gifts-from-god-title-slide.jpg

Reflections on Ephesians 4:7-16

An encouragement from Pastor Isaac

February 2007

Looking Back

Let me remind you of some of the foundational verses of our study in Ephesians – these verses remind us that God has good things in mind for us.

Eph. 1:4

 

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.

God has always loved you. God has always purposed for you to be a part of his family. He has created a way for you to be in his family. Even as you read this now he is calling you himself. Will you listen? Will you receive him?

Eph 1:7

 

he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins

His desire is for you to be free. He wants you to live free. He has removed the burden of guilt from your hands and has paved a way for you reside in a constant state of joy. Your eternity is secure. And you now are able to receive every circumstance as a gift from him. Whether in trial or joy you now are able, by virtue of Jesus, to give God glory.

Eph 1:13

 

when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.

God marks you and seals you by his Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit God enables you to exhibit Jesus to others. He heals you from the inside. As you move through life you will be able to look back and see that God had sealed you by his Holy Spirit. You will respond in a Godly way in ungodly situations. You will react like Jesus more and as you see his hand in your life you will gain confidence in him. You are sealed by his Holy Spirit.

Influences

In the course of life we are offered, from many different perspectives and sources, hints and tricks to help us move through life. These range from the far-reaching timeless axioms such as, “all men are created equal.” to the mundane suggestion to daily scrub bacteria and plaque off of our teeth. Through the media and popular culture we are invited to embrace any number of foundational statements that supposedly will make us more happy, efficient or satisfied. Our culture has taken an increasing liking to phrases such as, “to each their own” or “if it makes you happy, than do it or don’t do it” or my favorite, “truth is what you want it to be.” As we make decisions based upon these guiding suggestions our lives will dramatically be affected. If you choose not to follow the directive to brush your teeth, you will experience pain and eventually will have to request and pay for a new set of teeth, which by the way have to be removed and soaked every night. Or if you choose not to believe that all men are created equal you will live a prideful prejudicial life that ostracizes all who are different from you. Those who are similar to a person who believes this will only find commonality and acceptance in the shared hatred towards those who are different.

The point is, we all have to choose who we are going to follow, and what advice we will listen to. Not all advice is the same and not all thinking is equal.

As we have been moving through the book of Ephesians we are learning that God has created us, that he has chose us and that he has, by not work of our own, accepted us to be a part of his family.

In our day and age we often don’t have a clear perception of what a healthy family is. At the beginning of Ephesians 4, which we are studying now, we are given a standard to which a healthy family moves towards. This standard is unity. We are to be united in thought, in deed and action, and as we learned a couple of weeks ago, our nature, whether we admit it or not, is to be divisive. As a result of our inherent sin nature, we cannot, by ourselves be contributors to unity in Christ. As a symbol of this destructive pattern we poured the salt of our unity pillar all over the floor. Each of us poured it out, because all of us, whether in thought or deed perpetuate to the dismantling of the body of Christ, or His church. Afterwards we each chose to pick up salt and put it back in the pillar because we, as a youth group, are choosing to move towards togetherness, oneness and unity.

As we move in that direction, Paul, the writer of Ephesians is about to unveil some of the gifts that God gives us to be able to grow into maturity – Maturity represented by unity. We are about to learn about some of the foundational elements that God gives us to grow in such a way.

Eph. 4:11-13

 

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Josh Friberg reminded us a couple of weeks ago that gifts are to be used and that we should not be jealous of the gifts that others receive.

The gifts that are listed here are gifts of people in our lives.

The gifts of the:

Apostle

Prophet

Evangelist

Pastor

Teacher

Paul does not make the point here that everyone possesses one of these gifts. These gifts are unique in that they are offices of Christian leadership. They are not to be taken lightly or casually accepted. I have no doubt that there are certain characteristics of these positions that we might all have, but just because I am 255 lbs doesn’t make me an NFL linebacker.

So, as we move through this passage I encourage you not seek to identify a possible gifting in you, but to identify the gifts of Christian leadership around you and learn how to participate with those people so that you become mature in character. Once your character is on solid ground, you will be able to walk in whatever gifting God has given you.

