My name is Jeremy. I’m one of the pastors here on staff at the Village at the Denton Campus. I oversee the student ministry, I oversee a few of the multi-generations home groups and I oversee our connections ministry. I’m glad to be here. Let’s turn to Ephesians 4 and start in verse 11. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 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, 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. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 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.”
Let’s pray. “Father, You are good, and we thank You for that. I thank You more than anything that You have gifted us and wired us in such a way that we’re able to build up the body. So I pray for each individual heart in here tonight. I pray that You would move, that You would work, that You would convict, that You would break, that You would build up and that You would encourage. And God, I just confess that in my inadequacy, I need You. So would You speak through me tonight? Would You speak in spite of me tonight? We love You, and we praise You. We love You, we praise You and we thank You for Jesus. We pray all these things in His powerful name. Amen.”
Beau Hughes, our campus pastor, when we first started talking about me standing up and speaking, said this, “If you get off the stage and the people don’t know any more about you when you leave than when you came on, I don’t consider that a win.” So because of that, I want you guys to know me. So I want to be open and real honest. I’ve heard that this a safe place, so I feel comfortable and safe saying this. I love dance flicks. I love all kinds of dance movies. This started in the 80’s with movies like Breakin’, and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Then there was Dirty Dancing and Footloose. My oldest son, Caden, was born when my wife went into labor during Step Up. I love Stomp the Yard and Step Up 2: The Streets. I am super excited about Step Up 3D. So one of my favorite shows is called America’s Best Dance Crew. It was like my guilty pleasure. The amazing thing about this is they would get these groups of dancers from all across America and AC Slater from Saved by the Bell or Mario Lopez (as he probably prefers) comes up as the MC. These people get up and dance, and it’s neat because they show the cut scenes of when they’re practicing and working on their choreography. These guys do some freakish things. They do popping, which is like the robot, only they’re too cool to call it the robot. They’re like bouncing on their arms and heads and on their rears and knees. They’re spinning and doing all kinds of crazy things. But here’s the deal. Everybody in the crew has his role. He has this thing that he’s supposed to do, he has this thing that he’s good at and during the process, they’re doing their own thing. And so they’re working together as a crew with this common goal. They’re not all doing the same thing, but to me it amazes me because I think it’s beautiful. So because of the way I’m wired and because of the way I think, I think it’s a beautiful picture of God’s church in that. If God can be seen in the creativity of man, I think America’s Best Dance Crew is a beautiful picture of what His church can and should be with every member functioning in their gifting, working together for the common good of the body, for the building up of the body.
So tonight that’s what we’re going to talk about, building up of the body and growing in maturity and what that looks like and why we so desperately need it. So let’s look back in Ephesians 4. I like Ephesians because Paul is writing this letter to the church at Ephesus and he talks about these spiritual blessings, an then he goes straight into the gospel.
He says, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins. And there was nothing you could do about that. You were dead. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, He gives His Son Jesus Christ to come and die on the cross for us. And we are made alive with Him. We are adopted into His family, and we are now sons and coheirs with Christ.” And then he moves into spiritual gifts and talks specifically about the church, the body as a whole. And then he moves to individuals in the church, to husbands and wives, to fathers and mothers and children, to slaves and masters. And again, there’s this lovely progression of the gospel. He goes, “In response to that gospel, in response to what God has done in your heart and life, here’s what it looks like to walk as a believer in Christ Jesus.” So he goes through and is talking about spiritual gifts and then in verse 11 he says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,. . .” I read a lot of commentaries leading up to this week, and here’s what some would say. Some would say that these are specific offices in the church, men who hold a leadership role. So they are either apostles or pastors or prophets or shepherds or teachers. These are specific offices in the church. And then you read some that would say that every spiritual gift can be encapsulated by these gifts. So regardless of what your gift is, it’s going to fall into one of these categories. So I’m not going to sit here and debate which one is right and which one is wrong, but I will say this. According to 1 Corinthians 12:7, everyone is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. So if you’re a believer in Christ, you have been gifted in a particular way. Some of you have been gifted in multiple ways, but each of you has been gifted in a particular way and for a particular purpose. So I see some of you looking around like, “I don’t know what my gift is.” We would love to talk with you about that. We would love to help you discover what your gift is and operate in that gift. Because we would say that you have been saved from something, but you have also been called to something.
So you have been gifted for a particular purpose. And Paul tells us what that purpose is in the next verse. “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,. . .” So you have been gifted to help equip the saints for the work of ministry. The the saints are believers in Christ. You’ve been gifted to help equip the saint for the ministry that the Lord has called them to in order to build up the body of Christ.
