Saturday, August 01, 2015

Are You Being Spiritually Fed? Ephesians 4:1-16

 Ehpesians I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
    he gave gifts to his people.”
(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended[a] into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
        Are you being spiritually fed?

        I want to share several things that you can do to make sure you are being spiritually fed.

        First, love.  As simple as that. 

        Now that makes sense – we all want to be loved.  And being loved makes us feel good.  We feel supported by others when they love us.

But that is not exactly what the author of Ephesians has in mind.

He is not talking about the love you receive, but the love you give.

In our New Testament lesson for today, the writer says, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

        Love is central to everything written in the Gospels.

It is foundational to everything else in the Christian experience.  If you want to grow in your faith, if you want to feed and nurture your spiritual life, then learn to love others.

        In Matthew (Matt 22:36-40), a man approaches Jesus and asks, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."


        Is this boring?

        Don’t answer that!

        It’s just that we are always talking about love in the church, and maybe sometimes it gets a bit boring.

        I mean, if there is one thing we know how to do in the Christian Church, it is love.



        Maybe not.

        Have you heard about the fellow who sold his soul on ebay?  Hemant Mehta offered his soul on ebay.  Actually, he didn’t sell his soul – he rented it.  For every $10 the winning bid paid, Mehta would spend one hour in a church of the buyer’s choice.  He promised to go with an open mind and he promised to conduct himself in a respectful manner.

        Retired pastor Jim Henderson won the soul – but instead of selecting his own church, he asked Mehta to pick a different place of worship every week.  The plan was they would go together and Mehta would share his impressions with the retired pastor.

        Mehta said he was surprised at what he discovered in the churches.  They were energetic and dynamic places.  People cared about each other.  The preaching was interesting.  He loved the live music.

        What he didn’t like, however, was how Christians talk so badly about other people.  Christians regarded all Muslims as terrorists.  When Christians talked about gays, they talked with hatred.  There was racist talk in the Sunday School discussions.  (Leadership Magazine, Summer 2006)  And when they talked about the preacher or the bishop or one of the church leaders – some of them sounded so full of hate and anger!

        Maybe love is easier to talk about, than to do.

        It’s time we begin to do more than talk about love.  It is time for us to do it.

        If you come to church and think, “My soul isn’t being fed” – maybe it is because you aren’t loving others.

        Notice, what is important is not so much that we find someone to love us.  What is important is that we love others. 

        In the motion picture, Marvin's Room, there are two sisters who have been estranged for many years.  When one of them is diagnosed with cancer, the other sister arrives to help take care of her.  In one of the final scenes of the movie, the two sisters are talking about their lives, and the one with cancer says, "I'm so lucky.  I'm so lucky.  I've had so much love in my life."

        "Yes, yes," the other sister agrees, barely looking at her sister while she cleans the kitchen.  "You've always had people around you who loved you."

        "Oh no," the other sister says with a look of surprise.  "I'm lucky because I've been able to love so many people."

        It is the loving of others that nurtures and feeds our souls.

        John said in one of his letters (I Jn 3:10), "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother or sister."

        Whenever someone says, "I'm not being fed," I wonder if that person is trying to love others.

        You want to nurture your soul? 

Then renew your vow to God that you will love others.

        A second step to spiritual nurture is to study the Word of God. 

        In the New Testament lesson, the author wrote about how we should work toward spiritual growth "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature..." 

        On the front of our bulletin covers we list Seven Marks of Discipleship.  Your elders have approved a list this list a few years ago in the hopes that every elder and every member of our church should be demonstrating and living out these 7 marks.  One of these marks is reading the Bible on a daily basis.

And that mark of discipleship can be clearly seen in this New Testament text.

Becoming spiritually mature is dependent on building up a knowledge of the Son of God through the study of Scripture.

        In the Old Testament, the Psalmist says (Ps 119:11), "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."

        If you want to grow spiritually, then study and read the Word of God. 

        In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, there is a wonderful imagery of the study of God's Word.  In chapter 11, the writer says, (Deut 11:18-20), "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." 

        Imagine that imagery being practiced.  You wake up in the morning, and you leave the house, and there on the doorframe is a Scripture verse.  As you drive out of your community, there is a sign on the gate that has  a Bible verse.  While you are riding in your car, you are talking with others about the Bible.  As you type on your computer, you see the Word of God because you have, as Deuteronomy said, "tied them on you hands and bound them on your forehead."  At the end of the day, you return home and as you enter the house, there is the Bible verse on your doorframe.  The Bible saturates your whole day -- your life.

        If you want to grow spiritually, then renew your commitment to study God's Word.

        The third step in spiritual growth is practice what is preached! 

        Don't just study God's Word.  Live God's Word.

        Jesus said in Matthew's Gospel (Matt 7:24), "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock."

        St. Paul wrote to the Phillipians (Phil 4:9), "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

        If you want to grow physically, then you must exercise.  The same is true with the spiritual life.  If you want to grow spiritually, then you must exercise and practice the lifestyle of the Christian.

        In our New Testament lesson, the writer says that we are to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

        You want to grow spiritually?  Then renew your commitment to act like a spiritually grown up by putting into practice the things you learn from Scripture.

So are you being spiritually fed?

You will be if you love others,

Study God’s Word,

And practice in your life what you learn in Scripture.

Copyright 2015. 
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh

All rights reserved