WHAT ARE ALL THE “SHIPS”? By Pastor YAU
Text: Ephesians 1: 3-14 December 11, 2005
1) What is in there? Many Christians know for sure that by believing in the Lord Jesus, our sins are forgiven and we will go to heaven when we have completed our journey on earth and that is very important. But God has in store a lot more for us. Apostle Paul listed a few in this passage which includes: being given the title of children of God, (5) His glorious grace, (6) redemption, (7) God’s wisdom and understanding, (8) His will revealed to us, (9) we were made heirs, (11) first to have hope, (12) we are included in Christ with a seal, (13) and are guaranteed of our inheritance. (14)
2) How to cash in? To know that we have so much in store is one thing but to transfer the promises into present day benefits is quite another. We believe that God will not promise us anything that may not be realized or materialized. So, how are those promises going to become facts to benefit the life of all Christians? In fact there are so many ways in the Bible to lead us into what we can do to enjoy the benefits of the inheritance. For the purpose of this message, I have found many ways we Christians may enjoy the benefits of God’s inheritance if we follow God’s blueprints. Let us put them in seven “ships” and see how much we really may have.
SEVEN “SHIPS” WE WERE OFFERRED: The following list of “ships” were offered us in the Bible and were tested and proven to be all effective and beneficial if we are serious to follow. Anyone who either refuses or neglects any of them will suffer loss and receives less than his fair share of the inheritance God has offered him. These ships are listed in sequence of growth process and importance.
Membership: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and
about 3,000 members were added that day.”(Acts ) This verse clearly indicates that the first church
2) Fellowship: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts ) Following baptism, the new believers joined others in fellowship, in worship, in studying the teaching of the apostles and in prayer. Through the fellowship with other members in the church, new believers learn the Word of God through Bible study, Sunday School, training, worship and prayer to grow his/her new life in Christ. New believers who refuse to join the church or neglect to participate in worship, Bible study, fellowship or prayer will suffer loss of spiritual growth and become weak and vulnerable to worldly distractions.
3) Workmanship: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good work.”(Eph. 2:10) “Workmanship” here means an object of God’s working, continuous shaping and polishing into a product of His desire. This is a process through close walk with Him, devotion to His word and direction, obedient to His will and leadership. It is a life long commitment to follow God and His way of life. People who are willing to live their life subject to God’s workmanship will be better equipped to do good work. Many self claimed Christians who are unwilling to submit their life and will to the working of God will not be effective or useful in God’s work either through His church or in the world.
4) Ownership: “Consequently you are no longer foreigners or aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and member of God’s household.”(Eph. 2:19) Paul was calling Christians to recognize their status in God’s house, the church. He said that all believers are not aliens or visitors in God’s church. God is the ultimate owner of His house, the church, and we are member in His house. We should never feel, act or choose to be visitors in God’s church. We, together with God, own our church family. We have our rights and responsibilities in God’s church. We need to take part in the routine and well being of the church. People who want only the benefits of being visitors, being welcome but not responsible for anything of a particular church, abandon their rights and duties as God demands us to have. These people are burdens to those who give and work and build God’s churches. What a shameful way to be such a Christian.
5) Partnership: “From Him the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”(Eph. 4:16) When Paul was trying to encourage all Christians to take part in the building of the church, he portrayed it as a building project in which every part has a place to contribute and all are partners needing each other. Each member of a church needs to work closely with others as partners in all the ministries of the church, supporting, encouraging and giving all he/she can for the overall well being of the church. There are no lone rangers or side-line observers in any church. Teamwork is the key to the success of a church.
6) Leadership: “Brothers, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility to them.”(Acts 6:3) This is the first election of people in the church to be servant/leaders. Later on these men were called deacons which mean “servants or waiters”. Service is always an important part of Christian life if he/she is willing to fulfill the jobs God has called him/her to do. God has given to each person He has called portions of grace or talents to serve the needs of the church. Leaders in a church are never the boss. They are always servants to God and the people. There is no special power or position in being leaders. Paul told the Roman Christians that “to give your bodies as living sacrifices . . . is your spiritual act of service.”(Rom. 12:1)
7) Discipleship: “Go ye therefore, make disciples of all nations, or people.”(Matt. 28:19) Even though this is the 7th of all the “ships”, it is never the last. All Christians need to be matured disciples and are commanded to make others disciples as well. Discipleship is always an integral part of the church from day one. Learning and training and participating are always important in Christian growth both in knowledge and usefulness to bringing others to Christ. The discipleship groups each Friday night are designed to train new Christians into strong disciples as Jesus had commanded. Our recent RICE training is another program all churches need to do. If you have not been part of the program, you need to.
WHAT CAN THE SHIPS DO FOR US? We may consider the seven “ships” as seven areas of growth all Christians need to pursue. No one should stay as spiritual babies, depend on others for support and care all the time. God designs these seven steps for good purposes:
1) Be fruitful: “I am the vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit.”(Matt. 15:5) Fruit bearing is the high purpose in God’s calling us. We are saved more than to have eternal life. We are saved to bring others to Christ, to enlarge the Kingdom and to glorify the Father. (15:8)
2) Be useful: “If a man cleanses himself, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy and useful to the Master.”(2 Tim. 2:21) God doesn’t make junk but some of His creation became junk on their own choice. No one should aim for just barely saved and not functioning as God equips him to. Running away from fulfilling duties God asks and his church needs will render anyone useless.
3) Be thankful: Paul said that, “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.”(Eph. 2:4-5) How much should we be thankful to God for His immeasurable love in saving us with the live of His own Son? Our dedication, growth, and fruit bearing are all reasonable service to express our gratitude.
4) Be meaningful: Searching for meaning of life is not a modern day subject. Since ancient days, people are searching for meaning of existence. Certainly Christians should have a higher meaning for existence. We live because we want to grow, to serve and to bear fruit that will make our lives meaningful to God and to ourselves. Any life that is fruitless only wastes the grace of God and resource of the world.
5) Be purposeful: When Paul described the purpose of his life after he was called by the Lord to be a missionary to the gentiles he said. ”I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for his purpose I have lost all things.”(Phil. 3:8) Based on this sentence, Rick Warren wrote that best seller book Purpose driven life. God has given a purpose for each life. It is our duty to find out and to fulfill that purpose.
6) Be helpful: When Paul said, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others,” (Phil. 2:4) he was encouraging Christians to help each other on their interests. Helping each other is never a modern virtue. But it takes a certain measure of self giving and sacrifice to help other people in time of their needs. We need to be sensitive to various needs of people around us and be willing to give, help and bear their burdens.
7) Be cheerful: “For God loves a cheerful giver.”(2 Corinth. 9:7) The word “cheerful” may mean several things but here the Paul used it to describe the attitude of giving: cheerfully, willingly and happily. Giving is a BIG part of Christian faith, from the giving of God’s only son to the giving of his own life by Jesus to the giving of life commitment by tens of thousands of missionaries, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Millions of faithful Christians give their time, money, heart, devotion to the works of the churches and the list goes on and on. No one will remember how much someone has made and accumulated. We all remember how much some people have given when they have the ability and opportunity to do so.
1) Do you have any “ships”? Get involve, be active and get blessings. Are you willing to follow God’s blueprint to grow a full statue of your Christian life. If you are not as useful in God’s Kingdom, may be it is because you have abandoned some of the ships.
2) Do you have all the “fuls”? These are ways you may grow better. To fulfill the many “FULL” functions God intends for you, get involved, put your hand and feet to do something in His church, to someone and you will find the true meaning of your life.
3) How about your inheritance? God has in store for you some most precious inheritance. Will you believe in Him and claim your share of inheritance He has reserved only for you? Come and get them. To refuse or delay receiving the gifts God is willing to give you is to forfeit your right God has designed you to have. Ask Him to come into your heart and be part of His family, the church.