Theme: Discipleship #1 – Teleos: Maturity In Christ
Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:1-16
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Preached ONLINE – Sunday 17 May, 2020
Watch the Live Stream at https://www.facebook.com/turramurrauniting/live
• Kids Handout for 17th May – www.turramurrauniting.org.au/download/kidschurch17may/
• TUC121 Information – www.turramurrauniting.org.au/tuc121/
Offering Link – https://www.turramurrauniting.org.au/offering/
Synod of NSW and the ACT
Who here is good at quoting their bible without looking it up? What is Matthew 28:19-20? Quickly, write something in the comment section … you don’t have to quote the whole verse, just enough to show that you have got it…
For those who don’t know how people can memorise verses … there is a trick to it. How many chapters are in the book of Matthew? Not that many … 28 must be towards the end … actually it is the last chapter of Matthew. Verse 19 and 20 must be almost the last verses in Matthew (actually they are). Another hint is that these verses are Jesus speaking … So what is the very last thing that Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew?
[Has anyone guessed it yet???]
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Go and make disciples. If you remember … one of our four key focus areas in our church’s Vision is … Discipleship. As a church we want to focus on making disciples and helping people grow in their faith and relationship with Jesus. And so, this verse is important to us as a church. Jesus is telling us to GO and make disciples, but the government is telling us to STAY HOME and keep away from other people. Do how does a verse like this work in a COVID19 world? What does it mean for us as a church and as individuals to focus on discipleship at this time?
When I was a teenager, I heard a story which has stuck with me. I keep thinking that everyone knows these stories, so I am tempted not to tell them, but I am learning that some people don’t. So, I will share it because I think it has some wisdom on how to answer the question about discipleship at this time.
There was this young person who deeply desired to change the world, to influence the whole world for God and God’s glory. But she began to think, maybe the whole world is starting a little big … maybe she could change her nation … but Australia’s pretty big too. Maybe the best place to start is changing her local community. That’s achievable, although maybe her immediate friends and family are a better place to start – I could help change them for God’s glory. Finally, she prayed, “God, maybe I should start with me.”
Had you heard that before? It came to mind when I was pondering this idea of “go into all the world to make disciples” and how we do that in a COVID19 era. Yes, part of the answer is online … and I am going to touch on that next week but I also think that this era might be a good time to bring it right back to us. To spend this time of isolation working on our own spiritual growth, making sure what we are developing and maturing as disciples of Jesus so that when these restrictions are lifted we in a good place to be “going into all the world”. Does that make sense?
Discipleship is not just about making new disciples; it is also about growing ourselves as a disciple. As your pastor one of my goals – my key performance indicators – is to help those connected to this church to grow … to grow in your relationship with Jesus and to grow in your faith and understanding of God.
And so in this COVID19 isolation and in the lead up to Pentecost … I thought it would be timely to check up on how we are going (or how are we growing) and share some simple tools to help you in your spiritual growth.
Over the past few days I have been running an anonymous questionnaire ONLINE about people’s spiritual growth. It was not a question to make anyone feel judged or guilty but rather to help us as a church to get an honest snapshot of where we are at. The question was “How would you describe your current pace of spiritual growth? (Or how would you describe the growth in your relationship with Jesus or your understanding of God?”
So, let’s have a look at the results…
|Slow but Steady||53%|
|Content with where I am||3%|
Is that what you were expecting? I was not that surprised because through my conversation that I have with people I know that many of you were struggling to work out how to find some spiritual growth. And while I as a pastor have to stop myself worrying “what am I doing wrong if only 20% are having any decent growth” … I also know that spiritual growth is not just my responsibility … we are all responsible for our own spiritual growth. That is why today, I want to explore this idea of helping us help ourselves to grow. Did that make sense?
And to do this, today I wish to focus on a single Greek word, and a single simple practical idea.
If we turn to our bible reading today from Ephesians … Paul had just spent three chapters talking about Jesus to the church at Ephesus … how we are bless through Jesus, made alive in Jesus, saved by Grace through faith in Jesus, and then wraps it all up by praying that we might be rooted deep in Christ and know how wide, high, long and deep the love of Christ is for us. Great three chapters … and then in chapter 4:1 it is like Paul changes gear and says, “In response to all that, live a life worthy of the calling you have received from Christ”. If Jesus has done all this for us, let us step up as his disciples and do our best to follow his example.
Paul reminds us of the unity we have in Christ, that God has a purpose, a calling for each of us, and then in verse 12 and 13, Paul affirms that God, “equips 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.”
I just want to zoom in on this word “mature”. If Paul says our goal as disciples is to become mature. The Greek word that we translate as mature is very interesting word in Greek – τέλειος (Tel-e-ious or Teleos) which means mature, full, lacking nothing, achieving purpose, reaching a goal.
This word Teleos is used throughout the New Testament. Colossians 1:28 – We proclaim him [Jesus], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect [Teleos] in Christ.
The way that Paul uses Teleos here is complete in Christ. Let me use a sporting example here. Over the past couple of week I have watched some sporting documentaries … The Test (as recommended to me by Will Giacometti) about the Australian Cricket Team and I am now on “The Last Dance” about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
In terms of sport … people like Steve Smith or Michael Jordan are the complete player … an example of Teleos. Michael Jordan could do it all … but how did he get to be the complete player, how did he or somelike Steve Smith achieve Teleos? Some natural talent sure … but they practiced. In both these documentaries you see the great teleos players put in the hard work in practice … week in and week out.
