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The Basis for Church Diversity

May 10, 2015 Pastor: Don Green Series: Ephesians

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 4:7

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As we have sung of the wonders of being born again by the redeeming mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, it's a fitting way for us to move into the passage that is before us in Ephesians 4 as we continue our verse-by-verse teaching through Ephesians 4 here this morning. If you're new to our church, it might surprise you that I’m not going to preach a sermon on motherhood in honor of Mother's Day. We try not to really let the secular calendar drive what we do in the spiritual place of God's word. We want God's word to set the pace for us and if you preach special messages on every special occasion that the world would have you to do, you ultimately just kind of defuse the energy and the power of the pulpit by letting something else drive the agenda rather than the systematic teaching of God's word. While we love our mother's and we honor our mother's here today, we want to honor God even more in the preaching of his word and just be faithful to the text that he brings us to week-by-week in his goodness to his people.

So Ephesians 4 is our text here this morning and last time, over the last 2 or 3 weeks, we have seen the focus in the opening verses of Ephesians 4 about the unity of the church. Paul calls us to be a unified body, not just in the local church sense but in the universal sense of the church and all believers everywhere since the day of Pentecost. There should be a fundamental unity that marks the people of God. Look at chapter 4, verse 3, Paul says that we should be "diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," and that unity flows out of seven great spiritual realities that follow in verses 4 through 6. Paul says, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all."

We looked at that passage last week, didn't we? So we see this fundamental unity, this fundamental oneness that marks the people of God. As redeemed people of Christ, we share in fundamental great eternal spiritual realities that join us together as one. We have a common source of spiritual life. We have a common Savior. True Christians come to Christ in the same way in humble repentant faith that disclaims any sense of merit and relies on him alone to reconcile them to God. We have one God who reigns over us. So there is this fundamental unity that pulls us together in a center of gravity that defines us and we find that we have so many things in common and our life in the body of Christ should flow from that unity. There should be a harmony and a love and a care for one another that flows from this oneness that we share in Christ Jesus our Lord. He died to, among many other things, to unify us together as his one people of God.

So Paul has made the unity of believers very clear. We share in profound spiritual realities that join us together in Christ. As we go on now, however, as we move on into chapter 4, verse 7, Paul is going to address the body of Christ from a different perspective. We are different, he says. He goes on and shows that while we have this unity, that does not mean that we are monolithic, that we are all the same, that we all do the same thing within the body of Christ. There is actually a diversity within the unity of the body of Christ that he now goes on to address. Let's look at our text for this morning, Ephesians 4:7. Paul says,

7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.

We are born from a God who is a Trinity; a God who is one essence and yet that essence is that three persons have that same essence. God is one and yet he is three. There is diversity within the unity of the Godhead and so it is also in the body of Christ that there is a diversity within the body of Christ that Paul is now going to go on to explain. If he had merely stopped at the end of verse 6, we would miss a wonderful aspect of what it means to be a Christian in the body of Christ but Paul goes on in verse 7 and starts to explain that which is very necessary for us to understand. And let me just say this for us collectively, we're still a young church and we rejoice in that even the condition of our worship center speaks to a church that is undergoing construction, that is still being built and being built up together. It's true physically and it's true spiritually as well and I think that this message has the potential for some of you, perhaps who are new to church life, those of you that haven't been involved in a healthy church in your prior spiritual experience, this passage, this text, what we have to see this morning is very crucial for you to understand so that you can take your place in the body of Christ, take your place in the local church and start to grow and mature. It is not enough for a physical baby, speaking of Mother's Day, it's not enough for a mother to give birth and to have an infant and then that infant to simply stay in that condition for the indefinite future. That would be unnatural. That would eventually turn into a monstrosity because we understand that children are born to grow and to mature and they are supposed to grow up into adulthood and from that sweet, innocent, so-called innocent, stage of infancy, they are to grow and to become an adult and a contributing, functioning member of society.

