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E-ZINE ARTICLE     #046
 

Why Bother With Unity?
Reasons for Working Toward Unity       
by Dennis Fuqua        

[A revision of a presnetation orignially written for City Impact Roundtable]
 
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E-PRAYER COVERAGE FOR CIR
>From: Randy Haviland <fig.tree@mindspring.com>

   --->NPPNote: This article by Dennis Fuqua was submitted to the City Impact Roundtable, meeting in Atlanta, GA on April 10-12, 2002. CIR is a gathering of men and women praying and working toward a Christ awakening in the Church that results in community transformation in our cities.  To connect with the CIR movement  visit: http://www.cityreaching.com  - or to support us in prayer while we together, join the e PrayerShield (see below).

We have been given permission to open the uniteAtlanta ePrayerShield to any and all intercessors across the country so they can pray for all aspects of City Impact Roundtable.

The ePrayerShield is a web-based prayer tool that individuals can go to and be connected to the needs and requests through the world wide web.  It also has internal intelligence to help every intercessor choose how he or she might pray for circumstances they are called to or burdened by.  The folks at ePrayerShield have graciously given us a two week grace period where there is no cost for people who subscribe specifically for CIR.

Follow these instructions for you and your personal/ministry prayer teams and they will pray as if they are on-sight with us at Simpsonwood Retreat Center:

Step 1: Direct your browser to http://www.eprayershield.org
Step 2: Click the drop down arrow in the "Site Directory" (lower right hand corner)
Step 3: Click on "uniteAtlanta"
Step 4: Click the "Join Us!" button from the left menu on the uniteAtlanta Homepage
Step 5: Provide the information requested in the next few screens of "Partner Details"
Step 6: Review your information in the "Confirmation " Section,
Step 7: Click on the "Conditions of Use" box, and
Step 8: Click the "Everything is Correct . . ." button.
Step 9: You will be automatically directed to the uniteAtlanta "Prayer Areas" page,
Step 10: Click on one of the Prayer Area Titles to review Prayer Points,
Step 11: To add this Prayer Area to your "My Prayer Notebook," select the "Click
    Here to pray . . ." link (we recommend selecting all areas for CIR),
Step 12: You will be directed to "Edit Prayer List" page,
Step 13: Choose "What Day You Will be Praying" (we would recommend every day) along with "Start Time, Duration, or whether you will be fasting for this prayer area,
Step 14: Click the "Add This to My Prayer List" button, and
Step 15: Choose any other Prayer Areas from the drop down menu, then once finished, click the "I'm Done" button.

You will be directed to "My Prayer Notebook" which lists Prayer Points for your chosen Prayer Areas.  A registration confirmation email will be sent as well as a current prayer update email listing the Prayer Points for your
chosen Prayer Areas.  Know that you can change Prayer Areas any time you wish.

** If you need assistance, click the "Help" button and send us an email! **

Thanks!

Randy Haviland for uniteAtlanta and City Impact Roundtable
http://www.uniteatlanta.org
http://www.cityreaching.com

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E-ZINE ARTICLE     #046   Why Bother WIth Unity?    Reasons for Working Toward Unity      by Dennis Fuqua        

[A revision of a presnetation orignially written for CIty Impact Roundtable]

==========================================================================================================

Why Bother with Unity?

“The church seems so divided today!  Wouldn’t it be a lot easier not to worry about all those other churches and just take care of ourselves?”  Probably.  “Those people are so different from us”.  You’re right.  “This unity thing takes so much effort”!  I know what you mean.  “And do you know what they believe over there?”  So, why bother with unity?  Simply put, because Scripture gives us no other option.  Walking in biblical unity with the other members of the Body of Christ in my community is not easy; it takes a very deliberate, intentional decision.  Unity requires an investment of time, energy, thought, money and comfort, but the investment pays great dividends!

 

Why is it valuable to be committed to walk with all the other true brothers and sisters in a geographic area?  Here are some Scriptural reasons for that commitment:

 

  1. Unity reflects the very nature of God – John 10:30 

 

Deuteronomy 6:4 became a regular proclamation of the people of God in the Old Testament, “Our God is one”!  Paul reaffirms this in the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:5), “For there is one God”.  Jesus includes Himself in the equation in John 10:30, “I and my Father are one”.  Paul tells us there is “one Spirit” in Ephesians 4:4.  In the Trinity, there is one God, and three persons.  Since before time began, the very nature of God has reflected a unity within diversity; three beings functioning in perfect relational harmony.  Apart from the cross, there never was and never will be any disagreement or division within the Godhead.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit always walk in unity.  In fact, the universe was in unity until sin came; when sin came, division was the consequence.  It is still true today; division and sin go together.

 

When we experience broken relationships, we are experiencing the universe differently from what God intended.  When we experience harmonious relationships, we participate in God’s original intention.  Why care about unity in the Body of Christ?  Why walk with others who are obviously part of God’s family yet worship in a different manner?  Because disunity reflects the world as the evil one desires it to be and unity reflects God’s essential nature.  Let’s walk with God on this one!

 

2.  Unity is a specific answer to Jesus’ prayer – John 17:11, 20-21.

 

You know the excitement of being the answer to someone else’s prayer, don’t you?  Someone cared deeply about a situation and prayed fervently.  Then God worked it out for you to be the one through whom His answer would come.  What a joy to know that you were part of the work of God!  Now consider what Jesus prayed for His followers:  that they would “be one”.  In His intense prayer of John 17, unity is one of the repeated themes.  It is not simply that “someone” cared enough about this to pray, it is Jesus Himself who prayed and we are the ones who get to be part of the answer to His prayer!  Why would we let anything get in our way if we knew that we could be part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer?  Should our own history get in the way?  Our preferred style?  What about our denominational allegiances?  Nonessential doctrinal issues?  The reputation we have sought to build?  Should these things stop us from doing all we can to see Jesus’ prayer for unity answered?  If being the answer to “someone’s” prayer is exciting, how much more joy and excitement is ours as we are part of the answer to the Savior’s prayer!

 

3.  Unity embodies the essence of the gospel:  reconciliation – 2 Corinthians 5:15-21.

 

“He has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation”.  You may recognize this verse from the classic 2 Corinthians 5 passage on the topic of reconciliation.  God reconciled us by bringing us back into relationship with Himself.  But as soon as we receive that reconciliation, He asks that we not simply enjoy it, but employ it.  He tells us that we are His ambassadors who are to enter into that reconciliation process with Him.  He has given us the ministry and the message of reconciliation.  This reconciliation has both a vertical and horizontal dimension to them.  It is primarily for those outside of God's family who need to be reconciled to Him (vertical reconciliation).  But it is also relate to many who are inside God's family who need to be reconciled to one another (horizontal reconciliation)!

 

Whenever we encourage and serve the process of reconciliation, we are demonstrating the power of the gospel.  God has in mind the kind of relationship He wants us to have with one another.  Whenever brothers and sisters come back into that God-defined kind of relationship with one another, we are living the power of the gospel.  In many different settings, from restaurants to Prayer Summits, God has given us hundreds of opportunities to experience this kind of reconciliation.  And each time it happens, we rejoice because God rejoices.

 

4.  Geography is the only point of division Scripture allows in His Church – 1 Corinthians 1:10, 12:25.

 

If you have a misunderstanding about my bride, I want to correct you; she is important to me, so it matters that you have an accurate understanding of her.  You might feel the same way about your own spouse.  How much more does Jesus desire that we have an accurate understanding of His bride?  I believe we use the word “church” in ways that make Jesus raise His eyebrows.  We talk about buildings as churches, denominations as churches, or we say there are 15 (or 150 or 1500) churches in our city.  We even make up terms like “parachurch”.  Each of these usages betrays the fact we think His Church is something different than God does.  We view it differently than He does.  We have mentally divided – and therefore practically divided – His Church into pieces that He has not divided.  As we read Scripture, it becomes very clear that Jesus’ perspective of the boundaries of His Church is based around geography.  Paul speaks of the Church of cities or regions (large or small), not in terms such as the First Baptist Church, charismatic churches, or the Methodist Church.  These are human boundaries.  His plea is clear in 1 Corinthians 1:10:  “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought”.

 

In fact, when Paul heard of a group gathering around personality (1 Corinthians 3:1-4) or giftedness (1 Corinthians 12:14-21), he slapped them on their spiritual wrists and told them to stop it!  I believe one of the most exciting and far-reaching things Jesus is doing in His Church today is bringing us back to a geographic understanding of His Church.  In no way do I think Jesus is against denominations or that we should merge all the congregations in an area, but I do believe Jesus wants us to view His bride more the way He does.  As we do, we will see ourselves being more open to significant interaction with other true parts of the Body of Christ.  Why is it valuable to be committed to walk with all the other brothers and sisters in a geographic area?  Because this is what Jesus is committed to.

 

5.  Unity is God’s will – Ephesians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 1:10.

 

Right from his conversion on the Damascus road, one of Saul's desires was to know what the Lord wanted him to do (Acts 22:10).  One of the most common questions pastors receive is, “How do I know God’s will”?  I believe this question is one of the earliest evidences that we are really submitted to the Lord.  One of the clearest answers to that question involves what God says in His Word.  When He gives us a command, we don’t need to wonder about His will.

 

We don’t have to wonder what God’s will is when it comes to walking in unity with the other members in the Body of Christ.  We are not only encouraged to walk in unity, we are told to.  It is part of the “worthy walk” commanded in Ephesians 4:1-3.  We are told that walking worthy of our calling includes humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  So if we want to do God’s will, we will maintain that unity in His Body which the Spirit of God has established.  In this Ephesians passage, it is not up to us to establish or make the unity; Jesus has already done this.  Our part is to maintain or keep the unity.  This is one time when we are supposed to be in a “maintenance mode”.  We are supposed to do the 30,000 mile maintenance, the annual maintenance, and even the daily maintenance.  Why are we committed to walking with other members of His Body?  Very simply, because it is God’s will.

 

6.  We need unity to survive – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

 

The Columbia Broadcasting System has increased our national interest in surviving.  The “real life” show “Survivor” has given us new household names and pulled in great ratings.  But no matter how much they bill this show as “real life”, it just isn’t!  I know a bit about real life survival.  I have personally been in the spiritual trenches of ministry and have also spent time with many others in those trenches.  Vocational ministry is not easy; most have survived, but frankly, some have not survived.  Don’t go there unless God specifically calls you, it is too dangerous.  And, don’t go there alone.  There will be times when someone is overpowered, or someone needs to be defended.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 tells us that these are the times when supportive relationships are not optional; “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”.  “Survival time” is not the time to try to build supportive relationships, these are the times when we need to cash in on the investment of our previously established relationships.  Contrary to what “real life” TV would like us to believe, our survival is not about us winning over others, it is about us winning with others.  Why is it necessary to walk with the other believers in our communities?  Because we need one another to survive.

 

7.  We need unity to function as the Body of Christ – 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.

 

Not only do we need each other to survive, but we need each other to function the way Jesus wants His Body to function.  When did it become okay for us to say, “They don’t need me” (1 Corinthians 12:14-20) or “I don’t need them” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)?  Scripture says we can’t go there! This kind of thinking is directly opposed to the essence of “body” imagery.  Just as my mouth needs my hand when it is thirsty, so also the “Ezra’s” need the “Nehemiah’s”; the “expressives” need the “reflectives”.

 

There are two aspects to this thought:  stated in the negative, one aspect speaks to what we are not to say about ourselves, and the other speaks to what we are not to say about others.  Paul knew that we have a tendency to think that if we are different from others, we must not be as good as others.  His point is that there must be diversity in the Body or it is not only absurd (“if the whole body were an ear”, verse 17), it is completely ineffective.  Because I am different from other parts of the body, I am functionally more valuable to the body, not less valuable.  I can do things that others cannot do.  I am needed.  There are “many parts” (verse 14).

