Archives For unity

Mahatma Gandhi had a famous quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It’s great advice. I believe we as followers of Jesus can subscribe to a similar quote: “Be the church you are praying for”. When I pray for the body of Christ in the world, I pray we will always act in love. I pray we show grace and mercy to everyone we encounter.  Perhaps most of all, I pray for unity among believers.

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We are an incredibly diverse bunch, and there are as many opinions as there are Christians. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is we look like Jesus to the world around us. We can’t be the church until we demonstrate his love and beauty to everyone we meet, regardless of their ethnicity, background, or social standing.

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No one is off the hook when it comes to serving Jesus. In our American culture, church has become a place we go to on a certain day of the week. It’s a place where we sit attentively and interact minimally. We watch a select few lead in worship and a single individual deliver a message. Then we get up and shuffle orderly out the door and back into our lives.

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We might have some coffee, donuts, and shallow conversation on our way in or out of the building, but that’s about it. For many, this is the extent of their church-going experience. We’re not involved or invested. It’s become a selfish and borderline narcissistic exercise.

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Every so often, I like to increase the amount of hate mail I receive. There’s no better way to assure this than discussing the faith (or grace) vs. works topic. As I have stated previously, I don’t fall into either the faith or works camp. I believe one without the other is useless, and believe there is strong Scriptural support to say the answer isn’t either faith or works, but rather faith and works. James says plainly in his letter faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).

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Coming from the brother of Jesus, I’m going to consider him a strong authority. There’s more to say about this, however. To those in either the faith or works camp, I urge you to keep reading. Not so I might persuade you to agree with me, but rather to take an honest look at what Scripture says about this and consider the eventual logic behind each view.

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I like to read authors from fifty years ago or more. It’s interesting how much of what they said so many years ago is still relevant today. They told it like it was without a hint of the political correctness that has become the rule of our day. One of my favorites, which will come as no shock to you if you have followed this blog for very long, is A.W. Tozer.

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This morning I read the following comment from him: “In the majority of our meetings there is scarcely a trace of reverent thought, no recognition of the unity of the body, little sense of the divine Presence, no moment of stillness, no solemnity, no wonder, no holy fear.” Sadly, this applies all too well to many of our modern churches.
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If you are fortunate to live in a country where you are free to worship as you please, it is vitally important to pray with those in countries where they are not. Notice I said to pray with them and not for them. It is a subtle, yet significant difference. Praying for someone sets up a sort of invisible boundary between you. It invokes thoughts of “us” and “them”. When we pray with someone, we identify with their situation. We place ourselves in their shoes the best that we can. It’s the difference between praying for a family member and an unknown person we have been asked to remember.

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I’m surprised how many people are searching for the “12 steps to Discipleship” or the “5 keys to being a follower of Jesus”. We don’t need any gimmicks to learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus. He has already clearly spelled out the process in His Word. The problem is that following Jesus is hard and requires us to make wholesale changes in our lives. That is not the Jesus most people want; they want the Jesus that spares them from spending eternity in Hell, but not much else. For too long, Christianity has been synonymous with inactivity. We have been taught that once we pray the magic prayer, our eternity is covered regardless of whatever we might do from that point forward.

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Unified People

It’s easy to become discouraged in our walk with Christ. The mission ahead is daunting and the pressures against us mount every day. There are so many in the world who hunger and thirst, how can we ever reach them all? Every day wars are creating more orphans and widows, and we haven’t yet begun to be able to help the ones we had the day before. We long to live a life that looks like Jesus, but the odds against us seem increasingly overwhelming. So many die without ever knowing the peace and love that can come only from Jesus; our hearts ache and we become paralyzed at the work before us.

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The New Testament focuses greatly on unity among the believers. Too many of us tend to believe we can do it on our own, and strike out on our path with no companions. This is not the way Christ intended us to live. Following Jesus is extremely relational. We need other followers to travel with us in order to gain from their perspectives and for the times we require assistance. It appears to me that we believe there is some form of merit to be gained if we travel alone and battle through the tough times without aid from someone else. Jesus kept twelve friends close by Him; when He sent His disciples out into the world, He sent them in pairs. Paul took along a companion or two on his missionary trips. We need each other to best carry out the mission of Jesus Christ.

Why are we so afraid to ask for help? We allow our pride to become our downfall. In Proverbs 16:18, the Bible tells us that “Pride comes before destruction”. When we do not ask for help, we are plotting our own demise. Plans fail, fortunes are squandered and relationships are ruined simply because we refuse to ask for help. Jesus said that whatever we ask for in His name, He’ll give it to us (John 14:13). Jesus specifically tells us to ask, and yet still we do not. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of obedience. Asking for help is not an admission of incompetence, but rather a declaration of humility. By refusing to ask for help we miss out on the beauty of the divine dance, we deprive someone else of an opportunity to gain the blessing of helping a brother or sister in the name of Jesus.