And this is exactly how Paul describes these gifts. The Greek word used for gifts is doma, which is a strong word for gift. It means that we are given something of concrete value and that the value lies in the actual gift and not the gracious gesture.

Then, in verse 12 Paul writes that these people are responsible to equip the saints for works of service. It is the jobs of these gifts of people to prepare other people for good works.

The word for equip here is the Greek word katartismos. This word means to make complete or whole. It is the word that would describe the process of getting a ship ready to sail.02-katartismos.jpg

When a ship had returned from sea, it would often need major repairs. One of the most significant portions of a ship 2,000 years ago was the sail. After being at sea for quite some time the sail would need repairs to be made well. Although this may seem like a simple process, it is not without work.

For one, the sails were huge. The needed width and height of the sails is incredible. These huge pieces of materials were designed to catch whatever wind that they could.

Workers would spend months equipping these sails to be able to catch the wind to propel them through the sea. Each sail had to be able to withstand beating sun, driving winds or weeks of rain. And so, it was with great care that these sails were mended. For the task at hand was great.

It is the same in our lives. We are called to accomplish great tasks. We are commissioned to venture out into the world and not just to survive, but to catch every possible bit of wind in order to fulfill God’s call on our lives.

03-ship.jpgWe too need to have our sails mended. We are partially equipped for the tasks at hand through our personalities, experiences and natural gifts. But, our sails hang limp because life tears us up. We come out of the storms of life torn, frayed and tattered. Whether those storms are self-inflicted, or if they are the result of factors beyond our control, we need to be healed.

God doesn’t leave us hanging.

He gives us gifts.

The Apostle

This individual is in our lives to plant authority. As we submit to Christ we are called to be humble and submissive. The Apostle is one who creates systems of accountability for us to follow. Churches are planted for this very purpose. Rules are created – not just for the sake of having rules, but an Apostle has insight into what kind of system will keep a given community healthy and united.

We are called to trust and submit to such authority. It is not in our nature or disposition to submit, but as Christ modeled ultimate submission for us by walking obediently to the cross, than we too must submit to the systems and authority in our lives.

Are you submitted to authority? Your parents? Your teachers? The Youth Leaders? How do you do with this?

The Prophet

This gift is one who proclaims authenticity. Because our hearts are evil at the core we often fall into the trap of pretending or faking. We also make the mistake of believing false things about God.

The prophet comes along and corrects what is false. They proclaim the truth of God, the truth of his word and encourage and challenge us to move in truth.

How do you respond when someone points to truth? Do you think that our culture responds to truth well? Why or why not?

The Evangelist

At some point we all need to respond to the message of God’s love and mercy. The evangelist is one who presents acceptance. God’s gift is free, but we must trust and respond to the message in order for us to be able to move forward. Evangelists go to where the message has not been heard.

God continues to place people like that in our lives so that we are constantly reminded that people need to know the good news of Jesus Christ.

Is your sail not reaching its full wind capacity because you have failed to respond to the message of acceptance? What can you do today to change that? Or, have you forgotten the great need for people to hear and respond to the message of Jesus? What can you do to remind yourself that there is a need for people to hear good news?

The Pastor

I (Isaac) am a pastor by title, but don’t think of me (or other church staff people) when you think of the role of a pastor.

Instead think of the Christian adults and mature people who are in your life who care for you. A pastor is one who provides accountability. These people could be some of the adult leaders at the Gate. They could be a Christian teacher at school or a parent. We all need people who are consistently in our lives. We need these people to model the small and big things of the Christian walk so that we can continue to grow into maturity. These people are like shepherds. They guide, they comfort and protect God’s flock.

I don’t have the ability to do that for each one of you, but God has placed people who care for you in your life so that your can grow in this way.

Who are the pastors in your life? Who cares for you and wishes to see you walk in maturity? How can you increase their influence in your life?

The Teacher

Finally the teacher provides accuracy. As we stated at the beginning of this reflection – there are innumerable things that try to teach us. TV and music teach us how to process life or how to respond to situations.

The teacher is someone who carefully examines God’s word and leads us to learn how to see things correctly. The basic assumption is that we don’t know how to live correctly or that we have been taught by our culture to see God incorrectly.

Do respond to the teachers that God has placed in the church? Do you listen and work to apply the truths that are being presented?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s