Never Stop Growing

Ephesians Chapter 4 Examines The Keys To Spiritual Growth.

Ross Sawyers
Sep 19, 2021    58m
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We should never quit growing in our faith. This message taught out of Ephesians chapter 4 examines some keys to spiritual growth. As our knowledge of Christ grows, our love for Christ also grows, and as a result, our faith grows. When the body of Christ is growing together, we are equipped to help others grow as well. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Ross Sawyers: [00:00:06] What a phenomenal way for us to worship this morning and thinking about the goodness of God, and that's the thought. Do you ever really just think about that God is running after you with his goodness? That is just, it's a cool thought this morning, anything that is good. The word good, by the way, is defined by the standard of what is good, and God is the one who's the source of it. So anything it's good is good from him.

Ross Sawyers: [00:00:35] In China, the church is being severely persecuted right now. This week, I read an article in World magazine. If that's a magazine not familiar with, it's the same idea of a Time magazine, or a Newsweek, that kind of vibe, except it's from a Christian worldview. And so they cover all the same kind of major stories but have a Christian view on it. I find it really helpful for a more redemptive way of looking at the world and all that's happening across the globe. But in this particular article this week on the church in China, they were focused on the Early Rain Church. And it's been publicized quite a bit, the kinds of things that have happened to it, it's a large church, but they've been in all effects and purposes shut down. Pastors have been arrested, they're in prison. Church members never know when they're going to be found, and they've taken the church rolls, and they're just kind of running down the rolls and going and getting people, and they'll come and question them for twenty-four hours, keep them detained and then might let them go and might not. So it's just, it's incredibly difficult. But in the midst of that, in the last couple of years, that pressure has increased, and yet the church just continues to thrive and to excel, they're not shrinking back, they're not wavering in who they are in Christ, they're not shifting their allegiance from Christ to the state. So our brothers and sisters in Christ in China are just an incredible encouragement to us.

Ross Sawyers: [00:02:29] A while back, we spent some time, some months, thinking about the underground church, China is certainly a place where it's underground, and it's interesting that the church thrives when it's underground, when it's under persecution. And part of why we looked at the underground church is, one so we can pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ that are all over the world in really difficult spaces, but also that we can be encouraged by them as our culture grows increasingly hostile towards Christians and towards God himself. The censorship on Christian organizations and so forth is continuing to increase, so what you may or may not see are these things that they just keep happening. It's the same way that things happen a few years ago, and then we start to it starts to just kind of emerge and we wonder where did it come from? Well, it's been sitting there for a while, it just needs the right spot for Satan to cause it to explode and come forth.

Ross Sawyers: [00:03:30] And that's kind of a lot of what we're experiencing in the chaos of our culture today, but we would be naive to think as Christians that the persecution will not continue to increase. Unless God chooses to do something to change the moral direction of our country, then those opposed to God will only amp up as we're seeing it occur. Again, these are things that subtly occur, but they're not so subtle, but less and less do you see anything Christian rolling across our television screens in interviews? It's less and less, less, and less, it just kind of being gradually quieted away. But yet in the midst of that, the church thrives, and the church will not thrive if it's not continuing to grow in her understanding of who Christ is, of what the obedience is that Christ calls us to, just in our love for Christ, growing in that love for Christ. And I just think the church in China is a phenomenal motivator for what it is to never stop growing in faith, and then consequently to see the church continue to grow and expand as they grow in their faith.

Ross Sawyers: [00:04:56] And that's what I want us to think about this morning in Ephesians chapter 4 verses 1 through 16, of the way that God has designed us to grow. And I want us to think about the big idea of never stop growing, as a follower of Jesus. I don't care if you're four years old, if you're twenty years old, fifteen years old, thirty-eight, forty-five, fifty-eight, sixty-two, ninety-five, if I missed your age, you're included in there, but never stop growing in our faith, in our love for Christ, in our desire to glorify him and to honor him. And we're shared with and told in Ephesians 4, how to do that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:05:41] We've been looking at the heartbeat of 121 in these weeks, and the reason for that is God has been incredibly kind to us and continuing to bring more and more new people over this last year or two, that's been one of the blessings during COVID. Well, I want to make sure that, as a church, that who we are today, that we're all moving ahead forward together in the ways that we understand God is wired us at 121 from his scripture, and then practically how we do that. I'm just trying to give you a big picture of that, so you'll know for sure that this is the train you want to be on in the body of Christ that God has you to be a part of. I've looked at a lot of practical things the last few weeks, but one thing I really wanted to drive home, and I want to do it again today, is our motivations behind what we're doing, that's what's crucial.

