Monthly Archives: January 2015

Ephesians – The Measure of Maturity

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Measuring Maturity 

January 25, 2015

Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

In spiritual circles there has been an ongoing debate on how to determine if a person has reach spiritual maturity. Personal, I have often asked this question but the answers have been varied and they span the gamut of ideas. I have also been confronted with the question of what does a mature believer in Christ look like? How does a mature believer act? How does a mature believer respond to the issues of life? It is my belief that in this passage, Paul does a good job of detailing what spiritual maturity looks like.

As we read these verses, we discover something very powerful about God’s purpose for our lives. Know this, God is very interested in seeing us grow and mature as believers. He is so focused on our growth that He has positioned people in our lives and He has given us the tools we need to assist us in our growth. You see growth and maturity have always been His goal and purpose for those who are passionate followers of Christ.

As in physical growth, one’s age does not necessarily mean that one is mature and is grown-up. The fact is one can be in their forties or fifties and yet be immature in their thinking and in the way they act. Spiritually, the number of years one attends church or confesses to be a believer does not make one mature in itself. The ability to quote scripture or a particular doctrinal position does not make one mature either. It is the application of God’s Words and the truth of the Gospel that causes one to mature.

So, while we may understand that He wants us to grow and mature, the question or the debate is what does that look like for us? How do we know when one has matured and has grown into a mature believer? When we measure maturity solely by the outward manifestation of one’s actions or how and what they communicate, we can misjudge a person’s spiritual maturity. The reason is that we do not have a true measure of a person’s heart. This is difficult because we can misread or misjudge a person’s heart and believe one to be either more mature or less mature than they really are. So, the real measure of growth, as defined here, is a method of self examination rather than the examination of another’s heart. With that in mind let me give you five self examination tools to determine your level of maturity.

First, are you actively engaged in ministry? The gifts have been given to equip the church for the work of ministry. Please note here that the work of the ministry is not the pastor’s role, singularly, but it should be in the wheelhouse of every believer to do the work of ministry. When Jesus was on earth, and shortly after the Holy Spirit was released on earth, the idea was that each person would be equipped and released for ministry under the leadership of Christ and the leadership of the local church.

A problem arose however within just a few short centuries, after the establishment of the church; the church moved from the church body as a whole being activated for ministry to where the pastor become the one who accomplished every bit of the ministry. This set the stage for people to think that they did not need to respond to ministry but that it was the pastor’s job. That was never God’s intent. We must do the work of ministry together by using our gifts and talents to the glory of God. I am so grateful for all of those in our church who have joined to make life here at PCC happen. Because of you we are where we are today. But we have some work to do. We need to continue to develop our children’s ministry. We need to continue to develop a youth ministry. We need each of you to do your part in giving financially, inviting folks to come to the church, and engaging in the ministries we have available.

Second, are you a uniter or a divider? A measure of maturity is how you seek to build up and bring unity to the body of Christ. How is your walk of unity? Do you attempt to bring healing or are you an agent of disunity and disruption? Do you talk about others behind their back? Do you gossip about others with others? Do you segregate yourself from others and isolate yourself as a matter of lifestyle? Do you seek to fervently push your own agenda but reluctantly get behind the ideas of others?

Let me suggest here that what Paul is referring to is not a unity around our specific nuisances of believe but rather the basic tenants of faith and knowledge that we must all agree on. For example, we can all agree that we serve one Lord and that there is only one way to access Heaven and that is through a personal commitment to Christ who gave Himself as our Savior. Secondly, we can agree that God loves us and has a plan for our life. We can also agree that it is critical for us to get to know God through His word, which He gave as a love letter to read and share.

When we seek after unity this does not mean that anything goes. This does not mean that we compromise Scripture or truth to keep peace. The fact is, unity has little to do with peace and has a lot to do with vision and purpose. The fact is most of what divides us has little to do with Scriptural truth and more about personal bias, desires, and pride. It is for this reason that James succinctly denotes what causes quarrels and fights that lead to division and disunity. What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (James 4:1-2).

If this defines what disunity looks like, then one who is mature will focus on keeping the unity. When we focus on Jesus, everything else is minor in comparison. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Thirdly, are you spiritually, emotionally, and mentally stable? Paul here says that one who is mature is one who no longer acts like a child, and is tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Too often our lack of maturity causes us to be pulled and pushed and tossed around by every idea and thought that comes along. We sometimes act more like children on the playground than adults who are called by God, but when we are mature in Christ we will make good decisions and will be stable in our way of living.

Listen to what Paul had this to say in 1 Corinthians 13:11. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. What is Pauling saying? Look at the verbs Paul uses here. I spoke, I thought, and I reasoned like a child but now I have grown up.

Fourthly, are you willing to balance truth with love and love with truth? The fourth element of maturity is that we learn to speak the truth in love. We must be reminded of the two-sided coin of spiritual maturity. We speak the truth but we do so in a way that based in love and concern. But we also love others truthfully and righteously so that God’s word and His way is made evident in our lives. Real truth and love is not self seeking but rather is God-focused, Christ-centered, and others oriented. We do not avoid truth. We embrace it. We encourage it.

And finally, are you continuing to mature in Christ? Maturation is a ongoing process. Please note here that maturity is not based on one’s age, it is measured by the process of growth in the individual. You see there are a couple of measures of growth and maturity. Often we think that one is mature by virtue of the fact that they have been a believer in Christ for a long time. The age of an individual does not automatically equate to maturity. A person’s position of authority does not equate to maturity. The fact is we never stop growing and maturing.

We must continue in the apostles teaching and the breaking of bread in order to continue the maturation process. We must be connected in Bible Study and in fellowship with one another. Look at what we have here at PCC. We have Sunday School. We have Sunday worship. We have the home groups. We have the weekly lunch at McDonalds for the men. We have the weekly ladies’s bible study on Thursdays. We have ongoing special events like men’s breakfasts and ladies’ luncheon. Why is this? It is so we can grow personally and corporately as a body. It is also so that we can invest in the lives of others as we invite them to come and be a part of these events.

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Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – Diversity in Unity

Peninsula Community Church

January 11, 2015

Diversity in Unity

Ephesians 4:7-14But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” ( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

I love a great action movie. I especially love those movies where the hero has very little hope of winning and yet somehow they beat the odds and win. This is one of the reasons that the “Die Hard” movies have been such a success. If you have seen the movies, you know that John McClane battles against the odds and comes out victorious, every time. He is bloodied and beaten but he is always a winner.

In the verse before us today, Paul relates just such a battle where Christ is the victorious one. It is possible that this verse might cause some confusion because of where it is placed in the chapter and the fact that Paul interjects this subject at this stage in the discussion. It appears that Paul gets distracted for a moment, but when we understand the context and the purpose of Paul’s inclusion of this verse, we will understand its meaning for its use at this specific time.

Paul references Psalm 68:18. David, the author of this Psalm, presents a picture of a victory celebration. When the army of David’s day would return from battle, the commander and his chariot would be at the front of the processional. This was a proud moment for the commander, the army, and the town’s people. Those on the parade route would shout, “Hallelujah, the victory has been won.” Following the commander would be all of those taken in battle. Not too far behind them would be all of the spoils of war. If the commander was a decent and honorable man, he would head to the town square where the celebration would continue. The leaders of the town would present the commander with the spoils of war, but being a decent man he would distribute these gifts to those who served with him as well as the members of the town. The idea here is that what the commander had received, he would give back to those around Him. In essence, he would receive in order to give.

In our text today, Paul is in essence saying that this is exactly what Christ did for us. He descended to earth and won the greatest battle of all time, the battle for man’s soul. Just as the general of old would distribute the spoils of war to His soldiers and to the town’s people, Jesus did that for us. You see Jesus conquered death, hell, the grave, and the power of sin. He led away captives, who represented the spoils of the spiritual battle, as he ascended back to His home in heaven. Just as the warrior leader did in David’s day, Paul makes it clear that Jesus distributed gifts to His body. Listen to Paul’s own words. When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. What was the purpose of Him giving these gifts. It was so that the unity of the body of Christ could be preserved. It was so that each believer could be effective in their work as a passionate follower of Christ in their own way. It was so that in working together the Body of Christ would mature and grow into what God intended.

As we review these gifts, we understand that each gift is so different and yet God gave these gifts to effectively minister to those around us. The opening verse of our text clarifies these gifts were distributed by grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. That is, it is a free gift distributed according to His will. Who determines who receives what gift? It is Christ. Where does the gift come from? It is from Christ. How is the gift given? It is freely given by grace.

The fact is that Christ is the one who has distributed the gifts to His people but here is the amazing thing, He did not just distribute these gifts arbitrarily. He purposed to give each person what they needed individually to accomplish the tasks they had been called to. We should be aware that these specific gifts are in addition to the gifts already established through the work of the cross. We all have been given eternal salvation. We all have been given great grace. We all have redemption from sin. We must be clear that these specific gifts have been given to all of us, regardless of who we are. But when it comes to specific gifts, He assigns those according to how they will be best used by the individual receiving them, and to the measure that Christ believes they should be given out. He distributes to us exactly what we need, when we need them, to accomplish the tasks we have been called to. That is diversity in unity.

It is this diversity that often creates an atmosphere of division and disunity. As the gifts are distributed, we must be careful to protect the unity of the body by refusing to compare ourselves with others or judge another’s gifts. Remember the gifts are God’s and they are distributed by Him to those who may need them and will use them most wisely.

Another idea presented here is that these gifts were distributed for the health and vitality of the body of Christ. Paul states And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

It is clear that one the great gifts Jesus gave the church was spiritual leadership: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers. Each of these gifts have been distributed by God to lead the body of Christ toward a specific purpose and goal. Let me give a brief definition of each of these. First, there is the apostle. The term apostle means one sent and this role is defined in many ways as a missionary or church planter. The one with this gift often has a specific calling to multiply the church of Christ. The apostle is the one who has been given spiritual authority to reach and establish people in Kingdom truth and to bring order to the church, especially in founding and overseeing local churches. An apostle has a burden to build something that did not exist before. We have done a disservice to the Body of Christ by elevating people to the role of apostle when that is not the case.

Secondly, we have the prophet. Prophets reveal God’s heart to His people and give guidance to individuals. The problem is that too often those who might be given this gift tend to exalt themselves and develop a prideful, self seeking heart which results in division and pain. The third role is the evangelist. This is the one who seems to be especially gifted to share the message of hope with the lost and watch them come to the saving grace of God. The fourth role is the pastor or shepherd who has been given to protect and to guard the church. The shepherd deeply cares for the sheep and is ready to lay his life down for them. He longs to feed, grow, equip, and develop the church. The fifth role is that of the teacher who is called to instruct and impart divine life to their listeners.

The key note here is that there is diversity in the gifts but all serve to bring healing and growth to the Body of Christ. The gifts were given because there was a need to have diversity in accomplishing the work of the ministry. We must understand that it is possible that any one individual may exhibit any or all of these gifts at any one time and at different times. This idea of diversity is confirmed in Romans and Corinthians. Listen to what Paul says. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Romans 12:4-6).

As we close today, let’s look at what Paul is saying. Christ was sent to earth as the God-man. In coming to earth, He gave Himself to fight the greatest battle ever fought. This fight was not for land, money, or fame. It was for the soul of man. We know the story. Christ willingly went to the cross which in many people’s minds was a great defeat. Even His disciples believed this was a defeat. This is in spite of the fact that He died on the cross, and was placed in a tomb, but when most thought it was all over, three days later He arose. This reminds me of the Easter Hymn that says Up from the grave he arose; with a mighty triumph o’er his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose! 

Can you see the picture? Christ returns triumphantly back to heaven, His home. And as the warrior of old would do, He distributed His spoils of war to those He loved. That would be us. Praise the Lord! May we shout and proclaim “Hallelujah, the victory has been won.” How do I know? I know this because I have received precious gifts from the greatest battle ever won.

Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – Unity in Diversity

Peninsula Community Church

Unity in Diversity

January 4, 2015

Ephesians 4:4-7 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

As we move to our next set of verses, we are once again confronted with the subject of unity. Paul does this by emphasizing the oneness that is at the core of Biblical Christianity. In these few verses, we find an amazing duality of thought. Paul focuses on the unity of the body but he also gives room for diversity in carrying out these core values. It is for this reason that I have entitled this message “Unity in Diversity.”

As we begin to look at this passage it might be beneficial for us to define the terms “unity” and “diversity.” The word unity is defined as “the state of being united or joined as a whole.” The word diverse means “showing a great deal of variety; to be very different.” So when we say this phrase “unity in diversity” here is what we mean. We can be united as a whole and yet maintain the qualities and personal giftings that are uniquely ours.

As most of you know I love football. If you know much about football you know each football team has one goal and one purpose in mind and that is to win games. Football is a good illustration of unity with diversity. First of all there is one head coach with multiple staff coaches who are assigned specific responsibilities for the team. You then have players who have been trained at specific positions in order to accomplish specific tasks. Teams win games when each person, both coaches and players on the team, understands their role and the goal of the team. When each player does their part by playing their individual position with excellence they win games. Nick Saban, the coach of Alabama, was asked about winning games. His reply was that we do not set out to win games, we set out to play as a team and to excel in everything we do. If we do that we will win games. That is unity with diversity. Of course they failed to do that on New Years Day and the result was that they lost big time.

As believers, one of the biggest challenges for us is to focus on what unites us rather than what divides. Unfortunately, it is too easy to focus on the elements that divide rather than looking for ways to bring unity and oneness in the body. Let me also say I am not purporting an ecumenical concept where anything goes or anything is fair game. So, with that in mind let us look at what unites us according to the passage before us. To accomplish this, Paul outlines seven pillars around which every believer in Christ must unite.

