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How Do I... Embrace My Calling? [Ephesians 4]

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03.10.2024 notes copy
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A long time ago there was a really famous evangelist and speaker named Dwight L Moody, who worked mostly in the Chicago area. And there’s a story about one time when he visited a prominent Chicago citizen, and Moody lived a really long time ago. So he’s let into the house, and he comes into the guest room where there’s a nice fire in the fireplace, and he sits down. And as the two men were talking the prominent citizen said, “I believe I can be just as good a Christian outside the church as I can be inside it.” And legend has it that Moody said nothing. Instead, he moved over to the fireplace, blazing against the winter cold outside, took the little fire tongs and removed one burning coal, and placed it on the hearth, next to the fire. The two men sat together and watched the ember die out. And finally the man said, “I see.” 

Today we are continuing our study in the book of Ephesians. If you’ve been following along, you already know - Ephesians is a book in the Bible that is all about purpose and identity. It teaches us to embrace who God is calling us to be. We’re up to chapter four, and Paul has some more good news for us today. Let’s dive in. 

Verse 1 starts out, [read v.1]. If you were here last week, I hope you heard that message. If you are a Christian, if you believe in Jesus - God has placed a calling on your life to share his grace and love. But he keeps going, [read v.2-3]. Humble. Gentle. Patient. These are the things we ned to do, this is what we need to be. But I want to show you something. It says, “make allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Humble. Gentle. Patient - this actually reminds me of another verse. 1 Corinthians chapter 13, if you're not familiar that’s the wedding passage. Most weddings use that text - “love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast. It keeps no record of wrong.” It's an incredible verse, and it's used in weddings for good reason. Not only are they beautiful words, but think about a wedding. When a couple is getting married, why do I need to remind them that love is patient? Those of you who are married might be chuckling a little bit because you know the answer. We need love to be patient, because sometimes YOU are not. Love is kind, and humble - because sometimes your spouse is not! And I don't want to limit it to just weddings and spouses. You ever have a friend that drives you crazy? You ever have a co-worker or a brother or sister or child who tests your patience? Yes you have, don't lie to me - I'm a pastor! Love is what draws us together in a world that is designed to pull us apart. They want to pit us against each other, but pointing out the faults. The bible does not say, “hey the church is going to be this perfect community where nobody ever makes any mistakes and everyone always gets along perfectly.” No, it says, “make allowance for one another’s faults because of your love.” Hear verse three again, [read it]. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, bind together with peace. Hear the rest of it, [read v.4-6]. One. One. One. One. One. Basically, what I’m trying to get at this week is that God has set you up in a family in the church. We are, all of us together, brothers and sisters in Christ. And I don't say that with a rosy view. We’re not the hallmark card family, right? We’re the real picture.

[see pictures: hallmark VS real].

Sometimes in the family of God we get in arguments. Sometimes we have to say I'm sorry, sometimes we forgive. Sometimes we laugh together, we cry together but that's what this place is. Broken, imperfect people gathering because of our shared love of a perfect God. Christianity is a team sport. You can’t Christian all by yourself.  Pastor Bryan who was here a few years ago, coined the phrase, “life is better in a circle.”

Not in a straight line where we all face the same way, but in circles - where we are bound together. In order to help you embrace your calling, God has set you up in a family. 

And you see this all over in the church! Think about the baptism we just had. Some of those questions were for Sara and I. Will we raise this child to grow up and know Jesus - and you know we will. But also there are questions for you! Will you as a congregation, will you love her and support her, even from afar? Because as Christians, we are brothers and sisters united by our love of Jesus, no matter where we live - that’s a call to be family. I think about the Pray For Me campaign that we are launching in a few weeks. The children of our church are asking us to pray for them. There's like 50 of them on the list. And it’s teenagers all the way down to littles. And this one is a little more individual - we don’t meet in a group or anything, but there’s this book, and it guides you through how to pray for the kid each day. I can’t think of anything more beautiful than the younger generation saying, “will you pray for me?” And the older generation turning around and saying, “yes, I will pour into you. I will invest in you. I will support you with love and prayer. Because I care about you because God has put us together in this family.;” I mean, that’s amazing. God has set you in a family to help you embrace your calling.

