10:30 am Sunday Worship
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The Vital Habits of the Local Church

Ephesians 4:11-16

50 years of grace. That’s a remarkable milestone for, for, any people in any church. And, certainly, God has shown his kindness to this church, which we’re going to be able to celebrate more tonight. It was nine years ago when I first came to Grace Church. The people would ask me this question. ‘What is your vision for the church?’ Vision at that time was a, a, buzzword in evangelical circles.

 There were pastors of vision, pastors of preaching and vision, on posted on websites. There were conferences about how to find vision, how to build vision, how to cast vision. And, so, people wanted to know my vision for Grace Church, upon my arrival, and my new pastorate here. And my answer to them; I wasn’t trying in any way to be provocative, or cheeky, or anything like that.

 But I was just being honest. And I answered by saying this, ‘I have no vision for Grace Church.’ And people would stare at me like, well, what did we hire you for? Sometimes I’d even add this; I’d say, ‘listen, if I did have a vision for Grace Church, then you should fire me right now and get yourself a faithful pastor.’ And again people would look at me quizzically.

 But I think over the years, they’ve come to understand what I mean. I still believe that to be true, that I have no interest in casting a vision for Grace Church. It’s because I have no interest, in fact, I actually have a deep-seated fear of this, about doing anything that our Lord has not prescribed for his church in Scripture. But I have no interest in coming up with any so-called vision, or goal, or plan of my own, anything that might compete with Christ’s plan for the Church.

 And truth be told, I really have no ability to do that. I’m not that smart. I’m not very clever, and I’m thankful for that, for that bit of dullness in me that forces me to go right back to Scripture. All I want to do is to figure out what, what, he wants, and strive to be faithful to his plan.

When I came here, the team of leaders that I joined were thinking the exact same thing. We all wanted to figure out what the Lord wanted us to do and then do that. That seemed to us to be a good way to spend a life, to figure out from Scripture what the Lord’s plan is and do that; to go where the Bible goes and say what the Lord wants us to say, to obey His will, and follow his plan for his church.

 So, as I was thinking about what to preach for our 50 years of grace worship service, as we spend the day rejoicing together, and celebrating, and giving thanks for God’s kindness to us, my mind went back to the series of sermons that I preached shortly after I arrived here. To take up the privilege of serving this church has shepherd, pastor, and teacher, I started out in a particular passage of scripture.

 Some of you know already where I’m going, so go ahead and turn in your bibles to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Ephesians. Ephesians stands apart in scripture, as we all know. It is a towering letter of instruction on ecclesiology, which is the doctrine of the Church. And it’s in this letter, in particular, where we find our Lord’s vision for the Church. This is him casting vision. This is him telling us what he wants the church to be and to do.

 He tells us, in Ephesians, what the church is, what the church is for, what the church, as we do ministry in the local church, what it is to produce in the Lord’s people. And, certainly, we’ve seen that here. By God’s grace, our church, as I see it, is bearing the fruit of following Christ’s vision for the church, as we are maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I think we can all sense it, that Grace Church is a very special place to be.

I firmly believe, it’s because our Lord has been kind to us, and kind to us, in this way, that he’s kept us on track. He’s kept us following his purpose for the Church, which he’s laid out very plainly in Ephesians, and in particular, the passage that we’re going to look out this morning in Ephesians 4:11 to 16. And by sticking to our Lord’s plan and striving to be faithful to obey his instruction, we’re implementing his vision.

We are practicing what he has revealed. What he’s told us to do. And by practicing this week in, week out, month in, month out, over the years, it’s caused all of us to develop habits in our life that help us to grow in grace. So, let’s begin just by reading the text. And I want to start in Ephesians 4:1 and read through verse 16.

 So I’ll read the, the, first half of that chapter. Ephesians 4:1 to 16. Paul writes this, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord.” It’s just a reminder that he was in prison in Rome when he wrote this. This is one of the prison epistles. So, he says, “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’s one body and one spirit – just as you were called to 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. The 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’d also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended as 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 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 and deceitful schemes.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we’re 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.”

 The chapter begins with Paul’s favorite metaphor for the Christian life. He calls it a walk. It’s not a run. It’s not a sprint to the finish line. It’s not even a bike ride. It’s a walk. Each step is intentional, each foot placed carefully, one in front of the other. There’s no veering off the path to the right or to the left, but moving straight forward on a path of righteousness, that’s illuminated for us by God’s Word.

 And the call, this walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you’ve been called, that is, a call to a life of Christian graces, of spirit produced virtues: Humility, gentleness, patience, love, peace; all found in the opening verses there. And as Paul elaborates on the worthy walk, in the rest of the letter, he shows us that it has nothing to do with our past life, verses 19 to 20, show us.

 We’re not to live as the Gentiles do. We’re not to borrow from our past thinking and bring that forward, as if it has anything to contribute to how we think now as Christians. There is a clear distinction, a break from before and after, before Christ and then after him everything is made new.

 We have to [new] learn a whole new pattern of thinking. There’s revealed truth, things that we’ve never thought before, things that have never entered into our mind. Now, because of regeneration, because of his spirit, because of the illumination of the Word, now we can think clearly. Now we can learn how to walk not as Gentiles do, instead, we learn in verses 17 to 32, that whole section, we learn that this is a life of continuing repentance.

It’s a life of putting off and putting on. Putting off the old and putting on the new. And why do we put off the old? Because we know where our mind is renewed by Scripture, and we know, that we know, we should no longer walk in those ways. We have to mortify all the sins of the flesh. We have to terminate everything with extreme prejudice. Everything that’s from our former nature, our sin nature, that still troubles us, and abides with us. Instead, we need to put on Christ.

 Our minds need to be renewed by the Spirit and by the Word, so that we think differently. We speak differently. We act differently. [We have] We feed those new affections and new desires, and we walk a life of repentance. As you see in chapter 5, verse 1, the worthy walk is a walk of love. It’s patterned after the, the, one who loved us, the one who gave himself up for us. And we love one another and give ourselves up for one another.

Chapter 5, verse 8, it is a walk of walking in the light, walking in truth, walking in holiness, walking in purity. It is walking in wisdom, chapter 5, verse 15, a life of wisdom, which is has nothing to do with this fallen world and things that it values. Instead, we must be being “filled by the Spirit”, chapter 5, verse 18.

