“How Then Shall We Live?  As Those Taking Steps of Obedience”

August 14, 2016

Reception of New Covenant Partner

“How Then Shall We Live?  As Those Taking Steps of Obedience”

Psalm 19 and Ephesians 4:11-17(19)


Children’s Sermon: (Tape Measurer)

It’s time to measure up!  Let’s see how tall you all are. (measure each)

How old do you think you were when you were two feet tall?

What are some things you can do now that you couldn’t when you were two feet tall. 

So you must be growing up!  You are becoming more mature!  That’s great because that is exactly what you are supposed to be doing!

Do you know what else? Not only should you be growing physically and not be babies anymore, you are also supposed to be growing spiritually.  The more we know Jesus and follow him, the more mature we become in our faith! And that’s what God wants for us.  He does not want us to have two foot tall faith.  How much “taller” do you think he wants our faith to be?

To get there we have to keep doing things that will help us grow as his disciples.


Today, our friend MaKaylah is taking a step in following Christ by becoming a Covenant Partner with our church family.  That is another way of saying, “I belong to Jesus and I want to grow in his way and follow his steps.”  It’s a way of saying, my faith is getting taller.  Let’s pray that we can all grow up in our faith and for MaKaylah as she takes this step in her discipleship today.


READ Ephesians 4:11-19


Intro:  Christian faith is not a destination but a journey.  There may be a point in time that we acknowledge as the moment we “came to Christ”, but meeting Christ and living into the relationship are two different things. 


God’s desire for humanity is not that people meet Christ but that they meet and then come to know Christ and through Christ come to the Father.  We are not talking about surface level relationships but the kind of relationship that changes and transforms us. 


The changes, which transpire as we grow in a relationship with Christ, are all good.  They may not be easy, but they are good.  They may involve laying down habits, changing the way we think, picking up new habits, investing in what God is doing in our lives and in the world.  The changes that need to happen in our particular lives come about through obedience.  Hearing God declare “this is who I want you to be and how I want you to live” and then responding by doing what he asks.  How then shall we live?  As those who are taking steps of obedience every day.


Another word to capture this way of living is “discipleship”.  Discipleship is living in obedience to God and it is a constant way of life.  It is a way of life that grows us up from infants to mature adults.  It’d be nice to think that we’ve already become mature in Christ, but I’ve got to tell you – most of us are far from it.


In his book, Discipleship Essentials, Greg Ogden gives an introduction on what this art of faithful obedience (discipleship) is about.  (Read marked sections on p. 7)


Today’s churches are full of spiritual babies. People who believe in Jesus and are grateful for their salvation but allow their faith journey to stop there with no concept of or avoidance of the need to grow.  And so we have the infants that Paul describes in our passage from Ephesians.  We have churches full of folks who are tossed around, blown here and there, not able to distinguish the truth from a lie, or distraction from focus.  And we are content with this as long as numbers in the pews and pew envelopes are steady or growing.  But that’s not what we are called to be.


Paul reminds us that we are meant to grow up.  In order for that to happen, Jesus himself, gave to his followers gifts to use to help mature the people that would come to meet him.  Jesus appointed, among you, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  And he gave the church these people for a very specific purpose that we find in v. 12-13 “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.”

Or as it says in The Message: He handed out gifts . . . to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.


Spoiler alert!! Rome Pres isn’t their yet.  But we could be on our way.  I’d love to say that with more certainty, but I don’t know what sort of buy in you folks have.  Are you all in to use the gifts you have received and to learn from the gifts that others desire to impart? I cannot judge our growth just on what I see, because you all live out your faith in a variety of ways that I never hear about – and that’s great!  On the other hand, when I hear someone say, “I don’t need to do anymore Bible study, I know enough”, the alarms go off. Any time we believe we have arrived at maturity, is a sure sign we have much further to go.


The process of maturing in Christ takes time and it takes community. None of us grew up physically over night nor did we grow up isolated from other people. It may be a slower process for some than others.  But it is a journey we ought all to be on if we claim to know Christ.


So how mature are you, spiritually? If the answer that comes to mind is something like, “I’ve been a member of this church for 35 years”, then you are not hearing the question.  If the answer that comes to mind is something like, “I’ve been a Christian ever since I can remember”, then you are not hearing the question. 


Let’s return to our passage in Ephesians.

We know that by Paul’s words in the first three verses that we are supposed to be a community of mature believers.  A mark of this maturity is unity and understanding of Christ and His will.  God equips the church with all that we need to get to this place of maturity.  So the marks of maturity: unity, understanding of God’s will, would be at one end of our spiritual tape measure.  Let’s look at the other end – the infant end.


