If you enjoy playing sports, watching sports or have a child that plays sports you need to take an hour and sit down with your family and watch this video. See what God and the Bible has to say about sports. C.J Mahaney says, “I had the opportunity to glorify God in my sports and I fumbled it. I wasted my sports. You have the opportunity, by the grace of God, not to waste yours.”
As a kid, I was reminded often “sharing is caring.” I was a selfish kid who did not share my stuff with other kids.
When it comes to the church sharing is caring too. In the church, it is more than a childish jingle—it is a unity that leads to maturity in Christ. In Ephesians 4:1-6, we learned the church is called to walk as one in Christ with humility, gentleness, patience and love, but this can come with its challenges. We quickly discover that diversity and immaturity within the church can cause conflicts between one another.
What is the cause of disunity in the church? There are many causes, but the primary challenge to unity we will look at today is when you use your God-given gifts for your own agenda. God did not give you spiritual gifts to make you happy, to have others in the church stare at your sweet spiritual skills in awesome wonder, nor did He give them for the praise of your glory. If this is how you view spiritual gifts it is a challenge to the unity of the church and your own spiritual maturity.
Spiritual Gifts bring diversity to the church [Ephesians 4:7-10]
When it comes to spiritual gifts there are many gifts, as we will see, but only one Giver. For Ephesians 4:7 declares, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” What is grace referring to in this verse? Grace refers to the ministry of spiritual gifts that come from Christ. Grace is expressed through the gifts of the Spirit, which He has shared with the church to resemble the ministry of Christ. Who are the recipients of Christ’s grace-gifts? According to the verse, “each one of us.” In other words: all followers of Christ share grace-gifts [cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11]. No one in the church misses out on these spiritual Christmas gifts.
How are these grace-gifts made possible? In Christ, the Conqueror of sin and death. Who by His grace died, buried, resurrected and ascended victorious. Christ is like the conquering king who showers His subject with spiritual gifts. Note the interesting quotation from Psalm 68:18, “When He ascended on high He led a host of captives and He gave gifts to men,” which was a praise song that explains how kings brought gifts to the people of Israel. The reason for these gifts was to praise God. Paul links the idea of triumph and applies it to the Son of David—Jesus Christ—whose ascent to the Father declares victory over sin and death [vs.8-10; cf. 1:19-22].
Christ is supreme ruler over all things and shares with His people diverse gifts for His praise. Diversity would seem to at odds with unity, but this is not the case within the church. That is the beauty of the church and the grace-gifts of Christ. The diversity of gifts is given for the purpose of the church’s unity and Christ’s glory.
Spiritual Gifts bring maturity to the church [Ephesians 4:11-16]
What is the diversity of gifts God gives to His people? In this text there are only four gifts [who are persons] presented, “apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teacher.” [v.11] Are there more than these given? Yes, but these four are mentioned specifically in context in relation to building Christ’s church. Within these gifts you will see how unity is brought together through diversity, maturity and ministry.
First, the diversity of gifts is for ministry [vs.11-12]. Christ gifts people within the church, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry and building up the body of Christ.” Each gift has an important role, as described in Ephesians, in declaring the mystery of Christ to all people [cf. 2:20; 3:5].
|GIFT||GOD’S PURPOSE FOR THE GIFT|
|Apostle||Directly chosen by Christ for a foundational role in unveiling the mystery of Christ [1 Cor. 12:28].|
|Prophet||Directly called by God for a foundational role in proclaiming the mystery of Christ [2 Peter 1:19].|
|Evangelist||Directly called to share with message of the Gospel [2 Timothy 4:5; Acts 21:8]|
|Pastor-Teacher||Directly called to [shepherd] care for the followers of Christ [Acts 20:28; Colossians 1:7-8; 4:12-13]|
Many look at this verse and think, “Is ministry just for professionals? Or people in leadership?” It might look that way, but as you read on gifted leaders are not to do the ministry for you they equip you to do ministry, so that the body of Christ might be built up. If not, then the church will be ill equipped to continue to spread the message of Christ. Think of a school whose teachers did not train students, a business whose employees did not build a product, or a parent that did not feed their child. So the church is gifted with leaders to equip, train and feed their members. Now the church is different than a school, business or family in the stability, longevity, and authority. Christ will build His church and schemes of man or Satan will not stop what Christ has started.
