The Development Goal
Copyright © 2004 Jeremy Myers
Step 1. Walk Worthy of Your Calling (4:1-16)
Step 2. Walk in Purity (4:17-32)
Step 3. Walk in Love (5:1-7)
Step 4. Walk in Light (5:8-14)
Step 5. Walk Carefully (5:14-6:9)
When it comes to setting goals for ourselves, the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it. Some of us donít really have any goals at all. And of course, when you don't have any goals to aim for, you hit them every time.
The same is true for the church. Some people donít have any goals or any expectations for the church they attend. They just want to show up every Sunday and see that nothing has changed, that everything is still the same, and that nobody has rocked the boat. They donít have any goals for the church beyond what the church is already doing. Others do have goals for the church, but they set them way too low. They base their ideas for what the church should be and do on their own opinions and experiences. And any manmade goal, any manmade opinion always falls far short of God's goals for His church. God's opinion of the church is the only one that matters.
Ask yourself, "What does the perfect church look like?" If you could come up with a list of the things that the perfect church had, what would you put on that list? If you could paint a mental picture of what your dream church was like, what do you imagine that church to be like? You see, the reason that there is so much church hopping today, the reason that so many people are continually shopping around for a church is that they are trying to find the "perfect" church - according to their own definition of what a perfect church looks like. They have a mental picture of what the perfect church does, what happens on a Sunday morning, what kind of music the church plays, what sort of ministries and outreaches the church is involved in, what the pastor is like, what his sermons are like, how many people attend the church, how long the service is, and a host of other items.
Maybe the church has to feel a certain way, or look a certain way when you walk in. In Whitefish, we had a visitor who came and then told me afterwards that he wouldn't come back because he didn't think a church should have orange carpet. Well, I personally didn't like the orange carpet either, but that wasn't on my list of what makes or breaks a church - but it apparently was on his list.
What is on your list? What mental checklist do you have that determines what a church should be and do and look like? I want to challenge you this morning into rethinking that list. Very likely, many of the items on your list are manmade items and are not at all Biblical. Maybe several of the items are Biblical, but they are goals for the church that have been set too low. You see, most of us do not realize that God Himself has made up a list of His own. He has given us a list of what He thinks makes the perfect church. Actually, there are several of these lists scattered throughout Scripture.
We will be looking at one of these lists this morning, and as we do, I want you to compare it with your own list. My challenge is that you change your list to match God's list. If there is something that you want in a church that God doesn't think is very important, then you may want to take it off your list. Who wants to go to a church that emphasizes things which are unimportant to God? Similarly, if there are things that are on God's list that are not on your list, you may want to add them to your list. If God were in town trying to pick a church to attend, He would go to a church that matches His list. And if your list is as close as possible to His list, then you would be attending the church that God does.
So what is on God's list? Well, as I said, there are numerous such lists in Scripture. I have a pamphlet called "Attending the Church That God Does" which explains one of these lists found in Acts 2. There are other lists in other places in Scripture. But one of the most detailed lists is found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Paul wrote this letter to explain all about the church. Who we are. What we have as the church. And especially, what we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to do, and how we are supposed to do it.
The book is divided right down the middle. The first three chapters are all about the riches we have as Christians. We looked at these riches last week. The last three chapters, chapters 4, 5 and 6 are all about our responsibilities as Christians in the church. Chapters 4-5 explain what God wants His church to look like, and what He wants His church to do. These chapters contain His goals for the church. You see, we are in a short series called God's Blueprints for Church Growth. While the normal Biblical pattern for preaching is book by book, verse by verse, it is okay to now and then take a break from preaching through a book to cover some topic or issue that is important for the church to learn.
Right now, I am convinced that all of us need to understand how God wants His church to grow. We need to understand what our place is in God's plan. So I am taking a break from our Sunday morning study through the book of Luke to explain God's plan to you. We have already seen how God defines church growth. It is not the way the normal person understands church growth. It is not measured by bodies, bucks and bricks. Instead, God measures church growth by believers maturing in their faith and getting involved in ministry.
Last week, we looked at Ephesians 1-3 and saw the riches and blessings that God has provided in order to accomplish this growth. Today, we look at the responsibilities God wants His church to live out. In Ephesians 1-3 we learned of the infinite building resources God has placed at our disposal. Today we see the development goal, the picture of what God wants His church to become. How God wants us to use our riches. One of the key words throughout Ephesians 4, 5 and 6 is the word "walk." Becoming a church that follows God's pattern is compared to a walk.
You have all been on walks. You know what it is to walk. You know how to walk. You know why you walk. You walk to get from one place to another, and way you walk is by putting one foot in front of the other. You take one step at a time. So as we go through the different steps of our walk in Ephesians 4-6, try to determine in your own mind where you are in this walk. How far along the path have you come? You see, the key to attending the church God has always wanted is not to make sure that others are on this walk, but to make sure that you are.
If you feel frustrated in your Christian life, just realize that you are on a walk. Some are further along the path than others. But all you have to do is discover the next step you are to take and then take it. Don't feel like you have to reach the goal all at once. You don't. You don't go instantaneously from A to Z. You have to go through the whole alphabet. Similarly, as a church, we may not have arrived at this development goal, but we won't arrive there automatically or instantaneously either. Growth and development take time. There are no shortcuts or secret methods to reach the development goal that God has in mind. We're on a walk. So just keep taking one step at a time, and enjoy yourself.
So let's begin right away in Ephesians 4:1. There, Paul beseeches us, begs us, in light of everything he has said in chapters 1-3, to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.
Ephesians 4:1-16 is about walking in unity according to your calling. This idea of calling is almost identical to the idea of God choosing in Ephesians 1:4. Paul begins chapter 4 with the same concept he began chapter 1. In Ephesians 1:4, we learned that God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless. God didn't just choose us to choose us. He chose us for a purpose - that we would carry out His will on this earth. Here in Ephesians 4:1, we learn the same thing. That God has called you for a purpose. God has chosen you for a reason. The first step in your walk as a Christian is to discover that purpose.
I am a bit of a football fan, and a few week ago, the NFL had their football draft. The football draft is a time when the various teams try to pick players who will fill the holes in the team. Those who are drafted have some very specific skill or strength or ability which that specific team needs in order to become a stronger team.It is the same with you. God chose you, called you, picked you, drafted you onto His team because you have a specific strength, or ability, or skill which He wants you to use in His church. Now, we are going to learn in just a minute that it is actually God who gave you the strengths and gifts and abilities and skills which you have, but for now, all you have to realize is that God has placed you where you are to fulfill and very specific purpose.
And if you do not fulfill that purpose, nobody will. You and you alone can do what God wants you to do. If you don't do it, it doesn't get done. If you don't do it, you will always feel like you are missing out in life. If you don't do it, life will always seem empty and without meaning for you. If you don't do it, the church will be weaker because it is lacking what only you can do. The first step in walking toward the development goal is to live up to the reason God called you.
Do you know what your God-given purpose is? If you know what it is and you are living it out, great. Keep it up. If not, there are multiple ways to discover it. But make it your top priority to do so. How tragic it would be to live your whole life, and then at the end of it discover that you had not fulfilled your purpose in life. But once you have discovered your purpose, then we need to understand that there are some conditions for living it out. Paul talks about some of this in Ephesians 4:2-6. I won't read the verses for you there, but basically, Paul teaches us there that although we all have different callings, we must remember to live out our individual callings with unity and love and patience and humility.
You see, your purpose is not somebody else's purpose. While there are similarities, God has given a different purpose, a different calling, to everyone. So don't think everybody has to live like you and do the same things you do. Similarly, your purpose is not better than their purpose. You may have more prominence, but you need them just as much as they need you. So don't start getting proud and arrogant and looking down on others. God made us all different, with different gifts, abilities and callings. But though we are all different, we need to work together as one. Paul likens the church in verse 4 to a body. This is one of his favorite pictures of the church. Just as your body is made up of different members that do different things, it all works together for the good of all the other members. But remember, if one part of the body refuses or neglects to fulfill it's purpose, it effects the whole body. In verses 11-16, Paul goes into even greater detail on how all of this works in the church, but we will be looking at this passage in a few weeks, so I won't go into detail on it today.
