Growth in the Body of Christ

November 7, 2021 ()

Bible Text: Ephesians 4:1-16 |

Growth in the Body of Christ | Ephesians 4:7-16
Brad O’Dell | November 7, 2021

If you guys don’t know me, I’m Brad; I’m one of the pastors here on staff. My name is not Brian, who is usually up here, but it’s very close, so it’s a good transition.

I want you to turn to Ephesians 4. Ephesians 4 is where we’re going to be this week.

We’ve been in a sermon series on the upper room discourse for a while now; we’re going to continue that, but with Brian out for vacation this week, he asked me to just do a standalone that’s near and dear to my heart, and as the pastor for discipleship and small groups I wanted to bring one of those passages that has really fueled my heart for these smaller gatherings of the body and these more intimate spaces where the body gets to gather together, and how that can really generate a lot of powerful spiritual growth in our individual lives, but also spiritual growth collectively as a church. So we’re going to be talking about that today.

While you turn to that Scripture passage, Ephesians 4, I want to start with this analogy. I figure this is my first time on a Sunday morning with the microphone, so I’m going to start by talking about something I’m really passionate about that the rest of you guys probably aren’t passionate about at all, and that’s the Kansas City Chiefs. They have been one of the most high-powered football teams in the league for the last five years or so. One of the most creative and dynamic quarterbacks who ever played the game is on their team, Patch Mahomes. Some of the top receivers in the leagues are setting records constantly, season after season. It’s been so much fun to watch the Kansas City Chiefs, and it’s been rare, because I grew up a Chiefs fan my whole life (I grew up in Kansas City), and they were not a good team for almost my entire life. They kind of would have some seasons where, “Okay, this might be an okay one,” and they would always let us down, my entire life growing up.

The last five years it’s been a lot of fun to watch the Kansas City Chiefs play. However, this year it has not been as much fun to watch the Kansas City Chiefs play. I don’t know if you guys keep up with football, but the chiefs have really been struggling this year, and they have all these weapons on offense. They’re really unique weapons. People are kind of talking about how a lot of these guys are almost the future of football; this is the way they’re speaking about a lot of the guys on their offense. They put up a lot of points a game, but this year it’s kind of interesting; they really aren’t putting up the points that they’ve traditionally put up in the last five years or so, even though they have all the same offensive weapons still on hand.

It’s kind of interesting, and people are trying to say, “What’s wrong with the Chiefs this year? They seem to be really sluggish.” Because I sit in an armchair and I have all the analysis, my analysis for you is actually something about the relation of how team dynamics work. That’s what I want to focus on: how team dynamics work.

You see, with the Chiefs, their defense this year is just atrocious. I mean, it is difficult to watch their defense. It’s like watching a bunch of high schoolers out there running into each other, losing coverages. If they can mess something up, they’re going to mess it up. It’s disheartening.

You see that when the offense goes back on the field—you wouldn’t think, okay, the defense doesn’t perform as well; it shouldn’t affect the offense, should it? If you play sports very much, you know that that’s just not the case. The dynamics of how the team is doing as a whole affect how the individual parts of the team work. Because the defense is so poorly performing, the offense has gone out and they aren’t playing well. I think they’re a little more stressed, they can’t find their rhythm. The connections that they’re used to making and being in a rhythm where they can find each other is not working anymore. Everything’s just kind of off.

There’s a dynamic that I just wanted to point out when it comes to team sports like that. When some members of the team, or a faction of the team, isn’t really performing the way they ought to, it ends up affecting the whole team.

There’s a principle there. It’s not a directly applied principle. It can be problematic if we say that. But there’s a principle that transmits into church life, that every single one of us was put into this body for a reason by Jesus. We all have a part to play for the team of this church to be strong. When all of us bring what God has given us to the body, to these gatherings, to these spaces, then the whole group thrives and we experience a lot of spiritual growth. But when that’s not happening, and there are members who aren’t bringing what God has given them to the body, then the rest of the team suffers and there isn’t the dynamism that it could have.

I think we see the reality of that in this text, so I want to just spend some time here. I’m going to read Ephesians 4:1-16, but I’m really just going to focus in the sermon on verses 7-16. But I wanted us to get the full context. So I’ll start reading in Ephesians 4:1. Paul says,

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,

“‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.’

“(In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)”

All of that was just kind of saying this prophecy from the Psalms was fulfilled by Jesus. He goes on 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.”

There’s a lot in this passage; we’re not going to pull all of it out, not by any stretch today; but I want to just focus on the primary theme of the passage, and that is the theme of growth. I think that’s really what Paul is trying to bring into mind, especially in verses 7-16, is the idea of growth in the church. I want to focus on three things related to this growth that he’s talking about. Today I’m going to focus on:

1. The Call to Growth
2. The Source of Growth
3. The Means of Growth

I think this really picks up on the major points that he’s trying to bring home here.

1. The Call to Growth

Let’s start with the call to growth. I think we see this in verse 12 there, where he’s talking about the leaders of the church in verse 11—the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, the teachers—I’m not going to get into that too much, I’m just going to sum it up with the leaders of the church. He says this in verse 12: “They are to equip the saints for the work of ministry,” and then there’s a purpose clause here. There’s a reason that they’re doing this, and it is “for building up the body of Christ.”

Now, some of your translations might not translate that as a purpose clause. It might say something like, “. . . to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, building up the body of Christ.” Now, I don’t think that’s actually the best translation. I think what the ESV does here is appropriate when it puts a purpose to it. There’s a purpose for what these leaders are equipping the saints for; it’s that the body of Christ might be built up.

I think that’s because this is consistent with what Paul is doing in this whole section of Scripture. Between chapters three and four Paul makes this turn. In the first three chapters he’s preached the gospel and has reminded the Ephesians who they are in Christ. “This is who you are in Christ because of what Christ has done for you in the gospel,” and then he makes a shift here in chapter 4 and he says, “So, because of who you are, I therefore, this prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” That is, walk in the fullness or start growing up into the fullness of who you are in Christ, and walk this out faithfully. It’s consistent with this theme he has.

We see it kind of straight out in verse 15. He says, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” We are to grow up in every way into Christ. It’s stated right there. The verses after this are going to talk about the nature of growth.

Do you see why I said growth is kind of the main thrust of this passage and why I wanted to bring this to us? The first thing we see is just the call to grow up into the fullness of who we are in Christ.

I think if we’ve been in the church long we kind of understand this as individuals, don’t we? We understand this as individual Christians, the theological language. We know that we were justified, we know that we were saved by Jesus, that we were made new, that our identity was changed and we are put in Christ; and then there’s this path of sanctification, and the path of sanctification is this path of growth, growing up into the fullness of what has been accomplished for us at our salvation and is being accomplished more and more, until the day of our glorification. The state of glorification is that day where we are fully in Christ, our identity in Christ is fully come to bear, and we stand before Jesus complete and pure and whole in him.

Those are kind of the theological categories. If you’ve been around in the church long, you understand this path of sanctification that we are on in this life until we see Jesus face to face and we are whole in him.

But the big focus of Paul in this passage is he’s talking to the church as a gathered entity. He’s talking to the church in general. I think we need to recognize that as the church—right, all of us here today, Redeemer Church—there’s a pattern of growth or a path of growth that we are called to. I don’t think we really consider that much, that all together there’s a growth path we’re on, and what is it we’re growing into?

I think the fullest and most profound statement of it is at the end of verse 13. It says we are to grow up “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” That’s just a breathtaking statement, when you consider it. The fullness of who Jesus is? That’s what you’re promising us that we can begin to grow up into as a gathered body of believers?

He says it like this in verse 15. He says we are to grow up “in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” I think it’s an astounding statement, and it’s one of those things that just blows our minds. We see the principle that when we consider, “What does this look like?” I think we just have to recognize it just means all of us as a church, we actually just become more like Jesus together; that as we’re gathered and as we are on this path of growth, which we’re going to talk about here in a second, we actually become more like Jesus.

What does that look like? That means that as a church in our community, in the areas that God gives us all to engage, we begin to love people the way Jesus loved people when he walked this earth, and we begin serving people in a really profound way, the way Jesus would serve people when he walked this earth. It means that we have this knowledge and understanding of the Father that is sure and sweet, to where, when we are just drained of all of our energy we can go spend time with the Father and all of a sudden we’re full again and we can go and give more and see lives changed. We have a joy in the Father that remains and is sure, no matter what this world brings against us, the way Jesus had it.

We see this discernment that Jesus had, right, where he knew who he was talking to, he could discern where they were coming from, and he knew specifically how to bring God’s truth to bear on their lives to have its right effect. As a church we begin to see that we can grow up into exercising this. There’s a boldness in our faith. Even whenever things are said against us, there’s a boldness and a firm foundation in what we believe, and it testifies to the goodness and the glory of God.

Ultimately, as a church it just means that we bring the kingdom to bear on our community, with all of its wonderful effects, in the way Jesus did when he was here preaching the message of the kingdom.

It’s an astounding truth, but that’s the promise put before us, this call to grow as a church into the fullness of who we are in Christ.

2. The Source of Growth

Let’s go on with that. What’s the source of that growth? This is important. That sounds like a really great thing, but where does it come from? How does this work?

I think we get the answer for what the source of growth is in verse 16. It starts with this phrase; it says, “From whom . . .” Now, it goes on to talk about the growth and how it happens, but it starts with saying, “From whom,” and you see who it’s from right there at the end of verse 15; it’s Christ. We get this simple principle that growth comes from Jesus himself. He is the one who is pouring in this growth principle, this life, and this vitality into our midst day after day as the body of Christ.

You see it even up in verse 7 when it says that these gifts were given to the church “according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” It’s Christ at work doing a work in our midst to provide this growth that will lead us to become more like him and experience the life and joy that is his, that true eternal life that he gives us.

The reality is that the life of Christ and the joy of Christ and the power of Christ is not just something to be had in eternity, when we stand before him face to face, but it’s something we can start living in the here and now. It’s something that we can bring to bear in our communities in the here and now, progressively, as we grow up into our identity in Christ together.

We see the idea that the source of growth is Jesus. I think that’s important, because we can tend to see Jesus sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Father almost as passive, removed, disengaged a little bit. He’s kind of looking down on us, hoping we kind of start to figure it out and start to do what we’re supposed to do, and maybe when we figure things out then he’s going to come and bless our efforts. But that’s not the way it works.

We see here something of a deep relational intimacy that is promised to us through the gospel. You see, when Jesus died on the cross and he paid for our sins and he reconciled us to God and he gave us his life, he didn’t just do it so that in the future it would be okay with God, he did it because he wanted to establish this day by day intimacy of relationship where he’s walking alongside us, pouring into us, giving us what we need to grow up into the fullness of the life that he has promised us. It’s a beautiful truth. Jesus is living and he’s active and he’s intricately involved every single time we come together as a body of Christ.

What does that mean? It means that what we’re doing here is not trivial, it’s not trite. It’s something supernatural and profound, where Jesus is working in our midst, pouring this growth principle into us for our good.

When I was dwelling on this passage this week I just was struck by the wonder of the idea of Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father with all authority. I don’t know if you guys know, but in Scripture when it talks about the right hand in Hebrew, the right hand was the hand of authority or power. So when Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father, it’s the place of power or authority—Jesus, in whom all authority rests, given to him by the Father.

You see this humble grace and love, where he would come and he would just gently, slowly, patiently work in and through us; he’d come alongside us and our faltering efforts, as we take two steps forward and three steps back, often, and he would just slowly, patiently, understandingly walk alongside us and continue to pour into us that which we need to experience, the life and joy that is found in him, and to then be able to bring that to the communities around us that he’s given us to impact. I hope you see the beauty of Jesus in that, in the relational intimacy.

Jesus said, right before he went back into heaven, at the Great Commission, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and earth,” and at the end he says, “And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I pray we remember that every time we gather together: Jesus is here with us, pouring into us, lovingly giving us everything we need.

3. The Means of Growth

That brings me to the third point, and that’s the means of growth. You see this in verse 16 as well. Verse 16 reads, “. . . 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.” You see, Paul loves all these sentences with lots of clauses that interact with one another, and I kind of like that too, actually. But let me boil this sentence down to its most basic parts: the body makes the body grow. That’s the sentence in its reduced form: the body makes the body grow. Everything between those two statements is explaining how it happens, but that’s the basic sentence: the body makes the body grow.