Verse 14 reads: 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.

So infants in faith are easily distracted.


In an article titled What Spiritual Immaturity Looks Like found on Crosswalk.com, Joe McKeever fleshes out what spiritual immaturity is identified.  He was writing about the problem of having spiritual infants as church leaders and these thoughts are taken from a sermon he preached to a church looking for new pastoral leadership.  As I read through them, think about the parallels you have seen in the babies you’ve known in your own life. 


1) Spiritual infants are self-centered.  They arrive at church thinking, “What can I get out of this?” Then, they sometimes leave saying, “I didn’t get a thing out of that today.” Church is all about them.

2) Spiritual infants are noisy. They cry a lot, particularly when they don’t think their needs are being met. 

3) Spiritual infants are messy. Toddlers do not clean up after themselves. That’s someone else’s job.  On Sunday night after everyone has vacated the premises, walk around the church building and you’ll know in a heartbeat whether the congregation is mature or immature.

4) Spiritual infants are impatient. The crying baby cannot be told that the milk is warming and should be ready in a few minutes. He wants what he wants and he wants it five minutes ago.

“Why did you leave that church?” “We were not having our needs met.” Ever heard that? This is the customer/provider approach to Kingdom work. The church is there to provide services which members pay for with their offerings; if the services are inferior, they withhold their money or even leave. Such is the nature of carnal devotion.

5) Spiritual infants are defined by what they cannot do. They cannot cooperate, cannot submit to others, and cannot understand deep things. They are unable to apologize and mean it, and resist sharing. They cannot see far away. Suggest the church join the local association or send money to missions, and they respond, “Why? What does it do for us?”

6) Spiritual infants are explosive and can “go off” at anything. They were in the hospital and the pastor did not visit them, so they drop out of church. They worked hard on that project and got no recognition from the pulpit so they are ready to quit.

7) Spiritual infants are irresponsible. They’re great at expecting a lot from others and nothing from themselves. They always know who is to blame for all that’s wrong in the church.


Concl.  Where are you on the measuring tape of spiritual maturity? Can you identify one baby step you need to take towards maturity? We are going to celebrate MaKaylah today as she takes a definitive step today, declaring that she is a disciple of Jesus Christ and wants to grow into maturity here with us.  As you hear the words we use for this process, think about where you need to recommit your own life to following Jesus.





Service for Reception of New Covenant Partner


Presentation (by an Elder)


Elder:  On behalf of the session I present MaKaylah who has been received into this congregation by reaffirmation of faith.


Minister:  You come to us as a member of the one holy universal church, into which you were baptized, and by which you have been nurtured.  We are one with each other, sisters and brothers in the family of God.  We rejoice in the gifts you bring to us.  As you join with us in the worship and service of this congregation, it is fitting that together we reaffirm the covenant into which we were baptized, claiming again the promises of God, which are ours in our baptism.


Hear these words from Holy Scripture:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.  (Eph. 4:4-6)



Profession of Faith

Sisters and brothers in Christ, our baptism is the sign and seal of our cleansing from sin, and of our being grafted into Christ.  Through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the power of sin was broken and God’s kingdom entered our world.  Through baptism we were made citizens of God’s kingdom, and freed from the bondage of sin.  Let us celebrated that freedom and redemption through the renewal of the promises made at our baptism.  I ask you therefore, once again to reject sin, and to profess your faith in Christ Jesus, and to confess the faith of the church, in which we were baptized.



Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world?  I do.

Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Lord and Savior, trusting in his grace and love?  I do.

Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his Word and showing his love? 

I will with God’s help.


Profession of Faith

With the whole church, let us stand and confess our faith using the Apostle’s Creed.


(congregation may be seated)


You have publicly professed your faith.  Will you be a faithful member of this congregation, share in its worship and ministry through your prayers and gifts, your study and service, and so fulfill your calling to be a disciple of Jesus Chris?  I will with God’s help.


Let us pray:  Holy God, we praise you for calling us to be a servant people, and for gathering us into the body of Christ.  We thank you for choosing to add to our number this sister in faith.  Together, may we live in your Spirit, and so love one another, that we may have the mind of Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom we give honor and glory forever.  Amen.


(Invite elders and Rachel forward)

Laying On of Hands (and anointing with oil)

(Have MaKaylah kneel)

O Lord, uphold MaKaylah by your Holy Spirit.  Daily increase in him/her your gifts of grace:

The spirit of wisdom and understanding,

The spirit of counsel and might,

The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord,

The spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever.


Ever living God, guard this your servant with your protecting hand, and let your Holy Spirit be with her forever.  Lead her to know and obey your Word that she may serve you in this life and dwell with you forever in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.