As the whole church comes under the influence of God’s Spirit, God’s Word in the public and private ministry of the Scripture. On all of this, “filling of the Spirit,” of the filling up of God’s Word within us, it changes us completely from the inside out. And it leads to a section of Scripture that Martin Luther calls The Haus Stoffel, which means house table. This is how God’s Word has a real visible effect in the world, and it starts with our families.

 Our minds need to be renewed by the Spirit and by the Word, so that we think differently. We speak differently. We act differently. “

Travis Allen

 The Word of God restructures the, the, Christian household; reshapes it to create order and stability in the home; to produce a deep and dramatic transformation which moves from saved parents, saved husband, saved wife through the entire family. God’s Word transforms the marriage. It teaches wives and husbands to love and serve one another, in the institution of the family.

 God’s Word shapes the family. It teaches children to submit to parents. It teaches parents to train up the children in the Lord’s discipline and instruction. And then, God’s transforming power goes out into the world through the workplace. Hard working slaves submit to their masters. Masters treat their slaves with respect and dignity, justice and thus, it is that Christianity, enters into the marketplace.

 Christians are intentionally Christians in the world, thinking like Christians, speaking like Christians, making decisions like Christians, forming public policy like Christians, voting like Christians. Their very life, their very way of thinking, their very way of speaking, registers a protest against this sinful, rebellious world and teaches the unbeliever the law of God and the knowledge of the truth.

 And thus, Christianity as an enters the marketplace, subverts a sinful fallen world and calls it to repent. True Christians, repenting Christians, growing Christians will thus, as they’re effective in the world, they will draw the fire of our perennial enemy, the Devil. And once again, God’s Word is our perfectly sufficient resource. It’s powerful. It’s effectual, so that we can stand firm against the schemes of the Devil and repel all of his fiery darts.

It all goes back to the effectual working of God by the Spirit in and through his holy Word. Christians who are weak in the Word are weak in the world, too. They’re ineffectual and ineffective, in every sphere of life: in their marriages, in their parenting, in the workplace, in the marketplace.

 If they’re weak and ineffective in these various spheres of life, well, then they are hardly a threat to the enemy, aren’t they? They draw no fire. They troubled the enemy, not one bit. The enemy’s happy to leave them alone, because they’ve dropped their guns and they’re off, away from the front lines of the, of the, fight. And they’re off in the woods, just wandering around, looking at moss growing on dead trees.

 Christians, though, who are strong in the Word, strong in doctrine, strong in theology like Apollos, they are mighty in the Scriptures. These are Christians who are stable, and effective, and fruitful. Therefore, as such, they’re always going to be in the crosshairs of the enemy. They’re always going to be drawing fire from him, because they’re troubling him. They’re troubling his dominance in the world. Not to worry, though.

 God uses the attacks of the enemy to test and strengthen his children. He loves to put us through trial and test, in order that we might be shown to be stronger, that our faith tested, as it is, as under fire, proves to be of the purest finest gold. God uses the enemy’s attacks to strengthen us, as we put on the full armor of God and learn to fight the good fight of faith.

That’s a Christian strong in the Word. Now this is just a long-winded way of saying that you need to be strong in God’s Word, Christian. You need to be wise in applying God’s Word. You need to understand not only the Bible, but its doctrines. You need to understand its theology. You didn’t understand how the Bible is harmonized, how it joins together, and builds a systematic theology, a systematic way for you to think, so that you can be wise in your application of the Word, as you walk through this world.

 This is how we walk, worthy of our calling. This is how we walk in love, and light, and wisdom, a divine wisdom that is going to affect all spheres of our life. So, when I say you need to be strong in God’s Word and wise in applying it, it’s kind of a synonym with saying you need to be committed, growing, mature, healthy, doctrinally sound members of a doctrinally sound local church. Because that’s how Paul develops his argument here.

 After he told the Ephesians what has happened to them since conversion, and why it’s happened to them, in the first three chapters, Paul tells them, then, in chapters 4 and following, what’s next now that they “are no longer aliens and strangers,” Ephesians 2:19, “but now that they are fellow citizens with the Saints and members of the household of God,” they need to grow up in Christ. And they will do that when they come regularly, and when they participate meaningfully, and submit thoughtfully, to the training center that our Lord has built for us to grow in, also known as the local Church.

 The Church is therefore critical, absolutely vital, for our growth in Christ, for our strengthening in the Word, so that we can be effective in the world. Several godly habits that we learn, and establish, and practice, in the training center of this local church. Habits of teachability, of ministry, of priority. Habits of maturity, charity, and integrity.

 If you like to take notes, I just gave you the six outline points for this morning. You write them down again, teachability, ministry, priority, maturity, charity, and integrity. You’re like, slow down, professor. It’s too fast. I’ll go through them one by one with you. Let’s start with an attitude of humility in the practice of submission.

 These virtues that develop and habits that develop, as we practice life in the local church, and here’s the first habit life in the local church. It’s number one: It’s humble teachability. Humble teachability. We need to be humble, and if we’re humble, we’ll be teachable Christians. The local church provides the perfect environment for this, to test this, to produce this in us, to develop this way of thinking for us, and especially now in this anti authority age that we’re living in, when the sovereign self is dividing everyone, first by turning everyone inward into themselves and then by turning everyone against everyone else.

 The only real authority many seem to recognize these days is the self. And if you think that it doesn’t intrude into the church, you’re wrong. There are many Christians who’ve been sitting in churches for 20, 30, 40, 50 years, who are still committed to the sovereignty of the self in their personal relationship with God, and doing whatever it is that they want to do, and not submitting to anybody else around them. Certainly not submitting to the pastors, and teachers, and elders, of their church. They’re committed to the sovereignty of the self.

Where does that come from? Well, it comes from the sin nature, of course. Comes from a rebellious world around us. As we breathe in, breathe out all the spirit of the age, it comes right into the church. And if we’re not thoughtful about this, if we’re not careful and intentional to spot it out, and root it out of ourselves, we’ll just continue on in our church life, as committed to the sovereignty of the self.

