Text: Eph 4:1:24
Summary: The goal of ministry is when believers in the Universal Church help one another to achieve full maturity as each of us grows in Christlikeness. Toward that end, prayer is a time when we can exchange our fallen nature with Christ’s divine nature.
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying,“He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 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.
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Before I pray, I just want to read a few verses from Psalm 51.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right[b] spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Father, we present our bodies, our soul, and our spirit before you. We pray that you would awaken us. Awaken our spirits. We pray that you would cleanse our soul and our bodies. We pray that the Word of God which is sharper than any double-edged sword, that you would do surgery on our hearts. Teach us, Lord, how we can grow in the fullness of Jesus Christ. Help us today. We give you this time. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen
The title of today’s message is The Divine Exchange. Just a wonderful thing the Lord has taught me that I’ve started to put into practice this week. We are going to continue talking about prayer and the divine exchange.
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The Lord always reminds me there’s only one calling. The main calling is the calling unto salvation. We are called to be saved. We are called to be children of God. That is the number one calling. We have different vocational callings, this is a lower level calling. But the main calling that we should know for all believers is that we’ve been called to be saved. We’ve been invited to the banquet. Let us not forget that is the main calling to which we’ve been called. Then Paul goes on to say in v.4.
4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Here we see probably some of the most compelling verses about the oneness and unity in the Body of Christ. It says one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, one Father, one Jesus, we are one. It is sad to consider the state of the Church, that we are so far from what the Lord had envisioned for the Church. We are divided along so many different lines, but let’s remember, the Lord’s desire is that we would be one.
7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 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.
The Body of Christ has been equipped. Not every local church has apostles. Not every local church has evangelists and prophets. Hopefully, every church has at least one pastor and some teachers, but together, when we look at the Universal Church, we’ve been equipped. If we would put down our differences, if we would come together under the headship of Christ, the Body of Christ could bring all of our collective gifts together. Because not one local church has it all, but together in the Universal Church, if we pull together all of our resources and all of our giftings, then we will actually do what the Lord had in mind for the Church.
What the Lord has in mind is that we attain maturity, and that is the fullness of Christ. The main ministry of a church and the reason why we’ve been equipped with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and like I said, it’s not like one church has it all, but together if we pulled all of our giftings and all of our resources, the goal of the church and the ministry of the church is not to be good at a soup kitchen and feeding the poor. That is a part of it, but that is not the main ministry of the church. The main ministry of a church is not going to a college, establishing a Bible study and doing a Bible study well, or gathering a bunch of young adults or a bunch of seniors and just in your demographic area doing that ministry faithfully. That is not the main ministry.
The main ministry of the church is that you and I together are helping one another to attain maturity. We are helping one another to attain the fullness of Jesus Christ. So if you see a deficiency in your brother or sister, you see a part of Christ that is yet to be formed in that person, you see something of Christ that is not yet formed in me, then we are helping one another. We are praying for one another. We are laboring for another. We are ministering to one another toward that end so that together we would attain the fullness of Christ.
Paul defined maturity as the fullness of Christ. Why are we not doing this? It is because one local church cannot do it by itself. Because one church does not have all the gifts, we don’t have all the offices of the church. No church in the world can do this by themselves. But together, if we unite under the Head, who is Christ, and if we brought all of our giftings, if we listened to the prophets in this church, if we cooperated with the evangelists in that church, if we listened to the teachings of this church, and we gathered with pastors of other churches who are like-minded, then together we can attain the fullness of Christ and become mature.
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.
Rather than being washed away by the waves, derailed by every wind of doctrine and being deceived by the cunning of men, but instead we should grow up into the Head, who is Christ, and it says, in every way. That makes the goal of the Body of Christ and our ministry clear. The reason why we’re equipped for ministry and we do the kind of ministry that we do is so that you and I are not deficient in any way. So that we don’t fall short of the standard, who is Christ. That in every way we are becoming like Jesus.
Today, I want to share with you how we can do this more specifically. Because now I think I’ve convinced you through God’s Word that the main ministry of the Universal Church is to help one another to grow up into the fullness of Christ, to grow up in every way into Him, who is the Head, who is Christ. No longer children, no longer immature, no longer easily toppled, shaken, and tossed by the winds, the waves, the winds of doctrine, and the cunning of men, but anchored and growing up into the fullness of Christ. This is our main ministry. Now, Paul goes on to give us a secret of how we can do this.
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
If you think about what these verses are suggesting, it is quite remarkable. At first, Paul gives us the standard. God gives us in His Word the standard, it is Jesus. We are to grow up in every way in Christ. We are to have the mind of Christ. We’re supposed to have the soul of Christ, His mind, will, and emotions. We’re supposed to live life in terms of bodily action, the way Christ was submitted to His Heavenly Father. He submitted Himself to the Father as a living sacrifice in His body. His Spirit was awakened, it was alert. The standard is the way Jesus lived. We are expected to live like Christ.
The remarkable thing in these verses is that we put off all the ways in which we fall short in our own carnal, fallen nature, and with a renewed mind, we exchange it for Christ’s nature. You can do this in one of two ways. One is you see clearly how you have fallen. You repent. If you’ve been impatient, you repent. And you bring your impatience before the Lord, and you say, Lord, I’m sorry. Then you say, Christ, I ask for your patience. The divine exchange.
I think often we start at repentance, but we don’t ask for God’s nature. And that’s why we stay the same. We don’t change because we just say sorry and then we say okay, I’m forgiven and I don’t know where I go from here. Then tomorrow, you fall again, and you say, sorry. You ask for forgiveness, and it’s just a vicious cycle. You try with your effort to do a little bit better, and maybe instead of falling after one day, you last a week. Then you say sorry again.
This is a religious person who through effort is trying to do better, but you will not attain the fullness of Christ. You can live like that for 50 years and you will not attain the fullness of Christ. We need to ask for a divine exchange. You bring your fallen nature before the Lord. You repent of your impatience, you ask for forgiveness, and then you say, Jesus, I see your patience, and I ask for your patience to be placed in me. I want your patience. That’s one way, when you clearly see how you’ve fallen short, you ask for Christ’s nature.
The other way that we can do it is to just fix our gaze upon Jesus. A lot of times we don’t know the ways in which we’re falling short, and so we fix our gaze upon Jesus. We see, wow, Jesus, you’re really gentle. Jesus, you’re really humble. Then it just dawns on you, I’m not humble like you, Lord. I’m not gentle like you, Lord. And then you repent. Not because you are aware of it or conscious of it when you began praying, but because you looked at Christ, because you fellowshipped with Christ, because you saw the glory of Christ. And then from there, you repent. Then you ask for that humility, or you ask for that gentleness, you ask for Jesus’ nature.
This is the standard from God’s Word, that in the Body of Christ, our main ministry to one another and the main prayer we should have for one another, is that we want Christ to be fully formed in my brother. We want Christ to be fully formed in my sister. We want Christ to be fully formed in my spouse. We want Christ to be fully formed in our children and in our parents. That is our prayer. We’re not content with salvation. Salvation is not enough. We want Christ to be fully formed in us.
We will minister with intense labor and prayers toward that end, so that our brother, our sister, our father, our mother, our spouse will be fully formed, fully mature in every way, and we will look like the Head. The Head and the body are one. There’s no separation. So the body should be working in cooperation with the Head. If Christ was living here in 2020, how would He live? How would He do life? He would have many different bodies in which to do life here because we have been formed in Christ’s likeness. That is the goal. Let’s pray.
Father, just a simple set of verses in Ephesians 4. We see the standard. We see why you’ve equipped the Universal Church with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. So that together we would work and labor toward one goal, which is to be fully formed in Christ and to be made mature in every way. The body and the Head are one. We are inseparable from Christ. Father, ministry is not just bringing people to the church because if they come to church but they stay the way they are, then we have failed in ministry. If we gather more people into this place, and 10 years later we’re the same, we failed in ministry.
Lord, we want to redefine what a successful ministry is in your eyes. It starts with us individually and personally. May we be formed in the fullness of Christ. And after we’ve been changed, may we labor for the sake of our loved ones. May we labor for the sake of our brothers and sisters in our immediate circle. May we labor for the sake of the Universal Church, as you give us opportunity to minister.
Father, what a divine exchange. Lord, we stopped short in our prayers. We saw our flaws, we repented and asked for forgiveness, and we said, in Jesus Name, Amen. And in our flesh we’ve tried to do better, but Lord, it is not working. Thank you, Lord, for giving us clarity. Where we fall short, we repent and we ask for forgiveness. And then in the specific ways we fall short, our deficiencies, our immaturity, we ask, Jesus, for your nature to be birthed in us.
Lord, if we’re blind to the ways that we’re immature and Christ is still yet to be formed, we look upon you, Jesus. You’re full of grace and full of truth. You’re full of love. You’re full of compassion and full of selflessness. You’re not proud. You’re humble. You’re gentle. You’re the meekest person who ever lived, you’re the perfect Man. And so we gaze upon you. We fellowship with you.
Lord, there are a lot of ways in which we’re deficient, and we ask that you birth in us and implant in us your nature. For those among us who are introverts, we pray that you would forgive us for being too imbalanced in our introversion. Jesus, you are the kind of person who is so balanced. You could spend hours with people, feeding them until late into the evening when your disciples were so tired. Lord Jesus, you had supernatural strength and supernatural love. You saw that the crowd was like sheep without a shepherd. You ministered into the late hours. You are perfectly balanced.
Forgive us, Lord. The introverts among us, forgive us. We so quickly lose our patience. We so quickly run out of energy. We want to run into a closet into a corner. Lord, forgive us, we are so imbalanced. For those who are extroverted, who cannot be alone, who don’t know how to be alone with you, forgive us, Lord. Lord Jesus, you’re perfectly balanced. The more you ministered to people, the more you sought the face of your Father alone. You are perfectly balanced. Lord, we want to learn from you.
You’re perfectly balanced, introvert, extrovert. You knew when to be present with the people, fully available, fully ministering. You knew how to be alone. Lord, among us, we are so imbalanced. We look upon you, Lord Jesus. We pray that you would balance us. Lord, balance us until we know how to be fully present, loving, sacrificial, ministering to people. At the same time, we know how to be alone, how to seek the secret place, the prayer closet. We run to you to seek out energy, fulfillment, and power to minister.
Lord, we thank you for teaching us this divine exchange. We want to put it into practice. We pray that you would minister to us as we gaze upon you during the partaking of the Lord’s Supper. We pray that you would show us in specific ways how we’re still yet to be formed in Christ’s likeness. In the church, make us more mature. Help us to be mature in Christ. No more immaturity. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen