How do we reach Christianity maturity? 3 points.
1) Leaders train.
2) Members minister.
3) Most importantly, all of us have been given the task of speaking the truth in love to one another.
First, leaders train. Pastors, evangelists, teachers – typically, people with these gifts form the leadership of the church. And what do these leaders do. They train. v12 – training of the saints – the word for “train” is to perfect or to prepare or to equip. It refers to taking something that is broken and fixing it up. Like a car that is not running properly, it sputters or the tire is flat or the transmission is out so it needs a tune-up so that it can run smoothly. This is what the pastors and teachers are supposed to do. We could all use a tune-up, right? We are often broken down spiritually. We get stuck in a rut and we need someone to patch us up and give us a push from behind. This is the job of the leaders to train and to fix what is broken.
Through face to face ministry to members, pastors are supposed to provide godly counsel based on the Word of God so that Christians can be restored to spiritual health, fixed, so that the church can move on to spiritual maturity. Spiritual teachers, who by the way, might be excellent preachers but lousy at ministering to people, are to take the Word of God and help the saints apply the Word so that they can be tuned up and ready for ministry. Often, a pastor is the primary teacher at his church and it makes sense. Because even if a pastor has a heart for people, how can he lead God’s sheep if he doesn’t know the Word of God? Obviously, if he doesn’t know the Word, then he wouldn’t be able to teach nor train them as he should. To attain corporate maturity as a people of God, the leaders have to do their part and train the saints.
This leads me to the second point–the saints or the members minister.
12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry…
Who does the ministry at the church? Is it the pastor only, or only the elders, or only the deacons and deaconesses, or only the staff, we are the ministers? And the rest, sit back and enjoy the show because we, the leaders, got everything under control. Are the saints no more than passive spectators on the sidelines? Many churches operate this way and most of the church members sit in pews and watch a performance. The praise band goes up and they do their thing and the preacher goes up and he does his thing and the rest sit around and watch.
I don’t want this church to be like that. Because that’s not what a healthy, spiritually mature church is supposed to be. Practically, this means if you are a baptized member of this church and you sense God leading to do something, just do it. You don’t have to get permission from me. If Jesus tells you something, you must learn to listen to His voice and obey. Do it and share with others so that we can pray for you and support you, and if needed, the leaders can train and equip you so that you can do whatever the Lord wants you to do more effectively.
We’re in this together. I know I don’t have many gifts. I recognize that I have many weaknesses, but I am confident in the sovereignty of God. He will bring the right gift mix into this community so that my weaknesses are covered over. Whatever I lack, I know God in His time will send the right people with the right set of gifts to complement my gifts.
Brother Matthew and I try to share weekly, if at all possible, and I often think I have good ideas and then I run them by him and he shares his perspective and he raises concerns that hadn’t crossed my mind. This is why we need one another.
To sum up, gifts are given to the church. In particular, prophets, pastors and teachers use their gifts to train and to equip the saints. And then the saints do the work of the ministry. This means that the church is not a performance where a few people are doing everything and the rest are sidelined.
Eph 4:12-13 – all the saints, all Christians, are supposed to be trained in order to do the work of the ministry in building up the body of Christ until we reach unity in the faith and unity in the knowledge of God’s Son and become mature.
Concretely, how do we, the saints at Hill Community, minister to one another? In order to build up the church toward the goal of Christian maturity. How is this accomplished? This leads to the third and final point. Each of us have been given the task of speaking the truth in love to one another.
This last point is critical. If you don’t hear this point, the other points won’t make sense. Please pay attention. Leaders training the saints and the saints doing the works of ministry only makes sense if you keep this final point at the forefront. It is possible to accomplish training of the saints and doing the works of the ministry out of religious duty as long as you are highly committed and disciplined and determined, but that misses the point entirely. The critical ministry and task of the saints without which genuine corporate spiritual maturity is impossible is the ministry of speaking the truth in love. If we don’t know how to speak the truth in love to one another, then we could train and do the works of the ministry all we want, but we will never become spiritually mature.
Now the question remains, what does it look like concretely to speak the truth in love? To answer that, you first have to know what the truth is.
What is the truth? For many years, I used to believe that this verse meant that when I see someone in sin, I should speak the harsh truth to them if I really love them. Truth is on one side and love is on the other. I treated truth and love as if they were polar opposites. Love is like blind acceptance. Sin, what sin? I see no evil and I hear no evil. Speaking truth of your sin, now that’s true love. If you truly love someone and they are in sin, how can you not speak truth to them? To tell someone the truth about their sin is really loving and to love with zero mention of the truth of one’s sinfulness means you don’t love the person at all. This is clearly not what this passage means.
In recent years, my view changed to a slightly more moderate position. Truth and love are not polar opposites. It’s not truth AND love. It’s truth IN love. It is important to speak painful truth about someone’s sin but do it in a loving way. With gentleness. With a smile on your face. Speak truth in love. So love is the vehicle of painful truth. It’s like children’s medicine. The medicine by itself tastes awful so you need to mask it with some fruity bubble gum flavor so that your kids would swallow it. The medicine is like truth. And the bubble gum flavor is love. Wrap painful truth and deliver it in a package of love.
You can definitely interpret speaking the truth in love in this way. You shouldn’t be harsh but rather loving when talking to someone about the truth of their sin. This is not wrong. But over the past few weeks, God has revealed to me that this is not the primary meaning of this verse.
You have to keep reading the context – Eph 4:17-21. [READ]
Truth is not an idea. Truth is a Person. The truth is in Jesus. The truth IS Jesus. He is the way, the TRUTH, the life. If you substitute the word “Jesus” in Eph 4:15, the sentence makes sense. But speaking “Jesus” in love, let us grow in every way into Him, into Jesus, who is the head, Christ.
Christian maturity is to be full of Jesus, filled with the Spirit who points us back continuously to Jesus.
Being full of Jesus or being filled with the Spirit – what does that look like? Please turn with me to Eph 5:18-21. [READ]
Notice what happens when someone is full of Jesus or filled by the Spirit? They speak. Their lips move. They speak to other saints in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. They sing, not in quiet meditation privately, but aloud so that others can hear it. They give thanks verbally.
If you love sports like me, you know that there is no such thing as a quiet sports fans. Maybe golf fans are quiet. Or tennis. Brother Daniel, who is a missionary in Beijing, is a die hard Cal sports fan. If you watch a Cal football game with him, it’s not like a tennis match where you clap properly with dignity between points. Every play, Daniel is shouting either in victory or he’s on the floor in agony. I went to Cal, but I grew up in Philly so I am a die hard Philly sports fan and I am kind of lukewarm when it comes to Cal. It’s weird. I just didn’t focus on sports during my college years. So if Cal wins, I’m like a fan at a tennis match. Good job, Cal. But when I watch a Cal game with Daniel, I get into it because I see Daniel is into the game. There are shouts of “Go Cal!” and high fives and drinks spilling on the floor. It’s not a tennis match. It’s a party. Daniel’s love for Cal is contagious and by the end of a game, I have been transformed into a die hard Cal fan.
Speech is so important. What we say is critical. What comes out of our mouth is essential. Speech is like a thermometer measuring our internal spiritual temperature. If the words that comes out of our mouth are words of gossip, or slander, or bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, negativity – this is a sign of a cold heart and possibly a dead heart. Even if the right words are coming out–yeah Jesus, you are Lord, Jesus died for me, thank you, Jesus–but if it lacks passion and intensity and umph, could it be that our hearts have grown cold?
When you speak the truth of someone else’s sin and that is the dominant thing that comes out of our mouth when we are in the body of Christ, it will not promote corporate spiritual growth and maturity that Paul is talking about. Sin is part of the picture, but sin by itself is like a black hole. If you start focusing on your sin, you will be sucked into the darkness because there is no end to our sinfulness. Repent quickly and turn away from your sin and focus instead on Jesus.
We will grow up into the fullness of Christ, we will grow into a mature body of Christ when all the saints here are speaking the truth in love to one another. Speaking the name of Jesus. Telling one another why we are thankful for Jesus. Singing praises to Jesus aloud, passionately, so that others can hear it. Praise is contagious. Spend time with someone who is constantly praising Jesus and speaking the name of Jesus and you will do the same. When the church is speaking truth about Jesus, cold and dead hearts can be revived.
Let’s be a truthful church. Let’s be full of truth. Full of Jesus. Filled with the Spirit. Let’s speak about Jesus in love.