That’s an interesting thing, right? We just heard that the source of growth is Jesus, and that’s where growth comes from; and here it says the body makes the body grow. In the ESV it actually translates the latter end of the verse to be consistent, so that “the body builds itself up in love.”

How does that work? What’s going on there? The body is what makes the growth happen. All of us here together, we are the ones who make the growth happen, but we know that the growth comes from Jesus. I think those clauses between those statements actually explain it.

It says, “The whole body is joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped.” That’s important. “Every joint with which it is equipped.” We see that Jesus has been sovereignly at work to put each and every one of us into the body. We’re the joints, we’re the parts of the body. This body has been equipped. That’s the first principle. It’s not an accident that any of you here today are here. It’s not an accident or it’s not something insignificant that Jesus has put you in this place at this time. He’s put you here for a purpose, he’s put you here because he has something that he is giving you to give to this body in this path of growth that we are seeking to pursue. “Every joint with which it is equipped.”

Then it says this: When each part is working properly, then the body makes the body grow. What’s Paul have in mind there? I think he’s given us the answer—just to explain it quickly without having to go through everything to explain—I think he’s given us the answer back in verse 7. This is kind of the verse that launched into this focus on growth that he’s talking about.

He says, “Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high, he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’”

It’s an interesting quote from the Psalms. “He led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” What’s in view there is this conqueror, this king who has come and he has won victory in battle. So all the spoils of war are his, and with all the spoils of war the king has a couple options, right? He can just enrich himself and enjoy that, or he can distribute out the spoils of war to people so that they can enjoy the riches that come from his victory. That’s the view we have, is that Jesus in his death and resurrection gained authority and victory over Satan and his demons, and as the one who now sits at the right hand of the Father, with all authority he distributes out the gifts that are his to bestow for our good. What is it? They’re gifts that accord with his very nature. They’re gifts that accord with who he is, and he starts to put those into us and gift those to us.

Then when we take that idea of spiritual gifts that Jesus has given us all to use regularly, as we gather together, it says as each part is working properly, as they are using those spiritual gifts regularly, when every joint in the body is doing that, then the body makes the body grow.

We see that these gifts are the one of the powerful ways that Jesus pours in the growth principle, that vitality, into the body; and then as we, every single one of us here, recognizes those gifts and begins to use them regularly for the sake of others in the body, then that growth is fleshed out and the body makes the body grow. It’s all in an act of love. That is the kind of big reality that we see when we’re looking at this text.

Paul says one more thing in this passage related to this growth. He says also in verse 15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up . . .” So it’s a reality that as this growth is happening there’s a regular speaking of truth to one another that takes place as well.

I’m going to move into a few implications I see from this as a I dwell on it.

(1) The first one is the importance of smaller gatherings of this church, or smaller gatherings of the body, so that every single member of the body has the ability to do two things: speak the truths of God’s word to others for their exhortation and their building up, and receive that from others, and also to use their particular spiritual gifts for the sake of others, so that they might be built up, even as they receive people doing the same for them, building them up.

What I see here is that Paul seems to envision a gathering of the church small enough where this can regularly happen. He says this is one of the main sources of growth that happens in the church. This is the importance of smaller gatherings.

I don’t just say this to you because I’m the small groups pastor, right? I’m the small groups pastor because I’ve seen how this is fleshed out truthfully in many churches all around the world. Now, when people really give themselves to recognizing their spiritual gifts and regularly using them for the sake of others, and the church is organized such that everyone in the church is able to play a part in that, there’s a great vitality, there’s a great energy, there’s a great spiritual growth that happens in that body, and there’s a great kingdom effectiveness and joy that takes place when that’s happening.

Our core values read this way: “Redeemer isn’t a church with small groups, but a church of small groups.” That’s an interesting clarification. It’s not a church with small groups, but a church of small groups. What’s it trying to emphasize there? It’s trying to emphasize simply this: that gathering in these smaller communities is vital to the life of this church and its effectiveness in the kingdom, its effectiveness in our communities here. These smaller groups are vital, and this church is made up of smaller communities who are regularly following this growth pattern together, and then when we come together we celebrate the deliverances of that together as a body. It’s a church of small groups, not just a church with small groups. It’s an important distinction.

(2) The second implication I see is this; I’ve simply called it the necessity of our regular contribution to the gatherings. There’s a necessity that every single one of us as we gather in these smaller spaces, we contribute to the gathering; that is, we bring something to the table instead of just coming to receive.

There can be something that happens here on Sunday morning. If you think about, okay, what would it look like for all of us to come into this big, large gathering—and we hope it gets bigger, by God’s grace, right? What would it look like for all of us to try to have a space to try to use our spiritual giftings for the sake of the body? It would be a very long service; a very, very long service. Right?

That’s really not the design of the service. This is a time of feeding, of exhortation, of deep exegetical work in the text so that we can learn that and also benefit from the depths that come from it. It’s a time of corporate worship together, where we sing in celebration and conviction of the truths. It’s a time of taking the table together, where we join in unity around the elements, remembering our common confession of faith.

But there have to be other spaces—it doesn’t have to just be the small group in a home. It can be ministry teams, it can be accountability groups, more intimate spaces where you’re really knowing each other deeply, two or three people. But these smaller gatherings of the body are important.

Here’s the important thing when we show up to these smaller gatherings: we don’t show up with the same kind of posture that we tend to take in this space, and that’s kind of sitting back and receiving. In those spaces it’s really important that we actually bring what we have to the table for the sake of the body, because that is how each part is working properly and the body makes the body grow, and we work out this growth that Jesus is working into the body.

Some of you guys need to hear that. In those spaces, you need to hear that you’re really important. You’re absolutely important to the life and the missional effectiveness and the joy that exists in this entire church. It’s not an accident that you’re in those spaces, not an accident that you’re a part of this body. Jesus equipped you specifically, and you have something that all of us need.

I would ask you to have the courage, have the joy of bringing that to bear for the sake of others in those spaces. Try to do the work of discerning what God has given you for the sake of the body. It’s going to look a few different ways, right?

Some of us when we come together are really great at the text study portion when we gather together. You did work all week, you read seven different commentaries, you have 15 pages of notes. “I know it was only a six-verse portion we were focusing on, but I have a lot of notes.” You’re just waiting for your time to say, “I have a lot of information, and it helps.” That’s really great.

Some of you are saying, “Boy, I don’t know about all that detail, but I’m a pretty practical guy, and I’m trying to ask some questions about how this actually works in life. How do we actually live these truths out and put this information to work in our lives?” Some of you have a mind and an ability to ask those questions or to contribute those types of thoughts.

Some of you might be more people whose affections work in a deeper way, and you say, “Boy, I think that’s all really good, but here’s what I got from the Lord as I dwelt on these things in prayer this week. Here are some of the emotions that welled up in me, and I wanted to share those with you and just say I think this is a right reaction from the text.”

It could look like this—some of you are gifted in creating spaces that just make people feel warm and welcome and safe. In that space, when people feel like they really are among friends who love them and it’s a safe space, people can finally unburden their souls in a way they never have before and find help and healing and encouragement from other people in the body. Some of you are wonderful at creating spaces like that.

Some of you are wonderful at providing food so that you can share a meal around the table, and you become friends, and you grow in camaraderie, so you don’t only just trust these people, but you actually like them! You see, “I would have never thought I’d be friends with these kinds of people, but I see now that I just consider them some of my dearest friends that I can think of.” Some of you are great at creating spaces like that.

Then, some of you might be really gifted in saying, “Guys, I know some places that we can serve and we can start to live out these truths in our community. I’m connected to some places where we can actually put these truths to work. I know some spaces where we can start to have gospel conversations because of how we are being stirred up and driven by these passages to actually start bringing these truths to bear on other people’s lives and seeing people come from darkness to light, and seeing God work through us to bring people into the kingdom.” Some of you are really good at looking out and seeing how you can use this for the sake of this world.

Now, imagine that space where some of those people aren’t there, or they’re there and they just kind of sit back and they don’t bring what they have, right? Sometimes if the people who really create a warm atmosphere of comfort and warmth and welcomeness—I don’t know if that’s a word, but you get it, right?—if they aren’t there, you can all gather together and you can probably do some decent textual study, but it’s kind of a cold setting, and these people are more like acquaintances than they are dear friends. When that’s happening, you can maybe do some good textual study, but it’s not going to be very satisfying. You’re not going to get a lot from that, and you’re going to be left pretty empty. It’s going to lose its thrill sooner or later.

