Get in the Game

Steve Viars August 15, 2009 Ephesians 4:11-16

- How many of you like to attend sporting events?...I’m going to assume for the next minute or two that you think that is a wonderful thing to do…

- so let’s say that you score some tickets to see the Colts down in Indianapolis…and it’s going to be a great game…so you get there early…you were able to get enough tickets so you have your spouse and your kids, or maybe a group of friends…

- but you find your seat…and then you make the obligatory trip to the concession area…and you’re concerned about how much weight you’ve been losing so you decide to try to get that built back up…

- so you have a hot dog, and a bratwurst, and a couple of sodas, and some nachos/cheese, and some pretzels, a few bags of candy…

- and you sit in your seat and watch the teams warming up and think…this afternoon could not get any better…

- and you’ve just about polished off all your nutritional items…the games about to start…

- when you see someone in a Colt’s uniform coming up in the stands…

- at first you think it’s just a spectator with a team jersey on…but as he gets closer, you recognize it’s a player…

- and he get’s right up to your row and pulls off his helmet and it’s Peyton Manning…and he looks right at you and calls you by name…and he says – a couple of our players caught the flu…we need you to get in the game…they’re sewing your name on the back of your jersey…we’ll explain everything when we get down in the huddle…but the team needs you, and wants you…it’s time to get in the game…

 - now let me ask you this – how long would it take you to make that decision?...especially if there really was the possibility that you could be equipped to function in that game and somehow make a real contribution to the team…if you had that opportunity, would you pass it up?...

- nobody in their right mind would…

 - here’s today’s message to every person in the house…It’s time to Get in the Game

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Ephesians 4:11…[page 152 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…]

- this is a very important Sunday in our team’s game schedule…and here’s why…churches often function on more of an academic calendar than an annual calendar…

- that’s not to say that we shut things down in the summer time because a lot of tremendous ministry has occurred that last couple of months…

- but in a very real sense…today is New Year’s Day…it’s when we think carefully about the ministry opportunities that the Lord may have for us as a church, and as individuals in the coming months together…

- it becomes even more important because of what the Lord has been doing around here the past 6 months…

- we’re not all about numbers, but we are unapologetically about people, about souls…

- that’s why The mission of Faith Baptist Church is to glorify God by winning people to Jesus Christ and equipping them to be more faithful disciples.

- and we should regularly ask – is there evidence that that mission is being accomplished?

- and I’m not saying that the answer to that question can be reduced entirely to statistics and graphs…but on the other hand…statistics and graphs have something to do with it…

- over the years, God in His grace has allowed us to make progress numerically…

- to that, we say – to God be the glory…because we recognize that each advance in that line represents a human being…often men and women who used to be separated from God but now who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and are on their way to heaven…they’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb…and you’ll have to excuse us for getting a bit excited about that…and extremely amazed by/thankful for it…

- we would never take the blessings of God for granted…

- another piece of this puzzle is what has been occurring the last several months…

- to get the most accurate feel for what’s occurring, you compare a particular Sunday to the corresponding Sunday in the previous year…

- and generally, if there are about 50 persons more than the previous year, that is solid growth…

 

- here’s what’s been happening this summer

Summer FBC Attendance

08                                09                                           Difference

1st May           1651                           1881                                       +220

2nd May          1465                           1817                                       +352

3rd May           1590                           1834                                       +244

4th May           1390                           1578                                       +188

 

1st June           1473                           1672                                       +199

2nd June          1445                           1636                                       +191

3rd June           1430                           1759                                       +329

4th June           1351                           1677                                       +326

5th June           1403                           1707                                       +304

- on average, that’s 250 more persons here each Sunday than the previous year (which also was a very strong year), or 17%...  

 - now please take that in the spirit in which it is given…the Lord is choosing to unusually bless us…there’s no other way to interpret that data…

- the question is…are we prepared to good stewards of His blessing?...

- is it time for you to get in the game…or to advance in some way in your participation on the team 

- now before we read this text…here’s what I’d like to ask everyone to do…please take a moment and ask the Lord to help you carefully interact with this passage of Scripture this morning…believing that God uses His Word to direct His people…and committing yourself to taking whatever steps His Word would indicate…

- read Ephesians 4:1-16…

- with the time we have remaining, let’s think about Three ways you can get in the game.

I. By Confirming Your Position.

- some of the more haunting words in Scripture are:

- Matthew 7:21-23 - Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?”  And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

- that’s why as we being this new year, I’d like to directly ask every person who is attending…

A. Are you sure you know Christ?

- sometimes people come into a church holding 1 of 2 wrong assumptions…

1. I’ve always been a Christian…

2. I’m trusting my own works to get me to heaven…because I’m a good person…

- neither position can stand the test of Scripture…

1. You’ve always been a Christian?

Ephesians 2:1-3 - And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

- the message of the Scripture is that God is holy (just as you studied last week from Isaiah chapter 6] and that as human beings, we all fall short of that standard…

- Romans 3:23 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

- some hear that and say – that’s why I’m trying to live a good life, to make up for that…that makes sense on some level I suppose, but it too falls short of what God’s Word teaches…

2. You are going to earn your way to heaven by being a good person?

Ephesians 2:8-9 - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

- obviously this is an individual decision, but I would hate it if someone was attending this church for any period of time and began making friends and becoming involved but who had never truly repented of their sin and placed their faith in trust in Christ alone

- and before all the busyness of the fall begins…I encourage you, to do, as the apostle Peter said…2 Peter 1:10 - Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

- and the beauty is, this is something you can know for sure…

- 1 John 5:13 - These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

- now, you might say – well, what if I’m not sure about my position on the team?

a. One option would be to trust Christ right now…

b. If you still have questions or would like to talk to someone personally, why not decide right now that you’re going to send an e-mail to one of our pastors (our e-mail addresses are right in the bulletin…]

c. You could sign up for the Intro to Faith class [explain—an opportunity to ask questions, not committing to anything beyond that…]

 

- now, if you say, Pastor Viars – I’m sure about that…what comes next?...let me pose a question to you and then we’ll unpack it…

B. Are you preaching the gospel to yourself every day?

- now, you might say, what do you mean by that?...

- the first three chapters of this great book are written to help Christians understand who they are in Christ…

- here’s just a flavor…

1. I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ – 1:3

2. I was chosen for the team before the foundation of the world – 1:4

3. I’ve been adopted into His family – 1:5

4. I can live to the praise of the glory of God’s grace – 1:6

5. I was redeemed through Jesus’ shed blood – 1:7

6. I have been forgiven of my sin – 1:7

7. My relationship with God is sealed by the Holy Spirit  – 1:13

- we refer to such truths as the gospel indicatives, who you are in Christ…and that list is just the beginning of what is discussed in the first 3 chapters of this book…

- but sometimes we think of the gospel as something with proclaim to unbelievers somewhere else…or as something we believed the day we trusted Christ…or something we are trusting to get us to heaven some day in the future…

- but in all the days in between…there’s not much thought given to the gospel…

- that is a significant theological error…

- we should preach the gospel to ourselves every day…or your ability to function well on the team is clearly dependent on the degree to which you do so…

- I would really encourage you to read the little book The Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent

- This book is offered as a handy guide to help Christians experience the gospel more fully by preaching it to themselves every day.  It is also offered as a correction to a costly mistake made by Christians who view the gospel that has fully served out its purpose the moment they believed in Jesus for salvation (p. 5).

 

- this is why we would read a statement like the one at the beginning of Romans, where Paul says,Romans 1:15 - So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

- clearly Paul believed that his readers in that book were Christians…yet he says that he is eager to preach to gospel to them…why?

- for the very reason we’re discussing…there is such a thing as the sustaining gospel…

- if you’re familiar with the structure of the book of Ephesians, you know that the first three chapters are what we’ve been talking about so far – gospel indicatives, who you are in Christ…

- but right in the center of the book…there is a clear transition…Ephesians 4:1 - Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

- that is the beginning of the gospel imperatives….all that God expects us to change, and to do as a result of our salvation…

- the challenge is that some of us are more comfortable in chapters 4-6 than we are chapters 1-3…and that won’t work…at least not for long…

- now if you say – well, PV, can you try to make that practical?...that would be a great question to ask at this point…

- let’s take the husband who tends to be harsh and judgmental because he doesn’t think the other members of his family are organized enough, or disciplined enough—in other words they don’t meet his expectations…so it is very hard for him to be a loving husband and father as Ephesians 5 and 6 command him to be?...

- what’s the problem – he needs to preach the gospel to himself…perhaps his family members do fall short…but so does he…so much so that Jesus had to have spikes driven into his hands and his feet so and then hang on a cruel cross so that this husband could possibly be redeemed…there was no other way…

- and that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t speak to his family members about possible ways to grow, but by having preached the gospel to himself first, his tone will be far less judgmental, and far more gracious and loving…

- here’s another upshot of this…I’m about to challenge everybody here to consider stepping it up…

- some of what I’m about to say may not fit into your life plan…because you don’t see the immediate payout for you…

- if that’s the case, and you’re a follower of Christ, you need to preach the gospel to yourself…Matthew 16:24 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

- or someone else might say – I’d like to do that, but I’ve never done it before, or I’m not sure that I can…do you know what that person needs to do?...to preach the gospel to himself…Ephesians 2:5 - even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

- so, regarding your position on the team, are you sure that you know Christ, and are you preaching the gospel to yourself every day?, and then…

C. Have you publicly proclaimed that you are on the team?

1. By being baptized.

Ephesians 4:4-5 - There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

- now we have to be careful here because at times the word baptism is used in Scripture to speak of spirit baptism, what occurs the moment you believe…

- however, frequently the Bible is speaking about water baptism, by immersion on the part of believers…that’s the point of the great commission…

- Matthew 28:19-20 - Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

- the order there is very important in what Christ commanded…

- first a person becomes a disciple – they trust Christ as Savior and Lord…

- and then after that, not in order to be saved, but in demonstration that they have trusted Christ…the person is baptized…a word that literally means immersed…

- every example in the NT of a person being baptized is by immersion of a person who has made a choice to believe God’s message…

- you’re saying publicly that you are on the team…

- and I would ask you this morning, have you done that?...the first step of obedience to you Lord and Savior?...if not, I would challenge you right now that you are going to take the steps to do that…[describe Intro to Faith]

 

2. By becoming a member of a local church.

- this book was written to a church or a group of local churches

- everything that is written here cannot be understood apart from that historical context…

- the NT is all about God mediating His plan and program in and through local churches…

- and it was very clear that there was a mechanism in place by which men and women were formally identified with the church…

- Acts 2:41 - So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

- a few chapters later, the office of deacon was instituted…and Peter instructed the people to choose from among them a number of godly men to serve in that position…

- that became the pattern for the selection of all church leaders…they had to be a recognized part of the body…

- lists of widows were kept so the church was sure they were ministering to those who were officially part of the body who might be in need…

- the thought that a person could know Christ, be baptized and growing, but not part of a local church was unheard of in the NT…

- and I would challenge everyone here…get in the game…if you’re not a member here or somewhere…God would want you to care for that…[Intro class, again]

 

- now, if you say, Pastor Viars, I’ve done all of that…great, thank you for your patience…now let’s get to you…Get in the game…

II. By Committing Yourself to the Mission of the Team.

- let’s go back to the Colts game for a minute…

- what if you get down there and said to Peyton Manning, you know, I’d rather play badmitten, can we change the game…I’m fairly certain that wouldn’t go so well…

- or, four quarters is a bit long, can we change the rules?...

- or you go out of the field wearing a pink tutu – I like ballet…

- you say – that would be crazy if that happened on a Sunday afternoon – listen, that happens on Sunday morning all the time…

- there are plenty of people who attend church but have no visible commitment to the accomplishment of the team’s mission…and I don’t mean an individual church---I mean the church of Jesus Christ…so how do we get there?...

A. Considering it a privilege to be called.

- Ephesians 4:1 - Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

- friend – have you gotten over the incredible privilege it is to be a Christian…to be called to be a child of God?...

- one of the ways you can tell is the level of visible commitment to the accomplishment of the mission…[cf the issue of having a fourth service—folks concerned I would have to speak 4 times]…

B. Valuing the unity we enjoy in Christ.

- Ephesians 4:3 - being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

- have you ever been part of another group of people where there was so much in-fighting and back-stabbing that very little was ever accomplished?…

- well, we’re certainly not perfect…but we enjoy significant unity here…

- let me ask you this….what are you doing that could be characterized as “being diligent to preserve that unity…”

- and you understand that unity cannot be achieved apart from the context of meaningful relationships…people who are growing in their love for one another…

- that’s one of the ways I want to challenge you to the get in the game this fall…is by working at building deeper and more meaningful relationships with people…

1. Join an ABF and start reaching out to people…

2. Being part of church family nights

3. Taking an FCI class [discuss some of the statistical trends…and the importance of our church members being here to befriend our guests…] – develop recent conversation with someone new to our town who thought we weren’t friendly in our community…

- also talk about “8 is really great” – and how it would help us if folks would consider attending the 8 am service until we finalize our 4thservice plan…

 - now, please lock onto the first word in verse 7…and at least in the version I’m reading, the word is “but”…

- now you say – you want me to lock onto that?...yes, because that is a critical transition…

- Paul has been talking about the great unity of the body---but now he’s focuses on the diversity of the body…by grace, every follower of Christ has been given a spiritual gift…

- and that’s another important part of you getting in the game…

C. Understanding the uniqueness of what you bring to the team.

- Ephesians 4:7 - But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

- please think about the statistics I mentioned earlier…why in the world would the Lord trust us with that many people that quickly…

- here’s another question --- how many of them would you suppose don’t even yet know Christ…or for those who do…how many might be experiencing real difficulties right now?...

- then think about this --- is it likely that in a case or two or maybe more, your particular gift set along with your background and your experiences is perfectly and uniquely suited to sin some of those persons to Christ, or to help others grow in Christlikeness?...

- I am convinced that the answer to that question for many people here is absolutely yes…

- and the only question that leaves is…are you going to be in the game?...

 - and please think of what’s at stake here…we’re not talking about you being in the game so that we might score a few touchdowns or make the replays on ESPN…

- we’re talking about the possibility of winning someone to Christ…

- what if the only reason God wanted you to take an FCI was so that you could begin a relationship with a guest in that class that would someday lead them to becoming a Christian?...would that be enough to motivate you to be sure you’re in the game?...

- and if not, then we have a real problem…

- the challenge with a church like this, at least at this point in our history is, many people could sit around and hide…

- confusing going to a church that is getting some things done for God…with being a person who is getting some things done for God…

 

- or what if you being part of an ABF would put you in a position to have a significant impact in the life of a Christian who was really struggling?...

At weddings, birthdays, Christmas, and other such occasions, we often get gifts for which we have no use. We put them in a drawer, store them in the garage, or later give them to someone else. But God never gives such gifts. Each of His gifts is exactly what we need to fulfill our work for Him. We never get the wrong gift, or too much or too little of it. When the Holy Spirit gave us our gift, He presented us with precisely the right blend of abilities and enablement we need to serve God. Not only does our unique giftedness make us an irreplaceable member of Christ’s Body but it is a mark of God’s great love to single each of us out for unique blessing and ministry.

Not to use our gift is an affront to God’s wisdom, a rebuff of His love and grace, and a loss to His church. We did not determine our gift, deserve it, or earn it. But we all have a gift from the Lord, and if we do not use it, His work is weakened and His heart is grieved. The intent of the text before us is to reveal the balanced relationship between the oneness of believers and their individuality which contributes to that oneness.  (John MacArthur, Ephesians, p. 137)

- so the upshot of that is…get in the game…

D. By wanting to improve the way to play your position.

- and I realize that you might say – by PV, this sounds like work…

- that’s exactly what the text says…

- Ephesians 4:11-12 -  And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

- it is work – but it’s God’s work…

 

- now please notice…God gave pastors, not to do the work of the ministry, but to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry…

- and that assumes two things…

- that churches are committed to equipping…

- and church members really desire to be equipped…

 

- and if you would say – listen – I wouldn’t even know where to start…if you send me an e-mail, we will set up a time with you and someone to do what amounts to a spiritual gifts audit…

- who can get to know you and help you be connected to meaningful ministry here…

 

III. By looking Forward to the Joy of the Win.

- nothing that is happening around here right now should necessarily surprise us…

- but think about where all of this could be leading…

- Ephesians 4:16 - from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video