Second, ministry is for unity and maturity [v.13]. The goal of ministry is that the church would be built up in unity and maturity. As we minister for Christ and to one another the result with be continued growth of the church. Some churches look more like ratty childlike tree house made from scrap lumber and metal sheeting that need constant attention because no one is doing any work of ministry to maintain unity. Other churches are like colossal monuments of stone built with strong engineering and careful precision to stand the test of time with little to no maintenance because they understand the unifying and maturing work of ministry. In either the case, the load is not entirely on the leaders, for the entire church is in the cause together becoming more like the fullness of Christ.
Third, maturity is for spiritual security [vs.14-16]. Spiritual security is important for the church. How does spiritual maturity keep the church secure? The church will be secure from false teaching . No church is ever at a point when it is mature enough to be not be deceived by false teaching. Like naïve children we need to be aware of the deceptive lies that are stirring that seek to sweep away the unity of the church. Therefore, the church must be secure in love being able to share with one another how to grow in Christ . Mature followers are not ashamed to share hard things to help one another, and mature followers are willing to accept biblical counsel in order to be more like Christ.
Also, the church will be secure in working together to keep each other strengthened . Every part of our body is important from the head [Christ] down to the toes. Anyone who has ever had a sprain knows how important our joints are to strength. Mark it down; you will not mature as a follower of Christ unless you are involved in ministry. If you go to church just to fill your mind with knowledge, but do not do anything with what you know you will not grow. Your growth will be stunted and you will become spiritually stagnant.
Our pastor often uses use the illustration of the Dead Sea to describe spiritual growth. Why is the Dead Sea called dead? The Jordan River goes into the sea, but no river goes out. The Dead Sea is all input, but no output. It just gets saltier and more stagnant. Nothing can live or grow in it. Likewise, followers of Christ who do not use their spiritual gifts will become just like the Dead Sea if they just input knowledge and do not output service.
How can you prevent yourself from being stagnant and dead in your walk with Christ and your involvement at church? It begins by using your diverse gifts for the unity and the maturity of the church and your relationship with Christ. Diversity of gifts does bring unity to the church and glory to Christ. A church that walks in unity shares their gifts, which have been graciously given to them for the care of one another and the glory of church. Sharing is caring when it comes to the unity of the church.
What is your spiritual gift[s]? The best way to discover your gift is through prayer to God, counsel with your leaders, and implementation. How are your gifts being used? Are they being used for your glory, or for the glory of your church and Christ? If ministry is a chore rather than something you cherish, then you have a pretty good idea you are serving for the wrong reasons and you are a challenge to the churches unity. How would the work of ministry be different if you looked it as “get to” rather than “have to”?
 Cf. I Peter 4:11; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12
When I think about Old Europe I am drawn to the massive cathedrals. These marvelous monuments to Christendom took hundreds of years, thousands of man-hours, and millions of dollars to build. Dedicated craftsmen have embossed cathedrals with ornate artwork, colorful stain-glass, meaningful sculptures, and rich relics, which all add to the message of Scriptural themes. To this day these cathedrals are engineering marvels.
The church is often misunderstood and misapplied. As beautiful as these cathedrals and churches may be they are not the church. The church is not a building—it is people. The church is built up by followers of Christ displaying the glory of God and discipling one another to godliness.
The purpose of the church is quite important as it relates to the growth of the people within the church. Discipleship is often described as a one-on-one personal if not private endeavor. As we disciple someone in Christ the first things we teach them is about private growth: practicing devotions, private prayer life, and personal obedience. This is good and true, however, the personal growth in Christ also happens biblically through community within the Body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:12]. Seldom is discipleship viewed as a community project.
