Praying for Maturity (part 2) … The Maturity of Loving Christ
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Sermon Title: Praying for Maturity (part 2) … The Maturity of Loving Christ
Sermon Text: Ephesians 3:14-19
Three signs that Christ is our treasure
1) Our life centers on Christ
2) We trust our life to Christ by faith
3) Our life is nourished and grounded in our love for Him
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Thanks for understanding.
Intro: The Height of Spiritual Maturity
Do you remember the day of your salvation? I do. Remember how great it was to make that decision to follow Jesus? I remember thinking how I would do whatever was needed to follow Jesus. No matter what the cost, I was going to be a Christian. Nothing was going to stand in my way. I turned over a new leaf. I was a new person. I remember being filled with excitement, knowing my life was going to look very different.
Overnight, there was meaning in life. Everything was going to be great.
As I look back, all I can think is, “little did I know, how little I knew.” I was such a complete baby when it came to Christianity. I had never read the Bible. When I went to church, it was because my parents dragged me to the Catholic mass. I never listened much to the service, but only stood when others stood, sat when others sat, and kneeled when others kneeled.
After becoming a Christian, everything changed. I bought a bible and couldn’t put it down. I went to church. To the amazement of my Air Force buddies, I started posting bible verses on the bulletin board at the shop. I knew nothing about Christianity except that I was one and it was good. It changed my life.
God, in His grace, through the power and teaching of His Spirit, and by the kindness of His servants in the church, gently took me as a baby and begin feeding me and changing my diapers. Since the day I was born again in November of 1979, He has been maturing me and helping me grow. I am not alone. All Christians grow.
When do we reach maturity? What do we aim for so we know we are reaching maturity? How does a mature believer live?
Our passage in Ephesians, in five verses, tells us an essential way we may know we have reached spiritual maturity. Let’s read the passage together:
14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19)
Notice the construction of the prayer.
The prayer request is stated in verse 16; that the Ephesians will be strengthened with power through God’s Spirit in the inner man. Strengthened with power is the request.
Paul expects a twofold result in the Ephesians life. “So that:”
1) Christ will dwell in their heart through faith (v.17) “and”
2) Comprehend and know the love of Christ (18-19a)
These two results take place in the believer producing the aim of the prayer in verse 19, which is that the Ephesian be filled to all the fullness of God.
Paul is requesting to God spiritual maturity for the Ephesians. Spiritual maturity is being saturated, permeated, filled to the brim, with God. When there is such a fullness of God, we may not tell the difference between us, and God in human form; the person of Jesus Christ.
As Romans 8:29 states, “We are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ.” Conformity to Christ is God’s intended path for all believers; we are to be filled to all the fullness of God so that we become like Jesus.
As we think about the image of being filled with the fullness of God, it seems a bit vague. How does a person who is full of the fullness of God act? What do they say? Our passage holds the keys to understanding what spiritual maturity looks like in the believer’s life. The keys are in the twofold result stated in verses 17-19. This morning, we will look at the first of the two results of God’s work; that Christ will dwell in our heart through faith.
The main idea of the message could be; Christian maturity involves endeavoring for Christ to dwell in our heart through faith. However, we want to reword this so we may understand the full force of the text. Instead, the main idea of the message reads like this: Christian maturity involves endeavoring for Christ to be our treasure.
We will look at three signs which indicate that Jesus is our treasure.
Three signs Christ is Our Treasure
1-Our Life Centers on Christ
17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; (Eph. 3:17)
We know from Scripture that Christ is in our heart. At the time of salvation, we are given the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). And, as Romans 8:10 says, when Christ is in us, our body is dead to sin, and our spirit is alive to Christ. So, what is Paul speaking about?
I like how Charles Hodge explains the verse. He says (paraphrase), “The most beautiful object might be in the apartment of a blind man, and he is not aware of its presence. He may have no delight in its beauty.”
What we need to do is have our eyes opened to the abiding of Christ in our heart so we may delight in His beauty. Paul is speaking about our heart’s response to salvation. Knowing Christ is present in our heart, we are to be people who treasure His presence and live our life with Him as the center.
We best understand this principle when we understand the Bible’s meaning of the word heart. The heart in the Bible is the seat of a person. It controls our desires, thoughts, words, actions, motivations, worship, and so forth.
Let me give you an example which helps us think about what this verse means. Imagine a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Lobby, who are completely bonkers about lobsters (trying to pick something both men and women could relate to). Lobsters dwell in their heart.
What does this look like in their life? What is the evidence of lobsters dwelling in their heart? As others observe their life, it is evident their life revolves around lobsters; lobsters are at the center of their life. Lobsters are their treasure.
The Bible speaks about the heart as being the seat of our feelings. The heart generates our desires and passions. Our joy and anguish are from our heart. (Jn. 16:6; Ac. 2:26; Ro. 10:1; 1:24; 2 Co 7:3). Because lobsters dwell in the heart of Mr. and Mrs. Lobby, they are depressed when there are no lobsters in their presence. On Mr. Lobby’s birthday, he secretly hopes for another lobster picture or lobster trap coffee table. However, when Mr. Lobby doesn’t get what he hopes for and receives a book about Christian living, he is inwardly upset. In fact, Mr. Lobby is rather surprised Mrs. Lobby would get him something other than a lobster-related gift. He likely will say to his friends, “She doesn’t know me very well.”
Nobody asks the Lobby’s, when they are at a restaurant, what they are going to order. It will be something with lobster. Lobster roll. Lobster chowder. Twin lobsters.
When the Lobby’s wakes up in the morning, they think of ways to get more lobster. Or, they look forward to the weekend when they know they are going to visit their friend in Maine, and on the way there, they plan on taking a small detour to the shoreline.
The heart is the seat of thoughts and understanding (Mt. 7:21; Mk 11:23; Jn. 12:40; Ac. 8:22; Ro. 1:21; Rev. 18:7). Ask Mr. Lobby questions about lobster, and they will always answer, in great detail. He will ask, “is your question about lobster about the clawed lobster or the spiny lobster?” Or, she will chime in and say, “South Pacific lobsters or Maine lobsters? They are different you know!”
We know what kind of books are in the Lobby library. Mrs. Lobby likes to play the song, “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s on her I-Pod.
The heart is the seat of the will (Lk. 21:14; Ac. 11:23; 2 Co. 9:7). In other words, the will is the basis of making choices. We know what choice Lobby will make when there are decisions to be made. They will much rather spend a week on a lobster boat over spending a week touring Europe. Life choices are made determined by bringing Mr. and Mrs. Lobby closer to being something lobster.
The heart is the center of our religious life and determines our moral conduct (Mk 7:21; Lk. 16:15; Jn. 12:40; Ro. 8:27; Ep 4:18; Heb. 8:10; Jm. 1:26, 4:8). We worship that which we adore or esteem as valuable. Lobsters are of ultimate value to Lobby. It is their area of temptation. One time, at lunch, Mr. Lobby stopped by a restaurant and ate a lobster sandwich. When Mrs. Lobby asked about lunch, he realized he didn’t bring one home to her, so he lied and said he had a burger. In the meantime, Mrs. Lobby is flirting on Facebook with a lobsterman she knows in Gloucester Massachusetts. Because lobster is their treasure, the will steal, lie, manipulate, or do anything to get lobster.
A life centered upon Christ
When Christ is our treasure, our life centers upon Him.
He is our desire and passion. We find much joy in Christ. If we may not have Christ, we suffer much anguish. Our hope is in all things Christ. When Christ dwells in our heart, we wake up in the morning speaking of Jesus. When people speak badly about Jesus, it hurts. When people speak well of Jesus, we rejoice. Ask a question about Jesus and the person who has Jesus in their heart is glad to answer.
All the decisions in life revolve around Jesus. In our decision making, we ask, “Will doing this bring me closer or further to Jesus? Does Jesus want me to do this or is this something He forbids? How may I learn about Him more? How may I honor Jesus in my work or my marriage?
When Jesus abides in our heart, He is of supreme value. He is the treasure of the heart. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Mt. 12:34). Because He is our treasure, our moral conduct is affected. Jesus does not want us to lie, manipulate, steal, or act wrongly. It damages our relationship with Him, so we ask Him to help us live in obedience to His standards.
When Christ is our treasure, when He dwells in our heart, our life centers on Christ and getting closer to Him is our joy.
2-We trust Our Life to Christ by Faith
17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; (Eph. 3:17)
What is meant by faith
Other words for faith are trust or believe. Christ dwells in our heart through believing in His work on the cross. Or, to say it another way, Christ dwells in our heart through our trust in His work on the cross.
Christ dwells in our heart through faith means that faith is the means for Him to dwell in our heart. We must have faith in Christ’s ministry on the cross. We must believe Jesus is the only way to salvation. We do not put our faith in our good works, but we put our faith in His sacrifice for sin. We do not put our faith in a priest, in Buddha, or that our parents are Christians. We put our faith in Jesus.
