit, let’s just kind of be humble here, is the lesser, okay? So we’re the lesser, our lives. How we live against the standard of our high calling in Christ, which is the greatest, right? It is the greater. So we’re measuring ourself against that. And if the lesser is going to measure up to the greater, we need to bring those two things into equilibrium.
We need to make our lives equivalent in some way to the calling which, with which we’ve been called, which is to glorify Jesus Christ because of the gospel with which he saved us, right? Now, Paul uses this phrase in verse 1, the calling to which you’ve been called. He could have just as easily have exhorted us to walk worthy of the gospel, because that in and of itself is the calling to which we’ve been called.
We’ve just been exhorted by an apostle of Jesus Christ to walk worthy, appropriate, fitting, commensurate with the gospel. And I hope that you can see that that goes beyond, way beyond walking an aisle at four years old to get saved. It’s more than signing a card in a prayer room, more than praying with mom and dad by the bedside, more than praying with your camp counselor. This whole section of the book, it looks beyond professing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, looks beyond being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
This passage is about the rest of the Great Commission. We’re learning here to observe everything Jesus commanded us to do, Matthew 28:20. So if you’re a Christian here today, you’ve repented of your sin. You have confessed and repented of your self-righteousness. You have confessed and repented of your entire life of offense to a holy God.
That’s what you’ve done as a Christian. You’ve put your faith instead in Jesus Christ. You’ve trusted him to save you and not your own works. You’ve trusted his works. You’ve trusted the Father’s initiative on your behalf to put all your sin on Christ on the cross and punish him instead of you. And you’ve trusted that that sacrifice is completely, utterly, totally sufficient. There is no other sacrifice for sins except Jesus Christ. You’ve trusted that message.
You’ve trusted that the Father has not only done that, but He has united you to Christ, and his perfect life of righteousness and pleasing the Father has been counted to you. And you stand before him, perfect, complete, lacking nothing, in a position of holiness. If you’re a Christian here today, you’ve repented from all that you were. You’ve repented to follow Jesus Christ as Lord. Repentance is the only lifestyle worthy of the gospel.
As Martin Luther rightly pointed out following quote, “our Lord and Master Jesus Christ means that we’ve entered into this lifestyle of repentance.” So our initial repentance and faith, which resulted in our justification that initial repentance brought us into repentance as a way of life, something we do all the time. This passage, beloved, demands a lifestyle of repentance.
So, Paul is exhorting us to a new way of living, which is a lifelong pursuit of repentance and spiritual growth. And admittedly, that brings with it some level of consternation as we sorrow over our sin, even sin now as a Christian. And that’s why Jesus described this path of salvation as a narrow way. It’s constricted, it’s tight, it’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t always feel good. But it is the doorway to profound and never fading joy that will usher us into an eternity of holy worship. No sin, no sorrow, nothing to distract us from the pure glory of Jesus Christ.
So the obvious question at this point is how do I do that? How? How do we do this? How do we follow this exhortation, confront our lifestyle, and engage in perpetual Christian repentance? How do we walk in a manner worthy of the gospel? Well, if you notice verses 2 to 3, there are two ways here that the gospel governs our lives to cause us to work in a way, walk in a way that’s worthy of the gospel. Appropriate of the gospel. Fitting with the gospel.
Notice where to walk versus 2 to 3, “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.” Those four phrases there unpack that little adverb worthy, suitable, fitting, appropriate, and it helps us understand what walking worthy looks like. We can see here, first of all, the gospel governs our behavior. Our personal behavior is in view in those words, humility, gentleness and patience.
Then secondly, the gospel governs our relationships, how we interrelate with one another. That’s patience again. So we’re going to get double mileage out of that little word, patience. And then the final two phrases bearing with one another in love. And then our eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
So the gospel governs our personal behavior and our personal relationships. By the virtues, it produces humility, gentleness. We could also translate that meekness. So humility, meekness, patience, love and peace. Now, as we think about Grace Church here in our area, building this church doesn’t depend on what we wear, doesn’t depend on how cool we seem to be, how nice we are. Doesn’t depend on anything superficial like that, right?
