O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Grow up in every way…into Christ
Grow up in every way…into Christ
Based on Eph. 4:15
Preached on October 16, 2016
Part Two in “Grow Up into Christ” Stewardship Series
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The Text for the Sermon this morning is the theme verse from our October Stewardship Series “Grow Up into Christ.” It is from St. Paul’s letter to the congregation in Ephesus, chapter four.
He writes, “We are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.”
So far, the text.
Fellow baptized saints, here we are back again this week with our October Stewardship Series “Grow up into Christ” where we have been receiving St. Paul’s encouraging reminder about who we really are in Christ. Paul has been unpacking this incredible truth that God does not see us the way the world sees us – and the way we often see ourselves – No - when God looks at us He sees His own growing children. Heavenly children – not earthly – chosen ones who are growing up into eternity. He sees what His Word has already declared of us in the waters of Holy Baptism – that we are His own, members of His Son’s body, the Church – those who are to grow up in every way into Christ, our head. Those who are to grow up in every way into Christ, our head.
Christians are given many things in Christ. And one of them is the ability to view your whole life differently because of Him – to no longer see yourself as an earthly being – with earthly goals, and earthly growing to pursue – but to see yourself the way God sees you – as His heaven child, one with a life that stretches from this moment into all eternity, with heavenly goals and heavenly growing to pursue.
Let’s just say it plainly: for a being like this - the only important growth you make in this life – is your growth in Christ. He is your breath now. Your life. None of the other growth is worth anything, for none of it will last.
We heard the same thing a few weeks ago from Jesus – in His parable of the dishonest manager – remember that? – be shrewd about salvation – singular – sharp - focused. He told us again today – be persistent in your faith – stubborn, pushy, relentless. See it as God does – as the only thing He is bringing through death and grave to the resurrection on the other side. Your life in Christ. Everything else will be left behind.
We have a hard time - leaving things behind, don’t we? God’s people were in slavery in Egypt, and when He brought them up out of that land and delivered them from Pharoah’s bondage – what did they do? They longed to go back! They dreamed about being enslaved again. They grumbled and complained and gave God a hard time for freeing them.
It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? Until you realize - that we do the same thing, don’t we? One look at that cross – or that font – and we know Christ has brought us up out of the slavery of our sin and death. We know we are headed to a heavenly kingdom in which there will only be everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness. Yet how easily do our eyes look back at all the earthly stuff? How easily do we compare ourselves with “the Egyptians” around us and wish we had what they have? How easily do we dream of earthly glories, and earthly riches, and earthly successes with no thought of heaven? Chains. Yokes. Shackles of slavery – all of them. But let’s face it – we grumble and complain in our hearts for them all the same.
I remember when I was a teenager I wanted to play video games all day. Like I was addicted. I would try and sneak down into the basement early in the morning so I could get started without being noticed. But my mom – she would always catch me. OK, that’s it – shut it off - that’s enough for today. Ah, come on Mom, can’t I play a little bit longer, I can remember asking her. No son, you’re wasting your time. Why are you investing so much of your time and energy in something that will be turned off and lost?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, when the other things of this world take our focus off our faith growth and the heavenly realities we are growing in, we are like a bunch of teenagers addicted to video games, who don’t want to get off that couch, who just expect dad to keep on feeding us as we waste our time on things that don’t matter. Things that on the Last Day will be turned off and lost.
St. Paul is waking us up to real life. Eternal life. Your life in Christ. The life in which you don’t need to hide behind a screen, but being forgiven in Christ, are free to see people face-to-face, and tell them they are forgiven too. The life in which you learn skills you will actually use in heaven. The life that will not be turned off or lost on the Last Day, but will follow you, and serve as the springboard into your eternity with Christ and His angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. The life in which you are called something real – God’s child – His own precious one – who He is going to protect and nurture and bring to maturity in His holiness and righteousness.
Beloved, we don’t have a reason – to put our growth in Christ first – we have every reason to grow up in Him in every way. We have every reason to attend Bible class. Every reason to study God’s Word at home. Every reason to see how much we can grow – for that is who we are and will always be.
Martin Luther, when he assembled the Small Catechism, gave instructions for what to do in the morning when you get up, and in the evening when you go to bed. He wrote: “Make the sign of the cross and say: In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Then there was a prayer. But when you stop and think about what he is encouraging the Christian to lay hold of at the beginning and end of their day, you realize he’s onto something. These were the words and this was the sign spoken and made upon you when your heavenly Father claimed you as His own. When He said, “You are my child.” Can you think of a better promise, or a better way to focus your day, and how you would like to carry yourself in it – than this eternal reality: I am a child of heaven. This day is about heavenly things. This day is for my heavenly Father. Every thought. Every word. Every deed. Lord, make me to grow up in Christ in every way this day. Of course, at the end of the day, Luther has that nice prayer for forgiveness tucked right in there. And God’s baptismal promise again – which will never change. I am a child of heaven - by grace alone through faith alone for the sake of Jesus Christ alone.
From the rising of the sun, to the place where it sets – may your Name, O Lord, be praised. God makes us grow up in Him in every way. He is working to get Himself into those areas of your life where you have been slower to include Him. Saturdays. Workplaces. Those moments when you need a break. Your heavenly Father grows His Word into all these and more. In every way, St. Paul writes.
This reminds me of when I played volleyball in college. The court was no place for faith, let me tell you. My standing as a child of God would only get in the way (or so I subconsciously told myself). Well, God had other plans. By the end of the season, I had suffered a dislocated ankle, cancer, and after having returned to play with my team in the national playoffs, was asked to speak about the whole thing at the athletic banquet. And there, in front of 330 people, I spoke of Christ’s death and resurrection as my only strength to endure. I had been working to keep faith off the court. God was working to grow my faith through the court. And only He knows how many others’ faith with me.
On this very morning, your Father is asking you to hear again His promise that you’re His child, to open wide your heart to Him, that He might send His Word and Spirit into those areas of your life that you know you need to grow. That He might refocus your life on His Son, and the eternal reality you already are in Him. On this very morning, may He set your gaze - well beyond this earthly life – on the life of the world to come. In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr