O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
That we may no longer be children…
That we may no longer be children…
Based on Eph. 4:11-14
Preached on October 9, 2016
Part One in “Grow Up into Christ” Stewardship Series
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Text: Christ Himself gave the apostles and the prophets and the evangelists, and pastors and teachers for bringing the saints to completion, for the work of the 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.
Fellow baptized saints, have you ever noticed the way little children speak differently than their parents? It is remarkable really. For children everything is always up. Come on, get up. Hurry up. Hey guys, wait up. Please, please, can we please stay up? But with parents everything is down. Whoa, Slow down. Calm down. Sit down. Please - lie down. Growing up is full of activity. Which can sometimes be too much for parents.
Beloved children of God, we’re about to take our first steps into our stewardship series this year entitled “Grow Up into Christ” where our Father in heaven will never try to slow us down. Where He will always be up for us to be more active. Where He Himself will fill us with His Son.
We know - that we have been given a new life in Christ. We know He has located us “in Him” by the waters of Holy Baptism. We know He wants us to grow up there – in Him. But for many of us it can seem like confirmation was the high water mark of our faith, and since then we have been doing the opposite of growing. Since then we’ve come to know less. And instead of attaining or even moving towards “mature manhood” as Paul calls it – it is like we’d rather head back into the nursery. Sometimes - it can feel like we don’t want to grow up at all.
Parents know all about this. There is this time in the life of a toddler when they get the first sense that they are growing up. They had been showing great independence, spending time playing on their own, without Mom or Dad having to be there. They had been asking if they could help, even wanting do it themselves. And then all of a sudden – the thumb is back in the mouth, all the words they learned are gone, and they need to be back in your arms - - all the time. It is like they had this startling realization that they are growing up – so they dive back into the nursery and act like a baby.
I said parents know all about this. What they know – is how frustrating this is. Here they were celebrating this newfound independence both for their child and themselves – but now they are back to diapers and whining and carrying this huge toddler around.
We all want our children to grow up – and to grow up right. Yes, we can get nostalgic too. We can want to pause them at a certain time. We can talk about how time is going too fast, but we know there would be something terribly wrong if they did not grow up. If our children weren’t growing up, it would concern us very much.
Beloved, confirmation can no longer be the high water mark of our faith, but the springboard for lifelong learning and growing in Christ. If these things are important to us for the physical growth of our children, which lasts a short 20 years, how much more important is it for our growth in Christ, which lasts for eternity?
Here’s the thing: We all, even I, struggle to put our faith growth first. Confirmation ends and so does our study of God’s Word. We struggle to study at home. We don’t come to Bible class. We just stop. For me, seminary ended and for a time I foolishly bought into the idea that I’d done my study and now it was time to teach. Well, it wasn’t long before I was struggling to know what to teach. That’s the thing with growing. There really is no going back.
In his letter to the congregation in Ephesus, St. Paul encourages them – that since they have been born again in Christ - they are to grow up in Him. A Christian’s growth is “growth in Christ.” He writes, “that you may no longer be children”, but grow “in the knowledge of the Son of God.” God invites us to know Him. To know Him really well. And the place He wants to meet us - is in His Son Jesus Christ – this giver that you meet - in the pages of Holy Scripture. He invites us to go deeper and deeper into His Word – to see who He is and what He has done, and continues to do for us. It is a blessed kind of growth.
Yet St. Paul also warns them in Ephesus - that things may not be as simple as they appear. We aren’t exactly in a neutral situation here. If we don’t grow in Christ, he says, we are still going to grow – but on the Last Day we may not be very pleased with the way we’ve grown. Jesus said the same thing - in His parable of the four-fold soil. The seed thrown among thorns grew a little, but the cares and worries and riches of this world, this life, choked out the growth of the Word.
But I think we all know what Paul and Jesus are saying. Think of all the other things in your life that you devote your time too. Think of all the areas of your life where you are trying hard to grow. Has the growth in these areas surpassed your growth in Christ? For all of us – the answer is yes. But do we actually think these areas are a “better investment” or better use of our time than growing in our eternal salvation? Probably not. Then, how did this happen?
Craftiness, Paul says, in deceitful schemes. There are deceitful schemes at play that are working to make us grow in other ways. And you don’t have to look very far to see all the distractions, do you? The evil one is scheming to have you grow – oh, he wants you to grow - just not in Christ. Anything but Christ. Grow and succeed and feel accomplished – as long as its not in Christ.
And the real craftiness of it – is that the devil is able to use things that we normally think of as harmless. We would never think there is some scheme going on to draw our attention away from God’s Word, because there is nothing wrong with growing in all the areas of our lives. God wants us - to do that. The problem comes when those other areas start encroaching on our time in God’s Word. When they are the reason we aren’t in our Bibles. And let’s face it - we’re there. The deception has long since set in.
Now, we don’t like being deceived, do we? No. In fact, we do everything we can - not to be deceived in life. When the phone rings at our house and we don’t know the number, we pick up the phone with this immediate suspicion – is this some sort of scam. Well, the evil one is running a phone scam on your faith 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and he is using every other competing area of your life. My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is time to call him out on it.
Paul’s doing it in Ephesus. And we’re asking God to do it here at Beautiful Savior. We are asking God to enter into our lives once more and lay hold of our hearts and minds with His grace and mercy and forgiveness. We can’t make ourselves grow. That’s God’s job. He gives the growth. And He gives it in His Word – the knowledge of His Son.
And this is how Paul started this morning: Christ Himself gave the apostles and the prophets and the evangelists, and pastors and teachers for bringing the saints to completion, for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Christ has given you pastors. This is how He makes us grow. By sending them to teach His living, breathing Word. They are a gift. Like your parents. Given to equip you and minister to you and build you up in the knowledge of Christ. And I want to be honest with you: here at Beautiful Savior in Pastor Bugbee, the Lord has gifted you with one of the finest teachers in our whole church. And he teaches Bible class here - before our worship service on every Sunday morning that he is in the city. The Lord is being very gracious to us. He has given us quite a gift.
Now, if you want to learn but there is no class you can attend – don’t be content with that! Go to your pastor and say “Pastor I want to grow up into Christ.” And we will work it out.
If you don’t know how to lead a devotion for your family or study the Bible at home – don’t be content with that! Find one of your pastors and we will walk with you through every step of the way, for that is why we’re here.
Beloved baptized saints, it is time to learn. It is time to grow. It is time for Christ to be first, and for all the other things in life to come second. Lord God, teach us!
Our heavenly Father is up to the task - so let us like little children – always be up - for growing in His grace and mercy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr