The Golden Door to the Bible, Part 4:
Stay Anchored in Christ
August 2, 2009
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people." (When it says, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our title and our topic this morning is “Stay Anchored in Christ.” My friends, these summer Sundays we’ve been taking a look at a series of sermons called “The Golden Door to the Bible.” And as you may recall, the idea is that there is one book in the Bible that is a great entranceway. It is a short but very, very powerful spiritual masterpiece that I invite you to read when you do your Bible reading as a way to get in touch quickly with the Bible’s message. And of course, you remember that the book we’re referring to is the book of Ephesians. In addition to that, if you’re starting Bible reading or getting into it again, I also recommend to you the gospel according to St. Luke.
We’re concluding our series this morning about Ephesians, the golden door to the Bible. Today we’re exploring the idea, “Stay Anchored in Christ.” What I’d like us to do this morning is to do a brief Bible study about this scripture reading, and then I’d like to tell you a story. I’d like to tell you a story about something I like to do during the summer, and hopefully I’ll get to do it in the next month sometime. It may seem like a very simple story, but I believe it is one of the most powerful things I can share with you about faith.
Let’s begin with a look at this chapter of Ephesians, Ephesians 4:1-16. There are so many treasures in this chapter. There are so many treasures in the book of Ephesians. It’s kind of like being down at the shore and looking at the sand and seeing all those wonderful, tiny shells. I feel like picking up every pretty shell and gluing each one to a piece of driftwood and making souvenirs for my friends. You know those little shells I’m talking about? Yes, and that’s the way it is with Bible truths here in this chapter. (You can probably tell that I’m getting ready for summer vacation.)
So, let’s look at some of the treasures we see here in the book of Ephesians.
“I”—who is I? I is St. Paul. He wasn’t always such a saint, I tell you! If you recall, St. Paul was once a great persecutor of the Christians. He was one of the fiercest and most determined persecutors of Christians. Paul’s name then was Saul, and he supervised the death of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. He took responsibility for it. Stephen’s blood was on his hands. He was a great persecutor of the faith.
But as you also probably recall, on his way to Damascus to persecute other Christians, he had an extraordinary spiritual experience. He was struck down from his horse as by lightning and fell to the ground, and he heard a great inner voice say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And he knew it was the voice of the risen Jesus Christ. From that moment on, he was converted to love for the Lord. He suddenly had the great spiritual insight to become one of Christianity’s greatest heroes and greatest proponents. This is the person who says “I.”
Let’s go to the next word. “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord.” You see, Paul is now in prison for being a defender of Christianity. Prison, for Paul, meant that he was in a house with his hand chained to the wrist of a very large, very strong, very determined, no-nonsense Roman guard. So, this was the symbol of Paul’s imprisonment – one hand chained to this big, burly Roman guard, and writing with the other hand. Paul never considered himself, though, a prisoner to the guard. He considered himself a prisoner for the Lord. He considered his captivity the focus of his ministry.
Paul is begging us to lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. What does that mean? That means that each and every one of you, every single person, has a talent, a gift, something unique, something special. Won’t you close your eyes for a moment and think about that? Won’t you say, inside your heart, “Lord, what are my gifts? What are the special things that I can do that you have given me? What are they?”
Perhaps you have the gift of hospitality. Perhaps you have the gift of financial management. Perhaps you have the gift of a warm smile. Perhaps you have the gift of forgiveness. Perhaps you have the gift of tact, the ability to put others at ease. Perhaps you have the gift of teaching persuasively. Perhaps you have the gift of music. Perhaps you have the gift of gentle love. Whatever your gift may be, it is your special talent from the Lord. And what we are called to do in this scripture is to appreciate it, to know that you are a gifted person and that your gift is valuable and important.
Paul is also calling on us to do our work with humility and gentleness, with a sweet spirit, with patience, with bearing with one another in love. Why? Because of unity. Paul spends much of the rest of this section talking about how unity is maturity. I am so proud of this church. I am so thrilled to the core to be part of it. And I celebrate its unity. I celebrate its sweet spirit. I celebrate its sensitivity. It is so good to be part of it. I feel certain that that sweet spirit, that sensitivity, that understanding, that patience, that unity, is the kind of Christian maturity that St. Paul is referring to in this scripture, and I congratulate you for it.