By allowing someone to come to your assistance in a time of need, you not only are showing your own humility, but you are also demonstrating love to the one you ask for help. When you allow them to serve you, you are permitting them to live out their own calling and to exercise their unique gifts. Each of us must work together for the good of the Kingdom. We must come alongside one another, and allow someone to come alongside of us as well. We need to learn to see asking for help as a beautiful part of our mission. When we ask for help, we allow the Body of Christ to act in unity with one another, and this is truly a magnificent site to behold. Jesus prayed that His followers would be one, just as He and God are one (John 17:22). Can you imagine loving each other in such a way? It will require us to be totally upfront with one another and to put aside all pretenses. It will occasionally involve us getting hurt, and it will certainly be messy at times. However, walking in unity is what Christ commanded us to do, and so we have no option. We must put aside our pride and tear off the masks that hide who we really are. We desperately need one another.

Are you hesitant to ask for help? Are you living in unity with other followers of Jesus? Don’t miss out on the blessings of sharing your life with someone else. True followers of Jesus do what Jesus did, and Jesus kept twelve close friends around Him all the time. He mingled among the crowds and touched those in need. Once again, we have a beautiful example of what our lives should look like. How are you doing? Do you still harbor too much pride? I know I struggle with this frequently. Let’s trade our pride for humility and submit our lives fully to Christ. Let’s come clean and admit we desperately need help, that we simply can’t do anything on our own. Jesus stands ready to act on your behalf; our brothers and sisters long for the opportunity to serve Christ by serving you. Release your fears, lower your defenses, and throw away your pride. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

My dad is a retired pastor (contradicted by the steady number of Sundays he continues to preach at various churches around the area!), so I have seen more than most of what goes on behind the scenes in churches. The backbiting and sniping, the conniving and planning, and the outright wickedness and lies; I’ve seen it all. Don’t misunderstand me; those engaging in these activities are always a small minority of the people attending church. This group does, however, point out how easy it seems to be for Christians to be anything but unified. There is as much discord in your typical church as there is within your typical political party. This isn’t how it is supposed to be. We are instructed to diligently seek unity. Diligence is defined as “constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken”. This is not a word that means to nonchalantly give lip service to our efforts. We must be constantly seeking unity. Unity is difficult to achieve, division is easy. It’s far less work to complain about someone else than to work towards a solution. It’s far easier to criticize the ideas of others than to present one of your own. It seems like most of our efforts result in tearing apart rather than building up. As long as we are pulling in disparate directions, our effectiveness will be significantly hindered. Cooperation yields incredible power by sheer quantity of scale. As the saying goes, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” In the same way, none of us is as strong as all of us. As Jesus Himself said, wherever two or three are gathered together in His name, He will be there with them (Matthew 18:20). There is great power in unity.

In Ephesians 4:3, we find the key to unity: peace. If we live in peace with one another, unity will come easily. The problem is we live in anything but peace. We are far more interested in establishing our own superiority. We want to be the one everyone else looks up to or seeks out in times of trouble. We want to be seen as the wisest and most spiritual person in our group. Whenever anyone else appears to be taking on that role, we are quick to attack them. Suddenly we see it as our duty to expose their every fault. As a result, we give them no peace, nor do we have any of our own. If we would follow Jesus then we must follow His pattern of peace. He did not react violently when violence was being inflicted upon Him; He did not reject others though they rejected Him. Instead, He chose to respond in peace and with tender love to all. He was a man of peace, consumed with a passion for God and people, but determined to demonstrate victory through love and not force. He succeeded beyond all comprehension. Jesus began the largest and most enduring movement in history without ever “firing a shot”. Jesus won the war of eternity through the use of His love and with an attitude of peace. He is all inclusive and will never berate or look down on anyone. He simply loves you, and in His love, He brings perfect peace to all who ask. Live in peace with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Diligently, and without exception, work at building unity with one another. Peace will draw us together into unity, and peace will hold that very unity together.

Are you doing all you can to live in peace and unity with all those around you? Are you living that way among your Christian brothers and sisters? It is paramount that we who profess to be followers of Jesus love one another, care for one another and seek unity in all things. The devil takes great delight in our infighting because it frustrates and hinders our effectiveness. We must remember at all times that we have a common enemy. The battle for the Kingdom is not about us, but rather about Christ living through us. The next time you are tempted to gossip, to berate or to lash out at your brother or sister, stop and ask yourself if it is the way Jesus would react. Ask yourself if your words or actions will work toward an environment of unity and peace. Take yourself out of the equation and let the peace of Christ reign among us as we live in unity for His name and His glory.