EPHESIANS 4:11 And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 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, 14 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 in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 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.
Ephesians 4:11-16, teaches us about the corporate aspect of discipleship. Once a follower commits to Christ they can immediately contribute to the Body of Christ [cf. Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-10; 1 Peter 4:11]. Without contribution to the Body of Christ we fail to mature in our faith or have accountability to continue in our faith. Christian growth does not happen in isolation, rather growth happens in community. According to verse 13 there are three aspects of discipleship that cannot happen in isolation: unity, mature in knowledge, maintaining a measure of fullness of Christ.
Unity of the faith is the first and most obvious aspect of community discipleship. Communities have common goals for the benefit of one another. God’s people are moving towards the goal of one faith. Faith is not just personal, but it is a public way to stir one another to faith and good works [cf. Hebrews 10:22-25; Philippians 1:27]. This means followers are using their God-given gifts for His glory and the growth of the community. New believers need to see the unified community of faith [cf. Colossians 2:7].
The second aspect of community discipleship is maturing in the knowledge of the Son of God. Knowledge is not only a personal entity, but refers to the community of followers [cf. v.12]. The knowledge of Christ is the core of the church. Together we encourage one another know Christ and make Him known. This maturity of knowledge is illustrated by infants of who are immature and unstable, like a storm-tossed boat blown in all directions by the winds of false teaching [v.14]. Mature followers are able to discern more clearly what is true and false, but new followers need to grow in their knowledge of Christ. Knowledge of Christ is not an end in itself, rather being transformed by Christ is the goal of this knowledge [cf. 1 John 2:3-4].
The third aspect of community discipleship is maintaining a measure of fullness of Christ. This is the end result of community discipleship—being like Christ. Now the church is already the fullness of Christ [1:23; cf. 4:10], but the future element is still present in our need to be like Christ. The maturity of this growth is measured by nothing less than Christlikeness.
Community discipleship is critical to the growth of the individual followers. Rechargeable batteries do not power up by themselves. They need to be plugged into a power source in order to be recharged. So it is with Christian maturity—followers cannot grow apart from being plugged into the church.
Christ is both the Builder and the Foundation of the church [2:20; cf. 1 Timothy 3:15]. Without a connection to the community of Christ—the local church—we cannot grow, as we ought. If we do not encourage new believers or immature believers to be connected to the Body of Christ they will remain immature, if not disillusioned by true Christian growth. A believer can growth through Bible Study, prayer and personal obedience, but more complete growth happens in the context of the church community. When this is happening the members of the body are being built up and growing the way God intended.
It takes a village to disciple a follower. The church is that village, and together we can encourage one another to unity, mature knowledge, and fullness of Christ. As John Stott says, “Maturity in unity which comes from knowing, trusting, and growing up in Christ.”
 John Koessler, True Discipleship. Chicago, IL. Moody Publishers, 2003. 180.
 John R.W. Stott, God’s New Society. Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 1979, 169.
We live in a reality-TV-crazy culture that is tenacious about flaunting personal talent. From a young age we are taught that flaunting our Talent Show skills are normal. It translates to adults with shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent and a plethora of other with people seeking to get their fifteen minutes. We are talent freaks. People what to be know for the talents. To shine in their talents to the glory of the fan-filled audiences.
We were made to worship. We crave to exude excellence. This is not a bad thing. We are born with the built in radar seeking someone or something to worship. The problem is that we often worship the creation rather than the Creator (cf. Rom.1:18ff). In other words we exchange the worship of God for idols. Idols are not necessarily carved images you see people in the aborigine jungles worship, it can be attitudes rooted within our hearts.
The question is where do our talents come from? The Bible says that all of our abilities and giftedness comes from God (Rom.12 & 1 Cor.12). The glory and the credit for our talent must go to God. This is more than after an accomplishment or acclaim saying, “I would like to thank God,” but a lifestyle of channeling the worship of the gifted talent to Giver of the talent. We are talented people because God created us with amazing abilities that reflect the character of His creative image.