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Only-est Number

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One Is The “Only-est” Number

 

Scriptures: Ephesians 4:1-16

I believe that God is at work in our midst faithfully building his church.  There are many who absolutely hunger to see Him break through in an unprecedented manner in our midst and in their individual lives.  This message will be continued on October 15th and I would encourage you to pray over  these scriptures between now and then and ask God to speak to you through them.

The primary cause of the [denominational] divisions is the institutionalism and organisationalism of the churches, which, without vivifying the life of the believers in them, smothers or drives it out of the ekklesia, and makes [the churches] merely dead institutions.  Christians who really have life in Christ cannot exist within such a corpse and will at last have to come out of it.  But in almost all cases, those who have come out of dead institutions want to have in their place another institution or other rituals and ceremonies, only repeating the same error.  Instead of turning to Christ Himself as their center, they again seek to find fellowship and spiritual security on the very same basis that failed, not realizing that it is the institution that is killing, instead of producing, life in Christ.   Even the Bible itself is interpreted and understood in various ways, and so always becomes the center of sectarianism.  Just in the same way, dogmas and creeds cannot bring Christian unity, because human minds are not so uniformly created that they can unite in a single dogma or creed.  Even our understanding of Christ Himself cannot be the basis of unity, because He is too big to be understood by any one person or group, and therefore our limited understandings do not always coincide.  One emphasizes this point about Christ, another that; and this again becomes the cause of divisions.  If we will only take our fellowship with Christ as the center of Christian faith, all Christians will realize their oneness...  All our fellowship, however varied, is with the same Lord, and the same Saviour is our one Head.

                ... Kokichi Kurosaki, One Body in Christ [1954]

1)      There is only one church. (v. 4-6).  It is built upon the personal confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and it is built as God adds to the church.

a)      It is carnality not spirituality which seeks to divide the church.  We recognize this to be true in cases where churches split.  We can clearly see the wrong.  Carnal seems to be a term that we use to describe the bad things that Christians do – really what we call sin after we come to Christ.  I think that we do ourselves an injustice to call it anything more or less than sin.

Sarkikos – from the word “sarx” meaning the flesh.  It signifies having the nature of flesh, controlled by animal appetites, governed by human nature instead of the Spirit of God.

There are times when we point to our theology as the justification to divide on Christian from another.  We may have good theology and we may not.  We have what we need to find our way to heaven.  I believe that God guarantees that.  On the minors however – we may not have it all down perfectly – chances are we don’t.  Even in our theology – that realm which we would term “spiritual” – the church can never  be divided.  It is the “human” part of us which seeks perfect agreement as necessary for fellowship and love.

b)      Spiritual people see their carnal tendencies and deal with them as such.  For the spiritual person, it is not difficult to see the fact that we don’t always perform perfectly.  As a matter of fact there are times when we really mess up.  The security of our relationship with God allows us to take a good honest look at the things in our lives that are unlike Christ and to address them.

c)       Carnal people see their carnal tendencies as spiritual issues and deal with them as such.  The issue then takes precedence over people.  One of the oddities of carnality in the spiritual life is that we cannot seem to bring ourselves to the place where we humble ourselves, admit our shortcomings for what they are.  We want to create spiritual issues and mask the real problem. 

Your Problem...My Situation

When you get angry it's because you're ill-tempered... It just happens that my nerves are bothering me.

When you don't like someone it's because you're prejudiced... I just happen to be a good judge of human nature.

When you compliment people it's because you use flattery to get your way... I only encourage people.

When you take a long time to do a job it's because you're unbearable slow and pokey... I take a long time because I believe in quality workmanship.

When you spend your paycheck in 24 hours, it's because you're a spendthrift... When I do, it's because I'm generous.

When you stay in bed until 11 A.M., it's because you're a lazy good-for-nothing... When I stay in bed a little longer, it's because I'm totally exhausted.

2)      Unity in the church is preserved through the bond of peace.  The bond of peace says’ “I refuse to fight with you.”  (Brother Bim)

a)      It requires great care and diligent effort to “get along” with each other.  There are Christian people that I am not going to “click” with.

b)      People who do get along with each other have made a conscious decision to do so.

c)      They have a higher priority than the pandering of their fragile egos.  Ego is at the center of most relational difficulties.

d)     Humility is the way that we see others.  Gentleness is the way that we treat others.

e)      Pride is the way we see ourselves.  It is a pre-occupation with self and our own experience.

INTRO - 2

I want to finish this message today because I feel that it is incredibly important for us to have a full appreciation for the church.  Often cynicism grips us in the face of hurts or slights and keep us from seeing things as we should.  I believe in the church today.  I do not believe that it is possible for a person to mature and grow in their faith apart from the Body of Christ.

As many vapors, rising from the sea, meet together in one cloud, and that cloud falls down divided into many drops, and those drops run together, making rills of water, which meet in channels, and those channels run into brooks, and those brooks into rivers, and those rivers into the sea: so it either is or should be with the gifts and graces of the Church. They all come down from God, divided severally as he will to various Christians. They should flow through the channels of their special vocations into the common streams of public use for church or commonwealth, and ultimately return into the great ocean of his glory, from whence they originally came.

   -- Bishop Hall

3)      With differing gifts comes a different way of seeing things.

We see through the eyes of our spiritual giftedness.  That means that we tend to attach the greatest importance to those things that are closest to the godly ministry passion that we have been given.  There are people who are driven in different ways.

It is important to remember that no ministry is essentially more important than any other.  They are all important.

The most frustrated group of people in any given fellowship will be those people who are not exercising their gifts.  They will be critical of course of those who are exercising them. What you are is God's gift to you.  What you make of yourself is your gift to God. We can learn some things from the frustrations that we face.

q      The general areas of our frustrations will be an indication of our own gifts and the areas in which I should be involved.  We are most often bothered about the things that we might be able to do better.  We tend to have very definite ideas regarding the things about which we are passionate.  This can at times be very revealing when it comes to determining our spiritual gifts and our place of service.  God does not call or direct people to criticize or point out problems.  He calls them to be a part of the solution.  Perhaps today you are being called by a sense of frustration.

q      We can never see clearly from the grandstands.  We think that is so but we all know that it looks different in the arena.  You know little about the struggle until you have been the one with all eyes on you.  Until you have gotten down beside someone who is struggling and stood with them in the mire then you have no appreciation or ultimately sufficient insight to pontificate the greatest of truths to them.

Not the Critic

It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. 

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who  neither enjoy no suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

q      The body is disfigured as people fail to exercise their gifts. I wonder how many are here today who are involved in some area of service in the church.  How many hold more than one job?  Ill.  – person eating with their feet.  There are times when the refusal of one to exercise a particular gift forces another to step outside their area of giftedness and function where they are really not able.

4)      Even with diversity of gifts the purpose remains the same – to build the church.  The gifts are given for the growth of the church as they are exercised.  They are not primarily for the individual although there is always tremendous blessing to be had when we function according to our giftedness.

1PE 2:1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. [2] Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, [3] now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.  As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- [5] you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

God builds his church one stone at a time one upon another.

The church that is alive and well is a growing one.  Where there is no growth there is a problem.

q      Some churches have parking problems, some other churches don't.

q      Some churches have kids running around making a lot of noise some other churches tend to be very quiet.

q      Some churches usually have more expenses than money, some other churches don't need to spend much money.

q      Some churches are growing so fast you don't always know everybody's name, in some other churches everybody has known everybody's name for years.

q      Some churches enthusiastically and generously support missions, some other churches keep it all at home.

q      Some churches are filled with tithers, some other churches are filled with tippers.

q      Some churches evangelize, some other churches fossilize.

q      Some churches are always planning for the future, some other churches live in the past.

q      Some churches seek new ministries and new methods, some other churches do not need to.

q      If you are active in some church, why don't you take a moment and pray for it today.  Some people pray for their church, and some others never quite get around to it.

See:  Acts 2:42-45; James 5:16-20

5)      The closer people come to Christ the more similar they become to each other.  The degree of difference between yourself and other Christians is measured by the distance between yourself and Christ.

One of the greatest signs of spiritual maturity as far as I can see is the ability to get along with other brothers and sisters despite our differences.  It defies my own understanding to think that the Bible should ever be a source of division.  We know that we will not always see things the same way as others.  That would never happen.  We are too diverse in every way for that to be the case.  The beauty comes as we are able to differentiate between the things that are important and the things that are not.

Simply put, if we are truly striving for Christlikeness then the closer we get to him the closer we get to others who are on the same pursuit.  The difference between us becomes increasingly small as we pursue God together.  The issues are fewer and fewer.

High in the Alps is a monument raised in honor of a faithful guide who perished while ascending a peak to rescue a stranded tourist. Inscribed on that memorial stone are these words:  HE DIED CLIMBING. A maturing, growing Christian should have the same kind of attitude, right up to the end of life.

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