Ross Sawyers: [00:06:36] The reason the church in China thrives today is they're motivated rightly, that they would not continue if they thought they just needed to go to life group this week, they need to gather up in church, that's kind of what you do. And then maybe I'll hit a five-minute devotional every day and that should sustain me as I move through the day. Nobody's going to jail for that, nobody's going to keep moving and walking in that pattern. Like just change a few of those things, and they're good, I can just kind of lay low here a little bit, skip group, I don't really have to go to the whole church deal. I can maybe hide and read my Bible every once in a while, that's not going to motivate anybody.

Ross Sawyers: [00:07:21] What will motivate us is 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 when Paul writes, it's the love of Christ that controls me. What is an ongoing motivator, is the love of Christ, that will motivate me. And then once I have that love for Christ and that's what's driving me, that's why I do those other things, but it's out of a love for Christ and his motivation. And in verse 15 it says, "So we might no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf." His love is so great that he died and rose again on our behalf. I dwell on that, and that's what wakes me up in the morning, that's what motivates me through the day, that's the reason that I follow Jesus right there, it's his love for me. And then once I understand that love, then that gives me a desire to glorify him. For him to be worshipped by people, that's why we share faith, is so that people will be worshipers of God, and that glory will be rightly placed, not on ourselves, but on him. But it's the motivation that's crucial, and if that's not our motivator, then that won't sustain us, nor will we be interested in the core things that God has for us. But my goodness, when we understand the love of Jesus and that motivates our hearts, then we're all in and what he's doing.

Ross Sawyers: [00:08:44] Now, he has all of us in different places, in the places where we can start and grow from there, or just wherever we are, and I love that God that takes us where we are today. And I want us to think about Ephesians 4, several verses here, as we think about how we never stopped growing. Now, the big overview of Ephesians, there are six chapters, and of those six chapters, the first three are about our identity in Christ. He takes great pains to explain who we are in Christ, and the reason he does that is that then in four through six, he gives us things to do, but those things to do are driven by who we are in Christ.

Ross Sawyers: [00:09:24] Now all of us, no matter if we know Jesus or don't, we're functioning out of our identity. We may consciously know who we are today, and that's why we do what we do, or unconsciously, but what we do comes from who we believe we are. And Paul is just so good in these first three chapters, this is who we are in Jesus, and as a result of that, this is what flows, and that's where we pick up in chapter 4.

Ross Sawyers: [00:09:52] And I want us to think about in the first six verses unity, that we never stop growing in unity. Now we live in a culture today that, that is one of the predominant themes, is that we would walk in unity together. And it's interesting because that's the cry of the culture, and yet it appears to me we're as divided as at any time I've ever seen in my lifetime. Now, how is that, how do we keep wearing the t-shirts, together we're better, unity, pick them, and yet we're so divided. How does that happen? It happens because we're unable to find something to rally around that actually would unify, to have unity, there's got to be something that is a core that we unify around.

Ross Sawyers: [00:11:00] And each faction has something they believe we should rally around. There are some core things in there, our true self, for example, that that should be our rallying point, and it's basically then that means anything goes. In the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, that's how it rolled, and everybody did what was right in their own eyes, that didn't have good results. So what do we unify around? Because I think the culture's got it right when it calls for unity, I think it's absolutely the right thing, but what do we base it on? And Jesus gives us that path, and so does Paul as he writes about him.

Ross Sawyers: [00:11:45] Let's read the first few verses, "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord." So Paul's writing and says, hey, in light of who you are in Christ, reminding you I'm a prisoner of the Lord, I'm in prison right now as I'm writing. "I implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." That word implore means to urge, he's saying, this is who you are in Christ now live a life that matches that. This is who you are, live a life worthy of that, live a life that looks like who you say you are. So if you're in Christ, then live a life that matches the life of Christ.

Ross Sawyers: [00:12:22] In verse 2 he starts to describe what that looks like, “With all humility and gentleness." Now, humility was not a prized quality of a person in this culture. When Jesus came on the scene and comes in humility, that was not something everyone looked at and said, oh wow, I've never seen humility like that before. No, pride was the prized value, not humility.

Ross Sawyers: [00:12:53] Interestingly, on a staff retreat we had this week, we were talking about pride, and the guy that led us did a great job teaching us. But one thing he talked about was pride, and he said, here's what happens, and he drew this grid, and it's kind of I'll give it to you in an imaginary way. Pride is at the center, and that's kind of the sin that kind of grabs us, and then there's a lot of things that come from that. He said you've got pride, and then one of two things over here happens, you're either rebellious or you have unbelief. So pride leads us to rebellion, or it leads us to unbelief. And then on either side of that so unbelief, he said, then can lead to fear. Because if I don't believe what God is saying, then fear will set in, who's going to come through? And then with fear that can also be despair. So if there's unbelief, then that leads to fear and despair. Now on the top of the grid, he said rebellion, and that leads to foolishness, and then foolishness can often lead to control or anger.

