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Equipping The Saints

12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of people, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."
Good Morning Beloved,
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day
We're so glad you're here, thank you for joining us.
One of the problems we have in our culture today, is many people put a large emphasis on personal autonomy, almost as much of our Christian culture with its exclusive emphasis on a personal relationship with Christ. And as important as a personal relationship with Jesus is, don't misunderstand what I'm saying here, a personal relationship with Christ is very important, biblical Christianity never teaches that faith is just about Jesus and me. That is certainly not the way God intended for it to be. Biblical Christianity does however, teach that we are all, as followers of Jesus Christ, part of the body of Christ. We are called to be His presence now on earth as His Spirit lives within us and among us.
Let's face it, the modern church is far from perfect. Far from what it ought to be. Far from what Scripture teaches. Christianity in the Untied States today, which I find deeply disturbing, has no real depth. I believe, that the greatest responsibility rests on the shoulders on the church clergy, the character of pastors. However, that said, the church is what it is today, because of certain biblical convictions that the Lord pressed upon the hearts of some church leadership, who have maintained the teaching of sound doctrine and many of the believers, who have held those pastors accountable.

The New Testament,

As I began to study this portion of the Scripture, it reminded me of the convictions that the Lord has placed upon my heart and He has sustained those convictions throughout my ministry. And, in several aspects, He has deepened them as well. I am very grateful to the Lord for all that He has done in and through me. And, I am also very thankful, for the wonderful and loving flock He has blessed me with and called on me to shepherd. When I say that I love all of you, it comes from my heart.

Every Christian, at one time or another, is like a newborn. When we first become a follower of Jesus Christ, we are dependent on someone to feed us, we need someone to help guide us and protect us, we need others to help us mature. And there is nothing wrong with that. However, there is something wrong with a newborn, that remains an infant, and never becomes able to do those things for themselves.

Peter describes it this way in I Peter chapter 2, verses 1 through 3. "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, and like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord."
In other words, there is something wrong with a Christian that remains a spiritual baby and doesn’t grow up, mature in faith. In I Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul addresses that issue in his letter to the church at Corinth. "And I, brothers and sisters, could not speak to you as spiritual people, but only as fleshly, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to consume it. But even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like ordinary people?"
And in Hebrews chapter 5, verses 12-13, the writer tells us "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the actual words of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is an infant."
Let us bow our heads in prayer.
Heavenly Father,
Father, we are so thankful for the Word You have for us today. We are grateful for the clear instruction and marvelous truths. Lord, we acknowledge that we have failed to follow the pattern as You have provided us. Help us to be more faithful, more obedient, to You and more compassionate, more loving and more understanding with others. Lead us through Your Holy Spirit, to be the church and the people, You want us to become. Do a mighty work in and through us.

We pray this in Christ's name

Today's Message: Equipping The Saints

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, he presents a very clear contrast between what his readers were like right then and what God desired for them to become. And, fortunately for us, he gives us some insight on how we are to get to where God wants us to be. The church is a family; God is our Father, we are His children. The church is a bride; Christ is our Bridegroom. The church is branches, and we are connected to the vine, who is Jesus Christ. The church is a kingdom, Christ is our King, and we are His subjects.
I do not believe that the issue is as much a result of the format of our worship service as it is the way that we view what is going on during that time. Although it’s certainly healthy to vary the format of our worship service from time-to-time, the long term solution is to ensure that our whole concept of ministry is in line with what Paul is teaching us here. A church that follows this divine pattern will be known not only for its sound doctrine, but more characteristically, it’ll be known by its love.
Open with me your Bibles to Ephesians 4, as we continue to journey through this powerfully instructional portion of the Word of God. I'd like to not only invite you, but also encourage you to follow along with me as I read to get the text set in our minds. Ephesians 4:12-16

"for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of people, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."
A proper reading of our passage, Paul makes it very clear that the purpose of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers is to equip all believers to carry out the work of service, or ministry. My job as the pastor-teacher is to prepare and equip all of you to actually do the ministry of the church.
In Verse 12, Paul says "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ;"
The word "equipping" in verse 12, is a rather interesting word. The original Greek word, "katartismon," meaning a preparing or an equipping, was actually a medical term that referred to setting broken bones. It carries the idea of making something or someone completely fit or ready for service. It is however, the same word used to describe what James and John were doing when Jesus called them to follow Him. In Matthew chapter 4, we read that they were "mending" their nets. The word translated "mending" in that passage is the same word translated "equip" here in Ephesians. In other words, James and John were preparing their nets ready to be used.
In order for us to understand the principal of the gift, what Paul is telling us is every believer is a minister. The goal of the shepherd is to feed and lead the flock, to protect them what is destructive, to make sure they get to green pastures and still waters. The gifted men equip the saints. We proclaim Christ, we feed them, we nurture them, protect them, we build up the body. That's the work of the ministry.
Paul says in Colossians 1:28, "We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ."
Beloved, it takes effort on all of our parts to carry out ministry. But it’s really interesting to me that Paul uses the singular form of the word "work" here. I believe that Paul is deliberately pointing out the need for teamwork here. He’s really continuing the theme from the previous verses where he has pointed out that we can have unity even in our diversity because of what we have in common.
We each have our own roles to carry out, but our goal is to work together to carry out the purposes God has given to us as a body. But unless we coordinate those efforts and work together, we will never be able to gain any progress. Though we all have different roles, we have to work together in order to be successful. In His body, Jesus has given each member of that body different talents, gifts, passions and abilities. And His desire is that all those diverse people work together to accomplish His purposes for the church, which Paul has previously described for us.

This may come as a shock, but I have heard it said, several times to my face, that I am a very "strong preacher," very opinionated and dogmatic. Well, I suppose that could be true. However, my role as your pastor, is not to "tickle our ears," but to be able to speak the truth in love, to build up the body of Christ, to the degree that it becomes like Christ. 
If by "strong preaching" they mean discerning, safe from false doctrine, and the truth in love, then yes. I hope and pray that it will be characterized by love, because Christ Himself is characterized by love. So the more you are like Him, the more you are truth and love manifest.
My role in the ministry as your pastor and teacher, is not to do the work of the ministry, while the rest of you watch and cheer me on, or in some cases take a nap. My purpose is to prepare every member of the body for service. And the way, that I am called to do that is by helping you to understand the Word of God and put it into practice in your lives. 
That’s why I’m so excited about teaching and sharing with you the Word of God, to be able to help you to put these principles that we’re learning together into practice in your lives.  
Acts 20:28 describes it this way, "to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."
And in I Peter 5:2, "shepherd the flock of God among you,"
That's why I am so concerned to do what I do that which God has called me to do. Gifted men are not given to the church for unbelievers, they’re given to the church for believers. They’re not given to the church to make the believers feel good about themselves, they’re given to the church to make the believers grow to become more like Christ. That's not to say that I am not concerned about the lost, because I am and there's a heavy burden on my heart to do so, but as long as I've done my job well, the lost will be reached by you, if you are mature in faith, sharing the gospel message.