Well, in like manner, when a Christian is born, when God gives birth to a spiritual infant, that person needs to be nurtured and loved and cared for but eventually there should be a sense of taking on the responsibility of having a part in the body of Christ. That is part of God's intention and it is wrong, as we're going to see, it is wrong and it is even, at best it is profoundly ignorant and at worst it is a sinful manifestation for somebody to claim to be a Christian and yet to be removed and distant and to hold the church of Christ at arms length and say, "I'll do this on my own." You see that manifested in so many ways as people want to loosely associate with a church but they don't want to be involved. They don't want relationships. They don't want to serve. They want to come, be here, maybe arrive late, leave early and then go on with their lives unchanged by the realities of the body of Christ. Well, what we're going to see here today is that that is not what God intended at all and it is not God's plan for thousands of people to gather together and have no involvement with each other and to call that a church. That's just not right. That was not Christ's intention at all and we're going to see that here as we look at our text, Ephesians 4:7.

Look at it with me. I might as well read the text that is in front of us today. Paul says in verse 7, having made this great statement about the unity of the body of Christ, says, "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift." He says and you notice that there's an element of contrast here as he opens this verse with the word "But." He's indicating that there's something more to be said about this unity and he introduces and injects an element of contrast and, in essence, what he's saying is, "While we are one in Christ, yet at the same time, there is another aspect of the life of the body of Christ that I need to explain to you. You need to understand that each one of you as Christians have a gift from Christ and that Christ intends you to use that for the benefit of the greater body, for the common good." And we're going to see him unfold that in verses 7 through 16 and what follows.

We're just going to look at verse 7 in an introductory way here this morning but Paul is explaining to us that in the midst of this profound unity, there is a diversity. There is a variety that we see in the church. What is he talking about? "Each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift"? Well, that's what we're going to look at and what he's saying, I’ll just say it in an overview fashion: what Paul is saying here is that in the wisdom of God and in the goodness of Christ, as he saves people and incorporates them into the one body of Christ, he does something that is magnificently wonderful. To each child of God, to each person that God draws into his family and is born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to each true Christian is given a gift, a spiritual gift consisting of spiritual abilities or talents that Christ intends for you to use in the context to contribute to the overall good of the body of Christ. Every single Christian has a spiritual capacity that Christ gives to them so that they can function and that they can contribute to the life of the body. That's what we're going to see here in our text here this morning.

Basically the idea is this: the different gifts given to different people taken together enable us to function together corporately. And the question is: on what basis do these things come together? What is to explain the fact that you have certain spiritual gifts but not others. I have spiritual gifts but not others. And none of us are alike in the spiritual capacities that we bring to contribute to the body of Christ. Not all of us have the same elements of time to contribute even. But what we're to see is that there is a capacity, there is an enablement that God gives to each Christian so that they function in the overall life of the church. In the midst of the unity, in other words, there is diversity. The unity that we saw last week is manifested with a kind of diversity in the life of the church that causes the church to function like a body and not as simply a single instrument.

Well, diversity is a word that refers to a range of different things. Here in this context, it means that there is a range of different giftedness that is given to the body of Christ by Christ so that this unity that we express can function over time and that the needs of the life of the body and the needs of individuals can be met and if you are a Christian, what we're going to see today clearly and profoundly from the text is that Christ has given you an element of giftedness that you are to discover and use and that you are to use it to the benefit of the body of Christ. It is because the gift is given to you for the broader use of the body of Christ, for the broader benefit of the body of Christ, that it is impossible for a true Christian to stand removed from the body of Christ and be obedient to the will of God. We are meant to be involved with other Christians. We are meant to serve other Christians. That's part of the overall package of salvation that God intended when he saved you so we need to understand this so that, watch this, so that we can respond in an appropriate way. So that we can mature and so that we can participate and do that which has been assigned for us by Christ to do and so we don't expect infants to be contributing members of society so much but we understand that as they grow, that they are to find their place and to find their function and to contribute.

Well, so it is for us as Christians as well. We must understand that diversity if we are going to continue to grow as a healthy church. Beloved, I’ll just be real candid and direct with you: that Christ saved you, speaking to you as Christians, Christ saved you and gave you a corresponding responsibility that you would have a contribution to make to the church which he purchased with his own blood. We are meant to serve as well as to be saved. What Scripture shows us is that Christ gifts all Christians for the common good of our spiritual lives.

So what we're going to do this morning is we're going to answer three strategic questions about spiritual gifts from this verse in Ephesians so that we can seek our proper role of service in the church. This is kind of a foundational message. This isn't going to give you your particular assignment in what you might do to contribute to the life of the church. Rather, it's doing something more foundational: it's letting you see the broader context, the foundation, the reality of how Christ incorporates his people, incorporates his children into the life of his one body. We need to understand the fundamentals before we work it out in details and today is about the fundamentals and so here's our first question. If you're taking notes today, here's the first question that we're going to answer, first point for this morning: who receives a gift? Who receives a gift in the body of Christ? The answer to that question is this: every Christian has a gift with which to function in the body of Christ.

Look at verse 7 with me as we go into more particular detail in our text. Paul says, "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift." It's interesting here as you look at this text in light of what we looked at last time. Paul uses the word "one" again but here he's using it in an individual sense. Before in verses 4 through 6, he's emphasizing the corporate harmony that we have because of our common life in Christ but now he's looking at the individual aspect of salvation, looking at the individual aspect of a person's involvement in a church and he uses the word "one" to point it out individually. So as we're looking at this verse now, you should be looking at this and that word "each one of us" should be jumping off the page at you and you say, "Oh, I am a Christian. I'm involved here in this local church. To each one of us grace was given, therefore there is an individual element." We don't simply merge into the life of the body of Christ and become indistinct individuals that are indistinguishable from one another. No, quite to the contrary. There is an individual element of this that we are meant to understand and then go and contribute to the life of the church.

So what Paul is saying is that every believer, Paul even includes himself in it. Look at it in verse 7 there how he includes himself, "to each one of us." Paul says, "Even to me." He includes himself in this summary statement, "to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift." Paul was gifted with apostleship, a foundational, non-repeatable, unique role in the life of the church that none of us will ever have in like manner. But Paul was given the grace of apostleship to serve the body of Christ and what Paul is saying is that, "It's not all about me. I was given a gift but you were given a gift too," and the idea is for us to understand and thereby participate in the overall functioning of the body of Christ. Churches are not meant to be a one-man show. They can't be a one-man show successfully because one man can't do it all. All of the gifts necessary for a church have not been deposited in one man and it would be awful if that had happened. No, Christ's goal, Christ's pattern, what Christ does is he parcels out gifts to different people and then brings them together so that each one has a contribution of service to make. So for each one of you, the Scriptures teach that each one of you has received some manner of giftedness that is intended for you to contribute to the life of the body.

Let's look at some other passages that teach this, that reinforce it. This is a fundamental theme in the New Testament. Go back to the book of Romans 12. Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles, had to teach this repeatedly so that the early church would get it and we need to get it here today in ways that I will point out in time yet to come. Look at Romans 12:3. Paul says, Romans 12:3, we're answering the question: who receives a gift? And the answer is: everyone in Christ does. Romans 12:3, "For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function." A body has a head and hands and ears and eyes and a nose and the body has different parts that perform different functions for the overall good of the whole, is what he's saying here. Verse 4, "we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another."

You see, he's making the same point that we're seeing here in Ephesians 4 and he goes on and he expands on it. Verse 6 of Romans 12, he says, "Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly." Then he goes and lists a partial sample of the gifts that are given to the body of Christ. "If prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Notice what he says: he says there is one body, each of us have been given a different measure of grace and grace here in the sense that Christ has gifted us in different ways and we are to own that. We are to embrace that and recognizing the way that Christ has skilled us in giftedness, gifted us to understand that, "Ah, this is given to me so that I can benefit others in the body of Christ. This isn't given to me simply for my own private edification." It would be a monstrosity for a man who is gifted to teach to isolate himself in a tower and only study for his own benefit when Christ has gifted him to teach for the benefit of the rest of the body. It would be wrong for a Christian to be gifted with the capacity to earn significant amounts of income and to simply appropriate that and keep it all to himself without recognizing that perhaps there is a way that that can be used to the benefit of the body of Christ. If he gives, he should give with liberality, Paul says and on it goes. So that we each take responsibility for the fact that Christ has gifted us in a particular way and then we pivot, watch this, we pivot and say, "Oh, this was given to me so that I might be able to share it to the benefit of others in the body of Christ." And all of a sudden our selfish perspective on the church is given a death blow, a stake is driven in the heart of the selfish perspective with which we view the church and we say, "Oh, I’m here because I’m supposed to be a blessing to others in the body of Christ."

That's what Paul is saying in Romans 12 and that's not the only place that he said it. Turn over to 1 Corinthians 12 where we will see this again. 1 Corinthians 12 makes this at a long discourse. We won't look at all of it here today. 1 Corinthians 12:7, let's say. We won't get into the controversial aspects of the gifts from 1 Corinthians 12 here this morning. I just want you to see this one thing. Paul says, "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit," what? "For the common good." For the common good. Christian, you have been given something by Christ and you have been given that so that you would pivot and use it for the common good of the rest of the body. You are not meant to be an isolated, prickly Christian who avoids relationships in the body of Christ because they are inconvenient, uncomfortable or whatever else. That's not the purpose for which Christ saved you.

So we start with this fundamental premise, this fundamental understanding that Christ has saved us and that each person that Christ saves, he gives a capacity of some ability that will benefit the rest of the body of Christ and we look at that and say, "Oh, okay then. That means that I have a role to play. I have a part to play that's not to please myself but that is to be a blessing to others." It's very fundamental that way but this is intrinsic to being a Christian. Let me say this just as plainly and directly as I can with as sweet and loving a spirit as I possibly can: you cannot be a Christian and say, "I will yet be isolated from the body of Christ." It doesn't work that way. That's not biblical salvation. You're thinking all wrong about what it means to be a Christian, perhaps not even understanding what it means to be a Christian because a true Christian is saved in part to be incorporated to the broader body of Christ and in the unity of the body of Christ, to make some kind of contribution that benefits others. In other words, you exist to serve the body of Christ, not vice versa is the way that you should be thinking about it.

The Bible makes this point elsewhere. Look at 1 Peter 4:10, that's just after the book of Hebrews for those of you that are still getting acquainted with your Bible. 1 Peter 4:10 says, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it," what? "Employ it so that you can get the most out of it yourself." Is that what it says? No. We're emphasizing this because this is defining a whole mindset toward the body of Christ. It's that important. Paul says, "employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

So, who receives a gift? Christ gifted you, Christian, so that you can contribute to the common good. Let's take a moment to kind of cleanse our palate here of other influences that have been brought to bear on our spiritual lives in times gone by. Most of us, most of you, have been conditioned to ask by the prevalent philosophy of ministry in what passes for the evangelical church in the western culture today, you've been conditioned to ask, "What does that church have to offer me? What's in it for me?" I get calls like that. I get emails like that. "Do you have this and this for me?" Or, on a more particular level and I’m guilty of this in times gone by, "Should I go to such-and-such a service? I'm not sure I’ll get anything out of it." Listen: we need to recognize the selfishness and the sinfulness of that unbiblical thinking and reject it and confess it before God and say, "God, I am so sorry that I have taken such a self-centered approach to the body of Christ." Your mindset should not be, "What can I get out of this?" Your mindset should be, "What can I give as I come?" Maybe it's as simple as quietly reaching out to other people and taking time to love them and show an interest in them. It's a simple as what so many of you do, say, "Pastor, take this envelope and give it to So-and-so because I know they have a particular need." But you come with the expectation of, "I'm here to give. I'm here to serve. I'm here to make it better for someone else," rather than making it your selfish fundamental perspective, "What's in it for me? Because if there's nothing in it for me, I’m out of here." Wow, really? That's how we would respond to the selfless act of Christ by which he sacrificed his own life and laid down his own blood to redeem us from our sins? That's unthinkable, isn't it? When you lay it out in clear contrast like that, you say, "Oh Lord, forgive me for all of those times where I was like that."

I can remember in years gone by, I was wrapped up like that. I was wrapped up in that mindset, "Should I go or not? What's in it for me?" kind of thing and, you know, as I gradually as the Lord disciplined me and shaped me to move me out of that a little bit, I found that when I went even when I had no part to play that there was someone to talk to where my presence meant something to them and I walked away encouraged and rebuked at the same time thinking, "Wow, if I had just stayed home, I would have missed the opportunity to be a blessing to that person." Well, that's the way that we need to think and just say, "Okay, I’m going to be here. It's not about me. It's not what I can get out of it but what I can give."

So we come looking for an opportunity, "You know, I’m going to look for someone that I can be a blessing to this day," and when a church functions like that, when you get a group of scores and scores of people coming together like that on a consistent basis, do you know what? Good things happen. All of a sudden there is a body of believers that are functioning with the mindset of Christ who did not say, "What can I get out of the Incarnation?" Christ said, "I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life a ransom for many." If you are a Christian, that is the spirit with which you have been saved and it's the spirit that now flows from and flows through your spiritual life. So we need to deal with ourselves honestly and some of you need to take yourself in hand and deal with yourself firmly on this issue and repent of that selfish mindset with which you have approached involvement in the church. That's not right. It's a betrayal of Christ for us to think that way about how the church and I interact. Christ, beloved, places you in the church with unique abilities and you serve Christ by serving his body, your fellow believers in Christ.

Well, go back to Ephesians 4 now. Come back to Ephesians 4 as we finish answering this question: who receives a gift? We really need to think rightly about this. You know, if we were pouring the foundation for a building, if we thought about it like that, we're pouring a cornerstone here for what Truth Community Church should be built on and the way that we should approach our involvement and our participation in the life of the church. Paul says, verse 7, Ephesians 4:7, ", "to each one of us," and so I value your gifts, you value mine, we value each other because we realize each one of us has been uniquely gifted by Christ and we take this mindset that it's for the common good and we view that not as an irksome duty, not as something, "Oh, I’ve got to do this again." No, it's not that at all. That's not how we think about it at all. This is a gift of Christ to you. Christ has gifted you. Christ has blessed you. Christ has given you a benefit that you might be able to serve him by serving his body. Don't you see what a wonderful privilege that is? "Oh, Christ has given me the capacity. Not only has he saved me, now I get to serve him and I get to serve him in the context of a unified body where we all love Christ and we love each other and we have a common life and we serve each other together. This is a little foretaste of heaven on earth." That should be your mindset. This changes everything, doesn't it? This changes everything.

Second question that our passage answers here this morning is: what is the gift? What is the gift that Christ has given us? That Christ has given to you? Well, obviously I can't answer that question in an individual way that applies to all of you because the gifts differ according to each one of us, according to the grace that given to each one of you. So it's not for me to say that you should serve or that you should give or that you should teach or whatever. That's not the point of today's message. We need to understand it in a more foundational way and we need to answer this question: what is the gift? Let's see what Paul says about it.

Look at verse 7 again. Paul says, "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift." Now, Paul says that whatever this gift is, whatever he's talking about, it's a grace that has been given to you. Now, we typically think of grace as saving grace, that God had grace on us and "we were saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God." He's not talking about grace in that sense here in this passage. He's using it in a different sense, in a different way. Paul is saying here by grace, watch this, Paul is saying by grace that each individual Christian is fitted with the power and the capacity to serve the body of Christ in some way. In some way, in some manner, you have been given a capability that you can use to serve the body of Christ. That's what he means by this. One writer put it this way and I quote, he says, "Within the unity of the body, each member has a distinct service to render for the effective functioning of the whole. The ability to perform this service is due to the grace given by the ascended Christ to each one." In other words, each Christian shares in the overall functioning of the church.

Beloved, here is what I want you to see: every role is important, whether it's in public or outside of human view. There are things that some of you do that no one sees. That is an important contribution to make. It is the capacity and the grace that the ascended Christ has given to you to contribute to the functioning of the body of Christ and the fact that there is not public applause does not diminish it whatsoever because there is private and there is public displays of the giftedness. There are tasks which would seem to be routine or even menial but not in the church. There is nothing routine in the church because that ability and that capacity to serve comes from the intelligent intention of a sovereign, risen Christ who has ascended into heaven and says, "This is what I want to have happen in my body." And we say, "Oh, I get a part in that? I get to keep doors at the temple of God?" to use an Old Testament analogy. The Psalmist said, "I'd rather be a doorkeeper at the temple of God than to run in the riches of the wicked." "Just the simple service of being a part of this greater work that God is doing is a grace. It is a gift and whatever my part is I rejoice in." That should be the mindset because Christ, it's not the task. It's not the task. Do you understand that? It's not the task at all. It has nothing to do with the task. It has to do with who gave you the task to do. Who gave you the capacity to do that task. Who placed you within the body of Christ. Who saved you. The answer to those four questions: Christ. Christ. Christ. Christ. All of a sudden, that contribution that you make though it seems small from a human perspective is elevated and transformed by the fact that you understand that Christ has placed you in the body, given you a capacity to serve and you serve out of a joyous response to the fact that he's included you in his eternal purpose for the church.

Beloved, I ask you: why would you want to stand apart from that? Why would you not want to dive into that kind of service? Service that is appointed and anointed by Christ? Why would you stand apart from that? Every role is important. Everyone has been gifted in some capacity to serve. Now, if that's new to you, if you say, "But I thought the church was here for me. This turns everything upside down." Good. Good. I'm glad. I'm glad it has that effect on you. It's important. That's why Scripture mentions it so many times and Paul here in the flow of having talked about salvation by grace and the unity of the body, this all flows right into it. How now do we live in the body of Christ that we've been joined into this unified body? Well, if this is all new to your thinking, start here. Start your thinking here at a very simple way of approaching life in the church: you are meant to be a participant, not a spectator. That is what Christ calls us to, to participate in the life of Christ by which I mean this: we share in the relationships. We share in the activities that contribute to the life of the body of Christ and because Christ is Lord, because Christ is gracious, because this is central to being a Christian, then beloved, let's go here. Some people say, "I can't believe he went there with what he's saying." Yeah, we're going to go there.

The local church is a life priority for Christians. It's not an amusement. It's not a side entrance as if it was an aspect of a golf game or something like this. The church is meant to be a priority in your life, not an incidental aspect like it's one of your hobbies that you get to like quilting when you can. It's not that way. So if you're one of those that likes to arrive late and leave early so that you can avoid any interaction, understand that this message is confronting you in that and calling you to change. Scripture is addressing that aspect of your life and calling you to what God would have you to be. Somehow you must be involved. That is the only way that you can fulfill the biblical call to contribute to the common good. If you never talk to anyone, if you never have anything to do with anything and no one even knows your name, don't be misled about what you're doing because the call is to some kind of an involvement.

Now, let me call a time-out here and just give you a sense of perspective of what I’m saying. People are in different seasons of their lives as they come together in the church. A young mom with multiple children has very little outside of the home that she can do in the church or that she should do in the church. A young mom like that, her contribution to the body of Christ is her faithful raising of her children during that transitional season in their life. And a young mom with multiple children shouldn't be out leading multiple Bible studies and neglecting her children and passing them off to someone else to care for. That's not right. Her contribution as a mother is her own contribution and there will be time later on for a greater involvement but now she needs to do what only she can do and that's to be a mom to her children.

For others, perhaps some and we've got people like this that I could hold up as examples. Some who are retired and have a lot of time on their hands. They are able to make a contribution that is really strategic, that maybe they couldn't have made 20 years ago but now they've got the opportunity and they can devote themselves in a way and their time in the body of Christ is more evident and more abundant. You know, we're all in different phases like that and so I’m not laying a guilt trip on you here this morning. We're being realistic as we think about this but whatever else we say about those external trappings about it, there needs to be a deep working in your heart that says, "Okay, what is my contribution then at this point in my life?" Maybe family responsibilities are making it so that it seems very narrow for a time. That will pass and there will be more opportunity in the future. For those of you that have time then, you know, you say, "Okay, I’ve got more opportunity here." But somehow there is an involvement with a biblical contribution to the church. That's the only way that you can fulfill Christ's call on your life to contribute to the common good.

Now, how do you know what to do? I remember in my early Christian days. I don't know if this is still something that people do. Somebody came to me and said, "Oh, you want to know your spiritual gift?" and they plopped about a ten page questionnaire on my desk and said, "You go through and answer this questionnaire and then you'll find out what your spiritual gift is." Do you know what? That's bogus. That's a worthless waste of time. The only way that you can really know what your contribution is to the body of Christ is to be involved in the body of Christ. Christ makes your giftedness known over time in part through your desires, in part through your abilities and in part through the opportunities that are present and the needs that are available and that need to be fulfilled in the body of Christ. Let's make it real simple if you're wanting to respond to this message. You say, "I've been on the outside. I want to respond." Well, let's just make it really, really simple: you simply ask what needs to be done, assess whether you can do it and then go do it. Let's not make this complicated. This isn't meant to make us really introspective about what I’m best at. Let's just start with a simple identification of a need. "Is that a need that I can meet? Then I’m going to meet it," and you just assume that if you have the power to meet that need, that Christ has gifted you at least for that moment in time to meet it and you say, "Okay, now I’m living out what Scripture has called me to do."

It's not complicated. Let's not overanalyze this. Let's not take this into some philosophical existential assessment of who our real inner man is. That's a waste of time when there are needs right in front of us that could be met. It can be as simple as just expressing a moment of love and care for the person sitting next to you that you don't know. I was going to resist saying anything about this but I can't help but mention it. Tuesday night, you all that were here did a beautiful job of doing this and I commend you for it but there was a woman who was here Tuesday night at our Bible study. Her first time here with a very bad history and a sad, tragic history to her life that she brought to the table and some of you talked with her beforehand. Some of you talked afterwards with her. I was so proud of our church as I saw that happen. I preached for 66 minutes on Psalm 17 and she sat in back and I watched her and she was paying attention and we were making a lot of eye contact like you're making eye contact with me right now. Afterwards, she told us, she said, "I'll be back." She promised. That was Tuesday night. Friday morning she died.

Circumstances aren't important for this but simply to say, simply to remind you that we have an opportunity as people come and join us like this, we have an opportunity to step outside ourselves and to serve if nothing else in a relational, Oh, I don't know you. It's good to have you with us," and we approach church with that mindset rather than saying, "I didn't get anything out of the message again. What's the matter with the pastor?" Oh, I could tell you a lot of things that are the matter with the pastor. That's not the point. But we just don't know and so we come looking to serve even if it's just as simple as reaching out to someone we don't know like that. Those of you that did that Tuesday night, God bless you. Thank you.

