Growing Together with Purpose

As springtime draws near its close, I've noticed lately the sounds of spring in particular: birdsong, the rush of breeze...the roaring mowers and weed whackers!  Why?  Because in the PNW, growth happens abundantly and we're just trying to keep up.  But for thousands of years, human beings have know we must cultivate the earth to grow what we want or need.  So we ask not only "What will grow?" but "What should grow, and why?"

In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul uses the metaphor of growth to describe maturity in our discipleship with Jesus.  This passage is central to our understanding of discipleship at UPPC, where we use this graphic as our guide:
Just like the growth in the earth, our growth as disciples must be cultivated.  In fact, sometimes it needs a jump start to get us out of a "fixed mindset" and into a "growth mindset" (Carol Dweck, Stanford University.)  This is what Paul is trying to do in the Ephesian church: get them back into the growth mindset that brought them to Jesus in the first place.  

Paul describes growth in two "directions": both into and out of Christ.

The word "into" appears five times in two verses of this passage (in Greek), really emphasizing that maturing in Christ is a process.  We don't always like processes -- we like conclusions.  We ask "What do you want to be when you grow up?" not "What do you want to become as you grow up?" In the same way, how does it change our sense of spiritual maturing to move from asking ourselves about "spiritual growth" and instead asking ourselves, "What am I 'turning into' because of my life with Christ?"

Paul also describes that we grow "out of" Christ.  The NIV translates the first word of v. 16 as "From," and the Greek is "ex" or literally "out of."  So as we grow "into" Christ, we simultaneously grow "out of" Christ, who apportions grace to each person in various roles.  The variety within the church which had been causing division can be transformed into the kind of variety needed for the Body of Christ to function "as each part does its work."

- What have you "turned into" because of your life with Christ?
- What do you think you still need to "turn into" as you mature?
- In what ways do you grow "out of" Christ as a member of his Body, the Church?
- In what ways do you need to stretch yourself to continue to grow in Christ?

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