In our “How People Change” study last night, we looked at how God has designed sanctification to take place within the context of a community of believers. There was one point in the study that I found particularly helpful that I’d like to pass on to you.
In the book of Ephesians, beginning in ch2, Paul explains that God reconciled us to Himself in order to create one new body, the church (2:14-22). In ch3, he prays for the Ephesians that they would come to know the love of Christ as a body of believers (3:14-21). Then beginning in ch4, Paul explains how God accomplishes this: God has gifted every believer to serve the body of Christ in a specific way so that the whole body becomes mature in Christ (4:7-16).
Most of us are aware of the New Testament concept of spiritual gifts (Rom 12; 1 Cor 12). All of us who are in Christ have received a gift with which to serve the body. Consider how the receipt of that gift obligates each of us to be involved in the lives of the believers around us.
There are at least three things that the New Testament presents as tools used by God to sanctify us. Most of us know what the first two are right away. The Bible and prayer. We’ve heard for as long as we’ve been in the church how essential those two things are in order for us to grow in Christ. However, many people in the church either are not aware of the third tool or they simply do not incorporate it into their lives. That third tool is the church itself. That passage in Ephesians 4 makes it clear that God has designed sanctification to take place as we exercise our gifts in each other’s lives.
We need to understand that what Paul is picturing is not mere church attendance. Nor is it even serving in some capacity on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights. Rather it is real involvement in each other’s lives. Praying together, confessing to one another, encouraging each other, confronting each other, providing accountability, helping each other to apply Scripture. It is all the “one another-ing” in Scripture.
Many of us resist this kind of involvement in one another’s lives, among other reasons, because of the vulnerability of it, because of the time it requires, and because of a perceived lack of personal benefit. I believe that if we take those reasons and hold them up to the Ephesians 4 picture, we would have to admit that they are extremely self-centered motivations.
We need to look at this issue from the other side. Rather than asking myself, “how much time will this require of me?” or “how will this benefit me?”, I should ask, “how might I be a blessing in that person’s life? How has God gifted me to help that person in his sanctification?”
It is certainly appropriate for me to recognize how badly I need the brothers and sisters around me to help me grow in Christ. It is good for that to motivate me to engage in close relationships with them. But I should also consider that I am needed in their lives as well, and that also should motivate me to build those relationships. I am not the only one who suffers when I keep to myself. Those around me suffer as well in that I am not being used by the Lord to help them.
What close relationships do you have at Providence? Is there anyone you are regularly spending time with in order to help and be helped? If not, don’t wait for someone to initiate that relationship. Be obedient and take the initiative. Schedule coffee or a play date with the kids or dinner at your house. Do you already have a relationship like that? Include someone else. Broaden your service. You’ve been given a gift that is needed in the body, just as the body has gifts needed by you.
Posted by Greg Birdwell