One body, in the Spirit. If God be for us, who can be against us?
I find it interesting how much solidarity there is in pagan organizations. People join them and become extremely dedicated to their cause, whether a noble one or an evil one. But, as soon as someone chooses a church, that all changes. People treat church like it’s a retail store that is to supply goods and services that the consumer likes, and if it doesn’t, then it’s time to move on. Rusty, a couple weeks ago, noted that church should be like President Kennedy’s statement: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” We should all be seeking how we can serve our church, not the other way around. Yet each week, all across the U.S., people shop for churches that will provide entertainment, that offer exciting youth activities, engage in “meaningful worship” music, offer great facilities, and so forth. The saying goes, “What you with them with is what you win them to”. What happened to the days when people went to church to encounter Jesus? The days when they wanted to hear from the Word? The days when they committed to each other until the day they died?
Mark Dever notes five New Testament images of the church:
- It is the people of God. This is not a replacement of Israel, but a new dispensation of the New Covenant.
- It is a new creation.
- Fellowship of believers.
- “Ultimately, fellowship among Christians in the church is based on the Christian’s covenantal union with Christ. According to the New Testament, therefore, Christians live with Christ, suffer with Christ, are crucified with Christ, die with Christ, will be raised with Christ, and are glorified with Christ. Christ’s life, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory become theirs through their membership in his new covenant.”
- The body of Christ.
Jesus states in Matthew 12:25:
- “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.”
We saw Sunday in Ephesians 4:3 that the church must work hard, even fight for the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. But, even awesome churches such as Waikoloa Baptist have underlying issues. These are sometimes small issues, but left uncorrected they become big issues. One small invasive species of zebra mussels has severely injured the Great Lakes and thrown the ecological balance out of whack. The same goes for the church. See what Paul says to the loving, sacrificial church of Philippi:
- I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.—Philippians 4:2-3
A church that had blessed Paul immensely and brought him much joy and peace had two ladies who were at odds with each other and not reconciled. He urges them to live in harmony (that’s peaceful unity, by the way). Their lack of unity could in time destroy the church, but will definitely destroy their testimony (John 13:35). When things like this exist in our churches, and in our own lives, we must look honestly at ourselves and ask if we are truly worshiping Jesus by disobeying Him. I think you know as well as I do that the answer is “no”, but how many churches have unresolved discord running through them and yet come together on Sundays to “worship” Him?
- Galatians 6:1-2 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
A missing element of church unity is the practice of church discipline. The Empowered Leadership of the church means that you, the average church member, are to confront sin in the church and “restore such a one”. But, when we do practice this, where many of us miss it is where Paul says, “in a spirit of gentleness”. That is terribly hard. I know. I had to lead church discipline in my first church for an immoral situation, and it was hard to be gentle (I fear I failed often in my interactions with the individual). But, we cannot be unified if there is sin in our lives and in our churches. This must be dealt with.
Next, we need to carefully evaluate ourselves in case we are tempted. I think we must also guard against the pride that inside us says, “I would never do that sin.”
But, the culmination of a church’s unity is found in that last statement of Paul’s where we are to “bear one another’s burdens”. This is the sacrificial love of the church body wherein it says, like the Hollies’ song, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”.
- “The more they love each other, the more they participate in each other’s griefs, and one or the other will be frequently under some sort of suffering.”—Richard Baxter
To summarize today, please commit to your church family, under the headship of Christ, the authority of His Word, in the unity of the Spirit. Work hard and fight for that unity. Do not let the world, the flesh, or the Devil gain any ground against our church as they attempt to put wedges within our church family. And, hold fast to this statement from the writer of Hebrews:
- Let love of the brethren continue.—Hebrews 13:1
- Are there areas of disunity within our church which need to be addressed? _______________________________________________
- Are there contentions between members that need to be resolved? ___________________________________________
- If so, then you have the responsibility to confront, lovingly and gently, those people and encourage them to resolve their issues for the sake of Christ.
- Are you possibly in disunity with another member? ___________________________________________________
- Commit now to meeting with that person, prayerfully discussing the issues, confessing and seeking to restore unity and peace. Commit now by saying, “I will” _____________________________________________
- What would you do for your friends if they ever needed anything? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Now, how willing are you to do all that for those in your church family, even those you may not like very much? ___________________________________________________
- So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.—Galatians 6:10
- If you have a hard time being loving, gracious, and sacrificially giving with your church family, then please reevaluate your priorities today as the Bible emphasizes you are to serve them first and foremost.
- Besides praying (which is essential), what can you do for your church? In other words, how can you serve your church family with your spiritual gift, your talents, and as a contributing family member? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- And, don’t forget that serving the church is not just the needs at the church address, but the needs of the families of our church.
The Family of God Hymn by Paul Chappel (© 2006 Hope Publishing Company)
1 God of caring, bind us firmly
To the friends we see each day.
Keep us always in your circle,
Loving near and far away.
All the people who would claim you:
Call you God and know your Son –
Would be bound within love’s holding
Making many seem as one.
2 We, the people who have asked you
To come in, our lives to fill:
Grant us your complete compassion
Let us live within your will.
We would ever be your people
Going forth, the Cross before:
Soldier, lover, thinker, keepers,
All together to adore.
3 Ever knowing, ever seeing
God we feel in Spirit’s breath.
Breaking out of old discussion
Enter new, and conquer death!
God forever is our champion
Steering us the path to go
We, the people who are granted
All the love and God to know.