 

The opposite is also true.  Paul knew that we also have a tendency to think that if someone is different from me, they must not be as good as me.  So, he states very clearly that all the parts of the Body need each other (1 Corinthians 12:21).  I cannot say, “because you are different than I am, I don’t need you”.  I must think and say, “I need you”; there is “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:20).

 

Flowing out of this realization of our functional need for one another comes a wonderful relational requirement:  all members of His Body “should have equal concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25).  If we are going to function as His Body is designed to function, it will be because we know that we are needed and that we needs others.

 

8.  Unity is necessary to display God’s wisdom through the Church to the world – Ephesians 3:10.

 

God has always desired to bless the world through His people (Genesis 12:1-3).  He also wants the world to see His attributes through us.  He is looking for people and places through which He may display glory and splendor (Isaiah 44:25, 61:3).  “His intent was that now, through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 3:10).

 

We know the value of godly wisdom.  Imagine for a minute what it would be like to live in a world where godly wisdom was the rule, not the exception - my, how things would be different!  Relationships would be healthy, prison populations would be reduced, frivolous lawsuits would not be filed, and children would be educated rather than neglected or abused.  Wouldn’t this be wonderful?  Scripture says that God wants that kind of wisdom to be demonstrated now through His Church.  This cannot and will not happen unless the Church walks in a much closer relationship of unity.

 

God says that we, His Church, are “His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:23).  How much of God’s wisdom do we presently display?  How much does God want to be displayed?  As we let God mold us together, there are ways in which we can display His splendor and wisdom that can never be revealed as long as we are apart.

 

9.  Jesus deserves unity – Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:7 (note:  both the “Church” and “Bride” are singular).

 

His Church is His bride.  A friend of mine has said, “Jesus is not a bigamist.  He is not going to return for a harem, He is going to return for a bride”.  It’s true.  From the Bridegroom’s perspective, there is only one Church.  Since we will be unified then, doesn’t Jesus desire a unified bride now?  Since Jesus died to have the dividing wall removed (Ephesians 2:14-17), doesn’t He deserve to have us live as though it is removed?  Since He prayed that we would be one (John 17:11, 20-23), doesn’t He long for an answer to that prayer?  Since there is only one Lord (Ephesians 4:5), doesn’t He deserve a united team of servants?

 

Revelation 19:7 says that “the bride has made herself ready”.  And part of the preparation process (that will eventually be completed) is to be taking place now.

 

Apart from the many functional benefits of His Church being unified, isn’t the fact that He deserves a unified Church enough, in and of itself?

 

10.  God blesses those who walk in unity – Psalm 133.

 

Many are familiar with this wonderful Psalm and the promise of blessing described in it.  Read it again.  “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!  It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.  It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.  For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133).

 

Three brief comments about this Psalm:  1) Unity produces anointing.  The oil upon Aaron was that which symbolized the presence and activity of the Spirit of God.  There is an anointing of His Spirit that runs down upon us when we walk in unity.  2) Unity produces provision.  The dew upon Mt. Hermon was part of what made the land fertile and productive.  There is a special provision that God gives to His Church when it walks together in unity.  3) Unity is to flow from the top down.  Both the oil and the dew naturally flowed downward.  There is a responsibility upon leaders today to both catch the flow and not to hinder the flow of this unity.

 

Oh, it is good when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity!

 

11.  Unity is essential for our maturity – 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Colossians 2:1-3.

 

We are quite familiar with the promise of blessing in Psalm 133 directed to those who will “dwell together in unity”, but there is another wonderful blessing with which we are not as familiar.  In the straightforward passage of 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul uses some rather strong words for those who are saying, “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos”.  He refers to them as “not spiritual…worldly…mere infants in Christ who need milk, not solid food”.  Here, Paul links our level of maturity – or actually our level of immaturity – with our level of unity.  He says there is “solid food”, food that will help us grow up in Christ, that is available to those who walk in unity.

 

In a more mild, but just as serious passage (Colossians 2:1-3), Paul says he is struggling to see the Colossians “united in love”.  Then he gives his reason for this struggle, “…so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ”.  Paul says we can’t know all of Christ unless we are united in love to the other members of His Body.  Jesus has not revealed all of Himself to any one group.  He has arranged it so that if we are going to know more of Him, we will need to know more of one another.  Our own maturity, our ability to know more of Jesus Christ, is connected to our commitment to walk in unity.

 

12.  Unity is God’s method of effective evangelism – John 17:22-24.

 

When we think of evangelism, things that come to mind are tracts, programs, books, concerts, preaching, altar calls and TV programs.  But when God thinks of evangelism, He thinks of relationships.  He thinks of a loving community, unity in His family, and peace Though there is a very valid place for the former list, we must not forget the latter!

 

The wonderful and familiar prayer of Jesus in John 17 emphasizes two results of our unity.  The first is spoken about the most.  When we walk in unity, Jesus says that the world will know that He was sent by the Father (verse 21, 23).  The second result is that they will know that the Father loves them (verse 23).  Not only will a united Church validate the origin of Jesus’ trip to earth, it will also demonstrate the reason for it.  Evidently, the way it works is something like this:  the world can’t or doesn’t see God so they don’t know of His love for them.  But when the world sees His people in action, His Body walking in unity with one another and loving one another, they begin to see that divine love is a real possibility.  And when people become aware of God’s love, it draws them right into His arms!

 

13.  Unity is what Jesus is doing today – Matthew 11:15.  

 

At least 14 times in the New Testament, Jesus is quoted as saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”.  The Lord of the Church wants His Church to keep current with Him.  His message is changeless, but it is not static.  There are times when He emphasizes a specific truth for a period of time.  The reformation truths, the missionary thrust, and the emphasis on worship are some of these examples.  One of the truths He is emphasizing today is the value of unity in His Body; a theme that has sprung up in many different places through many different voices.  As one man has said, there seems to be a “reformation of relationships” taking place in His Church.  In 1990, cross-denominational pastors’ prayer groups were rare in a city; by the year 2000, it was rare not to find one in a city.  The same could be said for citywide gatherings of worship and/or prayer:  The National Day of Prayer, the March for Jesus (Jesus’ Day), Promise Keepers, and Pastor Prayer Summits have all been used by God to help develop unity in the Church.

 

As Dr. Joe Aldrich has said, “Find out how life works and get on the good side of it”.  When Jesus speaks to His Church by His Spirit about being unified, it is right and good for His Body to hear and respond.

 

14.  Unity is a means of grace – Philippians 2:2-4, James 4:6.

 

A wonderful definition of biblical unity is found in Philippians 2:2.  Paul writes, “make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose”.  Like-minded, loving one another, united in spirit and purpose; this sounds like the kind of group I’d like to be a part of!  Philippians 2:2 illustrates a level of unity that the Church of Jesus Christ has not often experienced, but it is what we are called to. 

 

How do we develop and grow in this kind of unity?  Verses 3-4 provide the answer:  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others”.  Paul’s answer to our question about developing unity is worth genuine consideration.  Unity is developed only through humility.  If we are going to be united, it will be because we humble ourselves.

 

Humble people are the only ones who are willing to be “likeminded” with people with whom it seems they have more things uncommon than common.  Humble people are those who can love the unlovely and whose spirits can be brought together to share a purpose that may be different than their own.

 

Why can they do this?  Because “God gives grace to the humble”.  Grace is the only means toward unity.  Grace to a relationship is like oil to an engine; all the other parts can be there and in place, but without oil, it is a short trip!  I believe that the “relational breakdowns” we often experience are primarily because we do not have sufficient grace in our relational engines.

 

Why walk together?  The humble walk in unity.  God gives grace to the humble.    Walking in unity is a means of grace.

 

15.  Our unity is consistent with reality.  The truth is that we are really united – Ephesians 4:4.

 

A definition of insanity I heard a long time ago is “consciously acting inconsistently with reality”.  I have to confess that this definition haunts me every now and then.  If I ignore the way things really are just because I don’t want them to be that way, and act as though they are not the way they actually are, I need to analyze my mental state.  It is very clear that Scripture tells us the way things really are.  One of the “main and plain” things in Scripture is that there is only “one Body” (Ephesians 4:4). 

 

Corresponding to this is the geographical boundary of His Church, rather than personality, gifting, etc. When we act as though there are divisions in the Body that are not actually there, or when we act as though the Body of Christ is not actually “one”, we are acting inconsistent with reality.  We must not let our history or the way things look get in our way of understanding the truth of Christ’s one Body.  If we don’t recognize that those true believers in the church across the street (or in another neighborhood of our city) are really part of us, we are not living consistently with the unity Jesus has already established.  Acting consistently with the way things really are is always more productive than acting inconsistently with them.  Why be intentional and deliberate in walking with other parts of the Body of Christ?  Because in reality we are already one with them.

 

16.  Each believer is “in Christ” – John 14:20, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:17.

 

Let’s be mice in the corner of the “upper room” as Jesus is helping the disciples “cram for the final” in John 14-16.  Jesus is saying some very strange things!  The disciples least seem to understand some of what He is saying until Jesus explains He is going to leave them soon and go to the Father.  They aren’t really sure how to respond.  Notice John’s expression when Jesus says it is good for them that He leaves.  What?  How could that possibly be?  How could anything be better than “hanging out with God” for three years?  Can you perceive Matthew’s wrinkled eyebrows and the queried looks on the faces of Peter and James?

 

We can now reflect upon what Jesus meant by that strange statement.  What is actually better than being with God in human flesh?  How about having God in us!  This is the wonderful truth of Galatians 2:20 and many other related Scriptures.  Unlike the Old Testament when God was “with us”, or the Gospels when Jesus was “among us”, God now resides “in” every believer in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit (John 14:17).

 

How does this concept relate to walking in unity with other believers in Jesus?  Every time we walk with other believers, we have an opportunity to experience more of God through them.  And every time we refuse to walk with other believers or reject them, we are refusing and rejecting more contact with Jesus Himself.

 

Why work toward unity in His Body?  Because God is not separated from the believers we are separated from.  When we fail to intentionally interact with certain portions of the Body of Christ, we are not only judging Someone else’s servant (Romans 14:4), we are also judging God in that servant.

 

17.  We can glorify Him together in ways we can’t when we are apart – Romans 15:6-7.

 

In music, dissonance is generally used to make the resolve to harmony sound better.  When all you hear is dissonance, it’s hard on the ears.  Harmony attracts us, draws us in, and simply sounds better.

 

Paul prays in Romans 15 that God would give us a spirit of unity, “…so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Notice that Paul does not just desire that we would be one in heart, which is too nebulous for Paul, he wants us to be more practical than that.  His desire is that the Church, having become one in heart, would also use “one mouth” to bring praise to God.  How can we do that if there is not some time when we are actually together speaking or singing?

 

The result of His unified Body coming together in heart and mouth is that He is glorified.  It is not the volume that brings Him glory – He doesn’t get more excited about 120 decibels than He does about 65 decibels - it is the harmony that excites Him.  Harmony glorifies God more than dissonance; our united voice is evidence of our united hearts.  Every denomination, each congregation singing a perfectly good tune but out of tune with the others around them, attracts neither Jesus nor the world.

 

Why work to walk together?  Because every time we resolve the dissonance and demonstrate the unity of our hearts and voices, Jesus leans over the railing of heaven, listens more closely, and gets the Father’s attention.  Perhaps the dissonance has had a purpose, but when the resolve comes, the harmony sure sounds good!

 

When Jesus has leaned forward in His chair to listen to the music of His Church, for too long all He has heard is dissonance; it’s time He hears harmony.