Step one in your walk is to discover your calling, discover your purpose and live it out with the unity of the church in mind. What does God want in a church? He wants the various members of the church living in unity with one another while fulfilling their various callings. Do we do that? I think that many of you are doing that. But many of you are not. If you are only coming to church on Sunday morning, and nothing else, very likely you are not fulfilling your calling. God has not called anyone to be a pew warmer. Do you want to be part of a growing church? It begins with you. Find your calling and live it out.
Only then can you go on to the next step of our walk toward God's development goal. This is the step of purity. God wants his church to walk in purity (Eph. 4:17-32). Paul talks in these verses about living a pure life. He says we should live the way the world does, in ignorance and lewdness, with uncleanness and greed. Instead, he says we need to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and live in purity and holiness.
Now remember, this is the second step. While there are many reasons that we are tempted and we sin so frequently, I am convinced that one of the reasons we so often fail to walk in purity is because we have not accomplished step one of discovering and living out our calling. You see, sin is sometimes an attempt to find satisfaction and pleasure and enjoyment in life. We look around us and our lives seem so empty and devoid of meaning and significance that we start searching for something to fill the emptiness. We look around at the world and they seem to be enjoying themselves, and so we try to fill our lives with what they fill their lives with - sex and drugs and drinking and money and ambition and entertainment and recreation and working out and eating and the list goes on and on. But we are never satisfied. We never feel fulfilled. We know the things we are doing are wrong, yet we don't know where else to turn. But look, Paul has already told us that step number one is discovering your calling and living it out in the church. Where is there fulfillment and satisfaction in the Christian life? Not in sin. But in fulfilling your calling. And when we do that, sin does not have the pull it once did. When we are doing what we know we were made to do, life just feels right. Everything fits into place.
When we have taken the first step of living out our calling, it is much easier to take the second step of living in purity, because the lure of sin is not as attractive any more. So the second step then is walking in purity. In verses 25-32, one of the main ways to walk in purity is to guard what comes out of our mouth, to watch what comes off our lips. Every word we speak, Paul says in verse 29, should edify others rather than tear them down.
When we sin with our mouth, that grieves the Holy Spirit. A lot of people talk about how this Christian or that Christian is grieving the Holy Spirit, but the Bible tells us very clearly how the Holy Spirit is grieved. We grieve the Holy Spirit whenever an unedifying word passes our lips. When we tear down another Christian with our words, whether it is through gossip, or slander or unjust criticism, that deeply saddens the Holy Spirit. When we speak with bitterness, or anger or wrath or malice, that grieves the Holy Spirit. Paul talks a lot here about a persons words because it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks. A person's words are one of the ways we can determine what it is in a person's heart. Lewd and crude jokes and licentious humor indicate a heart filled with lust and perversion.
Gossip and slander reveal a heart filled with hate and spite. I don't care how sweetly a person smiles, a pure heart is revealed by pure words. Jesus even teaches in Matthew 7 that "by their fruit you will know them." Do you know what the fruit of Matthew 7 is? It is not their works, but their words. And James 3 says that the one who is able to control his tongue is a perfect man.
The first step of our development goal is to walk in unity according to our calling. Once you have accomplished this, the second step is to walk in purity, and your words reveal the condition of your heart. Once you have taken this step, the third step is to walk in love. This is found in Ephesians 5:1-7.
Paul says there in verse 2, and walk in loveÖ Do you ever have trouble loving some of the people in church? Oh sure, you can say that you love them as a Christian, but you know that in your heart, you cannot stand to be around that person, and you are afraid to talk to them because you don't think you can say anything nice to them. Well again, if that is where you are at, it means that very likely, you need to make sure you have gone through steps one and two of your walk. Oftentimes, our disdain for other people is due in large part to sin in our own lives.
I have found personally that the areas in other people's lives about which I am most critical, are areas that I struggle with the most in my own life. Oh sure, it may not be the exact same struggle, but if you struggle with self-control in the area of eating, you may find yourself judging somebody else who struggles with self-control in the area of television watching. The sins in others we are most critical about are often the sins we have hidden in our own heart. So do you want to walk in love toward these people? You may need to go back and repeat step two about walking in purity. Ask God to search your heart and see if there is any wicked way in you. Ask yourself what about that person annoys you, and then see if that same sin might not be in your own life. You see, Jesus says "Take the log out of your own eye before you can help your brother remove the speck from his."
God wants you to help others overcome their sin, but only after you have taken care of yours. And even if that other person never does gain victory over their sin, you can love them anyway because you know the struggle they are facing. In fact, right there in Ephesians 5:2, Paul tells us how we are to love others. He says we are to walk in love, as Christ also has loved us. How did Christ love us? He loved us while we were still sinners. He came to this earth and suffered and was tempted in all ways, just as we are yet He never sinned.
Jesus understands what you are going through because He went through it Himself. And because of that, He loves you even more. And once you have walked in purity yourself, you can then walk in love toward others, just as Christ walked in love toward you. Once you have mastered walking in love, then you take the next step in God's Development Goal and walk in light. We see this in Ephesians 5:8-14. He writes in Ephesians 5:8 to walk as children of light.
While it is true that all of us are to be the lights of the world, most of us have our lenses covered with scum and grime so that barely a twinkle escapes into the dark night of the world. And so as we live as God has called us, as we get rid of sin in our lives and live in purity, as we walk in live and unity with other Christians, the grime is washed away and the light of God within each one of us shines forth.
Does it ever seem like God is distant from you? Does it seem like God is silent and is not at work in your life? Well, when you come to the place in your development that you are walking in the light, you will experience fellowship and intimacy and communion with God that you never imagined, nor thought possible. You see, in Scripture, walking in the light is always a picture of the deepest and most intimate fellowship with God that a Christian can have. In fact, in Revelation 21, where the new heavens and the new earth and where eternity with God is described for us, we read that it is there that we will forever walk in the light (Rev. 21:23-24). Do you know what you are longing for? You long to walk in the light. You were made to have fellowship and intimacy and closeness with God. And that can be yours, but it is the fourth step in God's development goal. You must take the first three steps to get there.
And when you come to this fourth step, it will be as Paul says in verse 14. Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light. When you begin to walk in the light, it will seem to you as though you have been asleep your whole life. It will seem to you like you have been locked away in prison without ever seeing the sun. It will seem like your whole life has been night and now the day has dawned.
I don't think many Christians achieve the step of walking in the light. Especially nowadays with all of the worldly distractions and our own sinfulness that holds us back and drags us down. John talks about this some in the book of 1 John. He tells us there that one of his purposes in writing that short book is to show us and tell us how to walk in the light. It's an amazing truth that nobody should miss out on.
The fifth and final step of God's development goal is found in the rest of Ephesians 5 and on into Ephesians 6. The first step was to walk in unity according to our calling. The second step is to walk in purity. The third step is to walk in love. The fourth is to walk in light. Fifth and finally, walk carefully. Paul says in verse 15 see then that you walk circumspectly. To walk circumspectly means to walk carefully. To be careful where you put your foot. To be careful where your feet take you. To be careful what you do. Now this is easier said than done because of all the pitfalls and traps that the devil lays in our path.
So Paul tells us very clearly in Ephesians 5:18 how to walk carefully in this world. You walk carefully by being filled with the Holy Spirit. There is a lot of confusion about what it means to be filled with the Spirit and what it looks like to be filled. In a nutshell, all it means to be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit. To let him control where you go, what you do, what you say, how you act. And I think everybody agrees on that, but there is much disagreement on how this looks when you are filled.
Some teach that because Paul mentions being drunk with wine in verse 18, when you are filled with the Spirit, you will act drunk. But Paul is contrasting being drunk with being filled, not comparing the two. He is saying that being filled is nothing at all like being drunk. And furthermore, someone who is drunk has lost all self-control, whereas in Galatians 5, one of the fruits of being filled is self-control. So what does it look like to be filled with the Spirit? Well, one of the results of being filled is, as I just mentioned, the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. But aside from those, Paul mentions three characteristics of the Spirit-filled life right here in Ephesians 5. These three characteristics are in Ephesians 5:19-21.
First, according to verse 19, the person who is filled with the Spirit will sing songs to the Lord. They sing in church, they sing when they are all by themselves. The person who is filled with the Spirit loves to sing. Music is a way we can worship God all the time, no matter where we are or what we are doing. And the Holy Spirit, when He is controlling you, glorifies Jesus and bring honor to God by causing you to sing.
Secondly, in verse 20, the spirit-filled life is characterized by giving thanks, not just for some things, but giving thanks always for all things. Only someone who is controlled by the Spirit can see God's hand at work in the most horrible and depressing situations. Where the world sees defeat and darkness, the Spirit-controlled person sees God's hand and God's touch.
