November 16, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 4)

Submitted by Lauren K. Gracepoint Berkeley Church

· Apostle Paul identifies the purpose of specific roles featured in v. 11 as: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” What has been my view of the “work of ministry” within the church?
Apostle Paul identifies the roles of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The work of ministry is something that all saints are to be equipped to do so that the body of Christ is built up to maturity. From childhood I’ve attended church and the familiar scene often is that the pastor and some select staff, deacons and elders do all the work in the church while the members come to attend the service or program that is put on by the church. The description Apostle Paul gives of the church here is very different. All the saints, all the members of the church should be equipped to do the work of ministry. When I first came to our church as a college sophomore, I received much love and care, Biblical teaching, equipping and training. Through the lives of leaders and church members, I witnessed how everyone shared in the work of ministry to love people, to learn to serve one another and reach out with the gospel to college students, friends and family. Members took the word of God seriously by trying to live it out in their daily lives. As I solidified my own convictions in the truth of the gospel, I too joined in this good work of ministry. I’m so thankful to God for nearly 18 years I’ve been here to journey through life together with brothers and sisters, to serve God side by side with the leaders of our church, my friends from college, and many younger brothers and sisters who have joined us throughout the years. Last weekend, we were treated to a spiritual feast at our Thanksgiving Retreat when we recounted the many salvations in 2012. What impacted me again from the stories is that so many people played a role in these salvation decisions–from making flyers, printing and distributing flyers, marinating and BBQing meat for welcome events, reaching out to total strangers, building relationships, to serving whatever need whenever it was needed, to talking and praying, teaching the Bible, and helping guide that one person to make his salvation decision. We were able to really celebrate and rejoice over all these salvations as a church because we witnessed how God used the whole church to bring about his work of salvation. The harvest truly is plentiful and God is calling all his people to work in his harvest field. Personally, I was so inspired and challenged to take on greater ownership over ministry needs, not just within my immediate sphere of concerns, but I need to grow to notice and care for many other needs in our church.

· What is required for the members of the church to “all attain to the unity of the faith”?
According to vs. 12-13, what is required for the members of the church to all attain to the unity of faith is both personally growing in one’s conviction of the gospel truth and corporately doing the work of ministry that builds up the church and growing in knowledge of the Son of God as we share and pursue this same goal. God made us united in Christ when we first received salvation, but to experience real unity with my brothers and sisters in the church requires some effort and commitment. When I first started to delve deeper into relationships and serve God together with other Christians, right away I experienced relational tensions as everyone is different and unique in his own ways and we are all sinners. This process happened as we opened up our lives to one another, shared honestly about personal struggles, spoke truth in love, prayed for each other, carried each others’ burdens, and worked hard together in ministry. I began to see that our individual differences and even the sins of others that used to annoy me are actually really small and insignificant compared to the much greater and awesome work of ministry that God calls us to engage in. And it’s these precious brothers and sisters of mine that are in it for the long haul with me, they encourage me by their faith, by their sacrifices, by their perseverance in personal struggle against sin and to continue living passionately for the gospel. This week we sent off a very beloved family to our church plant in MN, I reflected back on the 10+ years I’ve shared with them. I recounted the ways that God has been so faithful to us all. My sadness to see them go as well as the eager anticipation to experience what God will do through their obedience made me realize that we’ve grown in unity of faith with them through our years together.

· Why might some people remain in their immaturity as described in v. 14? What are the consequences of this kind of immaturity?
Apostle Paul describes the maturing process as being rooted in the body of Christ, being equipped to do the work of ministry, sharing the concern to build up the church as we grow in unity of faith and knowledge of God. The description of immaturity in v.14 is being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Some people might want to remain immature because then they don’t have to be committed, to serve and can conveniently uproot whenever the cost of following Christ outweighs the benefits of being in the church. To remain immature is to be tossed to and fro by the waves of circumstances and our own desires. It is to be carried about by every wind of doctrine, which can be unbiblical doctrines that say Christians can live comfortably pursuing their own desires and just attend church on Sundays. Sometimes I’ve experienced my own human cunning when my selfish desires for comfort convince me that its not necessary for me to care for someone in need because I have needs of my own. My selfish desires have the ability to make my own needs into great big dramas, so that I have the excuse not to love others.

One area in my life that I’ve struggled with is the fear of failure. Because of my fear of failing and making mistakes, I hesitate to take on responsibilities that I should have owned. I used to think that I’m just so fearful and anxious because the task at hand is too difficult for me. But as I’ve struggled with this many times, I realize my fears come from faithlessness in God to provide what I need, and this fear is often motivated by selfishness. When I give into my fears and refuse to love someone or handle a difficult situation, it’s very self serving and I wait for someone else to pick up the slack. In this way, whenever I give into my fears, I remain immature and miss the opportunity that difficult situations create for me to struggle and grow. The consequence of this kind of immaturity is many missed opportunities to love people, to grow in richness of relationship, to have my capacity enlarged and to experience God’s miraculous work and provisions. Prolonged immaturity can lead to cynicism in faith and the gospel because we don’t experience the joy and richness of Christian life, which is what God intended for through the maturing process.
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Submitted by Janice L. of Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:11-16
· Apostle Paul identifies the purpose of specific roles featured in v. 11 as: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” What has been my view of the “work of ministry” within the church?

For me, it is easy to think of ministry as merely doing mundane tasks, figuring out some logistics for events, and trying to love the people God placed in my life. As I spend time and energy on ministry responsibilities day in and day out and meet up with people, I may think this is the extent of what ministry is about. But according to this passage, there is a much higher purpose for this “work of ministry.” It is to build up the church until we as a church attain the unity and maturity, and ultimately embrace the fullness of Christ. That’s the end goal. What a high and lofty calling. When each member of the church takes this calling seriously and be willing to be equipped for the work of ministry, and as a church we strive towards unity and maturity, the beauty and majesty of Christ, his loving character can be reflected through redeemed sinners like us. Personally, I need to uphold this goal as I engage in ministry, so that ministry does not become some project or some list of tasks I need to complete each week, but that I can desire the unity and maturity along with others so that together we can reflect Christ to those who do not know God.

· What is required for the members of the church to “all attain to the unity of the faith”?
For the members of the church to “all attain to the unity of the faith,” each member needs to be equipped to do the work of ministry. Ministry is not just for the leaders of the church. As each member of the church is equipped and be actively engaged in ministry, the church can be built up. I get a taste of this at our church where we hold the Biblical view of “every Christian is a minister.” I see young Christians joining in various ministries to serve so that they can learn to take on the new identity as the minister of the gospel. Through ministry, they experience the joy of serving together with other believers and the richness that God’s meaningful work provides them. I see seasoned ministers not slowing down in their acts of service as years go by, but instead, pushing themselves even further, continually setting an example for the younger ones to follow. Through ministry, we learn the value of hard work, participate in the sweet fellowship together, and strive towards the common goal. We draw strength from each other, learn ministry wisdom from those who are more mature, and in the process, build up this church.

Just few days ago, we had a farewell for a dear family who decided to uproot their lives here to move to Minnesota to join our church plant there. It was sad to see them go, but I know that deep down in all of our hearts, we know that God is going to use this family as a source of blessing for many people, and that vision united us in faith. This is just one of many examples that remind me that as we do ministry, we not only experience stronger affection for one another, but we also truly function as one man contending for the gospel, growing in unity for God’s work and for the vision of our church.

· Why might some people remain in their immaturity as described in v. 14? What are the consequences of this kind of immaturity?
v.14 characterizes immaturity as being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” In other words, it’s a life of the uncommitted. Ironically, this is the kind of life that modern world exhorts–life that is carefree and unbound, transient and mobile, life full of adventure and potential. When a better opportunity comes your way, you get up and go. I used to desire this kind of transient life style, because I viewed a life full of obligations and responsibilities to be suffocating and limiting. So I could see why some people might be hesitant to strive for maturity. Immature people do not have to think about being obligated to someone or something. They are not tied up by responsibilities or covenantal relationships. But the consequences of this kind of immaturity is that though on the outside they may seem so free, they are actually being “tossed to and fro” and are being “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” In other words, as they do not stand on any conviction of their own, they are influenced by all kinds of worldviews, deception, and lies of this world. And the scary part is that most times, they do not even realize that they are being succumbed to “human cunning” and “deceitful schemes.” What they think as carefree, unobligated life is enslavement in disguise. They end up going and doing wherever and whatever “human cunning” and “deceitful schemes” make them to go and do. They have no substance or weightiness in their lives to anchor them securely.
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Submitted by Vanessa O. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:11-16
· Apostle Paul identifies the purpose of specific roles featured in v. 11 as: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” What has been my view of the “work of ministry” within the church?

I find that often times my view of the “work of ministry” is limited to that–to work. Many times I limit ministry to some task to get done, logistics to figure out and all the while missing out that the work of ministry Apostle Paul is talking about is to equip the saints in order to build up the body of Christ. It’s not about running around getting things done and putting together great successful events. I realize that when I view the work of ministry as just work, then there is no real joy in doing the work of ministry and I can quickly burn out because I am missing the point. The point is that there are all these roles Apostle Paul points to as roles that are needed to equipment the body of Christ, so if I am entrusted to such a role, my responsibilities are not merely to get something done, but to equip and train those to whom I am passing down the knowledge to. Whatever I do needs to serve this purpose, yet often times I find myself falling again and again to narrowing ministry down to just work.

· What is required for the members of the church to “all attain to the unity of the faith”?

Verse 12 says that the members need to be equipped. Equipping requires time, commitment, hard work, and dedication so that together, as one body, we will all attain the unity of the faith. In order for this to happen, the members need to take themselves, the teachings and training they receive very seriously. The commentary says that this unity will increase with the knowledge of Christ in corporate as well as in personal experience. This can only happen if the members of the body take ourselves and our roles seriously and grow in our understanding and knowledge of Christ. For me, the way I can attain this unity in the faith is to deepen in my understanding of God’s word. Practically this means taking seriously every message I hear, every prayer meeting I attend, or bible study I attend and to go in to it with an expectant heart. I need to go into all these times expecting God to speak to me so that I can grow in my knowledge of him, in godly values, in my understanding of the gospel and in the truths of God’s word–and in so doing this I grow in unity.

· Why might some people remain in their immaturity as described in v. 14? What are the consequences of this kind of immaturity?
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Some people might remain in this immaturity because they don’t want to experience the pain of growing and maturing. The person might not want to put in the hard work of what it would take to grow up and take ownership of becoming someone who would contribute to the unity of the faith. The person might fall into the trap of thinking that the pain of growing and maturing is far greater than the pain of being tossed around, remaining like a child or being carried about by every wind of doctrine as described by this verse. In other words, the person is too scared, and possibly insecure or even lazy about the implications in his or her life and therefore resolves that the easier way out is to remain in the current state.
One consequence of remaining in this immaturity is that the person remains stagnant and cannot continue to grow because the current struggles or issues he may face are way to0 much for him to handle. Any set back or any difficulty would cause the person to become devastated or would render that person unable to pick himself up. Apostle Paul even warns that we need to mature so that we are not carried about by every wind of doctrine, to human cunning or craftiness in human deceit. It seems as though Apostle Paul is saying that in order to battle against these things, we need to be mature people. And if we don’t mature, this verse tells us we will fall prey to these conditions.

· Why would “speaking the truth in love” be necessary for spiritual growth within the body of Christ? How has my receptivity to truth affected my growth and maturity? What truths do I need to embrace/speak?
Speaking the truth in love is necessary for spiritual growth because if we are to be the body of Christ who are to be equipped for the work of ministry, then in the process of being equipped some correction may be necessary or some truth may need to be revealed that would be necessary for that person to grow in their equipping. Maybe some sin needs to be exposed that is preventing the person to continue to grow in his relationship with God or others. Maybe, some truth about one’s character is necessary to grow as a person, as someone who is called to love others.

I’ve experienced that when I listen to truth I am able to experience growth, but I have also experienced the reverse to be true. When I am humble and accept the truth being spoken to me about my character, some mistake I made, some sin I need to repent of, this becomes an opportunity for me to grow in my understanding of the gospel, myself and I am able to mature through that process. Yet when I choose to reject it, the end result is that I remain ineffective and immature in that particular area of my life. More and more, however, I see that in order for me to grow and mature and become equipped, I need to be far more receptive to truth being spoken to me because it is being done out of love and it’s for my own growth. Even though it is painful, I’m thankful we live in a community where we are committed to living this out because it is out of love that truth is spoken, because my leaders and friends do not want to see me as an immature person who is tossed about by every wave that comes my way.

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