Paul states that the first of these uniting principles is that there is one body. While there is one singular body of Christ, the amazing thing is that there are many different expressions of that body. To understand this principle we must understand that Paul is referring to what has been defined as the universal church and not one local body. Think about it for a moment. I am so glad that there is a local expression of the body of Christ called Peninsula Community Church. However, it is not the complete body. Look around this area at all of the different expressions of the body of Christ. There is Bayshore, Salem United Methodist, High Tide, Eagle’s Nest, Crossroads, and The River to name a few. There are conservative churches and there are liberal churches. There are white churches, black churches, Spanish churches, and Asian churches. The one thing that unites us is that we are a part of the larger context of God’s body. The point here is that regardless of where we attend we are a part of the body of Christ. There are a multitude of churches but there is only one body in Christ. This also applies to the local body as well. We must unite around the unifying factor that we are a part of the larger part of the body.

Secondly, there is one Spirit. The motivating factor of unity that makes us the body of Christ is the Spirit that is in each of us. Apart from the Spirit there is no means for us to be united. But the Spirit comes to unite believers as one body in fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-21 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

It is to be noted here that there are not multiple spirits; there is only One Spirit. Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 when he acknowledges that we have various gifts and abilities but they all come from the same spirit. If we are not careful, we will present ourselves as if we have some advantage over others or that we are better than someone else because of our particular understanding of the Spirit. The result is division and disunity.

Thirdly, Paul states that we are called to one hope that belongs to our calling. This is the reward that is ours in Christ. What is our calling? It is to be effective believers. The hope we have through Christ is that we will be effective followers of Christ. In our calling we look beyond the present day to a time where we will live with Christ and one another for eternity. Therefore, when we are united in hope, we will understand that everything we do is eternal in nature. It also reminds us that the people we have trouble getting along with here will most likely be our neighbors for eternity.

Fourthly, there is one Lord. It is amazing how this has become such a controversial topic in our current society. More and more people believe that there are multiple entrances into heaven but as believers we are confident in our faith that there is only one Lord and one way to enter heaven. It is in the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord that we have access into the kingdom of God and not by any other means.

Because there is one Lord, the fifth pillar is there is only one faith. When you look on the landscape of the modern church one would assume that there are multiple faiths but that is not the basis of unity in the church. The fact is we do not have multiple faith systems but we have nuances of belief. I love what I recently heard Bill Sammons, Jr. say about his dad, Pastor Bill Sammons, Sr. He stated I remember someone trying to get my Dad into a theological debate about a specific scripture and he replied along the lines of: “I don’t know. I just know there is a lot in this Book that I DO understand that I can’t seem to live out, so I will focus on that.” Here is the point that is being made. We tend to argue over the minor issues which create division and disruption in the body of Christ. When we argue over the minors we create issues and division that was never intended within the church.

Sixth, we have one baptism. The critical thing here is not so much the mode of baptism for there are several modes. For example, there is immersion or sprinkling. There is infant baptism and there is adult baptism. The issue here once again is not the mode as much as it is the purpose. You see baptism is an outward expression of the inward work of Christ in our hearts. You see baptism does not save us but it serves as a testimony to the work accomplished in us. Baptism looks backward at the work Christ has done and is therefore the evidence of the work of Christ in us.

Seventh there is one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. This one is similar to the one Lord. What Paul is doing is acknowledging that the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are actively involved in the unity of the church. When we have a proper understanding and view of who the Trinity is we will be less likely want to argue and bring division.

One of the things we have witnessed in our modern era is that people are trying to convince us that there are more than one God and more than one way to to make it to heaven. We have lost the power of serving one God. It is no longer an acceptable proclamation that there is one God and one Lord. People are quick to debate you on the validity of this statement. The problem is that when we begin to water any of the above down we will fall short of God’s intent. Several years ago I was asked to participate in organizing an event called “Jesus Alive 2000.” Things were going well until the chairman of the committee began to take a turn that at least two of us on the committee felt was unhealthy. They wanted to remove the name of Jesus from the prayers and statements that would be made during the course of the event. Each prayer and sermon was to be presented prior to being given so that it could be edited for possible statements that would offend someone of another faith. Imagine this, Jesus was not invited to His own event.

Here is the bottom line. Our believe system is an opportunity to serve God and be united in Christ. This is done without competition because we don’t compete when we serve together. We look for the good in others. We celebrate each others specific gifting and abilities. We must unite around the five pillars of unity and not allow the other issues of life to divide us.

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Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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