So when I became a pastor, the people from my home town were proud. Because in the church I grew up in, the pastor held a very high position. Like if he came over to your house for lunch or something like that, it was a big, big deal. Even last weekend when I went home, there was this, “Hey, we’re so proud of you for going and doing the Lord’s work.” I work at a church, and so I’m doing the Lord’s work. And I think that is a detrimental misunderstanding of the role of a pastor. There are some things in Scripture that would say that your ministers, your church leaders have been given a particular amount of authority, but you have all been called to ministry. If you are a believer in Christ, you have been called to ministry.
So let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 5, starting in verse 16. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled
to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” You have been called to a particular and a very important ministry. You have been called to herald and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Beau does a really good job of this, our staff does a really good job of this and I want to do a really good job of this. So let me tell you and encourage you that what you do matters. You have been placed in your job for a reason. Whether you are a vocational minister, whether you are a clerk at the QT, whether you are a teacher, whatever you do, it matters. You have been given a particular group of people, you have been surrounded by a particular
group of people on purpose, to be a minister of reconciliation to a lost and dying people. What you do matters. You have been placed in Denton, Lake Dallas, Corinth or wherever you are on purpose, to be a minister of reconciliation in your neighborhood, in your family, in your job. You have been called to ministry. So my question in response to everybody’s pride at me doing the Lord’s work is this. If you’re not doing the Lord’s work, what are you doing? Because you have been called to be a minister of reconciliation. You have been called to go forth and make disciples of all nations. You have been called to do the Lord’s work wherever you find yourself. It’s just not for the paid staff member to do. It’s for everyone.
Back to Ephesians 4. So we are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the work of building up the body of Christ “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,. . .” We do this work, we use these gifts that we’ve been given for the common good to equip the saints for the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ. So we need to be growing and we need to be maturing. I remember when I came on staff, I was a little bit intimidated because I saw most of the men that I worked with as so far ahead of me in pretty much every area of faith. So for me, I was like, “What’s the best way to catch up quickly?” So I went and got Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. It is 1,158 pages of text followed
by about 300 pages glossary and index. I read it for about three days and I got through about a page and a half. This is thick and it’s dense. So I went and got a copy of Wayne Grudem’s Bible Doctrine, which is Systematic Theology pared down from 1,158 pages to about 525 pages. So I started reading it, and it was a little bit easier. But after about a week, I was just going, “This is ridiculous.” So I went and bought Wayne Grudem’s Basic Christian Beliefs, which is Systematic Theology boiled down into 225 pages. It was a much easier read, and I read the whole thing. I was so proud of myself afterward. But here’s the thing. These men, who I saw as so far ahead of me in every area of faith, who used big words like justification, propitiation, soteriology, eschatology, Christology, numerology, these men who used these big words had a deep desire to understand the nature and character of God through the study of His Word.
I had a deep desire and longing to be able to get out of a theological discussion without sounding like a moron. And there is a difference. Scripture would tell us that knowledge puffs up and love builds up. So I don’t want to gain knowledge for the sake of having more knowledge. I want to gain knowledge and an understanding of the nature and character of God through the study of His Word in order that I might unpack the gospel in a more clear and effective way. So if I’ve been called to be a minister of reconciliation in my job and in my neighborhood, I’ve got to understand that not everybody has been in church their entire life like I was. Not everybody studies theology like I do. And so I need to be able to unpack the gospel in a clear and concise way. Now don’t get me wrong. The Holy Spirit does a lot more work than I do here, but I want to be able to unpack the gospel as clearly and articulately as possible. And so I want to learn and understand more the nature and character of God.
And then I need to grow in holiness, which means I am dragging out those dark things in my heart into the light, confessing them to the men who God says need to know me. And I grow in holiness. But in our immaturity, I think so many times we mess up, and then we run away from God in order to clean ourselves up and make ourselves acceptable. But the problem is, outside of the blood of Christ on the cross, there is no way that you will ever be acceptable. So you can clean all you want, you do all you want, you scrub all you want, but without Christ, you are unacceptable. But we have a misunderstanding and we think that God is not pleased with us now because we’ve done this thing, whatever this thing is. And so we run from Him. But if we were mature in our faith and we understood grace, then we would understand that the only way to kill that sin which so plagues us is to run to the foot of the cross, give it to Him and say, “Kill this thing in me.” We need to walk in open, honest community and do things like go through Recovery or solid biblical counseling and let someone work and walk with you. We need to stop trying to fight these battles alone. So if we’re going to grow in holiness, we’ve got to be serious about it and we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to do it. But more than anything, we need to understand that it is by grace that we have been saved through faith, and that faith was a gift of God. So that
same grace that covered before we knew Christ at all is the same grace that covers the sin that we’re in right now. And that’s what the mature believer understands. We don’t run away from God; we run to Him. We grow in a knowledge and understanding of Him, and we grow in holiness.