Ross Sawyers: [00:14:04] And then he did something interesting, and he said here's what can happen though, we can have unbelief, now we get fearful, and we can hop up here to this part, and because we're fearful we try to control. And when we're controlling, if we can't get control of it, then we get angry. And anger, by the way, is a massive problem in our culture. And I think that's a good grid for getting to the heart of it, it starts with pride that's unbelief or rebellion, and it works its way to anger. People are angry today; they can't control what they want to control. We have such an onslaught of things coming at us, there's no way humanity was designed to receive the mass amount of negative input that we receive, I just don't know how we're capable of receiving all that, and it's making people mad. All of that flows from pride, but to live in a manner worthy of Christ is to walk in humility, opposite of that, to lay ourselves, to lay the pride down, to be willing to lower ourselves and go the way of the servant. Humility and gentleness, gentleness is strength under control, "With patience, showing tolerance for one another in love."

Ross Sawyers: [00:15:47] I was reading a Breakpoint article this week, and a few of them actually have really kind of stirred me in thinking about some of the cultural issues they're writing about. But in this particular article, it said hundreds of words get added to our dictionary every three months, and the changing definition of words gets added. The one he talked about specifically this week was the word harm, and it's up for grabs now as to what harm means. Harm could mean saying anything that creates any kind of discomfort. If you change the definition of harm to that, then that has policy effects, law effects, because every time that word is used now, it has a whole different meaning. We need to be aware of what's going on in our culture in the word changes, we almost today have to be asking pretty continually, what do you mean when you use that word? Because they may not be meaning what you mean when you say it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:17:04] I say that because tolerance is an example of a word that has been changed. What tolerance meant, and what it means here, is to put up with something. I can still be respectful and disagree with you, I can tolerate your opinion. I don't like it, I disagree with it, but I can still love you and value you and respect you, even though we disagree on this thing right here, that's tolerance, that was the way it was formally defined. Tolerance today is, this is my view, and you need to like it, and if you don't like it, then you're a hater or a bigot. Tolerance is I accept your view, and then I have to be for that view. that's today's definition of tolerance. It's a big shift, and that's happening in all of our different words. You have to be really careful what we're navigating today. But he does say, "We are to show tolerance for one another in love." In Christ, we can do that, we can actually love people and not see something the same.

Ross Sawyers: [00:18:21] And then he says, "Be diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace." Notice what he says, be diligent to preserve, we're trying to create unity, it doesn't need to be created, it's already been created through the Holy Spirit of God in Christ. As a Christian, when we think about unity, we're simply preserving what's already been done, we're maintaining that which is already been created and centered around Jesus. So we are walking and growing in the ways that we preserve the unity that God has already put in place in his Spirit, in the bond of peace. There's not chaos in the unity that God is designed in Christ.

Ross Sawyers: [00:19:17] Then verses 4 through 6 say, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." There's just one God, one Lord, Jesus Christ, one faith, one hope, our unity is found at the foot of the cross in Jesus Christ. There is a place to have the kind of unity that produces a joy, a peace, a pleasure, a hope, everything people are looking for, and that unity can be found in Jesus Christ.

Ross Sawyers: [00:20:02] We had a few people gather with us at our staff retreat this week. And one of them, John Sager, he's one of my best friends, and he was with us for these days, and then he spoke to our students on Wednesday night. And I want to do briefly what he did, our Wednesday night is called One. So I just love the timing of the scripture, and the fixation is Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, that there's just one way, there's one hope, it's in Christ. That's what we're leading our students, that it's in Jesus, so they call it one.

Ross Sawyers: [00:20:33] So this is what I'd like you to do, if you have a phone with you, if you could get your phone out. And then if you know somebody that's not a believer, then I want you to just put these four emojis down and then send it to them, just see if you'd have the courage to do that today. And then later, you can explain to them why you sent these four emojis. If you don't want to send it to somebody, that's too much pressure, just jot these down. There are so many ways we can communicate the Gospel and the Scripture through it, and so this is the way he did it. The first one is a heart and it's on the screen, so just, you know, find your emojis, pop that heart in there, that's your first one. And what he shared with the students is God loves you, and this heart just represents his love for you, it's that simple? And then he put another emoji up there, and it was the divisions sign, and with that division sign he said the problem is not that God doesn't love you, is that God does love you, but sin has divided us from him. Sin is actually what divides us from each other, that's why we have problems today, this is the root problem today. It's not any of the things we see on the surface, those are all a result of sin and a broken world which divides us, that's what divides us. The third emoji he put up there was that of a cross. The good news is, even though we're divided from God, that Jesus Christ on the cross died so that he could take on our brokenness and sin and then instead give us the righteousness of Christ so we can be made right through him, that's good news that Jesus would do that. And then the last emoji is a question mark, and the question mark is, what are you going to do with what I just shared with you? And this is what he did, I was sitting in the back, all our students are in these first three sections, and he said, I want you to bow your head, and then he just started talking to him. He said, OK, with what you've just heard, what are you going to do with this?