Building this church depends on something deeper. Our health, our growth, our influence. None of that depends foundationally on programs for the kids, the cleanliness of the nursery, but we want a clean nursery, we as a parent like that. A nice facility. Doesn’t depend on our community involvement or whatever. As good and necessary as all those things are, they are perhaps the fruits of Christian virtue. They’re the symptoms of godliness. But they are not the goal, and they should never be the goal.
The goal is always to please God. Are we pleasing to him? We make it our aim, whether in the body or out, to please him, right? We’re to please God for the sake of the gospel. We’re to please God with our growth in Christian virtue. And then we’re going to let him determine and produce whatever fruit he wants to produce. Let him do that. Let him determine the breadth, okay?
Paul is exhorting us to a new way of living, which is a lifelong pursuit of repentance and spiritual growth.Travis Allen
How we maintain the facilities, how we care for the children of the church, how we interact with visitors who come in through our doors, how we reach out to the community. All of that flows out of life, governed by the gospel. Can you see that?
So with that in view, let’s consider this first point, how the gospel governs our behavior. We tend to think that it takes something important, strong, robust and influential to build something that’s important, strong, robust and influential, right? If you want something that’s important, strong, robust and influential, you need something that’s got that importance and strength and robustness and influential. Inherent in it, right? That’s how we tend to think, just on a human level.
Well, God starts with humility, gentleness and patience in us. That’s where he starts. And why is that? If we reduce ourselves, get ourselves out of the way, you know what, it’ll be his importance, his strength, his influence. In a word, his glory. That will be made known.
That’s very important that we understand what all these terms mean here. I’ve observed over my life as a Christian, just as a general observation, that a number of pendulums have been swinging back and forth in the realm of evangelicalism. The denominational liberalism that dominated the first half of the 20th century was rightly confronted by the fundamentalist movement.
They were trying to do as Jude says, contend for the faith once for all, delivered to the saints. And they fought the good fight for inerrancy. But after that, the children of the fundamental, of fundamentalism became intolerable, even intolerant, even over issues that weren’t directly related to the gospel and after their, you know, according to their view of keeping separate from the world.
You’ve heard of second degree, third degree separation. The fundamentalist couldn’t find anybody worthy of their fellowship anymore, so they became smaller and smaller and smaller, and they’re dying out. That generation is getting old now, close to eighty years old. But the pendulum swung for a couple of generations from intolerant and rancorous all the way back to tolerant and genteel. That was the new mode.
So this new generation of evangelicals after the fundamentalists. They pointed to text like the one before us right here, maintaining the unity of the Spirit, bearing with one another in love. And they rightly criticized the bitter acrimony of fundamentalism with that generation. People now in their mid fifties, sixties, early seventies. They waved that banner of unity and tolerance and even ecumenical cooperation.
For them, almost nothing was worth, worthy of fighting over. And they were always smiling, too. They spoke in calm, moderate tones, and when they wanted to emphasize something important, they never shouted. They spoke in a whisper.
They minimized doctrinal differences. They never argued about doctrine. They discussed doctrine. But they had to discuss it in a dispassionate way. They preferred the pensive, sophisticated manner of persuasion, typified maybe by a philosopher like, or a professor like CS Lewis. It definitely didn’t want the fiery zeal of Martin Luther.
Well, the next generation that came along after the fundamentalists and the, I don’t know, what do you call them, the next generation that reacted against that, they noted how the previous generations so called sophistication had no effect on the wider culture. To them, their elders came across as passive and squishy, and they wanted nothing to do with that.
So there’s been a rise in the last ten to fifteen years and pastors who have taken a shock, jock approach to ministry. They’re brash, arrogant hipster types. They wear a confident smirk as they smoke cigars, drink, talk about theology. They want to drive the older people away.
Even though they’re nothing more than a bunch of angry, abusive bullies, thousands and thousands of young men have flocked to this movement. It’s no lie. One young man looked me squarely in, squarely in the eye and with utter sincerity and tears welling up in his eyes, he said, “Mark Driscoll saved me.” So sad.
Today, all those behaviors, the angry fundamentalism, the squishy genteel, sophisticated, “let’s never argue about doctrine,” the angry cage fighting types, these all, these behaviors and manners exist simultaneously and vie for people’s attention and acceptance within the church. But the wider evangelical culture still leans toward tolerance and passivity.
So how do we stop this pendulum from swinging here in this church? I have no idea what you’ve been through. I have some idea. I have, no, no, I haven’t lived where you’ve lived and seen what’s gone on here, or here in Greeley or here in Colorado. But what are we going to, how’re we going to raise up the next generation of Christians here?
Well we’re going to start by turning away from the shifting opinions of a wider evangelical culture, and we’re going to take our cues directly from God’s Word. We’re not going to swing and be tossed between two opinions. We’re not going to be blown about by every wind of doctrine. We’re going to anchor ourselves here. We’re going to anchor ourselves as deeply as possible.
And you know what? Opinions will come and go, movements will come and go. We’re going to remain here. We’re going to grow like plants grow. It’s going to take a while, but eventually you’ll see that little acorn sprout into this little, tiny little tree that you’d step on and break. And we’re going to see that thing grow into a mighty oak. Under which the shade, will provide shade for an entire community of people.
That’s how we’re going to grow, and we need to understand how God be, wants us to behave and interrelate and involves here the virtues of humility, gentleness, patience, love and peace. Now, it’s not enough to read those words and move on, thinking that we know and understand their meaning and the implication for their lives. We need to understand what the author meant when he spoke of humility and gentleness and patience. So we’re going to start this morning by understanding that first word, humility.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard some conference speaker get up and talk about his own journey toward humility by crowing about how terribly proud he is. It’s as if being transparent in some kind of a public confession, like some form of verbal self flagellation in front of thousands of people on a stage, it’s as if that is the mark of genuine humility. If you can talk about how terribly proud you are.
Someone who does, that must be really, really humble, right? Because he’d never risk letting everybody see his true transparent self. Not necessarily. You know it’s actually the essence of pride and the total opposite of humility to draw attention to oneself. No matter how, what means you use to do it. Humility doesn’t pay attention to self, it counts others as more important than self, doesn’t it? That’s what we learned from Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves.”
Humility is the opposite of rivalry and self seeking. It’s the opposite of conceit and boasting. Even if you’re boasting about your sin and your pride. When self takes a backseat to others, that’s humility. Humility is refusing to be boastful. It’s refusing to be self seeking. It’s refusing to call attention to yourself or put yourself forward.
Humility is not protesting when someone else takes credit for your work. Humility is not squawking or pitching a fit when somebody else’s ideas gain the prominence over yours. To be humble is to exercise self restraint. It’s to associate with the lowly. It’s to give yourself to humble tasks.
Humility is the common attitude of a unified church that promotes harmony and truth among the membership. And humility like that begins with our relationship to God. The word humility, which is also translated to lowliness of mind, is characteristic of those who know and understand the gospel.
When you realize who you are, who you really are before a holy God, what he saved you from. Pride is absolutely banished from your mind. You can look back at Ephesians 2, just a couple pages before, 2:1 through 3, and it reminds us where we’ve come from. Look at it there, it says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air [says] among whom we also once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. And we’re by nature children of wrath, like the rest [of mankind].”
Look. We were nothing but a spiritual corpse before God gave us life by his spirit. Our physical flesh was animated itself by an evil spirit, this prince of the power of the air. We were like animals. We were driven along by our passions, rooting around in the world’s gutters to satisfy wicked desires.
