Be Unified With One Another
Be Unified With One AnotherPsalm 133:1
Sunday, September 5, 2004
Pastor Randy Smith
Labor Day weekend is commonly identified with the commencement of the school year and final opportunities for family vacations. However, historically, the day was created in response to the American worker's achievements that have made our country great.
For the past eight weeks we have been discussing some key essentials of church and home unity. During this time, I have exposed you to six topics. The purpose of each sermon was to present the material from a biblical basis and exhort to Spirit-led application. The goal was to improve our church and homes, making them more unified.
Since Labor Day is a time to give thanks for the efforts that have made our country great, I thought it would be appropriate to review our series and give thanks for your God-empowered efforts that have made our church great. I hope this summary will be an encouraging conclusion to the series. And since it is a testimony, it is a fitting introduction to your own testimonies that are soon to follow.
1. ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER
First of all, encouragement will be a dominant mark of a unified church.
Jesus, in giving us the second greatest commandment said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mk. 12:31). There are no limits. We are not permitted to determine when or who we desire to love. There is no neutrality. Either we will "fervently love one another from the heart" (1 Pet. 1:22) or we will "bite and devour one another" (Gal. 5:15), passively through disregard or actively through cutting words and actions.
When we think of others in our church is there any desire to show them up and tear them down? Or has God given you a heart after His own heart that is genuinely concerned for the concerns of others? Does the welfare of the newest attendee in this church take greater priority than that of your own?
The world seeks to tear one another down, but the church, in giving evidence of their transformed lives, seeks to build one another up. And the greatest way we can do this is through the ministry of encouragement. Spirit-filled Christians are able to detect the needs of others, and then function as a mouthpiece of God.
We said biblical encouragement is not flattery, worldly wisdom, false hope or sheer emotionalism. Biblical encouragement, on the contrary, is promoting precepts of Scripture through actions ands words that edify people in their walk with God and enhance God-honoring conduct.
Hebrews 3:13a commands us to "encourage one another day after day." Grace Tabernacle family, I am so encouraged by your actions which reveal a sincere commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Your faithfulness to church attendance, prayer, Bible application, financial giving, service, personal evangelism and discipleship has been such a blessing to my heart. Your example has spurred me on to greater degrees of commitment in these areas. I have also been blessed by your timely comments expressed either verbally or through cards and e-mails. Many pastors see little fruit and receive much criticism. However, I have always felt appreciated and used by God in your individual lives thanks to your encouragement. It has made a tremendous difference!
That's my testimony, but others need encouragement in this church too. We may have no control over the encouragement we receive, but we do have control over the encouragement we give. And the more we give, the more others will receive.
Imagine a church where people are passionately and aggressively committed exclusively to the spiritual building up of one another. Wouldn't you like to be a part of that institution?
2. DO NOT JUDGE ONE ANOTHER
Second, a unified church rightly understands the sin of legalism. This topic is currently killing the evangelical church in two ways.
First, there are many who misunderstand the term and associate legalism with any pursuit of personal holiness. To do so not only chaffs against God's clear command to "pursue…godliness" (1 Tim. 6:11), but is also deters from the church unity as the most unified churches are the most Christlike churches. God wants His children to imitate His character (Eph. 5:1). He wants them to "be Holy as He is holy" (1 Pet. 1:16). Legalism is a sin. The last thing God wants is false sheep running around His church telling people it's legalistic (or sinful) to obey Him.
Second, there are many in the church actually committing the sin of true legalism without knowing it. Salvation, biblically explained, is through grace. The Apostle Paul said, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Anyone who adopts a works-orientated gospel to achieve his or her salvation will be damned. The Apostle again, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed" (Gal. 1:8)! Obviously, legalistic unbelievers without the Spirit of God cannot contribute to a unified environment.
Furthermore, the "small-l" sins of legalism (as I called them) are also damaging to the church. These are the extra-biblical convictions that we have a tendency to elevate to biblical mandate. Grace that comes through Christ's work of the cross is jettisoned in favor of rules and regulations to earn God's love and acceptance. Such an environment is often filled with judgmentalism and self-righteousness - definitely not conducive to a unified environment.
I'm so thankful we know where to draw the lines. I believe we understand the biblical requirements, live them out and seek to hold others accountable. At the same time, we respect one another to follow the leading of their conscience and the Spirit to individually develop convictions that honor God in all the gray (non-biblical) matters of Christian living.
Imagine a church where people are passionately committed to pursuing holiness, boasting in the true Gospel and yet respecting each other in their personal convictions. Wouldn't you like to be a part of that institution?
3. BE AT PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER
Third, a unified church is one that quickly resolves interpersonal conflict by seeking to "be at peace with all men" (Rom. 12:18b; cf. Heb 12:14a).