Ross Sawyers: [00:22:56] Is there anybody here in this room that would want to give their lives to Jesus? to do that last song, I surrender. I give myself to him, would anybody like to do that? Now I cheated, and I was watching, I wanted to see, did he really just share these four emojis with the gospel of what is God going to do with that? And I just started watching hands go up, and we know of at least five students that legitimately trusted Jesus as their savior on Wednesday night. Yeah, that is a supernatural work. Just think about today what our students face, and what they're in, in their schools. Any time a student hears the message of Christ and doesn't know him, and they're in the midst of the onslaught that they're in, and they come to faith in Jesus, only God can produce that in a heart because that's the harder path today.

Ross Sawyers: [00:24:07] So when we talk about that one in the unity, the unity is found in Jesus. And Paul writes in Ephesians 2, he said that's where we become a new creation, a new human race, is when we come into faith in Christ. That's the human race we're a part of now in Christ, and there's unity in that part of humanity at the foot of the cross. So we never stopped growing in preserving the unity that's already been established in Christ.

Ross Sawyers: [00:24:35] There's a second thing here, he says to us about equipping and being equipped, that we never stopped growing and equipping. Some of us have been given the role to equip, others of us have been given the role to be equipped. And the way God rolls, once we're equipped, it's not designed to stop on us, we become an equipper. Now, we may all become a particular leader of something, but we can become any equipper in our home, we can become a leader of a one-on-one relationship in leading somebody. But whenever we're equipped in something, it's designed to go through us, God is a giver. He's given us gifts, he's given us himself, and being a follower of Jesus and walking in the manner worthy of him and matching up with who we are in Christ is to be the same kind of giver that he is. In verse 7, "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift." So by grace, we've been saved, now we're in a relationship with him, and now he's given us gifts, grace and gifts, so that all of us have a part to play in the body of Christ, we'll see more of that in just a moment.

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:43] And, "Therefore it says, “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)" See, Psalm 68 verse 18 is where that quote is from in verse 8, and it's the idea of a conquering king and that conquering king comes and once he conquers, then his captives come in behind him. And on the cross Jesus conquered, and now his captives are coming in behind him. He descended from heaven, and then hung out on Earth, he died, he was raised, and then he ascended back into heaven. One day he's coming back again, not in humility on a donkey, next time he's coming on a white horse, and he will take captives, and he will conquer, and all this will be done, and all things will be made new in him. That's the Jesus we serve and follow.

Ross Sawyers: [00:26:50] In the meantime, he's given us gifts as a body, every person, this is for every person in the room or online, to function in the body of Christ. "He gave some, in verse 11, as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers." So he gave these teaching gifts to different ones, they have different kind of roles. Apostles and prophets, some believe that was just for the early church, and once the church was established, then it was pastors, and teachers, and evangelists, who would carry it on, others still believe those are active gifts. But all of these are teaching gifts, and the way the body of Christ gets equipped is through the teaching of the word of God and through prayer.

Ross Sawyers: [00:27:38] So he gave some to do this, and this is the reason he gave them in verse 12, "For the equipping of the saints." Now, I don't know how you view yourself, but when you read the Bible or you hear that, do you think of yourself as a saint? Depending on your background, you might immediately think there are saints that we venerate and that we hold high because they were like these incredible Christians. But the scripture talks about saints, not in that way, the scripture talks about saints as those who are followers of Jesus. So if you would count yourself as a Christian today, then when you read the word saint in the Bible, that's what God is saying about you. That's who you are today, you're a saint. And God has given certain people teaching gifts, so that the saints, the believers can be equipped.

Ross Sawyers: [00:28:33] So we have several people on our staff, and several people that lead life groups that have teaching gifts, and the design for them is to equip the saints so that we're equipping the whole body of Christ. And the reason we're equipping in the word and in prayer is for the work of service. Guys, God has designed this in such a way that all of us are at work in the church. And by that, I don't mean everybody has to have a role on a Sunday morning. The church is the body of Christ, it's the called-out ones, and he has all of us involved in his work as the church, we are the church. And we get equipped in the word so that we can be about the service that God has for us, and when we're doing that, then that builds up the body of Christ. So the way we're built up, the way we're strengthened, is when we're equipped in the word and prayer. And then we received that, and then we go about the things that God has called us to do to serve. And when we're functioning like that, we keep getting built up, we're actively working the muscles God has given us to serve.