Not very flattering. Ephesians 4:17-19 provides another expose’ of our depravity. It says that we, you can flip over there Ephesians 4:17-19, it says, “We lived in the futility of our mind. We were darkened in our understanding. We were ignorant and hardened, calloused of heart. Our lives consisted of sensuality and greed and we gave ourselves over completely to every kind of impurity.”
Roman 6:20 to 21 says that we were “slaves of sin” and the paycheck that we were owed by doing works of sin. Our paycheck was death. We are ashamed of all those things now, or we should be, and that includes our pride as well. We ought to be ashamed of that, not paraded about in public, as if the discovery of our pridefulness is in itself a virtue.
Recognizing our pride is simply the first step of repentance. There’s nothing to brag about. But God saved us from all that, didn’t he? We were children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3, “but God [verse 4] being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead in our [trans] trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
Titus 3:4, “but when the goodness and loving kindness of our God and Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy.” Listen, you want to take the measure of yourself. Measure yourself against God.
Compared to God, do you really think your efforts, your giving, your virtue, your doctrinal fidelity, your wisdom on how things ought to be run in the church? Do you really think any of that matters? We are a flea sized speck and a rebellious speck at that. But God chose to show us mercy instead of judgment. Grace instead of wrath. That should humble us, shouldn’t it?
Humility was rarely a virtue in the Greco Roman world. One author wrote the Greeks held to quote “an [anthro, anthroprescentic, I can’t even say this today, man at the center] anthropocentric view of man. Lowliness is looked on as shameful to be avoided and overcome by act and thought.” End quote.
It’s the same thing in our day. We’re still anthropocentric, in our thinking, we need to be theocentric. God needs to be at the center of our thinking. But it’s been that way all through the intervening years of human history. We appreciate humility, in others.
We don’t mind it too much if other people consider us to be humble. We like that. He’s such a humble guy. Yeah, thanks. But we really don’t want to set our own selves, our own plans, our own good ideas, we don’t want to set those aside in deference to somebody else, do we? I mean, humility only goes so far. After a while, you got to tell, my ideas are better than yours.
But listen, that’s what we’re called to do. The Bible contrasts the humble in Scripture with the rulers, the great, the arrogant, the rich, with all that’s lofty and glorious. So you want to grow in humility? Are you willing to consider yourself not a ruler but ruled?
Not great but small. Not arrogant but low and humble. Not rich but poor. Not lofty but lowly. Not glorious but inglourious and plain? Because, beloved, that is our calling. So that in us Christ might be all glorious.
Listen again to Paul. This is 1 Corinthians 1:26 to 31, “For consider your calling brothers. Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards. Not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not to bring to nothing things that are. [Isn’t that us? He wanted to bring to nothing the things that are] so that no human being might boast in the presence of God, and because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. So that as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’”
True humility largely goes unnoticed. And that’s the point. It doesn’t draw attention to itself. Rather, the essence of humility is to point to Jesus Christ. That is why humility is the opening virtue required for building a healthy, growing, strong, influential church.
The demise of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill was totally predictable because God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. We will build Grace Church with people marked by humility and meekness. And meekness, which is the next word. It’s the external demonstration of humility, that’s the virtue that we’ll cover next time. Would you bow with me for a word of prayer?
Heavenly Father, we are so grateful for your rescue of us. We’re so grateful for our salvation. That you have rescued us from our sin, our self righteousness, our pride. You’ve forgiven all of our sin in Jesus Christ, and you’ve made us perfect and spotless in Him, covered with a righteousness not our own, but one that comes by faith in Jesus Christ. We’re grateful you’ve declared us righteous, and you’ve set us on a path towards sanctification, a process of growing in greater and greater holiness and as this text teaches us, a life worthy of our calling is one that’s marked by humility. Please teach us humility.
Please teach us that you are great, and we’re small. Help us to learn to exercise that virtue of humility with one another and still get things done. So cooperate together for your glory and our good. We’ll look to you to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, and Lord we can think of a lot of things. But we know that you can out do us all and we give this church over to you for your glory. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.