Our service tonight (2/16) has been canceled, however our pastor has pre-recorded a message on divine love that is available below. Services will resume on Sunday 2/19.
Our text tonight is from Ephesians 4:15-16. It reads:
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Let me read that again, this time in a little more modern English.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from 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.
There are three things I’d like you to understand after our study of the scriptures this evening. First: What God’s objective for His Church, or Bride, is in this hour. Second: How that objective is to be achieved. And finally, I want you to understand the role that divine love plays in all of this.
First: God’s objective for His people in the last day’s of human history is spiritual maturity. He wants her to be mature in thought, word, and action. Now, when you were born naturally, you were not mature. You were a cute baby that made nonsensical sounds and was fully dependent upon those around you to nurture you, care for you, provide for you, and do everything for you outside the basics necessary for life. All you had to do was lie there and look cute.
As you grew older, however, you realized that dynamics were changing. You began to have responsibilities. Then, all of a sudden you were a teenager and the demands on your schedule were more intense. School. A job. Clubs. Church. You had more to do and less time because the responsibilities increased as did your age. For some people, this is a difficult thing to grasp. But life waits for none of us.
As you grew, you realized that it wasn’t okay to do nothing anymore. You didn’t earn people’s approval for lying around, like you did when you were a baby. Now, unless you produced results, you got criticized. If you earned Ds in school, perhaps your parents or guardians came down hard on you. Why the change?
Because you were growing up and the expectation was that you were maturing in your mind and abilities as well as your body. In the natural world, results are what matter and so it is with God. As we near the coming of the Lord, the only thing that matters to Him is not our doctrine or our knowledge—which will always be imperfect this side of heaven. What matters is our maturity.
Not our ability to quote sermons. Our maturity. Not our ability to explain deep revelations. Our maturity.
What kind of maturity?
The maturity of our faith. The maturity displayed in our daily choices and reactions to unexpected scenarios. The maturity displayed in our level of surrender to Him. The maturity shown by our words and actions when situations we do not like are confronting us. The maturity in how seriously we treat His kingdom.
Let me give you a quick example. In the Bible, Jesse entrusted his sheep to the care of his youngest son, David who would have been about 14 or 15 years old. Those of you who were present on Sunday will no doubt recall me stating that 13 years old was often considered an age where boys should be independent as Abraham showed when he sent Ishmael away into the wilderness. I know this might seem shocking by modern standards, but keep in mind that the violent nature of life meant that everyone had to be prepared to do their part. So, David at 15 was perfectly equipped to responsibly care for his father’s sheep alone in territory inhabited by wolves, bears, and lions.
Now, notice how seriously this young man took his responsibility. When a bear and lion took his father’s sheep he went after them and killed both the bear and the lion. God respected his courage and commitment because this mature thinking showed that David was capable of being Shepherd over the entire nation. God ultimately made him a king.
At the end of the world’s history, God is judging our actions to see if we are fit to rule and reign as kings with Christ (see Revelation 20:4-6, 2 Tim. 2:12). For maturity in our character is what draws the eyes of the Almighty. We can and will spend more time on this when gathered together, but I want you to self-reflect on your life. Can God see you as being mature?
Remember, the age of babying is over. Many times we want to be cuddled when God expects us to “stand firm like men”. He will always be the strong arm we can depend upon but remember that God expects His strength to now flow into our bodies so we too can manifest the power of God.
This is the age of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. The Church, born on the day of Pentecost, has had 2,000 years to grow and become a Woman that pleases the Son of God. Your individual spiritual maturity will show whether you’re a part of that group that goes to marry the Lamb… or not.
One more example on this note before we move to our second objective for this message.
Moses was charged by God to deliver the people of Israel from bondage. As he stood by the Red Sea, wondering what to do, God rebuked the prophet because he should have been mature enough to think like God and move the sea out of the way. Truly, it seems to be an impossible thought—and I have no doubt many of us would have cried out to God as Moses did—but again, we are to “grow into the headship” or mindset/thinking of Christ. Moses had seen God’s creative power working through his body, did he not? He had seen God use his words to rain down plagues upon Egypt—all by the power of the spoken word. So what was the difference then between judging a rebellious nation and judging a rebellious sea?
Like the Red Sea, Pharoah had made the mistake of coming between God’s servant and his goal and look what had happened to him. Why should the sea also not be conquered?
But Moses, who had stood boldly up to a man forgot that the sea was also made by the Creator. And he panicked. That was immature.
I will tell you that Moses had more reason to panic than probably any of you listening to my voice today. His own people were going to stone him to death, but worse than that was the knowledge that he had failed, that these fathers, mothers, and children had trusted in him and he had led them all to their deaths. The promise that God had made to Abraham, the promise that 440 years of Israelite hearts had clung to was all going to die with him in a bloody slaughter as the Red sea ran with Jewish blood.
So, what’s your problem then?
Despite the terrible conditions, God rebuked His servant for not thinking maturely. And I wonder tonight that, after 2,000 and more years of Christ doing miracles, after a vindicated prophetic move of God in these last days, after decades of miracles and the Holy Ghost filling in your life that God has done, what excuse will you offer for giving up? For being discouraged? For panicking?
Rather, let us stop and consider our ways for we want to be found mature in our thoughts, words, and actions in the eyes of God. That is God’s objective.
Now, with that said, let us return to our text. How is maturity accomplished?
Simply put: Maturity in the Christian life happens as the Word of God is preached, and received, in the Spirit. As we stay in the atmosphere of the Spirit of God (which follows the preaching of the Word of course) we mature. This is a great time for me to remind this congregation that, after the sermon concludes, do not just jump up and leave the building like if you don’t want to be there or your weekly duty is done. Do not just leave the presence of God quickly as though you had somewhere more important to be or something more important to do.
Stay in His presence. Soak in the after-effects of His love. Meditate upon what has been said and give thanks to Him for what he has done.
Let me tell you that every sermon is a sacrifice, regardless of who the minister is. No matter how gifted he may be, he is literally giving up his life so that you can benefit. The strain on his body cannot be calculated. But he does it. Because he loves the Lord and His people. And once the sermon is over, and everyone goes home, he is then tested by the enemy and his mind often tormented over whether or not the people have understood, whether the Word was appropriately delivered and a thousand other thoughts. So do not rush out. The Truth, spoken in love, or in the Spirit, is what brings results.
My wife makes a wonderful bean soup. And I’ve noticed that the flavor of the soup is stronger when it’s had time to soak it into the beans. Really what’s happening is that the flavor of the soup is mixing with the beans. So is it with the Word of God. When we soak in what the Spirit has to say (the truth), when we stay in its atmosphere, then we begin to reflect the flavor of the Spirit.
Let’s go a little deeper into our final objective. What role does divine love play in all of this?
Paul has just finished establishing the importance of God’s ministering gifts to the congregation, what we commonly call the five-fold ministry. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are all listed. Permit me to emphasize yet again that prophets are not the only ones on the list. All five are required for God’s Bride to come to maturity. Indeed, I feel sorry for those who feel that one man could accomplish all of God’s work. But, while the ministers of God might disagree sharply on doctrine, they do have one focus: the maturity of God’s people. And Paul is explicit: maturity happens only through the power of divine love.
Again, I want to reference my sermon from last Sunday. We learned that love is a force, a power that transforms us into the image of its Creator which of course is God. Love, true love changes lives for the better. We see this in the natural. In our world, love is often expressed through physical touch. Psychologists and scientific researchers now know that infants deprived of touch often experience cognitive developmental delays, impaired immune systems, among other effects. When we hug or touch in a positive way, we encourage the flow of positive hormones that affect our health, mindset, and ultimately our life choices. This is true of adults as well as children and I encourage you to do more independent research on it.
Now, if the God who built our earthly bodies, linked physical expressions of affection to the development of our physical bodies, doesn’t it make sense that He would also make divine love a key force in building the spiritual body of Christ? If humans who are deprived of affection often experience sickness due to weakened immune systems, what can we expect from the spiritual body of Christ in a world that whose atmosphere is saturated with germs of hatred, malice, and selfishness? The church becomes sick because of a lack of divine love!
But not only does the church become sick. It remains immature. Divine love is the force that matures the Bride of Jesus Christ, taking us as individuals from immature, doubtful believers into strong confident sons and daughters that are able to face the pressure of this age exactly as our Lord did.
Let me explain.
The Bible says that we are to grow up in to the headship of Christ as we “speak the truth in love.” The Word of God is the truth according to Christ in the Gospel of John. When the truth is encased in the love of God the Word is wrapped up in the Spirit. For love is not simply a good feeling nor is it simply saying something in a kind way.
Believe me, it was love that made Paul blast Peter publicly. And that was not very kind by human standards. Yet, the truth wrapped up in the power of the Holy Spirit that day brought about a maturing of Peter’s thinking. He began to see things as God saw them. That the Jews and Gentiles could sit together around the table of God in fellowship, not as second class citizens but as fellow-heirs in Christ.
Now, that same principle is to be applied in your life. The truth of God’s Word, wrapped up in the power of the Holy Spirit, when spoken to you has a transforming effect upon your life. Your understanding of the situation changes. Your eyes are opened to see things as God sees them—BUT only if you are willing to let love have its intended effect.
Christ is the head of the Body as we read in Ephesians 4. He is God’s love incarnate. Therefore, if we are to “grow up” into him, we must all change into the image of divine love. Each day our life should be getting more love-like. Again, realize that this takes us into a place beyond human reasoning or human efforts to “be good people.” In an age of hatred, isolation and self-love, God is literally calling us to lay aside our thinking until it reflects Him who is our head. To lay aside our own attempts to be good until we are good, until we are love. This is a lifelong journey with daily growth required. And much of that growth comes down to our decisions on whether or not we will let divine love change us.
In James 1:4, the Bible brings out this point when speaking of patience:
“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
The same is true of love. If we desire to be mature, we must be transformed by that power of God’s love.
As I close, remember that maturity is the goal of God in this last hour. His Word is delivered in the power of the Spirit to bring that goal about. But you must remain in its atmosphere in order to reflect the very love of God. Finally, divine love is the power that transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ.
Growing up is hard. It’s comforting to be the baby and expect everyone to cater to you. But, in the real world, it’s not that way. Part of growing up is accepting the fact that you have responsibilities and that no one will just give you what you want. You have to earn it. It’s the same in God’s world. Growing up in Christ means you don’t expect him just to give you what you want in life or in your spiritual walk. You have to fight for it. You have to yield to him. You have to be changed by him. Until you become him.