Ross Sawyers: [00:29:48] Now, I love going to the gym, I'm there at least five or six times a week at a minimum, and there's just something that happens differently to other people than to me, I feel like I've been maintaining for my whole life. I watch other people, they seem to change, their body shape changes, there are things that go on, I watch them with trainers, or they do classes, or whatever. But when we talk about the body being built up, we understand that physically that if I do something, if I do Pilates, or I do pure bar, or CrossFit, or Camp Gladiator, or burn boot camp that I saw today on a building, or orange therapy, or whatever the new thing or new flavor of the day is, or I do classes because some people are just disciplined enough to do it on their own, that's not very many. So they figured out if I charge you for the membership, and then let you pay for a trainer, also, then you'll really do it. But then there are classes, some classes cost more because I don't know why, and then others don't cost. But we figure if we get in a group and work together, we might actually do it. That's a good parallel to the body of Christ, isn't it?

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:59] You know, when people's bodies really change? It's when they get their nutrition right, it's the nutrition plus the exercising that does it. And probably it's almost, I'm sure others would disagree with me, but the nutrition is probably way more the important part. What do we feast on in the body of Christ? The way we get equipped, and the way that we grow, and the way we build up our body spiritually, is to have the right diet and to eat the right foods, to feast on God's word, to feast on teaching, and then to move in obedience to it, so that I'm actively working those muscles. You know what happens if we don't work a muscle for a while? It starts to atrophy, doesn't it? Like, why is it that we can work out, for those who do, why is it we can work out for months and months and if I miss like two or three weeks because I got thrown off by just life or by going on vacation, and then I have trouble getting back because I'm trying to get caught up on my work. Why then do you look at yourself and say, oh my, how did that happen that fast? It's a steady, healthy diet of God's word, and then actively obeying what it is that God's teaching me so that I'm keeping those spiritual muscles going. And I do it together because it's easy to drift, sometimes I don't have the discipline I need to have, so we're cheering each other on and reminding each other of it. So we're equipping and we're being equipped.

Ross Sawyers: [00:32:57] Now, interestingly, while it's not mentioned here, I think one of the ways we probably get equipped and grow the most in our faith, is not in a designed class we attend, not in a life group we go to, not in a worship service we're a part of, not in my daily devotional time with the Lord, I think the place we probably grow the most in our faith is when we're hard hit with struggle and trial. You don't have to pay for that, you don't have to sign up for it, you don't have to show up early, somehow, it finds us. And we have a choice at that point to either lean into Christ and let him do his work, or to lean away from him and abandon God because we're mad, this wasn't part of the deal, I thought if I followed you X. No, I'm shaping and conforming you to my image, that's what I'm doing for my glory and for my namesake. Will you receive it, and walk in it, and allow him to do his work?

Ross Sawyers: [00:34:11] Well, then the reason for that in verse 13 is, "Until we all attain to the unity of the faith." There's the word unity again. So we're growing, and we're being equipped, and we're equipping, so that we might attain to the unity of the faith that we might grow in that unity, "And of the knowledge of the Son of God." So we're increasing our knowledge of the son of God, the knowledge of Jesus. Now I want us to make sure and be careful here, because some people think that they're mature in their faith in Christ, because they know a lot about the Bible or know a lot about Jesus. Knowledge does not equate to maturity. So we're trying to move here from being "Unified in the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." Which means that we become more and more like Christ in his character, like those things we describe in Chapter four.

Ross Sawyers: [00:35:02] But there are college professors today at private Christian universities, that their love for God is not increased one iota as their knowledge of Jesus has increased. There are seminary professors today that know a lot about God, they run circles around us mentally and they have the knowledge, but they've missed Jesus. In Ephesians Chapter 3 verse 19 it says, "We’re to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge." I was just hanging out with the Lord this weekend, and I read that I thought, oh, OK, it's the love of Christ surpasses knowledge. So if the knowledge that we have doesn't take us to a place of loving Christ, then that's not a maturity, the maturity is if my love for Christ grows as my knowledge grows. I increase in knowledge, and I'm more blown away, the more I'll learn about who he is and the more I see what he's about. It's a good question to ask ourselves, are we being equipped and equipping in such a way that the knowledge leads us to a maturity that is a knowledge of of Christ, a love of Christ? Jesus said to his disciples, if you love me, you love the father. So when people say they believe God, but they don't really buy Jesus, then it's not the same God we're talking about. Jesus said, If you honor me, you're honoring the father, you're honoring God. If you follow me, you're following God, it's Jesus, it's Jesus, and we're attaining to that that maturity.

Ross Sawyers: [00:36:42] Now, how do we equip at 121? How do we do that? So when we look at this, kind of the way he's laid it out here in these few verses, we have staff that are teachers, pastors, evangelists, carrying out those different roles, we have life group leaders that are very gifted in their teaching and leading. And with our staff were ongoing, this week we were on retreat, I mentioned that, but we're ongoing doing things to grow and learn to be encouraged so that we can take what we learn and not let it terminate on us but turn around and pass it on and equip our life group leaders, equip our ministry team leaders. That's our role for the church to function well, that we are encouraging, supporting, doing whatever it takes so that those who are leading can lead well.

Ross Sawyers: [00:37:35] I believe, and I started out I've said this a few times this morning, I can't remember what I said to start the service, it was about the Chinese and what they're doing. But I fully believe today, so we have ninety life groups, I see those as small churches, that's the primary way that we're equipping and disciplined as a body. And if there's a day where we have to shut down gathering like this, that we just have a network of small groups that are functioning as churches that were connecting together, but in a whole different way than we are right now. I don't know if that day will come or not, I would be naive to not prepare us to think like that based on what's going on in our cultural narrative. What God does, I have no idea with it, but we'll be ready. And we want to make sure that we're strong now in what we're doing in that small group life, that we're equipping and being equipped.

Ross Sawyers: [00:38:24] Last week, I showed you a diagram that the life group leader staff put together, and I think it's a great way to think about how we increase in knowledge, grow in our love, and grow in our building up the body of Christ. In the center is Jesus, he's always the center, and then we gather, we gather around the word in prayer. Let me just say this today, that if you're in a life group and God's word is not being taught in prayer, if those two things aren't primary to what you're doing in your gathering, golly, at least challenge your leader or something because that is the key right there, we've got to be centered on the word and on prayer, with Christ being the one glorified in it. We're doing life together, when we increase in that knowledge of God, we grow. The more we learn, we start to grow. And again, we're growing not just in knowledge, but in our love for Jesus, and then that produces the kind of character and the kind of life that serves, cares, and sends each other out. We have good news to take to people, and if those bottom three aren't a result of gathering around the word in prayer, there's a slight miss in there somewhere, there is a miss in the heart, there's something amiss. And then we gather back, and what was trying to say last week, I'll say again, it's exciting when a group gathers around the word in prayer, we're walking in obedience, we're going out on mission, we're sharing the gospel with people, we're giving it a shot, we're praying, we sometimes don't come out so good, we're serving people and we come back and we report what God's doing.

Ross Sawyers: [00:40:05] There's a couple of things in a conversation I had with a friend this morning, and one of them was around the reason people get bored with church, they don't see God moving. The reason we get bored at a live group gathering is after a while, it's just kind of the same old, same old. Are we seeing God move, are we talking about it, are we talking about the things only God can do? Not what we can do, but where you're saying, I was praying this week and God did this, I couldn't believe it. Or I just shared five students the other night come to Christ, that should make our heart just leap to be able to come back in a report and talk about that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:40:47] And then when's the last time in a life group that we were just so compelled to reach the lost, that we come back and say, you know what, I can't figure out how to share my faith with this person, I need help because I want them to at least know and have a shot at what it means to know Jesus. Or I shared it this week, and this is what they said, I think they're open to the idea, will you all pray for them with me. We are just kind of doing it together.

Ross Sawyers: [00:41:15] So that's the primary place we see equipping, we also see it through the eight ways, that's the way we've seen as a discipleship path for us. And many of you have been through that, and if you haven't, I would love for you to go through it. And the point is not the eight ways, the point is the content of them. And if you did the eight ways and blew through them, sometimes people say I'm kind of stalled in my spiritual growth. If what you did was go through the eight ways in your life group or with someone else, and that's what you did, that was not the point, the point was free to take what you just learned and share that with someone else. Our lives get really exciting when we start taking what God gives us and passing it on, our faith takes a whole nother run when that's happening. So the eight ways, that's a way that we equip, and they can just give a simple way for every person. There are other ways to do it, that's just a way, and it's a way that we're kind of locked onto for now.

Ross Sawyers: [00:42:29] Workshops, retreats, classes, we do all kinds of things like that, parenting classes, finance classes, marriage classes, we have marriage mentors. And by the way, we talked about some of these in the category of getting help, it's good to be proactive and just say, I just want to grow in my marriage. Like it's actually pretty good right now, and I'm not going to wait till I get to a crisis point to go get marriage mentor, you know what, let's see what we can do to make ourselves even stronger. What better time to go to a counselor or to get that kind of mentoring than when your marriage is going well? What better time to get more equipped because you're not all stressed out and strain trying to figure out this one thing that's creating all kinds of havoc? There's place for that as well.

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:15] And so we have that kind of opportunity, we have these workshops this afternoon, for example, at two o'clock, we're starting what we're calling challenging conversations, and we hope in the coming months to do more and more. But today's topic is around faith in the workplace, and we've got people that are in the corporate world, they're going to help us walk through what can I actually do anymore? People I talk to in our church, I feel like you're feeling paralyzed in the workplace with their faith. What can you say anymore? In the current environment, what can you do? How can we be a help? Two o'clock this afternoon is an example of that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:51] In two weeks from now, we have a guest speaker coming, Alan Sleeman, he's going to help us see why we can even trust the Bible. If you have friends that you know that they just don't even trust the Bible, so that's why they don't believe what we're saying, maybe that'd be a great day to bring them. And then that afternoon he's going to do a seminar on bullet proofing your kids, we're trying to do all we can with a parent pathway to help you with your kids so that they can do well and thrive in this culture. We have pathways for our kids from creation land, all the way through college, it's very intentional in our thinking, we have a plan just like we would in building our bodies and doing a nutrition plan. We have a plan of how we can expand the mission opportunities as kids grow older, and biblically, how they can grow and expand.

Ross Sawyers: [00:44:46] There's a last piece to this, we're equipped, and we're equipping, and we never stopped growing in those two things, the last one is truth and love. We never stop growing in truth and love. Verse 14, "As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming." So we say, hey, look, if we are building each other up in the body, then we're stable. But if we're not, the result of that is we're really unstable.

Ross Sawyers: [00:45:26] Have you ever been on a fishing trip and it was just a little too rough out there, and the waves are such just rocking the boat you can never really get your footing, and it's just hard, you might even get sick. But there's an instability to that, and he's saying we're like children just being tossed here and there by waves and we get carried about by every wind of doctrine. See, we hear this new teaching, and because we're not mature in our faith and understand what God says, then we just kind of get blown over here for a little while. And once we're blown over here, we just wait until someone else teaches something, and then they blow us back over here. And then we hear something else, and we get blown back here. Maybe you've heard the term, we've talked about a little bit from here, but there's a big deconstructionist kind of movement going on right now. Some people don't like all of what the Bible says, they've decided that God's changed his mind on some things, and so they're deconstructing and saying, you know what, I need to get this piece out of there, and then I think I can do this. If I can just change my whole sexual ethic and not do it the way God has it laid out and do it a different way, then I think I can believe some of this. And that's happening with people that are knowledgeable people, and then people who are not. But I think that's the idea here, just every wind of doctrine, there's doctrines being changed and challenged today that for centuries no one is seen any differently, just core teachings from God's word. And then there's the trickery of men, and that word trickery is the idea of loaded dice, it stacked against you, you're being tricked and schemed. And that's what he says in the last part, that there's craftiness and deceitful scheming, this is the same kind of scheming that is associated with the devil. He's a schemer, and an attacker, he's a manipulator, he takes what's true, twists it just slightly, he doesn't have to twist it dramatically, you only have to twist something slightly to get off. And once you go down that path long enough, then you've ended up in the crazy place we're in today. Which a friend of mine always says, and somehow, we're the crazy ones. Satan's a schemer.

Ross Sawyers: [00:47:56] The other thing I was asking my friend about this morning, as I was reading some articles about men this week about young men, and just we're losing the men in our culture, we're losing our boys, we're losing our young men. Our men have been emasculated by the culture, and they're buying it. Our young boys, and our teenagers, and our young men and our older men, candidly, have become passive and have let go the role that God is designed for them. God has designed men to be protectors, leaders, and guides, he's not designed them to be passive, that's God's design. And what we're seeing happen is an increasing passivity in men, an increasing abdicating of leadership, an increased desire to get out there and work and do what God's designed you to do. And you know what happens when men don't live in their God designed role? You get a whole lot of chaos, a whole lot of bad happenings between men and women, women aren't safe in our culture because the men aren't safe because of what they're filling their minds with, with pornography, and what they're filling their ideas with that are blowing through our culture.