Paul keeps going in verse 7, [read it]. Now we jump down to verse 11 to get these gifts, [read v.11-12]. So you got your leadership - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, etc. But let me read you verse 12 again a little slower, [read v.12].  This is so key - the leadership is not to do, but to help YOU do. Literally, the biblical model of a leader is that we are ONLY supposed to be middle men. We are like coaches. Do you know this? Okay, I’m a Lion’s fan. I grew up kind of making fun of them, but then 6-7 years ago I got really into watching the Lions. I'm all about the Red Wings and the Lions. But did you know, this past season we had one of the best seasons Detroit has had in decades. It was amazing, the whole country was supporting the underdog story of Detroit in the playoffs. And our Coach’s name is Dan Campbell. Dan Campbell took over coaching a few years ago, and it's been a hard climb but he's a fantastic leader, and he put in the work, and the team got better and better. In 2023 Dan Campbell was named coach of the year for his work with the Lions. Amazing, but here’s the crazy part - and I had to look this up to be sure, but this is absolutely true. Dan Campbell did not score a single touchdown in the NFL. He won coach of the year! And he put NO points on the board. Do you see it? Leadership is important, and Aldersgate church has great leadership - but it's YOU guys who build the church. When I announced my transition from the church I had two responses that really touched my heart. First, I had a friend come up and say, “your job was to connect us to this church. This season brought us to this church family” and then there was another friend who said, “I was mad because you were leaving and I. just got here to the church, but I kept coming - and I found there was a lot more to come for.” People find Jesus in this place, through the way you guys love each other. I’m just lighter fluid on the spark that you created. Some folks come for the fancy preacher, sure. -  but they can get that on YouTube anyday. People come for a lot of reasons, but they stay when they see God's people, acting like the body of Christ - loving each other, and building his church.

This is going to seem random, but I promise I have a point. Do you guys know why we only have communion once a month? Not the retired pastors, I know you know. When the Methodist church was getting started - it was called the Methodist Episcopal Church back in those days. And they didn't have enough preachers, and the country was expanding westward really rapidly. So they had something called circuit riders, which were cowboy pastors who rode from town to town performing baptisms, weddings, funerals - and communion. And since he had a lot of towns to go to on his circuit, he could only get to town about once a month. So that created the tradition, and in the modern world we just sort of kept the rhythm going. Now here's the important part - when the official pastor could only be in town once a month, the rest of the people in the church had to step up. The Methodist church experienced their highest levels of growth and expansion when the preacher was barely around. It is when we professionalized the ministry, and we said - this pastor stays in this church all the time and it’s his full time job. It’s when we started doing that - it’s almost an exact match on, “this is when the church started to decline.” Because active Christians who live out their faith started to see themselves as spectators. The Pastor will do all that stuff, I'm just going to watch. And that’s when the church started to decline. But Paul says, “No!” That’s not it. God has given you gifts!  God has equipped you! The leadership’s job is not to score the touchdowns, leaderships job is to equip YOU to do every good work. Now that doesn't mean that Pastors get to do nothing - we’re going to work right alongside you, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that we pastors need a little help! It’s the moment when Christians started to view themselves as spectators instead of co-workers in the family business that the church started to decline. God has set you up in a family, and he has given you so many gifts to be equipped to do his work in the world. 

And here’s where this becomes super important. We’re getting equipped by our leadership, and then in the next verse, [read v.13-14]. What Paul is describing is what people get when we try to “Christian” alone. Maturity and unity. Means we won't be tossed around by every wind of new teaching. People who are out there trying to do it all by themselves. - they get fear tactics, they get conspiracy theories, they get people who sound brilliant, but they’re actually just fast talking con men with a few clever phrases. The community we get in the church is a safe guard against bad teachings.  If you’re reading your bible and you’re coming up with teachings that are twisted or warped or just plain wrong - you need a brother or sister who will come alongside you and guide you back on the right path. We’re not meant to walk this faith journey alone. And that’s kind of what Paul shifts to in the last section.

The last section of the reading starts in verse 17, and it basically goes like this. 1.) Here’s the old self, who you used to be. 2.) Here's the new self, the way Jesus teaches and then 3.) How to get from one to two. Verse 17, [read v.17-19]. That’s old self. We all come in with baggage and bad decisions. Verse 20, [read. v.20-24]. So that's the project - there’s the old self, the way you used to be. And then there’s the new self, the way Jesus teaches us to be. And here’s the key teaching that I want you to grab this morning - the way you get from A to B is the support of the church. God has surrounded you with the support of your church family. He gets very practical [read v.25-29]. I love the simplicity If you’re a thief, stop that! Don’t lie to each other - we need to tell the truth, because we're all part of one family. Don’t use foul and abusive language. Use your words to support and encourage one another.  Verse 31, the chapter finishes up, [read v.31-32]. Now there's two sides to that. On the one hand, you need to support other people. Speak words of kindness and support into one another's lives. If this church continues to build one another up, always encouraging one another - God will do amazing things in this place. On the other hand, you should receive support! Look to the people around you to challenge you and push you and hold you up when you’re feeling weak.