Why is it so important that we do those things? He tells us in verse 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.” We learn, we grow in a knowledge and understanding of the nature and character of God, we grow in holiness because we don’t want to remain children in our faith. Why? Because being a child is messy and it’s dangerous. My two-year-old, his mind is not complicated. He wants to get naked and he wants to blow stuff up. An example of this
was on Friday when I was cooking dinner for a couple that we know who just had a baby. So I give him two minutes of unsupervised time, and I go downstairs and I cook. It’s no sooner than I’m done chopping up onions when this blue bucket flies down the stairs and explodes all over the living room floor. It has fake money in there, real money, markers and a diaper in it. He then runs downstairs buck naked into the kitchen and he’s standing in front of me. And I know what’s going to happen. I go, “No, don’t do it.” He looks at me with this big grin on his face and then he pees all over the tile. If he sees a clean room, it’s like he has a blank canvas. He’s got something to work with and he’s an artist. He’ll grab a toy bin off the shelf and throw it all over the floor. And then he’ll look at us and you can tell that it’s just not quite good enough. And so he’ll go pull another one off the shelf and dump it out. But here’s the thing. He’s two-years-old. He has absolutely no idea where to start.
So his brother, who is four-years-old, likes to jump off our stairs. We have a set of seventeen stairs that lead up to our upper floor. And Caden will run down to the fifth stair and he’ll jump. And he’s pretty good. He can clear it and he sticks the landing. It’s pretty amazing. He’s like a cat; he always lands on his feet. But my two-year-old isn’t quite there yet. So he was jumping from the fourth step and clearing it. I guess he gained a little confidence because he stepped up to that fifth step and jumps, and he clips the bottom of the last step and lands directly on his face. He pops back up and looks at me so shocked and surprised that something like that could happen to him. He doesn’t understand that it’s dangerous for him to jump from the fifth step. But I’m like, “Why are you looking at me? I told you not to do that, and you did it anyway. That’s the consequence.” He doesn’t understand the concept of safety. Even today, he came to the 9:00 service, and as soon as we get out the front door, he takes off into the parking lot like nothing is going happen to him. Being a child is messy and dangerous. Scripture would say that our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. It is dangerous to remain a child in the faith, because we can easily be devoured. There are men who are crafty and cunning. There are thousand Matt Chandlers out there, men who are a charismatic speakers, who are dynamic, who have this ability to lead. But unlike Matt, the gospel many of them preach is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That was really driven home for me this weekend when my best friend’s father passed away this weekend. I went back for the funeral and got a chance to see some really close friends. We were sitting down at Famous Dave’s Barbecue in Abilene, and my friend starts talking about his church. I asked him where he went to church. He just gives me this funny look and goes, “Well, I go to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I’m a Mormon.” So immediately there are questions like, “Why?” He says, “Well, I like the idea of an eternal family. I like the idea of a common teaching across all the churches. I know that if I go to a Mormon church in Timbuktu, Wyoming, it’s going to be the exact same teaching that I get in McAllen, Texas. And they’ve got some sound moral principles.” So here’s why it’s dangerous to remain a child
in the faith. He’s got his family and the need to be with his family elevated to this place that it should never be. He’s got this idea that if there are any questions about doctrine. If there is anything in another church that we might disagree with, that’s a deal-breaker for him. He wants everything to be the same. There is no room for debate in his mind. He wants to know that if he does the right things for long enough, then everything is going to work out for him. He has a misunderstanding of the Scriptures and the promises of God, and he found a religion that would fit that for him. At this moment, one of my very best friends is being devoured because of human craftiness and cunning. And we don’t even
have to go there. Right now, in our church, there are fledgling marriages, there are well-established marriages, there are people who are absolutely being devoured.
So I want to take a minute and plead with you here. A couple of months ago, I came and spoke about the idea of community, about knowing and being known and about hounding an old man like Lan Levell until he relents and says he’ll disciple you. And I think we’re really hard on our young men and women here, telling them to pursue those relationships. So I want to come at this from the other side and say that if you are older and mature in your faith, if you are known and are walking in these things that we are trying to get people growing into, we need you to come along side the weaker brother and sister. We need you to be discipling, to be teaching, to be correcting, sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently. Romans 15 would say that we who are stronger in our faith have a responsibility to bear with the failings of the weak, not pleasing ourselves but like Christ, we please others and walk with others. So I know that some of you would say, “Hey, I don’t have the bandwidth to do this. I don’t have the time or energy to do this.” And maybe you don’t, but this is too important to pass off to someone else. So if you assume that I’m doing it and I assume that you’re doing it, it’s probably not getting done at all. We have all been called to be ministers of reconciliation. We have all been called to go forth and make disciples. We need men and women who are mature in their faith to come along side those who are not mature. We need you.
Let’s keep reading. Verse 15. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,. . .” We function and operate this way, we use our gifts for the common good and the building up of the body, we grow into maturity, we understand the nature and character of God, we’re growing in holiness, we’re walking with less mature believers, we are being walked with more mature believers and we speak the truth in love. We go back to the Scriptures, to what God has revealed to us through His Word that has no error, and we point people back to Christ. Some of you may have heard that the Word is like a scalpel. It can be used to heal or it can be used to wound. Scripture would actually say that the Word of God is living and active, it’s sharper than any two-edged sword and it can pierce to the division of soul and spirit.
There is a guy named John Henderson who came here a while back and taught. I was really frustrated. He’s a counselor for the Center of Christian Counseling, and when he came and taught, they didn’t give him a whiteboard, which frustrated me. Because this dude is wicked with a white board. If you give him a marker and a white board, he can do some serious damage. I would remember sitting and talking to him. He would ask me a question and I would talk for like five minutes. He would just sit and listen with his marker in his hand. So he would then draw on the white board and in a moment, absolutely blow me up with what he wrote on his white board. So in that moment, when he’s done doing his work on the white board, it does not feel like healing to me, it does not feel like life to me. In fact, it feels like just the opposite. It felt like pain and hurt. But here’s what he did. He makes this wound and then he takes Scripture and
he starts pouring it into that incision. He pours in Scripture after Scripture, truth after truth. And here’s what happens. I leave that place encouraged. I leave with a better understanding of the sinfulness and wickedness in my heart and a better understanding of what it looks like to pursue a Holy God. So I didn’t necessarily like what happened on the front end, but I absolutely needed the truth that I got on the back end. And so we walk with men and women, we speak the truth in love because it is absolutely not loving to let someone continue to walk in a way they don’t need to be walking. It would not be loving for me to allow my child to run out into the street. That’s not the most loving thing for me to do. It’s not loving to avoid speaking the truth because you don’t want to have an awkward conversation, because you don’t want to be offensive or because you want people to like you. But speaking the truth in love doesn’t mean you say things that are real nice all the time. It means that you speak truth and then you pour Scripture over that wound, you pour truth into that wound and then you beg Christ for healing. So we speak the truth in love.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 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.” Sketchers just came out with these new shoes. They’re called the “Shape Ups.” They are hideous, ugly shoes. It’s a tennis shoe with a three inch prosthetic build up that is rounded off on the edges. But people love these things. They are supposed to support your foot in such a way that it helps align the joints in your ankles, knees, hips and back. And because it supports in that way, the body is able to function in such a way that it builds up the muscles around those joints, alleviating pain. Here’s the thing. There are going to be moments when you have the opportunity to be this ugly shoe that supports the body of Christ in such a way that people are able to function the way they need to function. You are supporting the joints, so we are able to grow, to gain strength. We are able to grow stronger because you were doing what you were called to do. And there are going to be moments when you’re the one throwing everything out of whack and causing pain. And you need someone to come along and support you, to speak truth to you so that you’re able to function the way you were created to, the way you have been called to, the way were gifted to. If we’re doing these things, we’re able to see the body grow this beautiful way where everybody is moving and working in the same direction and the same goal of growing in the fullness of Christ, where we want more than anything to see lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and to grow into everything that God has called them to be. And the amazing thing is that He allows us to be a part of it and He uses us directly to accomplish it. Broken vessels like us build up the body, we edify His bride, and that is amazing.
Let’s pray. “Father, You are good, and we thank You for that. I thank You for faithful men and women who are operating in their gifts and who, with everything they have, are trying to build up and edify Your bride so they may mature and grow into the fullness of everything You’ve called them to. I pray specifically for the men and women who struggle with that, who don’t know what it looks like, who don’t know how to get there. Help, Father. We need You. So we thank You for Christ. Thank You for His sacrifice. We thank You that, in this moment, we can celebrate that it’s not our perfection, that it’s not our righteousness that gains us right standing, but it’s the blood of Christ. So as we incline our hearts to You, as we raise our voices to You, may we remember how big You are and how small we are and how amazing it is that You would use us to accomplish Your will and Your purposes. Help us. We need You. We love You. We want to love You more. I pray these things in the strong name of Christ. Amen.”