Main Point: Being the church is a glorious calling.
Today is a special day for me because it was 15 years ago that I preached my first sermon as one of the pastors here. I am keenly aware of how much grace you have given me because of my pride and fear and immaturity and selfishness. I pray that I make progress in putting off these sins. This means anything good in this church is the product of God’s grace working in us and through us. I thank God for you.
If you would humor me, we are going to push pause on our journey through Acts and look at the book of Ephesians and the great blessings that our ours and how these blessings should shape us for the next 15 years.
Read Ephesians 1:15-23
I. You have received the greatest and strongest blessings
Here is the strongest and greatest blessing on which every other blessing depends
- We have been united to Christ
I want to introduce you to what it means to be united to Christ because our experience of the blessing of being the church will grow as our understanding and dependence on Christ grows. Turn now to Ephesians 1:1. This letter was written to the saints in Ephesus. 1:4 celebrates the fact that Christians are chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless before him. God’s goal for your life is holiness. We are made holy and kept holy in Christ (1:1-4). We can’t keep ourselves, but Christ makes us and keeps us pure.
The big picture is we are blessed in Christ. 1:3 tells us that we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. We have the righteousness of Christ, the gift of the Spirit, the loving care of the Father, eternal life, a sure inheritance, the church, and so much more. We are #blessed.
We are chosen in Christ, chapter 1 verse 4. Before the foundation of the world, God set his love on particular people; he set his love on us. Just as we are made holy in Christ and blessed in Christ we are also chosen in Christ. Every good thing, even election, is connected to Christ.
With Jesus, we are given the rights of sons. Chapter one verse 5, the Father determined to make us his sons and daughters through Christ. You don’t get yourself to God. God gets you to himself through Jesus. This is power and faithfulness and love.
But before you get too puffed up, remember we are the display of God’s grace in Christ. Chapter 1 verse 6, we are to the praise of his glorious grace. We look around and understand the only reason for holiness, the only reason for blessing, is the grace of God. None of us deserve to be here. None of us deserve to be loved or cared for or made holy. We, once broken and powerless, live lives of faith as a display of God’s grace. We were trapped in sin, but God saved us by his grace.
So, remember how we got here. We have been redeemed from sin through Christ’s death. Chapter one verse seven says we have redemption through his blood. Chapter two verse seven looks into the future saying in the coming ages God will show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For all of forever, we will celebrate God’s kindness towards us because of Jesus Christ. We have a future!
We have an inheritance in Christ. 1:11, “In him we have obtained an inheritance.” The God who works all the details of every good thing and every bad thing according to his will, has committed to giving you a good future. You may have been dealt a terrible hand of difficulty or suffering, but God has promised to gather all the cards, make all things new, and give you a glorious future. You are sore from the fight but lift up your eyes to the blessing of what lies ahead.
Look around and take in what is happening right now. In Christ, we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit (1:13-14). You heard the gospel, believed the gospel, and received the Holy Spirit. The Spirit in you, strengthening you, correcting you, and speaking to you, is the guarantee that you will make it to God. That’s chapter one! Now some of the blessings of chapter two.
We are brought to life with Christ. 2:5, “we were dead in trespasses and sins.” We were set on destroying ourselves living life without God. We were slaves to our dreams of a better life on our terms. But God brought us to life. God opened our eyes. God made us alive with Christ. This is resurrection language. We are blessed with the ability to live a new life. Do you hear the emphasis on “we”? You are not alone.
We are brought into the people of God in Christ. Jesus is the gate through which we get in. 2:13 paints a dismal picture of our past lives. We were far away from God. We were outsiders. We had no hope and were without God, but God brought us in by joining us to Christ. Some of you grew up with an awful biological family. God has given you a new spiritual and eternal family.
Hold fast to the truth that all these blessings are undeserved and unearned. We have these great gifts because we have Jesus.
We are reconciled to God through Christ. 2:16, both Jews and Greeks are reconciled to God together. At Mary’s funeral, Manuel reminded me of the recent story of rival gang members in Coffield prison being baptized together. In Christ, because of the blessings of Christ, those who were once separated from each other come together. And we come together to form something unthinkable.