Let me give you an honest word on this. If you’ve been coming to this church for three months, but you’re just a spectator. You don’t know anybody else’s name, you haven’t made any friends - you are missing what church can be. I know it's hard introverts, but we need to get into one another’s lives. To challenge and comfort one another. And I'll tell you this - the old guard does this well. The people who have been in this church for a long time - they know each other. And I’ll tell you, I see it all the time on the prayer chain. Someone will submit a prayer request - “prayers for my back pain, it’s really bothering me and I need relief” and then there will be three other cards, “prayers for so and so’s back, I want to lift them up to God for what they’re going through.” Or maybe it’s something at work, “prayers for my job hunt, I've got an interview coming up” and then like 2 others will already have cards in, “prayers for an upcoming interview for my friend” And as a pastor, I sit there and think, "I bet I know who you’re talking bout.” It's amazing, the prayer cards are really a beautiful thing - it's like a little peak into how well you all are loving and praying for one another. And that’s so great for those who know each other. But I want to challenge you - there’s a lot of new faces in here too. People who have just started coming in the last year or so, 2 years.. 3 years.  We don’t want to be a church of cliques, new people and old friends - we want to ALL be supporting and loving and praying for one another. Because that’s what Jesus taught us, and that’s what Paul is teaching us. 

You see, the good news this morning is that God has given you the church to help you embrace your call. The people sitting next to you are a gift from God to help you grow. And I see brothers and sisters nudging one another, and husbands and wives sitting next one another grimacing, “Ugh, them?” Yes - them. In this church, we are from all different backgrounds, different histories, different economics, different politics - but we are here because we all love Jesus. And the unity that comes from loving Jesus - means that this is who God has given us to work with, to work alongside, in order to follow Jesus. 

And so if that is the good news - that God has given you the church to help you embrace your call as a follower of Jesus, then I have three challenges for you this morning. Number 1 - don't try to “Christian” alone. Find a walking buddy on your faith journey. I think about Moody and the coal he pulled out of the fire. You might have all the right beliefs up in your head, but if you’re out there in the world, trying to Christian alone - you’re a lump of coal that will grow cold. Think about it like this. This pencil is pretty easy to break. [hold up a pencil and snap it in half]. Even if I have two of them, I bet I could do it [snap two of them]. But if I take a whole pile of pencils and bundle them together. [try to break them, put it on your knee, slam it on the corner of the table]. My first challenge to you - find a walking buddy on your faith journey. Maybe that means you join a life Group, maybe that means you grab a couple of new friends and make an accountability group. Maybe it means you take the people you are already in a study with, and you open up a little more about who you are. Let people into your life. Don’t try to Christian alone, [hold up the pencils] get into a bundle. 

My second challenge to you this morning - let your pastor EQUIP you, not entertain you. We remember - leadership in the church is about equipping. We are the middle men, we are the coach on the sidelines - you guys are the ones who are going to go out there and score goals for the kingdom of God (or whatever). I want you to look at Sunday morning like boot camp or training - not a performance for you to enjoy. I used to ask my boys, “did you have fun in Sunday school?” Or “hey, did you like Sunday school?” (And of course you want your kids to have fun and you want them to like learning about God, of course). But I realized a few months back - that's the wrong question! And so I switched it, and I started asking. - okay, what did you learn? And sometimes I get a nice clear answer, and sometimes it gets a little confused but now they know, they're supposed to be learning something. And after a few weeks of me asking, “what did you learn?” I noticed they got better at explaining it. They’re paying attention differently when they realized - oh it's not just nursery, there’s something of value to learn here. This service that we do here? It's not just nursery for adults - we’re not trying to entertain you, we’re trying to equip you. 

So, 1 - Don’t try to Christian alone, 2 - let your pastor EQUIP you, not entertain you. And third and finally - support one another! And that cuts both ways. Sometimes in life we feel like we are falling apart, and we need the people around us to hold us together. If you are falling apart - that’s okay! Tacos fall apart all the time, and we still love them. Let the community of God hold you together when you are falling apart. And on the same page, when someone near you is falling apart - help hold them together. I’ve had people who are going through a really hard time, and they’ll say, "I'm not used to being the one people are caring for. I'm used to caring for other people.” And usually I give them a hug and say the same thing I say to my toddlers about their toys, “you need to share.” Love the people around you when you can, and let the people around you love on you when you can’t.  God has given you the church to help you embrace your call - so find your faith journey walking buddy, look to leadership for equipping not entertainment, and support one another. Simple, right?

I think about Dwight Moody and the lump of coal he pulled out of the fire and watched fade to nothing. We really do need one another. It reminds me of this old peanuts cartoon from Charles Shultz where Lucy demands that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn't. "What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus. "These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they're nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.” "Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can't you guys get organized like that?”

No church is perfect, because every church is made up of people -  and no people are perfect. But God has given us a gift in the people next to us, and that is how we embrace our calling. Let’s pray.


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