May 17, 2015
Repeat after me: oh wah…ta goo…siam. When you take a step back and say it a little faster, you maybe recognize what you are saying. “Oh, what a goose I am.” Growing up, my brother conned me into doing this very thing. I was young and naive. I was gullible. But, I was a younger brother who probably got the last laugh by getting him in trouble for something. But you notice how easily I made you follow what I said. Just like my brother was crafty in the way he tried to make a fool of me, Satan does everything in his power to ruin us.
Here, I guess, is my shameless plug for our high school ministry, the Ave. This coming Wednesday and in our summer session, we will be discussing purity in a digital age. Pornography ruins lives. It ruins relationships between families, between spouses, and between a believer and God. It causes spouses to feel unloved and to lose trust in the other spouse. It causes an improper view of what love really is. It causes people to disobey the God of the universe who threatens sin with eternal death. Porn is such a disastrous idea, whether it be the visual kind or even the kind written in a book like 50 shades of grey. But it has become such a normal part of our lives. People talk about it as if it’s no big deal. You see movies with glimpses of it. It is everywhere. We can so easily be manipulated by our society to think that it’s ok to view it or read it. Now, this isn’t the only thing that Satan uses to try and ruin us. But it has become so mainstream that we can’t gloss over it.
Satan works hard. Sadly, he wins a lot of those battles with us because Satan sees our vulnerable side. He seeks out our depression, our loneliness, our cravings and he latches on to that, even to the best of us. Satan doesn’t love us. But our tunnel vision doesn’t notice a difference at that moment. Even what we might consider to be strong Christian can at times be spiritually naive and gullible. It hurts and only leaves us feeling more empty inside. The problem is the addictive nature. It’s tough for a spouse to feel loved again after being hurt by the problems of porn. God never intended for our relationship with other people to be like this. But Satan doesn’t care. He want’s to ruin us. He wants to ruin the church.
These problems that Satan brings into our lives like pornography, or maybe something as simple as how you don’t treat your spouse as Christ loves the church, or even putting your love for watching or playing sports over hearing God’s Word, these are difficult problems to take on by ourselves, especially when the body is literally addicted to a problem, and especially when Satan continues to do everything in his power to hurt us and the church.
You know what’s so cool about ascension? It’s like the exclamation point to Christ’s death and resurrection. You see, God saw us, broken down by the problems of this world, by the empty promises, by the temptations that plague us, and the effects of sin that haunt our lives. He saw you and me, lying on the floor, crying, and wondering why our relationships go to pot, why any feeling of love feels empty, and wondering if the sin I have committed could really be forgiven. God saw you and me and He said, I love you. Look what I was willing to do for you. I sent my own Son for you to die. A Father should never have to see his Son die. But that is what I did for you! I turned my back on my own Son. I let him suffer the punishment that YOU really deserve for your sins. I did that for you! God shows compassion on us. Christ died on the cross to forgive even the sins that we struggle with. Run to Jesus: the only one who knows what love is and continually showers his love and blessings on us. Run to the One whose purpose was the exact opposite of Satan, who tries to hurt us and the church. The very work that Christ displayed to us brings his church together. Ascension! Exclamation point!
When we are burdened with our problems, we often wonder what our purpose in life is, we might be caught staring up into the sky, like the apostles, wondering why Jesus ever left us. Our Savior, though, didn’t ascend up into his retirement and he didn’t leave us to fend for ourselves. He is in charge! Right at the beginning of this letter to the Ephesians, Paul puts it into perspective for us, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.” Christ brought the church together with what he did for us, and he continues to give and provide for his church.
We often ask the question, how does this church grow? How do we get more people into the doors of this church? How do we get our name out there? How do we reach out to the community in a more effective manner? The apostle Paul gives to us such an astoundingly simple answer. Does Paul ever mention that having the right type of music played will build the church? No. Does Paul ever mention that having the right type of building with the fancy things inside get people into church? No. Those can be wonderful tools that a church uses, but we see that isn’t what is important in Paul’s eyes at this point. Would it be helpful if I laid off the whole sin talk? If I said, you know what, instead of me making you feel like you are a sinner, how about we just make you feel better about yourself with some motivational quotes. Do you think that would help? It might get people in the door! But that is not what Paul or even what God wants.
The church doesn’t grow through glitz and glam or by preaching things that aren’t biblical. No, it’s so much more simple. Paul doesn’t focus on the tools to get people in the door so much as focusing on the people that are right here within the walls of this church. Although outreach is incredibly important, there can’t be outreach if there isn’t the nurture to bring those Christians along in a deeper understanding of God’s Word. We do that with the gifts that God has given to the church.
God has given to us believers who are willing to study God’s Word and are willing to lead the Church. We saw that list of called positions that we are so blessed to have. Christ gave ministers of the Word as gifts to his church with the goals of unity in the faith and growth in the knowledge of the Son of God. With that knowledge, these called workers strive to bring the church to full maturity in their faith. That will involve pastors, teachers, and leaders to preach the law, the thing our sinful nature hates to hear. But it will also involve preaching the sweet gospel, the thing our new life in Christ loves to hear. It is the responsibility to preach all of the doctrines in the Bible, not just the easy ones to hear so that we grow in that Christian maturity so that we don’t get swept up by the teachings of churches who don’t preach the whole bible or get swindled by the views of what PEOPLE think the church should teach.
But this isn’t Pastor Walther’s, or Frey’s, or Ninmer’s church. No, this is our church. As Paul says, the role of called workers is to equip the church, each member, so that every single member contributes! Every. Single. Member functions for the growth and maturing of the body of Christ. It’s a phenomenal concept. Our effectiveness in communicating the Gospel to the community around us depends on our growth together, as a Church toward maturity. Every single believer has gifts to use. Even if you thought, how could I ever be used to spread God’s Word? God calls you a gift and he has called you use your gifts. How truly blessed we are that God uses clay pots like us, that God uses geese like us. That’s right, geese, because you all admitted to saying you were geese.
Every believer is critical in the growth of this church. We are one body. Paul reminds us how the whole body needs to be active, even the supporting ligaments. I didn’t realize I used the ligaments in my knee until I had just had surgery on it! When such a small part of the human body doesn’t work, it causes some pain. It makes other parts of the body compensate that isn’t necessarily healthy. One of the primary purposes of the church that Paul is emphasizing in our text today is that we build each other up in God’s love and that we support each other.
Someone once said, “What a busy service it is to be one who belongs to God's chosen people.” You see, our ministry as believers isn’t to just show up at worship on Sundays. But as we support each other in the church, we are going to naturally pray for each other, maybe even bear each other’s burdens. It means growing in God’s Word so that you can instruct others or even instruct your own family. It means encouraging Christians as they deal with trials and difficulties and problems. It means giving hope to those who struggle with sin, like porn. It means sharing the sorrow of those who mourn the loss of a loved one. These are all things God has called us as believers to do! As Christians lovingly instruct each other in pure doctrine, and build each other up, we who are Christ's body become so much closer with each other, and are joined even more closely to Christ.
And as we grow in the faith and knowledge of Jesus, God continues to bless us with the opportunity to then take that message to the community around us. Every believer is critical to the growth of our church, because every believer has gifts that God has given, many of which are the same, and many of which are awesomely different. But we wouldn’t be able to grow if it wasn’t for what Christ had done for us and continues to do for us. Even though Satan tries to ruin us with his sadistic strategies when we feel so vulnerable, we know that the very work of Christ won the victory and brings his church together. He provides for it and helps it grow. We, the members of that body, have the privilege of contributing by equipping each other and helping each other to grow in the knowledge of salvation so that we might take that same knowledge to the people we know. Let’s continue to study God’s Word and encourage our whole congregation to be in the means of grace so that we won’t be as naive or gullible as when I was younger dealing with my older brother. But let us stand on the foundation of God’s Word, united together by Christ. Amen.