In Christ, we are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Look at 2:21, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” God’s plan is to dwell with us. We are gathered together each Sunday. We roll ourselves out of bed and we dust ourselves off from a hard week so that we can come together as the dwelling place of God on earth.
What a blessing! God wants to be with us. Church, we have only scratched the surface of what it means to be the people of God. These good things we are enjoying are the smallest taste of the good to come. So, why do we gather together? We gather as the church each Sunday because God wants to be with us. We are united to Jesus and he brings us to God. We are drawn together by the Holy Spirit to be the temple of God.
We have received the greatest and strongest blessings and we want to grow in them. We want more of Jesus! And here’s what’s cool about us getting more Jesus. When we get more Jesus, it puts the goodness of God on display.
II. God’s plan is to display his glory through us
Let me prove to you that God wants to demonstrate his greatness through little old Mambrino Baptist Church. Let’s start big
- God’s plan is to unite all things in Christ (1:10, 22)
Ephesians 1:10, God’s plan is to unite all things in Christ. When the time is right, when the fullness of time comes, the Father will make everything right because of and through the Son. Look over at 1:22, the Father put all things under the Son’s feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Right now, God wants to demonstrate the greatness of Jesus. Do you know how God plans to show his glory? The Father has given his Son to Mambrino Baptist Church so that we can be filled with the life, joy, and holiness of God. The church is currently the fullness of him who fills all in all. Let’s start getting specific about how this works
- The salvation of these early Jews and Gentiles displays God’s glory (1:12)
When Ephesians was written, Jews and Gentiles were like rival gang members; they did not get along with each other. Go back to Ephesians 1:12. Those early Jews and Gentiles were given an inheritance and predestined for the express purpose of praising God’s glory. The world looked at those early Christians and said, “Would you look at that! Those enemies who despised each other now love each other. That is God’s grace!” Now, what was true of them is supposed to be true of us.
- The church is the display of the wisdom of God (3:10)
Flip over to Ephesians 3:10. After celebrating this unthinkable, spiritual, and God glorifying union of Jew and Gentile as the people of God, we learn God’s plan, “so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
There is so much hatred in the world. There is so much pain and selfishness and abuse and tyranny. There is too much pride and waiting on the other person to make the first move. But look at the church. There is the manifold wisdom of God. The church is a people where enemies become brothers. Satan and the fallen angels who rebelled with him see the wisdom of God in the unity of the church. Satan and his angels are meant to see the wisdom of God in the unity of the church. This is precisely why Satan works so hard to divide Christians. Satan doesn’t want church members united around Christ. Our unity is a display of God’s wisdom. Every word out of our mouths must build up and give grace to those who hear because our unity displays God’s wisdom. We are made to glorify God through our shared concern for one another and
- We are meant to be a display of God’s power (3:20-21)
Look with me at Ephesians 3:20-21 and you will see something wonderful, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
Now let’s be careful and follow Christ our example. God’s power worked in Jesus’ death and his resurrection from the grave. While it is not always the case, it is generally the case that God’s power at work in us is God’s power at work in our weakness and sacrifice and suffering. Like the Son dependent on the Father, we are to be dependent on Christ. God is most clearly glorified when we keep asking and keep trusting and keep depending. God has designed this world so that his power is seen in our weakness.
Let’s ask it this way, what will it look like for God to be glorified in Mambrino Baptist Church?
III. How we can live for the glory of God
Ephesians chapter 4 is a fundamental passage in my thinking when it comes to the actual structure of a church. This chapter helps us understand what a church should look like. Now let’s consider how we should live for the glory of God. God is glorified by
- Everyone being careful
We are so often slow and selfish, weak and wrong-headed. We dig our heels in and stand our ground when we should go and be reconciled. Look into chapter 4 and how we should live. This is 4:2, “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.” Be careful how you think about these brothers and sisters. Be careful how you talk about these brothers and sisters. Christ gave his life for him. Christ gave his life for her. Address weaknesses, sin, and disagreements with care. A careful church glorifies God and God is glorified by
- Everyone coming together
4:4, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” It’s easy to focus on just the local church. It’s easy to focus on just the universal church. We glorify God when we strive to come together on both levels around our reconciliation with God through Christ. But there are so many disagreements and there are so many things to do. God is glorified by
- Everyone getting equipped
The picture painted by Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 is that every Christian has been gifted by the Spirit of Christ in order to do good to others. Some Christians are gifted to be, Ephesians 4:11, “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers.” I believe the offices of apostle and prophet ceased when the foundation of the church was laid but evangelists, shepherds, and teachers continue in order to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Every one of us gathers with the church in order to be better trained to go out and do ministry. In some sense the church is like a gym where we gather to get bigger, stronger, and faster so that we can go out and do the work to the glory of God. God is glorified by
- Everyone getting to work
The image of Ephesians 4:11 and 12 is not a pastor doing all the ministry or a group of pastors doing all the ministry. The image here is every member doing his or her part of the ministry. Pastors and teachers lead the members to do the work. We all do our part because God is not glorified by you showing up each week and then doing nothing. God is glorified by you working to help and encourage and strengthen your church family. God is glorified by everyone working and by
- Everyone growing up
Verse 12, we’re all working to build up each other with the goal of spiritual maturity. We labor, verse 13, to attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. At times, we are going to disagree about what it looks like to follow Jesus. Go back to 4:1-6 for direction here. We are going to disagree; that’s ok. What’s not ok is to respond to one another sinfully when we disagree. What’s not ok is to let disagreements fester. Listen, baby Christians are not bad. I hope we always reach more souls and have a steady influx of baby Christians. That is good; stuck Christians are bad. Stagnant Christians are bad and easily swayed by false teaching. We must keep growing together by teaching the truth and correcting error. Know this, God is glorified by
- Everyone speaking the truth in love
Instead of being sneaky, crafty, underhanded, or deceitful, we must (verse 15) speak the truth in love. We must work out our disagreements and differences with love. We don’t gossip. We don’t talk behind people’s backs. We say what needs to be said in order to build others up and we say it with love. A healthy church is made up of members who say hard things to each other because of love. It is this loving truth-telling that keeps us following Jesus and growing more like Jesus. When each joint of the body is loving the others and serving the others the body builds itself up in love.
I want us to think now about specific ways Mambrino Baptist church can glorify God. Let’s talk
IV. Priorities for the future
- Grow in our dependence on Christ
Since every blessing is received and enjoyed because of our union with Christ, we need more of Jesus. We need to gather around the word of God that points to Jesus every Sunday and throughout the week. We need to gather together and praise God as God’s house and house to house. We need the big family gatherings and the one on one gatherings. One on one discipleship is necessary to help one another grow in dependence on Christ. We have different gifts and different circumstances, so we need particular help. Expect us to keep urging you to gather with the church, join a Sunday school group, and meet up with others throughout the week so we can enjoy more of Christ.
Here is our next priority
- Get into the Next Gen building
We need you to continue to give, to get back to giving, or start giving. Thank you for what you have given.
If you have ever worked on a house or built a house, you know it takes a lot of mental and physical energy. A building can be a great tool. Let’s keep at it and get in it. The spray foam insulation is in and the sheetrock is coming next. The metal walkway has been painted and the metal is going up soon. In our Members’ meeting on August 25 you’ll get a detailed update as to expenses to date and cost to finish. And let’s remember that this building is a tool to help us do ministry. Another priority moving forward is for us to
- Get into our community to meet needs
We want to equip you to do the ministry. We want to give you opportunities to do ministry. We want you to join us Thursday at 2pm when we go to Mambrino Elementary School to encourage and pray with teachers. They know we’re coming, we’ll have cold water and sodas for you to pass out. Let’s go and serve others this Thursday, 2pm at Mambrino Elementary.
But that’s only the beginning. Baptist Student Ministry lunches will start soon at the Granbury campus of Weatherford Community College. Be watching for this opportunity to get to know college students and share the hope of the gospel with them. Our youth are working on mission projects to encourage one another to get out and care for others. The new Sunday school year is starting for our students and AWANA will begin on September 4. Brothers and sisters, we are called to evangelize and disciple the next generation. Our moms and dads are doing great work. We need you to volunteer to come alongside that discipleship in the home. Come and be a part of this church glorifying God in a hundred different ways. Stand firm on Christ. He is the blessing and the only firm foundation. Let’s look to Jesus.