In my most recent blog, I discussed the truth of who we are in Christ. We are saved and able to live a life of hope and blessedness, even when in the middle of the most difficult circumstances. We are by no means immune to the pain of a broken world, but we are immune to hopelessness and despair. Immune not because of who we are on our own, but immune when we stay focused on the One who saved us, God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. In this place of truth, we find hope and victory in any circumstance. Even while we may intellectually know this truth, when the battle rages it can be difficult to live this truth. The greater aspect of “who WE are” is of great significance. I was not saved to be alone. I was saved to be with you who are saved. We were saved together, for each other. In His very fullness, God is created in community as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is fully distinct, fully God, and fully One. We, as a body of believers, are connected in this very same way through the work of Christ and the binding of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-16). What are WE then called to do? Not an individual purpose-driven life. Not a self-proclaiming, gift-centered view of how I can change the world. Rather, what are WE - a collective body of God-fearing, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-led family members - called to do?
First, what we are called to do does not change based on the circumstances or the times. The position of culture, the tenor of politics, or the desperation in the news feed does not change our focus as believers on what we are called to do. Even if we live in a “post-Christian”, “post-truth” culture of moral relativism, our purpose and mission does not change. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV):
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
These verses serve as the very mission and purpose of the body of Christ. The transition words that I have highlighted show that these verses are broken into 4 distinct parts: what God is doing, why God is doing it, what happens to us as He does it, and what is the natural outcome of God’s work.
I will not take the time to properly develop each of these thoughts, but I would encourage you to read this text (all of Ephesians chapter 4 and the full letter from Paul to the Ephesians) to understand the weight of these words on our lives together in Christ.
So, Christ himself gave...to equip... - This is what God is doing. We must remember that the church is the bride of Christ and in this statement we see that Christ is preparing His own bride. Teaching her, instructing her, guiding her, loving her. He does this through the framework of an organized body of believers. We are saved and called into a body of believers so that we may be well equipped to do the very work of Christ. God does not just desire to save us or set us apart, but He loves us enough to set us apart and also prepare us for His work. We must willingly engage in this equipping. The work of equipping (or sanctification) requires both a willing equipper (Jesus Christ) and one willing to be equipped (individual believers).
So that...attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of the Christ - This is why God is doing what He is doing. This is one of the most hope filled verses in Scripture. When we grow spiritually in Christ as a collective body of believers, we are united together in truth and action. When truth and action meet, where believers spend time wrestling through Scripture, where the bride prays for each other, where Christ is at the forethought, there we will attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. This will not be done in us as singular believers who prefer to operate on our own. This will not be done in us as critical believers who are convinced we have all the answers. This will only be done as we rise together as a church united in Christ. This requires all of us.
Then, we will no longer be… - This is what happens to us as God does His good work in us. As we collectively grow in our individual faith together, we will be increasingly anchored on the truth of Christ. This world has many versions of truth, many intellectual depictions of varying belief structures, and many emotionally appealing thoughts on what we should accept. However, there is only one Truth and that is Jesus Christ and the promises and commands of Scripture. Without a collective grounding, we will be tossed around in the storm. We need others to hold the rail with us, to throw us a lifeline from time to time, to remind us that our emotions and feelings are not the anchor point of truth. Alone, we are susceptible to these things, together in Christ we will weather the storm.
Instead.... - This is the outcome of work being done in us. Instead. I love that word. Instead of everything the world calls us to be, instead of everything we desire within us to be, instead of chasing after dreams and money and more, we are being equipped for something remarkably different. We, as maturing believers, are becoming the body (or the physical representation) of Jesus Christ. We flippantly can state that the world needs Christ, but what an awesome responsibility and privilege to know that God agrees that the world needs Christ and God is bringing Christ to the world through us! Each of us bears a part in this wonderful work and each of us rely on the other, while all of us rely on Christ. What a beautifully intricate system of interconnectedness to a holy and loving God!
I am certain that you have had moments where you wonder if you have a purpose. What is this life all about and why am I here? What difference am I making and what should I be doing? If you are a believer in Christ, then you have not yet attained your purpose, but you have had your purpose unlocked. If you are not yet a believer in Christ, then put your faith in trust in Him and step into a family with a purpose. The local church is where we grow and share and learn and lean and cry and pray and every other thing that helps us to mature in Christ. We do this together. This work being done together binds us more tightly than anything in this world. We see what it means to be Christ in action, we understand what it means to be maturing in our knowledge of God, and we feel deeply within us the work of the Spirit through the family we’ve been given in Christ. This is what we are called to do and impact will be made on each other and the larger community because the work of Christ is powerful and effective.