Covenant Service Message: ‘Make every effort to keep the Unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ – Ephesians 4:3
Ephesians 4: 1-7
Our membership scripture for 2012 has not just been plucked out of the Bible to adorn our membership cards. It has been carefully and prayerfully discerned as God’s word to Trinity for the coming year ahead. It is spoken by Paul in jail or at least under household arrest in Rome to the Ephesian Christians. Do you recall how in Acts 21 he had such a tearful farewell with them after sharing in the work of Christ with them over at least two years. It’s a congregation he loved dearly and one that he, acting wisely, handed over the leadership mantle to John the Apostle.
Paul new that unity was crucial to growth individually in Jesus and corporately as the Body of Christ. He urges them to live a life worthy of the calling they have received to follow Jesus and make Him known. He gives them some clues as to how: complete humility (now there’s a challenge for most of us), patience (just remember how patient the Lord has been and continues to be with you!) and lovingly caring for one another (what a dynamic witness that would be if are caring were not fleshly, to those who like and know, but spirit-led to whomever the Lord gives us to care for?)
Paul follows our verse by defining unity: one body (so no more man-made divisions), one Spirit (so no more flesh however well intended), one Hope (of Glory, of Jesus’ return. If you don’t grasp that you need to. It defines everything you do for Jesus in the present), one Lord (of my life and of the Church: a generation on from Ephesus is Laodicea so beware), one Faith (not that we hold but that holds us), one Baptism (of repentance, in water and the spirit, and increasingly in suffering) & one God & Father (His Grace, His Initiative, His Sovereignty). Such are the seven building blocks of Jesus’ Church; such are the bread and butter of our life in Christ.
So amid this Paul commands us (Greek imperative tense) to: v3.
So lets look more closely at what he is telling us is essential to our growth and unity?
1. Make Every Effort
Sometimes I think that most Christians feel that they can become mature fruitful disciples of Jesus simply by hanging around churches and doing and saying the right things. Looking good on the outside might make you religious but it won’t necessarily help you grow in Jesus and be effective in making Him known. God does not look at the outward appearance: He looks at the heart. Lets stop kidding ourselves and start exercising the discipline of discipleship: and in saying that I don’t just mean reading your Bible and allow God speak to you, enjoying a dynamic spirit-filled prayer life, or being part of the best Life Group around. I also mean actively witnessing to Jesus, actively being part of Christians reaching out whether to the homeless, party goers, refugees, students, young people, or whomever the door opens to. Such a life lived needs to be spirit-filled because flesh won’t like it, and such a life needs to be full of second mile supernatural effort which Jesus gives you and me as we obediently follow. So gauge your Effort now on a scale of 1 -10 and resolve this year to at least up it by one.
2. To Keep the Unity of the Spirit
Of ourselves and because of the fall we cannot live in unity with God or with one another. But because of Jesus and His once and for all death on Calvary’s tree, Unity has been purchased for all eternity. Jesus had prayed: May they be One, so the World might believe (John 17:20) and then He had gone on to answer that prayer. Unity is not something we can create or invent or conjure up, it something that like most things in the Christian Life we need to receive by faith and make visible to the World. So first its Unity to keep: Satan will try and spoil it, fleshly Christians will mess with it as they try and build Church their way, but we must simply ensure the purity of His Life is pre-eminent and supreme and let no-one in the spiritual realm or on earth mess with it or us. James 4:7 puts it succinctly: Submit yourselves to god, resist the Enemy, and He will flee from you! And secondly its Unity which is at it s best and most winsome and dynamic in the power of the Holy Spirit. The more we surrender to Jesus, the more we let the Spirit take full control of our lives, the more effective and visible will be the Unity, and yes, Newcastle will believe and want some of what you have! So how are you on the Holy Spirit scale between 1 – 10? Wherever you are, resolve in 2012 to experience and receive more of His fulness!
3. Through the Bond of Peace
More Effort, More Holy Spirit Unity & how do we know we are receiving the real thing? Answer: the filter is Shalom. Paul says to the Colossian Christians: Let Jesus Shalom be the decider in all circumstances. (3:15). As Jesus has told us: this is not peace, as the world knows. This is supernatural shalom and its probably the one of the two most precious gifts we are given by Jesus, so precious that when Christians meet they mentioned both in their greeting of each other: Grace and Peace!! Let the spiritual red light flash when your peace is threatened, just as when your grace runs out, for these are the stuff of the gospel of not just words but Holy Spirit power. So check out your peace/shalom and resolve to guard it at all costs for it is the gateway to the Unity of the Spirit that is the dynamism of growing Christians.
So act on this scripture and let it shape your 2012. Refuse to trade it for disunity and cheap grace. The Lord of the Church: Jesus calls you to a new chapter of faith, hope and love, and whether in Canterbury or Gosforth its worth my everything.