Ross Sawyers: [00:49:39] But even beyond that, I asked my friend this morning, I said, why do you think men are so passive today? He said I've got two words for you. What are they? Xbox, our boys, and teenagers, and as somebody reminded me earlier, our adult men, are spending hours upon hours upon hours playing battles that don't matter, with people who they don't know, pretending they're connected, and they have no meaning and no purpose in life, that produces passive, directionless men. I believe that's one of Satan's best schemes today, we don't have time to feast on God's word because we've got to get to our video game. Will we let Satan win that scheme? Our children and our teenagers are incredibly vulnerable to the enemy, where are the men? And I believe there are a lot here that have, and will, step up and actually really lead, lead in Christ, then there's purpose, then there's direction, and then there's meaning.

Ross Sawyers: [00:51:32] But we have to have the courage of verse 15, "To speak the truth in love. We've got to be willing to speak truth, and to do it in love, and then we'll grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." We have to be willing to speak the truth today, that we've allowed feelings to be elevated to our authority, that we've allowed experiences to rise up, and dictate, and be authority. We have to be willing to speak the truth in love and say that God's word, yes, our feelings matter, yes, our experiences matter. But as someone gave me a note after the first service, we test our feelings against truth. So we test our feelings and emotions against what God's word says.

Ross Sawyers: [00:52:03] And do we have people in our lives that can speak truth to us in love? Do you have someone outside of your marriage relationship that can speak into your life? Have you invited anyone into your life to say, you know what, I know I have a lot of blind spots and I'm inviting you to speak truth into my life? When you see things off, will you speak the gospel to me, will you speak what those things are? And it'll be great if you do it in a loving way, and love includes being patient and kind. Can you do it graciously? Speak the truth in love.

Ross Sawyers: [00:53:29] And then when everybody is walking like this, in verse 16, "Each individual part can work properly." Now, I think we mostly all know that when a part of our body isn't functioning well, if we've broken something or there's something internally going wrong, that affects our whole body, it totally throws us, we have to compensate for that. The rest of the body has to do something to compensate for that. And that's what happens when someone who's a part of the body where God has placed them, and we're not properly doing the part he's called us to play, it puts a strain on everybody else. And what a beautiful picture when the body of Christ is functioning properly together, we're growing, being built up, we're equipped and being equipped.

Ross Sawyers: [00:54:25] And I want to end with this as a way to think about how we do that. I caught hold of a book a few years ago, I was on a mission trip, and this was on a bookshelf in a place we stayed, called 10 Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Health. Now you're thinking, I bet if I saw that book on the shelf, I wouldn't have run to that one. But I'm always intrigued by how we would actually measure our spiritual growth. How do we know if we're really growing or not growing? I don't think coming to church, going to life group, having a quiet time, being on a team to serve, I don't think that's a good way to measure things. I think there's something underneath that that's better, and so Donald Whitney has written several questions that are helpful, I think. So Dee thirst for God? I think that's one way to really know, am I growing up in Christ, do I thirst more for God today than I did a few months ago? Am I my hungry for his word? Some people walked in this morning and said, we're hungry this morning for the word. I love it. Are you thirsting for God? And another one, he asks, is, are you more loving? As we increase our knowledge of God, are we more loving towards people? Are we increasing in our love? Do I love difficult people a little better today, maybe, it's still hard, but am I loving them a little more today than maybe I did a few weeks ago? And then the third one is, do you delight in the Bride of Christ? And that's the church, the bride of Christ, it's the followers of Jesus. And I've heard people say over the years, you know, the reason I don't go to church, I'm a Christian, but don't like Christians. That's a problem, that's not a Christians problem, that's a love of God problem. Because what you're saying is, I don't love your bride, God. We're always not the most lovable people, either, but are you increasing your love for other Christians that you just want to be with Christians? And then another one he asks, is, do you still grieve over sin? The longer we're in the faith, the more we probably would for growing is we grieve over sin even more. When's the last time that you repented over a sin, it just grieved you that you did this against God? The more we understand His Holiness, the more it grieves us that we sinned against him. And then one other one he gives is, are you a quicker forgiver? I like that one, I mean, that's good kind of test, are we growing in that? Today, I can forgive more quickly than I used to. Now, those are just some ways to kind of test our hearts and see, are we continuing to grow as a result of the things we've spoken of?

Ross Sawyers: [00:57:10] Well, Father, thank you for our time, and we're grateful for the strength of your word, the power of it, the refreshment in it, the challenge in it. You tell us that your word is inspired by the spirit, and that it's profitable for teaching, for correcting, for rebuke, and for training in righteousness. And I just thank God, today, that you've done all of those things through this passage of scripture, help us receive it and then respond God to you in the way that we ought. And I pray that in Jesus' name.

Ross Sawyers: [00:57:42] Let's just be still a minute and maybe even consider what are the next steps maybe God is calling you into per obedience to him. And if it's good, right where you are, then just thank Him that he has you where you are. But just a little bit of space, then Jermaine is going to wrap us up.



Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051
817.488.1213