And here is the key to Teleos. Teleos does not mean without flaws, or Teleos does not mean perfection in the sense of nowhere to go or no room for growth.
Teleos sometimes get translated as perfect which is probably not the best word because we have these static images of perfect meaning nothing can be added to it but Teleos is both a state of maturity and its a process. Teleos is both arrival and the journey.
Outside my office at my old church there was this huge oak tree in the carpark. It was glorious … looked like it had been there for 100 years. I would say that the oak tree was Teleos – fully mature, complete? Yes. But at the same time, that tree is still growing. It is at the same time both fully mature and yet still growing. That is the idea of Teleos. Striving to be fully mature and yet still growing.
Jesus even used the word Teleos. Luke chapter 8 when Jesus was telling the parable of the sower and the seeds. Jesus in the part about the thorny soil said that “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not TELEOS … do not mature.” (Luke 8:14)
I have more examples from Scripture, but I will save them for next week … but it is clear that Paul, Jesus, Scripture is calling us as followers of Jesus to have as our goal to become Teleos. To be growing in our faith and our relationship with Jesus so that we achieve the point of becoming mature, complete, lacking nothing … and yet still growing.
And I would argue, that we all actually would want that to be our goal as well. It’s just that … it seems to be easier said than done. That parable about the thorns – the distractions and other things in life – taking up the space that is needed for maturing is probably a little close to home.
And I am not putting myself up as the Teleos example to follow. I struggle with this as well. But I find hope that Jesus doesn’t expect us to achieve Teleos overnight. It is a journey to Teleos that we are on. All we need to do is keep moving forward, to find some tools and things that work for us that help us to continue to grow and mature and keep moving towards our goal of Teleos.
So in that spirit, I wanted to finish this sermon today by sharing with you a simple practical example that I think is really suited for this COVID19 situation we find ourselves in – it is called 121.
I was given this book a number of years ago by an Anglican friend. It’s author, David Helm, is a pastor in Chicago and was also wrestling with this idea of how to help people make disciples and grow in their discipleship. What he was noticing was that people in his church:
- Struggled to do discipleship on their own. There were just too many other things that needed to be done, or distractions that looked more enticing than the hard work of spiritual growth … and so his people were finding that their spiritual growth was stalling.
- Struggled with time. Even if his members were keen to grow … life just got in the way. He knew if people were going to invest time in spiritual growth, it needed to be a worthwhile investment. It needed to be productive and produce real growth.
This book is the result of an idea that they tried called ONE2ONE. They basically linked up two people to spend some time to read the bible today and pray. This was not a replacement for the bible study groups or prayer groups, they were not mentors and mentees, they were just two people who were making a commitment to encourage each other’s spiritual growth.
As I normally do, I have taken this good idea and have adapted a little … but this is what I want to offer you as a simple way of encouraging spiritual growth over the next month.
I would love us to pair up. It doesn’t matter if the pair is the same age or different, same spiritual maturity or not. You can find your own pair … or comment in the comment below … Phil pair me up … and I will.
Then the comment is to meet 4-10 times over the next month for a maximum of 10 minutes each time. As I said, it can be a phonecall, zoom, in person … whatever. It can be every second or third day or once a week … whatever. But put it in your diary and prioritise it.
Then for that 10 minutes, the plan is this.
|Say hello to each other. Max of 30 seconds of small talk. This is not the time for sharing … do it at the end if you must.||0.5|
|Read a short passage together … out loud … half the passage each. (I have 4 different options for you to choose from of varying lengths… 4 sessions of Psalms, 6xI am’s, 5xMicah, 5xColossions.) The passages will only take a few minutes, but it is important that it is out loud.||5|
|Very briefly … is there anything that jumped out.||1|
|MOST IMPORTANT … one way that might I apply this passage to my life this week.||3|
|One person closes in a simple prayer.||0.5|
All the details, outlines, instructions and plans are on our website … www.turramurrauniting.org.au/121
As I said, if you want to take part – either find your own pair … or just type in the comments … PAIR ME UP, Phil and I will.
I am going to pause this sermon and continue this week. But I will say again that while I firmly believe that we all need to take responsibility for our own spiritual growth, I am committed to as your pastor to help you in your journey towards Teleos.
It is my prayer that today and over the next few weeks that we will be encouraged in our relationship with Jesus. I pray that we will invest in our faith and participate in this idea of 121.
But most of all, I pray that we will see some steps forward in all our spiritual life, that if I run the survey again in a months’ time it will show some movement. May be brought closer to that place of Teleos … Spiritual Maturity in Jesus. Amen.
TUC 121 Reading Plans:
Psalms (4 Sessions)
- Psalm 42:1-11
- Psalm 91:1-16
- Psalm 107:1-15,43
- Psalm 148:1-14
I AM (6 Sessions)
- John 6:26-40
- John 8:12 / John 1:1-14
- John 10:1-18
- John 11:17-27
- John 14:1-13
- John 15:1-17
Micah (5 Sessions)
- Micah 1:1-7; 2:12-13
- Micah 4:1-8
- Micah 5:1-6
- Micah 6:1-8
- Micah 7:7-9,15-20
Colossians (5 Sessions)
- Colossians 1:1-14
- Colossians 1:15-23
- Colossians 2:6-15
- Colossians 3:1-17
- Colossians 4:2-18