Paul is talking about more than salvation. He is speaking to the saints of Ephesus. They already have received salvation in Jesus by faith. This verse is going beyond salvation and trusting in Jesus in every area of our life.
Faith in the Christ of Scripture
The Bible informs us about the person of Jesus. To have complete trust in Jesus, we must know the complete Jesus.
Our faith needs to find it’s basis in truth. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Some people put their trust in Jesus for salvation. They have faith in the Jesus who performs miracles of feeding the five thousand or making the leper walk. They have faith in Jesus rising from the dead and faith in Jesus bringing them to heaven.
These are all the good things about Jesus people love and appreciate. Even unbelievers enjoy the Jesus who walks on water. But what about the Jesus who says, “I am the way the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father except by me”? Do we have faith and trust in a Jesus who condemns all the Hindus to Hell for not believing in Him alone? Can we trust a Jesus who demands we worship Him above all things?
Can we put our faith and trust in Jesus who told the rich young ruler salvation requires going and selling all that he has and give it to the poor and follow Him? Can we trust Jesus who says, “deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me?” Can we trust Jesus to leave behind everything to follow Him? Once we put our hand to the plow, do we trust Him when He says, “don’t look back.”
Can we put our faith in the Jesus who carries a sword and will strike down all who oppose Him on the day of His second coming?
Can we trust Jesus who says “pray to Me, I love you” and we pray and ask for His help, and our child dies of sickness? Do we have faith in Jesus during the death of a loved one?
Can we put our faith in Jesus who says, Go and make disciples and teach them to obey my commands? And, when missionaries obey His command to make disciples, they are tortured and killed in His name?
Can we put our faith in Jesus as our Lord? Do we trust Him as Lord over our entertainment? Do we have faith in Jesus’ words that it is more blessed to give than to receive? Do we have faith that following His commands will bring us happiness and joy? Do we have faith to allow Jesus to control every keyboard input on our computers and phones? Do we have faith in Jesus to control the remote on our TV? Do we have faith in Jesus to be silent when we are tempted to share a juicy piece of gossip?
Do we trust Him and enjoy Him to be our complete satisfaction in all things? What it all boils down to is this one simple question. Do we have faith in Jesus for Him to be our Lord and treasure?
Every page of Scripture reveals an area of our life in which Jesus is our Lord and treasure. We are to treasure His directions on how we should work in our job. Even when our job is difficult, we are to find satisfaction and joy in pleasing our Master.
We are to have faith that His commands of being pure and holy will bring us joy and satisfaction. When temptation comes, we flee temptation because we find joy in the holiness of the Lord and not in the fleeting pleasure of sin.
We may not have a false view of Christ. Some people think they love Jesus, but they don’t love Jesus in every area of life. They love Jesus who gives good blessings of health and prosperity, but when the going gets tough, when bad things happen to good people, their faith and trust in Jesus diminish.
The Ephesian believers lost faith, not completely, but some. They lost heart in the eternal blessings of salvation because they started listening to other people rather than trust the promises of Scripture. Having faith in Jesus was great until the going got tough. They hear of Paul’s tribulations and imprisonment, and their faith in Jesus began to wane. As, Paul said, they lost heart.
We must trust our entire life to Christ by faith. When Christ is our treasure, we have faith and trust in all that He says, even when bad things happen. In times of temptation, in sickness and health, in riches and poverty, we must trust Christ with our life, by faith.
Three signs Jesus is our treasure:
1) Our life centers on Christ.
2) We trust our life to Christ by faith.
3-Our Life Is Nourished and Grounded in Our Love for Jesus
The thirds sign that Christ is our treasure is that our love for Jesus as our treasure is our source of nourishment and the foundation for all that we do.
17… and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (Eph. 3:17)
Think of the phrase like this: “Get your boots on, put on your coat, and that you, being ready and prepared, will need to do the next thing.”
When our life centers upon Jesus, and we trust Him by faith, we are being rooted and grounded in love. Paul uses a mixed metaphor. One is from plant life. The other from building construction.
To be rooted in love means that our love of Jesus is the source from which all of our actions flow. Our love for Him is our nourishment, as a root nourishes a tree or plant. From our love of Jesus, our life flows forth. Our love of Jesus brings us all we need to live. He is our bread of life and our living water. Good roots make for good plants. When our life is not flowing from the root of loving Christ, we shrivel up and die. When our life finds nourishment in loving Christ, we are healthy and mature.
The second metaphor is from a building. We are grounded in our love of Jesus because it is our firm foundation. Our love for Jesus is the foundation for our life. We do not move away from Christ our treasure. The world may not convince us loving Christ is unfruitful. The Cornerstone is the foundation upon which we build. We do not build upon the sand, but upon a rock. We love Christ.