How do you equip the saints? You preach the Word. You preach the Word. In II Timothy 4, Paul says "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction."
In verse 13, Paul teaches us "until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ."
That's an amazing illustration of what a church looks like. So if we’re going to perfect the saints, what instrument must we use? Prayer! We use prayer. When the saints grow in maturity, they start to flourish, they do the work of the ministry, their gifts get used.
The result of a church that has grown in that kind of maturity, is solid in its doctrine, it's no longer gullible, it's no longer undiscerning, no longer victimized, tossed by every wind of doctrine, by the "kubeia," the trickery of men and their crafty cunning deception. 
Therefore, like Paul said in Galatians 4:19, "My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you."
Another characteristic of children is that they are easily deceived. That’s why those of you who are parents take precautions and teach your kids to beware of strangers. Unfortunately today, we have a huge group of predators who use the internet to deceive children and to try to draw them into dangerous and harmful situations. They prey on children because they are easily deceived.
In this passage Paul uses four different words to describe how susceptible immature Christians are to deceit and trickery. Certainly he was referring to the false teaching of many who were trying to draw these believers away from their faith. Based on both what Paul writes in this passage as well as the context of this entire letter, that there is also a reference here to Satan, who uses deceit as one of his main weapons.
Jesus Himself made that quite clear in John 8:44. "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies." 
Satan and those he uses are masters at effectively using deceit. Have you ever noticed that many of the cults that are active in our country today tend not to prey upon unbelievers, but upon those who would claim to be Christians? Particularly those who are not as mature in the faith. These cults do not try to win lost souls to Christ. They do not establish rescue missions in the poverty stricken areas in the inner cities, or in the prisons. Why? Because they have no good news for the man on skid row. Instead, these false teachers try to capture immature Christians, and for this reason, most of the membership of the false cults comes from local churches, particularly churches where the pastors do not feed their flock the Word of God. 
Let me say this, the Bible was not written to satisfy just your curiosity, to add another book to your library, but rather to make you conform to Christ’s image. God's intention is not to make you a smarter sinner, but to make you like our Savior. Not to fill your head with biblical facts, but to transform your life. When the Word of God abides in you and you are strong.
God’s goal for all of His children is that they would grow up and mature so that they can become like Christ. In other words, when Paul writes about attaining the measure of the fullness of Christ, he is saying that Jesus alone is to be our standard by which we measure our spiritual maturity. 
In Philippians 3:12-13, do you remember what Paul teaches us? "Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead?"
If Paul hadn’t yet reached the goal of becoming like Christ near the end of his life, with all the challenges and trials he had faced throughout his ministry, then it's pretty safe to say that none of us has arrived there either. So how do we attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ? As long as we're still living on this earth, not one of us will ever reach the goal of becoming like Christ. Hopefully, we get a little closer each day.
The positive result of verse 15, "but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ"
When you know the truth, you're not subjective to false teaching, doctrinal error. When you know the truth, you speak it in love. Why? Because Christ Himself spoke it in love. And because you're Christ-like, you speak the truth in love. This is another Scripture that seems to be taken out of context, and therefore misused, quite often. How many times have you heard someone use this phrase to justify being critical of others? 
I'll speak from my own experiences here, most generally when someone tells you, I'm only speaking the truth, in love," as they're ripping you apart, they're not speaking in truth, or love. More often than not, it's pride and envy. When Paul uses that phrase here, he is not dealing so much with how we speak to others, he is describing the spiritual infants who had been deceived by teaching that was clearly not the truth.

Paul is pointing out how crucial our relationship with Jesus is in the process of growth. He is both the goal of our growth and the source of that growth.
In verse 16 Paul tells us that "from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. 
The truth that Paul is writing about here in Chapter 4 is the very same truth He described earlier in Chapter 1. It is the gospel of our salvation. And that gospel is clearly centered in Jesus Christ. It is only in Christ that we can find the truth. That’s why Jesus described Himself as "the truth" when he responded to Thomas in John 14:6. "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me."
So speaking the truth in love is merely another way of Paul describing the importance of making Jesus Christ, the truth, the very center and focus of everything we do. So, just in case we have somehow managed to miss that point, Paul describes this principle for us one more time at the end of verse 16:

"...From him the whole body...grows and builds itself up in love..."

In Closing...

If we’re going to grow in Christ, then we have to do it together. We need each other and we’re only going to be able to grow and mature like Jesus wants us to if we all do our part and work together.

There may be some of you who have never connected to Jesus Christ. You have never responded to the truth that He is the only way to God and you have never placed your faith in Him alone as your Savior and made Him the Lord of your life. 

I beseech you, don’t leave here until you’ve made that commitment. There are some of you who have been joining us here for some time, but you have never made the commitment to Jesus Christ.

There are some of you here, who have been joining us regularly, yet have to admit that you haven’t been doing your part. You haven’t been using the gifts Jesus has given to you effectively and you realize that He has a place of ministry for you in the church.

I want you to know that as I pray for each of you, I pray that God will reveal to you, just how He wants you to respond to Him. 

And, if God leads you to respond to Him in some way, I pray that you will. I want to invite anyone who has never committed your life to Jesus Christ to do that today. And I want to ask the rest of you who have already made that decision to be in prayer for those who are considering that decision right now.

It all comes down to this, if we will each do our part in building the church, and do it His way, we will come to know the fullness of Christ. He will be honored, God will be glorified.

May it be so...

The power for all of this is not ours, but is Christ's.

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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