Finally, in verse 21, people who are filled with the Spirit submit to one another. There is mutual submission. This third characteristic of being filled with the Spirit, mutual submission, is so key, that Paul goes on to give some clear examples of how it looks in real life. He explains mutual submission in the marriage in verses 22-33. Then in chapter 6, he explains mutual submission in the family and in the workplace. When we are controlled by the Spirit, He effects all of our relationships in all areas of our life.
Now imagine in your own mind what you have normally thought of when a person is described as being filled with the Spirit, and try to reconcile that picture with what we read here. Chances are that what most people say it looks like to be filled with the Spirit is not at all similar to what Paul says it looks like. So you be the judge who is right and who is wrong.
This fifth and final step in our walk toward God's development goal is vitally important. And I think that although it is the fifth step, no matter where you are in your walk along God's development path, you can be filled to one degree or another. You see, filling can come and go, and the degree to which you can be filled can change. Your capacity to be filled is like a muscle. The more it develops, the more you can do. When you first become a Christian, you are a baby Christian, and your spiritual muscles have not developed.
But as you eat a healthy diet of good Christian teaching, and work out your muscles by getting involved in service and getting rid of the sin toxins that are in your body, your muscles will strengthen and develop and you will be able to be filled more. When you backslide into sin, as all of us do, your spiritual muscles begin to atrophy and you lose your filling. But as you return to walking along the straight and narrow path, you get filled again with divine energy to press on and keep going. And as your muscles get stronger and stronger you discover that you are able to do more and more.
To use the picture of filling, imagine that as a new Christian, your capacity for filling is only a thimble full. But as you mature and walk along the path of discipleship, your capacity grows also, until the spiritual giants throughout history could probably hold oceans. So although this is the fifth and final step on the walk of God's development goal, you can be filled with the Spirit all the way through. Paul puts it last because you increase your filling capacity by walking the first four steps. You increase your capacity by living out your calling, by walking in purity, by walking in love and by walking in the light.
The last part of chapter 6 explains spiritual warfare and how to stand strong against the devil. There, Paul is no longer talking about our walk, but about our stand against the devil. Those verses explain how protect ourselves against his schemes and wiles. So since it's not about our development goal, I won't say anything about it today.
It has often been said that the best way to start a project is to begin with the end in mind. In Ephesians 4, 5 and 6, Paul has painted a picture for us of God's development goal for the church. But the ultimate goal, the end product, the final outcome is found in Ephesians 5:27. What is God trying to make the church into? Look at what Paul says in this verse.
That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
This is God's vision for His church. He wants a church that is perfect and holy. Without spot or blemish.
What is your vision for the church? Does it match God's? As a part of God's church, are you taking the steps necessary to accomplish God's development goal? Where are you on the walk? Have you discovered why God called you? If so, are you purifying yourself? As you become more and more pure, are you loving other Christians more and living in the light of God more? And in all of this, are you learning day by day to be filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit? This is what God wants of you and this is what God wants for this church. God has called you, chosen you, drafted you to be part of His team. Are you going to fulfill His calling for you?
You know, as part of God's team, you are guaranteed to win the game. We all know that in the Super Bowl of life, God's team has already won. Did you ever realize that at the Super Bowl, everybody on the team gets a Super Bowl ring - even if they didn't play a single second in the game? Even if they only sat on the sidelines for the entire game?Well, it's the same for you and for me. Since you are on God's team, and since God's team has won the Super Bowl, you will get the Super Bowl ring. You get to go to heaven and spend an eternity with God and with one another.
But even though everybody on the team gets a ring, some of the players get more recognition than others. Some make better plays. Some have trained and practiced and worked out harder and so last longer in the game. And of course, there is only one MVP award. You see, even though God has chosen you for His team, that's no excuse to sit on the sidelines. Oh sure, since you're on the winning team, you'll get a Super Bowl ring and a paycheck bonus, but you won't get much recognition afterwards, and you definitely won't be the MVP. God has chosen you to be on his team, and He wants you to try for that MVP award. And He has told us how to do that in Ephesians 4-6. I hope and pray that each of us will be able to live up to our calling and walk along the path of God's development goal.