Imagine a group where those people are really good on text study, but they don’t bring what they have to the gathering. You can get together and you can be friends and you can love each other and you can share meals and you can talk about your lives, you can play games—all kinds of stuff—but your encounter with the Lord and your pursuit of the Lord is going to be really shallow, and it’s not really going to sustain you when life gets hard and you need something with a little more substance, and you need a community that’s founded on some deeper principles to get you through the hard times, to weather the storm.

Or imagine those people who are really just great at turning your eyes outward to serve others and actually use everything you’re studying. If they aren’t bringing what they have to bear in those gathering spaces, your group can have a lot of fun, and you guys can grow deeply together and like each other a lot and actually have some good textual study, and you’ll just be puffed up and puffed up because you never actually use it to bring to bear out in this world and see Jesus bring other people into the kingdom and change lives, change families. It never actually gets used.

You see how every single member is vital. I could draw out a thousand examples; I was just trying to grab some here. Every member is vital.

Here’s what you guys need to know: Every single one of you has something to bring to these gathering spaces. There’s something you can bring into this bigger space, and then there’s something you can bring into those smaller spaces. Jesus has given it to you, and it’s a joy for you to discover how to work that out and see God work his grace and love through you for the benefit of others, that they might be built up into the image of Christ more, that they might love Christ more, that they might pursue the things of Jesus more, that they might find a joy and satisfaction in him more than they ever have. You see, “For me, that’s just kind of showing up and giving what I have. I see God using it in a way I never could.”

(3) That brings me to the last implication, which is the reality of our interdependence, or the fact that we depend on one another to really experience this growth. You guys need to know that as you look around here, as you gather with people out there, we’re really all dependent on one another, because none of us is complete in and of himself.

The reality of salvation is that we weren’t just saved as individuals, we were saved into a community, and that community is gifted by God, equipped by God to actually grow us up individually into the fullness of who we’re supposed to be in Christ, and then as that happens all of us as a church are growing up into the fullness of who we can be in Christ together as the body of Christ. We’re all dependent on one another.

I would just maybe say this. Maybe some of you haven’t done the work to open yourself up and let yourself be shaped by the people here. Let yourself be shaped by the people here. It’s not an accident that they’re here, it’s not an accident that you’re having that interaction with them. Hey, it could be they’re sanding off some rough edges of yours. That’s good; embrace it. It could be that they are speaking some truths into you that you’re prone to discount. I say that you try to receive that and let them shape you, and that you also show up every time we gather together, and you say, “God, what have you given me?”

Guys, here’s what we see from this passage: There are no interactions in the body of Christ that are unimportant. There are no interactions with us together that are insignificant. All of it can be a time where Jesus is working this growth into us to make us more like him, to experience the fullness of the life that is ours in Christ. I think that’s the joy that is set before us. The call before us is that we would do some work with the Lord to discern what he’s given us for these spaces, and then to start using that for the sake of the body. The end goal is nothing less than the fullness of Jesus’s life and joy. It’s a profound statement; I hope it hits your heart the way it’s hit mine so many times as I’ve studied this passage over the years. Pray with me.

Lord Jesus, I thank you for each and every person here today. God, they are people who you’ve set your heart on. We don’t believe it’s an accident that we’re all here together; we don’t believe it’s an accident that we get to see each other week after week. God, we ask that you would give us understanding, give us wisdom to know what it is that you want to do through us. How is it that we can contribute to these spaces so that we might all benefit and grow up into the fullness of who we are in Christ? Jesus, we thank you that you’re so loving and understanding and gracious, that even in our weakness you meet with us and walk with us, understandingly and gently and slowly, pouring life and vitality and strength into us. You’ll never leave us or forsake us. We thank you that you are with us always, even to the end of the age. What a joy it is to know you, Jesus, what a joy it is to see the diverse expressions of your love and grace poured out through every person in this church. It’s a wondrous thing. We thank you that you let us be a part of your kingdom purposes, and we give you all the glory and the praise. It’s only in your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.