Three signs Christ is our treasure:
When Christ is our treasure, our life centers upon Him. He is all we desire. He is on our mind continually. He directs our will, so our walk in life centers upon His commands. We worship Christ and all who know us have no question that He is our treasure.
When Christ is our treasure, we have faith in all Christ says. We obey His commands because we know His command are for our good. We trust Him in every area of our life. We search the Scriptures to learn about Him and what He wants for our life. We know the Christ of Scripture is our joy and satisfaction so we cannot study the word too much. His words are the authority in our life.
When Christ is our treasure, we are nourished by our love for Him. Our love for Him is our bread and our water. We feast upon loving Him, and our soul is fat. He is our firm foundation. When the storms come, our foundation is not sand, but a firm rock. Whatever trouble, distress, or tribulation comes our way, we do not lose heart. Our love for Christ is firm and grounded. We will not be moved.
Scripture has a purpose: it reveals the treasures of Christ
We have Scripture so we may have Christ as our treasure. Our love for Jesus is a fire and the words of Scripture are the fuel. As we look into the Words written by the Spirit of Christ, we find new revelations about Him. The fire builds and grows. Each page reveals His goodness and purity; more fuel. We find pleasure and joy in learning about His salvation. We read a command, and know our Savior desires good for us. The commands of His Word tell us of ways we may partake of His holiness and find joy. His Word tells us of ways to seek Him and find Him.
Maturity in Christ, loving Him as our treasure, involves knowing the Scripture. A fire needs fuel. We may not live as mature Christians without the Bible. The word of God must renew our minds and direct our hearts and build the passion so it becomes red-hot.
Greatest is love
When Christ is our treasure, our desire is to please Him. He is most pleased when we are most like Him. To be like Him is to love Him and to love others.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from Jesus; and everyone who loves is born of Jesus and knows Jesus. The one who does not love does not know Jesus, for Jesus is love (1 John 4:7-8).
Others will know we love Christ because we love one another. The greatest evidence of the indwelling of Christ is our love for others. Loving Christ is much easier than loving one another.
Ministry without love is nothing
1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
In other words, if I teach through the book of Revelation with complete knowledge, but don’t have love, I am nothing. I may be right in my doctrine, but wrong in my motive.
3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
If I give all my money in the offering plate, and fill up the community resource room with food, without love, it profits me nothing. If I go to Iran, and they cut off my head because I am a Christian, but I am not loving, it profits me nothing.
We are to minister with love.
Jesus pours out love into our hearts. We find joy, not in doing the tasks of religion, but in being like Him and being conformed to His image. If the foundation of our serving in the church is not based upon the love Jesus pours out into our heart, we profit nothing. We do not gain Christ. Our motivation for ministry must be our love for Christ and our love for others.
Love is practical
4Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love is an act of the will, not a feeling. It takes self-control to be patient. It takes self-control not to be rude to others or take into account a wrong suffered. The self-control finds its nourishment in loving Christ. We decide we will love because we love Jesus. We will not move away from loving others. Loving others is grounded upon our love for Christ.
When we love in ways in which we are forgiving, when we love righteousness and truth, we love like Jesus loves. We find our satisfaction in loving others as our Savior loves us. Jesus is not provoked by Peter’s denial. Jesus didn’t count all the times His disciples sinned. Jesus died for them. When we love like Jesus, we do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than ourselves.
All other things are childish compared to love
8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
The problem of the church in Corinth is they focused on the gifts and the stuff they were doing, and they did not love one another as they should. If we have great skills to sing on the music team, or if we are the best usher, or if we are good at teaching, and our focus is on the skills or the task, and our focus is not on loving others, we are childish.
Notice the context:
11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
Paul relates doing ministry without love as being childish. It is immature. Love never fails. But, these other things, they fail.
When we love Jesus, we put away childish pursuits. Our focus is on our inner man, not our outward pursuits. We love with a mature love. The height of spiritual maturity is not seeking after knowledge for knowledge sake or trying to be good at ministry tasks. Instead, love is our pursuit. Loving Christ and loving others is the highest pinnacle of spiritual maturity. All other endeavors are childish compared to endeavoring to love.
12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
We have faith, and we have hope, but the greatest is love.
Closing: Seek Maturity in Christ
Christian maturity involves endeavoring for Christ to be our treasure. He is the center of our life. We trust Him with our life. Our Christian life is nourished by our love for Him. We are grounded in our love of Christ, and we will not be moved.