So we just ask, we look, we're proactive in other words, because we say, "Christ gives gifts. Christ gives me power. Let me be proactive in looking for what I can do." Maybe it's just a relationship. Maybe it's saying, "There's a whole ministry that I see that could unfold here. I'll take responsibility. I'll present something and I’ll take responsibility and I’ll run with it and make it happen," rather than just sitting and waiting for someone else to do it.

Well, with that said, we've answered two questions so far. Who receives a gift? That's you. What is the gift? It's a capacity to serve. Thirdly, who gives the gift? We've answered this question already so we won't spend much time here this morning. The giver of the gifts, watch this, watch this, the giver of the gifts is no less than the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. This takes it into a whole realm of glory and of dignity and nobility that far transcends volunteering to do something. When we understand the full context, we realize the great privilege and opportunity that is ours when we know who gives the gift is the risen and ascended Christ.

Look at verse 7 with me again. I love this. This is my favorite verse in all the Bible. He says, "But to each one of us grace was given," how? "According to the measure of Christ's gift." Christ is the giver of the gift. Now, when the Apostle Paul wrote Ephesians, this isn't in my notes, it's one of those things that just becomes clear as you're preaching. It's wonderful when this happens. When Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians, it had been 30 years earlier that Christ ascended into heaven. He was crucified. He was buried. He was raised from the dead. He ministered for 40 days and then he was ascended into heaven. He rose into heaven and it's from there that Christ was reigning as Paul wrote this letter. It's from there that Christ is reigning now today, May 10, as we're preaching here today.

So as Paul is writing this, if this is Christ's gift of which he speaks that is given, then what he's saying is and we'll see this more next week in verse 8, this is not separate from context, what he's saying is that Christ from his position of ascended power according to his wisdom and his love and his consummate benevolent intentions for the church, Christ from the ascended position at the right hand of God gives these gifts to his people. This is the measure of Christ's gift to us. To some he gifts to teach. To some he gifts to serve. To some he gifts to administrate. It's all according to what he wanted to do because the church belongs to him. There is no greater priority. There is no greater merit for someone to have a public gift as there is in having a private gift. The source of the gift is the same. It comes from the hand of the Almighty second person of the Trinity. Watch this: the diversity of the giftedness that we share is a result of the wisdom and the outworking and the purpose of our Christ. That makes it magnificent. Christ gives a unique blend of spiritual ability to every Christian so that each of us would serve the overall good of the body. It's wonderful. Christ gives a capacity to each one of us for the common good.

Look at verse 16 and we'll come to it in weeks to come. Ephesians 4:16, start in verse 15. Paul says, "speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom," watch this, "from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies." It's his metaphor for what every Christian supplies, "according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." If we said nothing else about this whole theme today, it would be that we would think of ourselves individually as a part of a greater whole with a role to play. A role and a capacity given to us by Christ which we joyfully embrace the responsibility of and go and seek in a way to contribute for the greater good of our fellow believers in Christ.

That's the joy of being involved in a local church. That's the opportunity. That's the call that Christ makes on us and the only question that's left, the fourth question would be: so what will you do with that?

Let's bow together in prayer.

Father, I am very profoundly grateful to you to be a part of this church where so many serve so faithfully and contribute in different ways over time. Thank you for those that do that. Father, may those who are faithful and who are serving send with a great sense of affirmation from your Spirit for the part that they play that makes this church able to function. Father, for those who perhaps have been convicted, Father, help them not to run from that but to say, "Oh, here's a way for me to grow. I need to work through this and think through some things and change." Father, you know that I had to change on that myself. Thank you for your patience as you lead us and as you teach us from your word. May you make this church, Father, and each individual part all that you would have us to be. Help us, Father, to see your priority for the church so that each one of us could contribute to the life of the body in obedience to our Lord. We thank you for your provision. We thank you for the privilege. We thank you for the opportunity. And we look forward with great anticipation for how this will flesh out in our lives in the weeks and months and the years to come. We trust that you will bless us as we respond to your holy word. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.

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