Satan wants to divide, but God wants our personal relationships to resemble the divine relationship He enjoys within the Trinity (Jn. 17:21), one of togetherness, peace and unity. That's the model of our fellowship. It's a lofty standard, but God has provided the Bible that gives us all a unified set of beliefs and the Holy Spirit that personally dwells with each of us to unite our spirits (Phil. 2:2) and grant peace (Gal. 5:22). As a matter of fact, God gave us the ultimate example to reconcile estranged relationships. Can our sacrifices to mend a broken relationship ever compare with His by sending His only Son to the cross so we might live in peace with Him (Rom. 5:1; 1 Pet. 1:2)?
It's such a blessing to my heart when I see this church act as the "family of God." When I see you live at peace with one another through the absence of conflict, but also with the promotion of fellowship. What a blessing to see you enjoy spending time together in prayer and Bible Study. What a blessing to see the avoidance of cliques and partiality. What a blessing to see many of you extend yourselves to "live in peace with one another" (1 Thes. 5:13).
Imagine a church where all people feel accepted and loved and the worldly games of manipulation, silent treatment, intimidation, retaliation and verbal assault are nonexistent. Wouldn't you like to be a part of that institution?
4. SUBMIT TO ONE ANOTHER
Fourth, a biblically unified church submits to her leadership.
Naturally, if we are to live at peace with one another (1 Cor. 1:10), we need someone to have the final say. A community of Indians with no chief is disunified and chaotic! Even worse, is a community where everyone thinks he or she is the chief! If I can use the biblical expression from Judges "everyone (will do) what is right in his own eyes" (Ju. 21:25). Someone needs to steer the ship with biblical vision. Someone needs to make a final decision when group consensus cannot be reached. Someone needs to coordinate the affairs of the church. Somebody needs to stand accountable before God. Fortunately, the Bible gives us clear counsel. Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."
Speaking on behalf of the other leaders, it is such an awesome blessing to shepherd this flock. Your submissiveness and support of our leadership has led to much joy because a unified church promotes the joy of her leadership. In Philippians 2, Paul said, "make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose" (Phil. 2:2). Only through respecting God-ordained and God-qualified leadership can the leaders experience this joy and the church experience this unity.
Imagine a church where people are willing to humbly forsake their individual opinions for the corporate unity of others. Wouldn't you like to be a part of that institution?
5. PRAY WITH ONE ANOTHER
Fifth, a church committed to unity will be a church committed to prayer.
Two weeks ago we explored four passages from the book of Acts (1:12-14; 4:29-31; 12:5; 13:2-3) which not only describe the commitment the early church had toward prayer meetings, but also demonstrated the power they experienced from God as a result of their corporate gathering for prayer. Somehow, today's evangelical church thinks they can go without a Christian discipline so essential to the Apostles and even the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we have the audacity to wonder why we experience such worldliness and lack of spiritual blessings. Could it be that we don't have because we don't ask (Jas. 4:2)? Corporate prayer is the best means to seek church unity and the best way to demonstrate church unity.
If you have yet to experience the joy that comes from seeking the face of God with your brothers and sisters in Christ, I would encourage you to prioritize Wednesday evenings on your calendar. If you're looking for more family time, how about bringing your family to church! I do agree with the many respected Christians throughout the ages who say the prayer meeting is the spiritual barometer of the church. If true, I believe ours is rising!
Imagine a church where people are consistently devoted to lifting each other up corporately before the throne of God and praying for His glory to be known. Wouldn't you like to be a part of that institution?
6. BE FAITHFUL TO ONE ANOTHER
Sixth, a unified church is marked by her faithfulness.
Just months before I began dating Julie, I took a solo trip out west. I loaded my car with some swimming shorts, a tent and a few items of food and headed for Yellowstone. One thing I distinctively remember about this incredible National Park were the geysers. Little to the awareness of most, the site actually contains over 500 geysers. Some are extremely spectacular. However, they do not receive the same attention given to one in particular; one called Old Faithful. Old Faithful, though incredible, lacks the drama of the other geysers. It only shoots water straight in the air and its duration lasts one to five minutes. But due to its punctuality and predictability, this geyser has received its worldwide attention.
I believe the people that catch God's attention are those that emulate His faithfulness. There are many in the church who are inconsistent and unreliable, white hot for God one day, but cold as ice for the months that follow.
If we are to remain unified, we need everybody in this church to practice consistent faithfulness - faithfulness to serve and pray and attend and encourage and forgive and love. We need men and women and children of integrity: people of their word, people who observe dates and times, people who are faithful in the big things and faithful with the little things as well, people who desire to hear their Lord say, "Well done (My) good and faithful servant" (Mt. 25:21-NIV).
Imagine a church where all could be trusted and fully relied upon and who faithfully fulfilled their responsibilities. Wouldn't you like to be a part of that institution?
It's possible, beloved, to have the God-honoring, unified church our Lord intends (Jer. 32:39) and our hearts desire. The Spirit that dwells in all of us is willing and the biblical instruction is clear. Are you playing your part to contribute to this environment - an environment we don't need to imagine, but one we can experience! Wouldn't you like to be part of that institution? Psalm 133:1, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!"