 Christ demands full submission to his Lordship. He is head of the church. He says what goes. That is a deal you made when you came to Christ, when you claimed him as your Savior, he also is your Lord. You can’t bifurcate Christ and divide him in half and take the Savior part and leave the Lordship. He is who he is and when you receive him to yourself, you receive all of who he is. That is a gracious thing from God. You don’t want just part of Christ. If you take only part of Christ, you have none of Christ. We take all of him, and we’re so joyful to line up underneath his Lordship.

 We can see in this text that he commands his people to line up under men in the church, those to whom he delegated his authority, so that they can exercise oversight in the church and teach his people. Verse 11 says, “He gave,” notice the word give. Give, means gift; gift means grace. It is a grace of Christ to you that, “he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.” The gift that God has provided in the local church. It’s under the headship and the Lordship of Christ and Christ has chosen, because of his perfect planning, perfect will, he’s chosen to run his church by means of the service of gifted and qualified men, those who are listed there in Ephesians 4 verse 11. The apostles and prophets, their ministry is in the past. It’s been fulfilled in the Apostolic era.

 Apostles and prophets, they are the ones who set the revelatory foundation of the church, there in the first century. We read about that in the book of Acts and following. Our church, every faithful, true church is founded on the Canon of Scripture, Old and New Testaments. God’s household, as Ephesians 2:20 says, “Is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” It’s talking about New Testament revelation there.

This is a foundation of truth that we’re built upon. Revelatory knowledge breathed out by God through the Holy Spirit, and it’s grounded in Christ Jesus himself, who is the very cornerstone of the building. After the apostles and prophets, as I said, their ministry has passed, and yet it is still active and still effective by the Spirit in the church, in the ministry of the Scripture.

 But after the apostles and prophets come, the evangelist, and the shepherds and teachers. These two are gifted men who take the word that they have received, and they teach it to church members. Teach it to the sheep. The evangelists plant people into the foundation that’s laid by the apostles and the prophet. Pastors, and teachers strengthen people in that foundation and build them up from that foundation.

 I like the way R. Kent Hughes has helpfully put it this way, he says, “The evangelists are the obstetricians of the church, and the pastors and teachers are the pediatricians of the church.” I think that’s helpful imagery. So Christ gave apostles and prophets to set the church’s foundation of divine truth. He gave evangelists to plant new converts into that foundation or train Christians in planting people into that foundation.

 And then the pastors and teachers are the ones who anchor them deeply into the foundation, help them grow up out of good soil, watering young and tender plants, and then nurturing them to maturity in Christ. That’s the gifted people of the church; the gifted men of the church.

 Now let’s draw out an implication here. If you are to benefit from the gifted leaders whom Christ has given to the local church, every single one of you, every individual Christian, as well as every Christian family, every father, every mother, everyone must actively choose to submit to the leaders whom God has chosen.

 You must actively choose, be conscious to choose, to submit to those whom Christ has given to his church, and you can choose whether you want to do that or whether you don’t want to do that. If you choose not to do that, I can tell you, you won’t be blessed. If you choose to do that, in your submission to Christ and his Lordship, and you choose to submit to his church and submit to the, to the, men he’s given to oversee his church, I can guarantee you, you will be blessed.

The regular routine exercise of humility, and meekness, and submissiveness, and teachability, this is a regular habitual practice for us as Christians. It’s an ongoing discipline of our Christian life, and it’s of inestimable value for Christian discipleship. There is no growth apart from submissive, humble, teachability.

 If you’re not teachable, you won’t learn. And if you don’t learn, you don’t know what to obey. You don’t know what to believe. You can’t grow without faith. The writer to the Hebrews says it a different way. In Hebrews 13:17, he says just straightforwardly, “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” Why? “For they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. So let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

 You realize what obedience to that verse produces in you, if you practice that as a habit of your life, by lining up under Christ’s appointed spirit, called Spirit, gifted spirit led authority. By making that a habit of your life, that has a formative impact on you. It instills in you an attitude of humility and teachability.

 Remember the principle repeated often in Scripture? God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble, and I have seen that over, and over, and over again, through the decades that I’ve been pastoring. And as a Christian, God opposes the proud. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. How much you think you know. What your theology is. How much you think you’ve got the Bible down.

 If you are proud, God will oppose you. He will not prosper you, and sometimes his opposition isn’t felt by you. In fact, when He lets you go, everything is easy for you. Woe to you if everything is easy in your life, and you march through your life with no opposition, with nothing to call your attention to your pride, with nothing to humble you.

 He gives grace to the humble, though. And if you practice humility in a very real and practical way, by obeying your leaders and submitting to them, and doing so cheerfully, eagerly. When it’s a regular habit of your Christian life, God is going to use those very leaders as a conduit of his grace to you. Not perfect men, of course, we know that. But they are faithful.

 They are qualified, and they’re put in your life as a gift of grace to you and by his spirit, through the Word of God. These men are teaching you, and through them God will instruct you, and guide you, and direct you into all righteousness. And he will bless you. As the writer of the Hebrew says it, this will advantage you parents. So critical for your kids when they watch you submit to your leaders in your life. When they observe your habits of obedience and submission, you give them a model to follow. It’s going to bless them for the rest of their lives. You show them how to form godly habits of humility and of teachability. You show them that you too are underneath the authority of Scripture. You make the habit of submission, the humble teachability, attractive to them. You set them up for a lifetime of blessing.

 On the other hand, when kids learn from you to criticize your leaders, to run them down as imperfect men. When your kids hear you question their motives, sow seeds of doubt in their minds. When you serve roast for lunch, as in roasted preacher for lunch, you know what? More is caught than taught, and your kids are set up for a lifetime of suspecting authority, resisting authority, hardening their own hearts in arrogant pride; in going their own way. Remember, God opposes the proud.

You don’t want your God to oppose your children. Don’t teach them. Don’t sow these habits in them. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he’s old, he will not depart from it.” Like other proverbs, you need to realize that’s a truism. That truism, when he’s old, he won’t depart from it. It leads to a life of blessing or a life of cursing. Could go either direction. Depends on how you’ve trained up your children.

 If you set a priority on humble teachability. If you’re thoughtfully, actively submitting to the God-given, Christ called Spirit, gifted leaders of your church, well then you sow habits in their thinking, that when they’re old they won’t depart from it. You sow the opposite. Be warned.

 So build your life around a solid, sound, faithful local church and do that by obeying and submitting to your leaders. Practa, practice a habit of humble teachability and God will bless you. He will bless your offspring after you. Your children, your children’s children, generations to come, will be blessed because of your good example. This leads naturally to a second habit.

 If you’re taking notes, this is point number two: A habit of joyful ministry. A habit of joyful ministry. Here’s a second habit, we develop in the local Church, of joyful ministry, cheerful service. Notice verse 12, “He,” Christ, “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers.’ To do what? To run around doing everything? No, to equip the saints to run around, do everything. That’s what it says, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.”

 The work of the ministry occupies things large and small; those things that seem insignificant and those things that are very significant. The chairs were not set up by themselves today. Someone did that. The meal that’s being prepared for today was not set up by itself. Meat didn’t cook itself. Cupcakes didn’t make themselves. All those things are being, were, were, done by people doing the work of the ministry and all their little contributions.

 In fact, I was walking down the hall here and saw Jeff and Christy weeks in the, kind of supply room. I said what are you two doing in here? Are you nosing around trying to get into the stuff? What are you, what’s going on? Just doing my diligence as an overseer, right?

But they, they, were separating, you know, this little, what do they call them, Chris? Doilies. I don’t even like using that word. It’s not a masculine word, but it is a word, doily, and it’s like a little cup thing that you [put] set your cup on it, and it’s kind of frilly, you know? And they were separating those things because they came in the box, kind of stuck together.

 And so they want to separate them, one after one, so they could set, I think, set the cupcakes on them. It’s going to make the, it’s going to make the presentation nice for us later on today. Isn’t that cool? We’ve got two seasoned saints, they were using their skill, all they’re years as Christians, to go in there and cheerfully separate the doilies, so that you can have your cupcakes set on something that looks nice and serves a day that we all get to rejoice in and celebrate in.

Things significant and insignificant, all are works of ministry, and when they’re done, cheerfully and joyfully as unto the Lord, and they contribute to a great joy that we have together. They uphold and set the word on a good foundation, and cause us to be blessed. So, it’s the job of the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, it’s not to do everything themselves. They equip the saints, so that every Christian can exercise his gifts, her gifts, serving wisely, and cheerfully, and joyfully in the work of their ministries.

 The word that’s translated there, equip or equipping, katartismos, it’s the idea of restoring something for the purpose of preparation. It’s a really a fascinating word used in many contexts. All the uses of the word are about this idea of preparation for future usefulness. Getting something prepared so it could be made useful, like getting chairs prepared, so they can be useful for you to sit in. Like getting doilies prepared, so your cupcakes have a good platform to make it into your gullet, right?

The word katartismos refers to repairing things such as mending nets or setting broken bones. Again, referring to reading those things for use. Mending a broken bone and now you can use it a tailor or a seamstress who has assembled fabric to make a garment. The finished work is thus equipped, katartismos, ready to wear, ready for usefulness.

 Word is often use of military preparation, as when sailors outfit their ships, getting them ready for sail. When an Admiral arms his fleet, readies it to set sail. When a general equips his army, prepares his troops for a long campaign to march on the enemy, engage in battle, and win. The highest form, though, of equipping, the highest form of preparation, of reading for service, it’s for the highest cause possible, the cause of Christ, the joyful ministry of building up his church.

Evangelist, pastors and teachers, their job is to equip the saints. The saint’s job, to do the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ. Pastors and teachers prepare the saints; saints, cooperate together to do that work, and each and every individual Christian does the work of the ministry.

 It says, according to verse 7, each and every individual Christian has a gift or even multiple gifts from Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and those gifts are for the service of the body of Christ in the local church. Every Christian, therefore, is duty bound not to sit on the sidelines and watch everybody else work. That’s not. There’s no joy in that. Of course, if you’re sitting on the sidelines, you’ve, you’ve, got no skin in the game. You’re not on the field.

 Every Christian needs to get on the field and get into play. That’s where the joy is. We’re duty bound to use the gifts that Christ has given. Spiritual gifts, gifts of time, gifts of talents, money, skills, expertise, our resources, all these things are gifts of God to us, to be stewarded, ultimately for kingdom purposes. “We’re to seek first his kingdom and His righteousness.” We do that very practically in the works of service; serving the local church.

 Beloved, as you engage in the work of ministry, to use your gifts cheerfully, joyfully, you learn the secret of what Jesus said in Acts 20, verse 35, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” In fact, you know what the uber wealthy do with their money? Once they’ve gotten it all, they start giving it out, don’t they?

They start equipping and funding other projects, because they can’t ever spend that in 1000 lifetimes. So, they give it away. And they, and they take deep joy and even pride in the world in giving things away, and tell you what, they’re trying to do on their own what Christ has commanded every, every single one of us to do, is to give. Is to give.

And we can give through our ministry freely, if you’ve received from the Lord so freely, give back to the Lord through your work of service in the ministry. Build the habit of faithful, cheerful, joyful ministry, and as you do that, you have an investment in the kingdom that will pay eternal dividends.

 Only Christ keeps account of all the things that we do for him in the Church. Only he marks it all and registers it, and is, is, waiting to reward us fully, as we come into his kingdom. And there is joy even now, even before our eternal reward is received, of significant meaningful service in the local church. The promise of the Lord to do exceedingly abundantly, above all that we can ask or think, and to accomplish works that will last for eternity, we get to do that together.

 So, habits of humble teachability, habits of joyful ministry, pursuing a worthy goal, which is a third habit of living your life. Walking, at the worthy walk, it’s according to number three: A practical priority. Practical priority. The worthy walk requires us to look ahead to an end goal. To aim at a fixed point on the horizon that’s out ahead of us. It’s fixed and unmoving, kind of like aiming at a GuideStar, aiming at the North Star, and aiming at that fixed point, is how we set a priority in our life and walk according, practically according, to that priority.

 As we see in verse 13, we’re really aiming at a set of goals and we’re developing habits, setting practical priorities, to guide our lives and direct our every step. This is how we live day-to-day, week to week, month to month, is by setting a priority on what Christ prioritize, prioritizes on these goals.

In verse 13, pastors and teachers are equipping the saints to build the church. And here are the goals in verse 13; until we all attain number one, to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, and number two, to a mature manhood, and number three, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Three goals, there, which we can state in this way: We see a goal of doctrinal unity, a goal of manly maturity, and a goal of Christ, Christ like or Christological glory.

 So unity, maturity and glory, and by God’s grace, and by following Christ, as our Lord, and by means of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power, activated in the ministry of God’s Word. All of this conducted in the institution that God designed to train his people, which is the local church. Christ is going to lead us, his people, into an ever-increasing doctrinal unity, together toward a manly maturity, together, in order to produce the glory of Christ in our midst.

 Here’s a first goal, sets for us a practical priority for the way we live our lives, and it’s a doctrinal unity. That goal of Christ, for us, for his church, needs to be our goal. Needs to be. We need to be mindful of this unity of the faith. and the knowledge of the Son of God is how he describes this doctrinal unity. Unity of the faith, not just faith. We all kind of have the subjective sense of believing the same way.

 It’s the faith, the objective faith, the faith once for all, delivered to the saints, as Jude calls it in Jude 3. Back in verse 3, Paul called this, “the unity of the spirit.” The unity of the spirit is not just our feelings. It’s not a subjective sense. It’s objective reality, a doctrinal unity that’s manifest in categories of doctrinal truth that Paul spells out in verses 4 to 6.

 He doesn’t lead it, leave it, to our imagination to figure out what the unity of the Spirit is. He actually defines it for us: One body, one spirit, one hope that belongs to your call. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who’s over all, through all, and in all. Those are doctrinal components. Doctrinal components of a systematic theology.

 One body: That’s our ecclesiology, the doctrine of the Church. One spirit: That’s pneumatology, the doctrine of the spirit. One hope: That’s eschatology, the doctrine of last things. That gives us hope for the second coming, in the justice and the faithfulness of God. All the fulfillment of his promises.

One Lord: That’s our Christology, the doctrine of Christ. One faith: Refers to bibliology, the Scripture, the rule for faith in practice. One baptism: Refers to the doctrines of salvation, summarized by the, by the, term soteriology. And then one God and Father of all, that’s Theology proper, the doctrine of the triune God and all his perfections.

 All these doctrines, one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, all these doctrines of redemption are all about God, all about his perfections, all about his sovereign plan of redemption, the true gift of our salvation. Beloved, it’s, it’s, not to just escape all the troubles of the world. It’s, it’s, not to walk on streets of gold and fly around with wings like the angels. It’s not about the sweet by and by.

It’s about the nasty here and now. And we get to start right now in our reconciliation to God, enjoying the real gift of eternal life, which is God. To know him, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, whom he has sent. That is our birthright. That is our privilege. That’s our joy. That is life eternal, is to know him, to love him with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind.

 So, studying theology, it’s not a chore. It’s not a bore. That’s our, that’s our birthright. It’s the enjoyment of our eternal reward. Right here, right now, again, not later, not waiting until heaven. It’s right now. Every week in our church, we get to go deep into the truth, deep into the knowledge of God, deep into the work of our savior.

 We get to study profound theology. We get to do that together. And as we study together as a church, week after week, month after month, year after year, as we practice together these habits of humble teachability. As we engage with each other, serving one another in joyful ministry, we grow together, bit by bit, in doctrinal unity together in the church.

 The unity that he has truly given us in the spirit, by virtue of a new nature given to us in Christ. We take what’s deep, deeply unifying, united to Christ, united by the spirit, and we bring that out. That comes out to the surface and, so, as we grow and clarify this doctrinal unity together, we grow in spiritual harmony together.

 We rejoice in the same doctrines together. We have the same Lord, faith, hope, baptism. We understand all those things. That’s the first goal. It’s a goal of Christ that you need to have in your mind, too. So, it sets a practical priority for your life, so that you, when you arrive here on a Sunday morning, you arrive with your brain turned on, because you’ve been prepared Saturday night. You’re ready to learn, You’re ready to take notes. You’ve got your Bibles open.

God uses the enemy’s attacks to strengthen us, as we put on the full armor of God and learn to fight the good fight of faith.”

Travis Allen

 The second goal of Christ, that sets a practical priority for the way we live our lives, we’re to strive for a manly maturity. To put verse 13 another way, basically, Christ [wants to us] wants us to grow up. He wants us to grow up. He wants us to act like men. He wants his saints to be humble and teachable, so they can be equipped; so you can learn truth, be equipped, work and build the church, so it grows up healthy, and strong, and it’s toward a mature manhood.

 And we have to retain the gender emphasis here. It will not do to translate this as mature person, as some translations try to do, thereby erasing the emphasis on maleness. Paul doesn’t use a general word for mankind here, anthropos. He uses the specific word for male which is andras: anēr or andras.

 Same route in First Corinthians 16:13, where Paul says, “Act like men.” And he says act like men to [in] a church where he knows women are a part of that church. So, there’s something about maleness, something about manliness, that the entire church together, a healthy, healthy local church, is to be characterized by some manly qualities. Things like courage and conflict, bravery in facing danger. You ever see a mother whose children are threatened? She develops some manly qualities, doesn’t she? Fending off anybody who would threaten her babies.

Biblically, men are manly when they’re men of integrity, and truth in practice, when they’re morally pure, when they’re ethically consistent, when they’re morally decisive, when they’re confident in the truth, when they’re bold in righteousness, and that’s the idea here, as well. That’s what Christ wants for his church.

 The order in verse 13 is not incidental, it’s not unintentional. Notice how mature manhood, the second goal, falls immediately after the first goal, to have a unity in the knowledge of the Son of God. You become like what you worship, right? You imitate what you worship. What occupies your mind starts to characterize your life. A.W. Tozer said, “What a man thinks about God when he thinks about God, that’s the most important thing about him.”

If your thoughts of God are low and small, then you’re low and small. Your thoughts of God are broad and deep and biblical and true, and so are you. As we unify in our knowledge of the Son of God, we manifest manly maturity. It’s his manly maturity, as he displays it, both in his strength and his gentleness. We start to manifest that manly charity as a church as well. So the practice of our lives set by the priority of our lives, we learn about that in the training center, the local church. We learn about doctrinal unity. We learn about manly maturity. We guide off of those fixed points.

 Third goal, that sets a practical priority for the way we live our lives, Christological glory. And this is, this is deep. It is expansive. It is comprehensive. In fact, it’s so comprehensive, it’s beyond my comprehension. But I’m going to try to stumble through this anyway. Growing doctrinal, in doctrinal unity, makes us healthy and strong. It produces a manly maturity which in the local church glorifies Christ in full.

 Look at the end of verse 13. It’s, he’s talking about the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That’s what we’re building this church unto, is the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. To the measure, the word metron, we get the word meter, from that word. But it’s talking, here, about like a measuring rod or, or, like we used to use in school, a ruler. measure things.

What are we measuring? We’re measuring the stature of the fullness of Christ. So, stature here is not about physical size, not about Christ’s height and weight, refers to spiritual development. And what is the spiritual development he’s talking about here? What’s to be manifest spiritually in our church? The fullness of Christ. Wha, what is that?

It’s something only God can measure. It’s something only God can produce in us. But notice, there’s no half measures here. There’s no hint of close enough is good enough. The goal is the fullness of Christ. Christ glorified in the church, fully glorified. His fullness on display. That is what God intends to accomplish in this local church, in all of his local churches throughout time, putting the glory of Christ on display in and through us.

So, what is the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ entail? What’s encompassed in this? Quite a lot. And as I said, it’s, it’s, so comprehensive that it just, it’s beyond our understanding, beyond our imagination. Our finite minds cannot grab the infinitude tucked into those words. And when you survey the Scripture, you find the fullness of Christ encompasses everything. Start with creation, Colossians 1:16 says, “By Christ all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, Thrones, dominions, rulers, authorities, all things.”

He means all things, when he says all things, right? All things were created through him, and then what? For him. According to Ephesians 1:9, God’s plan is “to unite all things.” And now we know what all things are. “To unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” That is all creation. How do I get my mind around that?

 Fullness of Christ, means the fullness of the created order. In the great commission, we find Jesus saying, “All authority in heaven on earth has been given to me.” So, we got the fullness of Christ is the fullness of all authority. Paul says in First Corinthians 15:25, “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But wait, there’s more. Sounds like an infomercial, but it’s true. There is more. We’re not done.

 Colossians 1:19, Paul goes further, telling us that, “In him all the fullness,” get this, “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in him.” Look a few verses, further, in Colossians chapter 2, verse 9, we read, “In Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”

 You can read that verse 100 times, but it’s not until you stop and ponder Ephesians 4:13, not until you allow the scripture to interpret this meaning of the stature of the fullness of Christ. It’s only then we discover how utterly comprehensive and infinite this expression is. The fullness of Christ encompasses absolutely everything that is, comprehends all that exists; fullness of, of, the created order. Consider that.

All the creativity, all the energy, all the activity, all the power, all the physics, all the utility of the world, all the beauty of the world, all the grandeur of, of, the entire universe, all the glory of men and angels, all the glory of the animal world and the plant world, all the glory of the planets and the solar systems in the Galaxy, all under the command of the comprehensive sovereign authority of Christ, but also the fullness of that which is not created.

 And what is that, which is not created? It’s a category of one. Only one being in that category. The fullness of Christ encompasses not only the fullness of the created order, but the fullness of the non-created order, as well; which is the fullness of the triune God himself. It is incredible and defies my understanding and yours too.

 But it’s absolutely and undeniably true that God’s intent in Christ, by the power of his spirit, is that we grow in doctrinal unity in the local church. We grow healthy, strong, produce manly maturity by which Christ is glorified in full. The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ is manifest in and through the local church.

 God is [united] uniting all things in him. Friend, can you think of anything else worth living for? Is there any job that’s better than this? Is there any ambition better than this, on this, on this world? Is there any goal on this planet that rivals this? Anything worth prioritizing over the goals of verse 13? No wonder, as Peter says in First Peter 1:12, “That these are things into which angels long to look.”

 Angels are looking in on this service. According to First Corinthians 11, they’re looking in on this service and on the service of every faithful church and they’re seeking to understand; seeking to know things that they cannot understand or know, because they’re not created as we are, of flesh and blood, and also of immaterial spirit joined together in one composite human soul.

 Walk in the worthy walk, means you set Christ goals as your personal goals. You make his priorities, your priorities, and you turn those priorities into a habit of living, because you fix your eyes on those priorities and you put every step, in motion, toward those goals. And as we live that way together, [was] we let his priorities set the pattern for daily, weekly life, it changes you. It changes those around you.

It brings about God’s design for the church, as we’re humbly learning together, as we’re joyfully serving together by the power of the Spirit. Working in the church, we’re being built together into a dwelling place for God, by the Spirit. Is that cool or what?

Three of the six habits, here’s the fourth, number four: Doctoral maturity. Doctoral maturity. The first three habits: Humble teachability, cheerful ministry, practical priority, these have the practical effect of inoculating us against error, verse 14, “So 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.”

It’s so sad, but that verse describes many evangelical churches. Today, many evangelical churches look like this verse. They’re tossed to and fro. They’re carried about by every wind of doctrine. They fall prey to human cunning. They’re caught up in the craftiness, deceitful schemes. Even in strong, healthy churches, it’s so sad to see how many professing Christians seem quite content to carry on as spiritual infants, even in strong churches.

 People, who, almost take pride in their maturity, like little babies putting all manner of nasty things into their mouths that hurt them. The famous Irish preacher and politician, Dr. Ian Paisley, some of you may know of him, but in his thick Irish brogue once made this critique of the church. He said, “Haven’t we a race of dwarves in the church today? Haven’t we a race of old babies in the church today? Haven’t we a race of those who have never graduated from the nursery, and grown up into Christ? Some churches are full of old babies.”

 Just the way he said that, I wanted to repent and become a Christian again. Paul aimed a similar rebuke at Corinthian immaturity in First Corinthians 3:1, he said, “I couldn’t address you as spiritual people, but as people of flesh, as infants,” nēpios, “in Christ.” If that’s you, spit out your pacifier, stop eating candy, and putting all kinds of junk in your mouth. Start eating solid food, meat and veggies, so that you grow up healthy and strong.

 Now, to be fair, Paul is not rebuking the Ephesians here, but this is a warning against remaining in the infant stages, child stages of the Christian life. Spiritual infancy is legitimate, but only for a spiritual infant, right? Only as an initial, early, temporary stage of the Christian life. We’re not supposed to stay infants or children.

 We’re supposed to grow past that stage. Someone who remains in infancy, physically, we call that a defect, don’t we? Same thing spiritually. We’re just strive for maturity, so we’re children no longer. Growing up means that we’re safe from harm, protected from danger, because we’re wise and strong, like adults.

 Infants and children face certain threats, they’re susceptible to certain dangers, and Paul describes them with the perfect word picture, a ship blown around by winds tossed by stormy seas. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been on a storm before in the Chesapeake Bay; other places, as well, in the world.

 But at that particular one, I’m remembering, it was a moderate storm only. But in a 15 foot Zodiac boat, even a moderate storm puts the fear in you. Not a pleasant experience to go up and down, up and down, up and down, ride the top of the wave to the trough of the wave and back again. Rolling through wave after wave, from crest to trough crest to trough, up and down again.

 I’m more than 30 years past that experience, and what I once found exhilarating, as a young man, the memory of that, over the horizon exercise in a small Zodiac rubber boat, still makes me shiver as I remember. The bitter cold still makes me a bit seasick as I remember and recall that up and down, up and down, even in my memory. I once, though, once felt invincible as a young man, as young men tend to do, able to take on the forces of nature, the wind and the waves and the sea. And now, being older and wiser, I realize how stupid that is.

 But the wind and the ocean are extremely powerful forces of nature, aren’t they? They’ve humbled the strongest and the bravest of men. But listen, those who are spiritual babies, they’re like young people with a false sense of invincibility. The, the, spiritually immature don’t know enough to recognize the danger that faces their souls.

 Novel doctrines that sound cool on the Internet. Cunning craftiness of shrewd and clever men, who are really clever with their words and pull them in. Skilled and deceitful schemes. The word cunning there, literally, it’s dice playing. Paul’s using an idiom there that refers to cheating, and trickery, and deceit. We’d say that guy plays with loaded dice. He stacks the deck. He has something up his sleeve. He’s got an agenda.

Craftiness emphasizes the premeditation to do that, to deceive. Carry off the immature. Take him captive. Literally take him captive toward the scheme of error. Scheme: The word methodeia, a mthod. It’s a strategy, a program of error and error is the word, plane. Plane, we get our word planet, from that word; has the idea of wandering or roaming, as planets seem to do. [to the] For the ancient observers, they wandered in Rome throughout the sky.

 The image, here, portrays the young and the immature, loving novel doctrines. Those that are not time tested. Those that are, that are, new and seem exhilarating. But those things that aren’t fixed are not nailed down, always in flux, always in process. That is the stock and trade of false teachers. That’s how they attract the simple, they grab them by cunning, crafty, clever words, and draw them into something that they haven’t really even figured out for themselves yet.

 And more stable, mature, older Christians who are nailed down to the, to the, continuity of church history and the theology of church history, when they challenge those false teachers, the false teachers just shift their words and talk themselves out of it. And the young and the unstable go with them. I see it time and time again.

 Seems cool to the young to criticize the prudishness of the adults in their lives. Easy to criticize, point out all their faults and then follow some self-styled Pied Piper, who promises to lead him into the promised land of theological milk and honey.

 Thomas Oden was a liberal theologian, who was converted in his 40s, and he once described false doctrine as intoxicating. That’s the word he used. He admitted publicly. He said, “I love the fantasies, I love the revolutionary illusions. I truly love them. I love heresy,” he said.

That same intoxicating spirit is at work in all false teachers, all false teaching, whether it’s in the church or in the religious sphere or in society at large. We see it at work in the school system, don’t we? Teachers, loving heresy, loving to proselytize the young and the inexperienced and capture them as prey and bring them into their little coven.

 They prey upon the self-confident pride of those who refuse to be taught anything, because they think they already know everything. They refuse to listen, refuse to learn. They’re not humble, teachable people, and so by their own pride they’ll be caught, ensnared, and dragged away. Like children, they just don’t see the danger of wandering. Roaming and drifting seems interesting to them, just like going up and down in a small 15-foot Zodiac rubber boat seemed cool to me too.

 Whatever’s not fixed, whatever’s not anchored in the truth, that course is going to end in shipwreck, splintered on the rocks, every single time. But a good sound local church is a safe harbor. It’s a place of strength among the doctrinally mature, God gifted, Christ called, spiritually qualified.

Evangelist, pastors, elders, teachers, these are men who are hard at work watching over your souls, as those who are going to have to give an account. So beloved, don’t despise their authority. Practice the kind of humble teachability that allows you to listen to them and learn from them, because God opposes the proud; he gives grace to the humble. These men are Christ’s gifts to you, to help you grow strong, stay safe, stay away from the rocks.

Fifth habit to develop is vital, number five: Biblical charity. Biblical charity: Charity being a synonym for love. After giving that preventative warning, Paul directs Christians to take preemptive prophylactic measures, to practice what we see in verse 15. That is to speak the truth in love.

 And most translations render the phrase, as you see it there in the ESV, “speaking the truth in love.” But the verb is, actually, alētheuō, and it’s related to the noun for truth, alētheia. So a more literal translation would be, you could say, truthing in love. But since truthing is not a word and I just made it up, we might say, being truthful in love, living truthfully in love.

 Or I like the New English Translation here, it says, “Practicing the truth in love”; practicing the truth. That includes speaking the truth. But it goes beyond words to encompass all the way we live, how we think, the priorities we set, our habits of life, our behavior. It’s everything. It’s our, it’s our words, and it’s our example.

 Practicing the truth in love. Do we practice the truth and love one another? Are we willing to let others know us well enough to ask the hard questions? We willing to let others probe into our so-called private lives?  Are we transparent? Practicing truth the way we speak, the way we live, openly, honestly, living transparently?

That is the best defense against false teachers who trade in false doctrine, and cunning words, and deceitful speech. Just as light dispels darkness, so also error, deception, fraud, craftiness, and deceitful schemes. All those things melt away in the bright illumination and clear scrutiny of the truth.

 So we practice the truth in love. And ‘in love’ is a vital qualification here, because love is what defines us. It acts as a sealant or a glue or a cement holding everything together. Colossians 3:14 says, “Put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” So, truth and love are, are, here inextricably linked.

 Living in truth is loving. Loving is living truthfully. And practicing the truth, in love, both in word and deed, that is the habit that we practice. All right, that was a short point. Here’s the last one. We’ve given five godly habits that we practice in the church. Teachability, ministry, priority, maturity, charity.

 And all those are bound together in a sixth habit, which I call number six: Christological Integrity. Christological Integrity: Rather speaking the truth in love or practicing the truth in love, we’re to grow up in every way into him who’s the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body joined and held together by every joint with which it’s equipped.

 When each part is working properly, makes the body grow so it builds itself up in love. Notice the start and the end there. Speaking the truth in love, we’re to grow up. And then at the end, when each part is working properly, that’s what makes the body grow, so it builds itself up in love. You got love and growth at the beginning, and love and growth at the end.

 Love grows up, which is at the beginning and also at the end, love in Christ produces growth. So, if you want a word picture, a little metaphor, think of love as kind of the, the, sap that flows through the entire tree. Brings life, energy, nutrients, down from the root, up through the trunk, out through the branches, out into the smaller twigs and little leaves.

 Love causes that tree to flower, to bud, to bear fruit, and then that fruit falls off and bears seeds, that seeds are exposed, that leads to further reproduction, and love is the source of planting new trees, as well. Love is like the sap flowing through, giving the energy to the whole thing.

 Love is the hard motivation. Love is the example we see in Christ the head. Love is what brings the entire body together and keeps it together. Colossians 3:14, “love binds everything together in perfect harmony,” and that love, which comes only from God in Christ, by the Spirit, is what makes the body grow in Christ like integrity.

 So much to unpack there, but let me just consider one idea, the word joint. The word joint is where two bones come together in the body. So, the basic idea there is coming together, contact, and it’s a contact that’s for the sake of usefulness or for utility. One part touches the other part, two parts come together. They work together, and they’re useful in a way that they couldn’t be sitting on their own. Right?

 So, without a femur, and a tibia, and a fibula, properly fitting, joined together, walking is not possible. By themselves they do nothing, but joined together, means mobility. Beyond the joints that bring bones together, we can talk about ligaments, and tendons, and arteries, and nerves, so we can talk about connective tissue.

 We can talk about all these parts of the body that come together and create systems, that then serve the whole body. All those joining together points in the body, all those places when all those bring parts come together, when they work together, when they stay together, you create a functioning whole body. 

That’s the integrity that must be in the body, keeping everything united together, everything joined together, so it works in unity, harmony, for utility, for the propelling forward of the body. Connection of the members, of one another, with one another in the church, it’s an organic connection. It’s an intimate connection, according to scripture. Very sensitive.

First Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honored, all rejoice together.” And we do that all the time in the local church. Getting prayer requests from people who are struggling, suffering, in the hospital, out of the hospital. People going through financial hard times, relational hard times.

 When people suffer, we all feel it. When people rejoice, their life is filled with joy, and growth, and victory in Christ. We all rejoice together. That’s a local church. So much more we could say, but let me wrap it up with saying this.

 These habits we practice in the local church: Teachability, ministry, priority, maturity, charity, integrity. We practice those habits as individual Christians and, also, as a corporate body of Christians. This is our Lord’s plan for us. This is his vision for our church and for every other local church, as well.

 Any Christian, any church that’s not following this plan, let them repent and turn and follow him. All who refuse to practice these habits of the local church, whatever they choose to believe, whatever theology they embrace, whatever they tell themselves, and however they measure themselves, however they assure themselves that they’re doing everything that’s right; the truth is, they will be ineffective and unfruitful. Count on it.

 “Don’t be deceived,” Paul says in Galatians 6:7, “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Some attend churches that fit their preconceived notions, fit their own preferences, fit their preformed ideas of theology, and doctrine, and lifestyle. They tickle their ears with whatever they want to hear.

 They will wake up one day having sown dead seed into dead fields for decades, only to mourn, and lament, and sorrow at their folly. “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but” [the] “to the one who sows to the Spirit.” That is to say, obedient to the things we’ve mind out of the Scripture and pulled out.

 This is clearly the Spirit’s will right here. Clearly what the Lord’s design is. What his vision is for the Church. “But the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” It’s by the regular means of grace, the habits that we practice weekly in and through the local Church, that our Lord guides all of us safely through this life.

 He shepherds us into the life [of] to come, and along the way he uses us to proclaim his gospel, to win souls for the glory of God, as we walk joyfully, and in his triumph, and look for his soon return. And frankly, we subvert, and protest against this fallen world, and we snatch souls from the fire and, take them along with us. And by God’s grace and obedience to the Lordship of Christ, and by the powerful working of his Holy Spirit, beloved, this is what explains Grace Church.

 This is what we endeavor to do. It’s what we’ve been endeavoring to do for the last 50 years, and now much more. All the more, as we see the day approaching. We endeavor to do this for the next 50 years. Should Christ be pleased to give us that time. Amen. May he keep us faithful. Let’s pray.

 Our Father, we thank you for the clear instruction from your Word. We thank you for uniting us to this body called the Church. We thank you for this local church in particular. There are many like ours. We’re so thankful to see that the promise of Christ that, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” That that remains true.

 We travel throughout this country, throughout the world, although we see many, many things that discourage, and many things are dark and unsettling. At the same time, we see your victory in Christ. We see churches being planted into hard, violent, opposing soil, Pagan soil, secular soil, and we see Christ glorified yet again as his unstoppable power is made known in and through the Church.

 We ask that you would give us great hope and joy in the victory of Christ and the triumph of Christ, as we march together, as one body toward that eternal reward. Please fill us with joy, and anticipation, and hope. Give us strength for the day that’s coming. In Jesus name. Amen.