 

18.  Unity demonstrates the worth of the Gospel – Philippians 1:27

 

How much is the Gospel worth to you?  How much is it worth to the average nonbeliever in your community?  Is there anything we who follow Jesus can do to increase its worth to those who are not yet following Jesus?

 

It is well recognized that “joy” is a clear theme in Philippians.  The theme of “unity in Christ” becomes clear only as we look a bit more closely at the book.  The first command of Paul comes in 1:27 when he tells his readers, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ”.  He goes on to tie the worth of the Gospel to their willingness and capacity to “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel”.  In this key part of the flow of his book, Paul makes it clear that there is an inseparable link between the worth of the Gospel and the unity of the saints.  If we don’t “stand firm in one spirit”, the Gospel loses some of its worth.  The first two words of this verse, “whatever happens”, are very applicable to the 21st century.  Much has and does happen to keep us apart.  But Paul commands us to keep walking together no matter what happens.

 

Finally, he tells us that a demonstrated unity will allow them to face opposition without being afraid, which then becomes “a sign to them that they will be destroyed but that you will be saved”.

 

To the Saints, the worth of the Gospel will always be immeasurable; to those who are not yet following Jesus, it is very measurable.  It is measured by the depth of our commitment to walk together “whatever happens”.

 

19.   A lack of unity produces a sick and dying Church – 1 Corinthians 11:27-32.

 

We know the importance of examination prior to approaching the Lord’s Table.  How important it is to use the Lord’s table as a regular check up of how we are to continual live in the shadow of Calvary.  What weakness, sickness, and even death that has come upon the Church because of a lack of serious examination.

 

But, the examination Paul mentions regarding the communion table is not simply a general examination about our sin or our standing with Jesus.  It is a very specific kind of examination.  He says, “A man ought to examine himself before he eats the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the Body of our Lord eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Corinthians 11:28-29)”.  The specific issue the Spirit of God is calling us to examine on a regular basis is do we “recognize the Body of the Lord”?  Paul is very consistent with this metaphor.  When he refers to the Body of the Lord, he is referring to the Church.  In the previous chapter (10:16), Paul links the bread and the Body together when he asks, “And is not the bread we break a participation in the Body of Christ”?

 

In the human realm, when one part of our body does not recognize another part of the body, something bad is going to happen; a cut, a fall, a hit, or something.  This is amplified when we think of Jesus’ Body.  If I say, “that hand is not part of the Body, I can cut it off without any harm to me”, the Body is weaker.  If someone says, “this immune system must belong to someone else”, the Body is sicker.  And if we say, “that heart isn’t mine, why should I care”, the Body dies.

 

How much stronger, healthier, and much more alive the Body of Christ would be in each of our communities if every believer would regularly examine themselves regarding the true nature of the Church!

 

20.  Unity so frustrates and annoys Satan – 1 John 3:8.

 

Remember Colossians 2:15?  This is the passage that speaks about Jesus making a “public spectacle” of His enemies at His crucifixion.  What a cool thing!  I love it when the evil one gets frustrated or embarrassed.  We know from his track record, that Satan likes to break and divide things.  He did it in heaven, in the garden, with Israel, with the New Testament Church and throughout its history.  When things that are supposed to be united are divided, Satan is not far away (John 10:10).  One of the reasons I am committed to walk together with all the other true believers in my city is because when I do, I join together with Jesus and “destroy” more of the devil’s work (1 John 3:8).  Before I was in His family, I had no capacity to help the devil’s work be destroyed.  In eternity, he will be well taken care of.  It is only during this temporal part of my life that I can join with Jesus in this process. 

 

Why work for unity?  Why walk with all of God’s family?  Because I want to take every opportunity I can to see the evil one be frustrated, annoyed, and defeated!

 

Is this an easy task?  A smooth process?  No.  Calling His true Body to true unity is not easy and it is often a slow process, but it always pays great dividends.  Let us continue to press forward!

 

By Dennis Fuqua

Director, International Renewal Ministries

Portland, Oregon

Dennis@PrayerSummits.Net

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