Disciples grow to maturity as they see God’s big plan for his glory through his people gathered together, equipped by his word, serving one another. But that’s only part of the plan. Ephesians 4v13-15 show us what Christian maturity looks like: “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ… We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
What does it look like to be mature as a disciple? It’s to become more and more like Jesus together. To live and love and look more like him as we’re taught about him and serve those he’s called us to serve out of love for him. (15)pictures the church as Christ’s maturing body and him as the head that thinks and directs that body.
Have you ever played that game where one person sits at a table with a bowl of jelly or custard in front of them and puts their hands behind their back. Then someone else comes and slides their arms under the first persons armpits and feeds them without being able to see? It’s messy chaos, because the head and the body don’t work together, there’s a disconnect, the head has no control over the body.
The church is Christ’s body and maturity in the body means a growing connection with the head so that the church acts at Christ’s leading, it obeys Jesus thoughts and words, it increasingly becomes like Jesus. As we hear God’s word taught, as we speak it to one another, that’s what shapes us to serve. So that we serve as Jesus body, controlled by him.
Disciples follow Jesus and growing up looks like becoming more and more like him as we’re equipped by his word, as we speak the truth to one another and as we serve one another in ways that speak of Jesus. We learn the gospel from those teachers Jesus gives us in the church who teach us the Bible and we recirculate that gospel, it’s the oxygen of the church, as we speak the gospel to one another again and again.
And as we grow up we’re no longer infants(14). We’re no longer unstable, lurching from one idea or fad to another, swayed by false teaching or the latest cultural norm or societal about face on a moral issue. But consistent and stable in our growing faith and discipleship because we’re surrounded by those who speak the truth of the gospel into our lives again and again and again.
That speaking the truth in love isn’t a job for a few but for every part of the body(16). Every member of our church family needs every member of our church family speaking the truth in love to them if we’re to grow up as disciples. Biblical conversation needs to be the norm not the exception. As we challenge each other and encourage each other. As we point each other to Jesus, listen to each other, care for, and serve each other. Not with our wisdom but with Jesus wisdom, with the truth of the gospel.
We’ve always been strong in the practical service area, though we have our challenges at the moment. But I wonder if this is an area we really need to work at.
Love compels us to speak the truth as Jesus did. Love compels up to be concerned for the maturity of those in our church family. Love means I know my brothers and sisters don’t need my wisdom but the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel leads me to see that I can’t do this alone, I need the gospel spoken by others so I can see my blind spots, be confronted when I sin, encouraged when I’m low, corrected when I’m wrong, comforted when I mourn, and rejoiced with when I rejoice. So that we grow up to be like Jesus. But how do we speak the truth in love?
Why not start with the questions we put up at the end of a service? Why not try discussing them with someone else? It could be someone in your family group? Or maybe you want to phone a friend on Sunday afternoon after lunch and chat it through? Perhaps you could meet for a walk midweek and ask each other what you’re reading in your devotions and what you’re learning?
Or men join us at Yorkie on the 22nd. Or come along to Gospel group midweek where there is a great opportunity to speak the truth in love to each other. Or ask someone to meet up and read and pray together.
But perhaps that idea terrifies you. You fear being exposed, people knowing your struggles, or the things you simply don’t know. We shouldn’t need to fear in the church. All of this flows out of the gospel being taught and the gospel being spoken. Grace is vital to church life, it’s the fuel in the engine. If we’re speaking the truth of grace and listening and responding with grace then we don’t need to fear exposure. And Paul says it’s done in love. A love that won’t shy away from the truth, but always points to Jesus and forgiveness, welcome, and power to change.
Disciples grow up to live, look, love, serve and speak like Jesus. They grow together not alone. They grow equipped by his word, motivated by love to serve and speak the truth of the gospel, so that the church becomes a body that obeys Christ it’s head.
Maybe a right response this morning is to begin by repenting. To repent of our failure to grow up, of our immaturity seen in our struggle with isolation and individualism. Maybe it’s to see the immaturity the current restrictions can so easily funnel us into, it shouldn’t surprise us that this pandemic brings a spiritual battle as well as all the others.
For all of us it calls us to come again and see Jesus. To behold him in his love and grace and mercy and welcome. In his love that serves and speaks the truth and to be equipped by it to serve one another and speak the truth and then to plan to do that this week fuelled by his grace because we know where history is headed and that things that echo in eternity are taking place among God’s people as we do this for his glory.