He goes on, in verse 7, to say that each of us was given grace (that’s the gift we’re talking about) according to the measure of Christ's love. Now, at verse 8, he takes what I call a Pauline side trip. As you read the Bible and check out the epistles of St. Paul, you’ll find that sometimes St. Paul hits on a word, and all of a sudden he’s off on a side trip, talking about that word, and then he comes back. That’s what’s happening between verse 8 and verse 13. So let’s skip over to verse 13.
Until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of
the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity (unity is maturity), to the
measure of the full stature of Christ. And now, my friends, here we come to
it; this is what I want to talk about with you, verse 14:
“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
In other words, stay anchored in Christ. Let’s take a look at verses 14 and 15 together, shall we? He says that we must no longer be children. Let’s pause here for a second. There is nothing wrong with children, and there is nothing wrong with being child-like. I pray to the Lord that each and every one of you would hold on to that special child, that little boy, that little girl within you, and celebrate it and protect it and express it. I pray that you would never lose touch with your playfulness. I pray that you would know the truth of this statement – that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. Protect that child within you.
What St. Paul is saying is this: when it comes to faith, make sure that the adult with you protects the child within you. He’s saying, make sure that the adult within you holds fast to Christ, the anchor, and does not let itself be blown about by what Paul calls every wind of change and doctrine.
What are those winds of change and doctrine that we’re being cautioned against? I believe we fight them in our world today. What are they? The storm winds, I call them, that threaten to blow us about, that threaten to harm the fragileness of the faith within us, are doubt, doubtful ideas or doubtful words from others about faith. The storm winds are discouragement that tells you that you are less than what God created you to be. The storm winds are negative thinking. Those are the storm winds that we need to guard against, that our inner adult needs to protect our inner child from. Paul urges us to hold fast to Christ and not to be blown about by all those negative ideas.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly face them. I certainly need to deal with them. And I am determined to stay anchored to Christ. How about you?
I’d like to tell you a little story now about something I’m looking forward to doing this summer as I do every summer. At some point, I hope to be on the beach and fly my kites. I have some kites I really like. They’re pretty large kites. They’re very colorful, shaped like triangles with a boxed triangle underneath. They’re easy fliers; they’re good fliers. I only fly single-stringed kites, my friends; no stunt kites for me. I can’t take the drama of the stunt kite or the anxiety or the speed or the challenge of it. My life as a pastor is exciting enough! When I am on vacation, a single string kite is all I need.
It’s a beautiful experience to fly a kite, and I hope that each and every one of you can get to do it this summer. When you hold that kite in your hand and the wind is blowing out of the southeast on the beach and the waves are crashing in and the puffy clouds are all above you, you can take that kite and it seems as if it’s anxious to fly all by itself. You let the string out, and the kite rises on a current of air. It rises higher and higher until all you can see is a speck in the sky. It’s as though you’re flying right along with that kite.
There are three elements to a kite fly. There is the kite with its string. There is the wind. And there is the anchor. The anchor happens to be the person flying the kite. I would suggest this image to you, my friends. If you are the kite, and the wind is the circumstances of life as well as the Holy Spirit, your anchor is Christ. Let Christ be the person holding the string. Let Christ be your anchor, and always affirm Him and your faith in Him. He will hold fast to you. He will keep His eye on you. His love will never let you go. Let Christ be your anchor.
When the stormy winds of doubt and negative thoughts and negative people and negative influences come your way, just say within your heart, “Christ is my anchor. He will not let me go. Christ is my stability. In Him I can trust.” And let it be so for you, my friends.
A perfect flight for me down at the shore is when my kite can go so very high, and gradually, gradually I can reel it on in, and I like to be able to catch it like a bird and bring it on in. Picture Jesus catching you at the end of the day. He takes care of you, no matter what the winds of life may bring.
And this, I believe, is the point of our scripture today.
Don’t be blown about by the winds of doubt and negativity. Don’t be like the
kite that is let go by its anchor and flutters off to sea somewhere. Remember
that your anchor is Jesus Christ, and His love will never let you go, because He
loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed summer. Amen.
© 2009 Anthony J. Godlefski