UNITY

thumb.phpPlease find my teaching notes below to Pt. 2 of “Chosen to Belong” the 2nd series on the Book of Ephesians.

Through free agency Broncos have been building a better team- added several key players to the team…  Branding for this series: Being chosen to be in the huddle, on the field.  “Playground of life, you are chosen to belong… TO A TEAM!

From the theme in chapter 3, you are part of something bigger than yourself- a TEAM, the CHURCH!  This is what Eph. 4:1-16 is all about…

And just like a football team, Paul shares that there are many different and integral parts/players, equipped for ministry in the church.  There are even “sub-teams” that are part of the bigger team… All these “specialized players and specialized teams” come together to form this highly effective and powerful team that’s built to win games!

This weekend I want to encourage you and give you some practical application and tools to see that you not only belong to the team/church, but that you are “gifted” for it!

CHURCH IS NOT ABOUT BEING A SPECTATOR, BUT BEING A PLAYER!  You are chosen to belong and to be involved!  Illustration: “Coaches on the field and players on the sidelines!”  A picture of the church…

In Eph. 4:1-16 Paul provides “4 Characteristics” of BELONGING in the CHURCH- These actually encompass some of GCC’s CORE VALUESI’m just going to share the first characteristic today because they’re so exhaustive…

First: Belonging to the Church is CHARACTERIZED by UNITY. 4:1-6

God desires unity, oneness.  Jesus specifically prayed that “we would all be one!” (John 17).  We see it in Gen. 1; we see it in the redemptive plan!  Unity is not uniformity.  Uniformity is when we look alike and act alike.  That is boring and not much use.  Actually, uniformity is what has made the church irrelevant!

Unity at GCC is: Core Value #2: “We are family!”  Core Value #3: “We are part of something bigger than ourselves!”  Core Value #4: “We are united under one vision!”  Core Value #5: “We will not compromise GCC culture!”  Core Value #7: “We are Target, not the Mall!”   Core Value #11: “We will platform Jesus and not politics!”   6 of 12 Core Values all about unity! 

Because Unity is when we walk together and work together with common convictions and commitments. Two are essential.

How We BEHAVE.  (Eph. 4:1-3) “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”

“Therefore” connects chapters 4-6 (duty) with chapters 1-3 (doctrine).  The order matters.  Doctrine before duty!

Here, Paul uses words like: “Worthy”, “Calling”, “Humble”, “Gentile”, “Patient”, “Love”, “Effort”, “Keep”, “Peace.”  These all have to do with HOW WE BEHAVE!  Note Gal. 5:22-23 “Fruit of the Spirit!”  Behavior exemplary of Christ!  When we conduct ourselves in this manner it sustains unity.

Unity is KEPT, not created as “the Spirit binds us together in peace!”

How we behave is almost more important than what we believe!  We claim to believe a lot of great things… but how we behave doesn’t always line up with what we believe!  This leads to a lack of credibility!  And with people who are far from God, credibility is everything!  Someone said, “We are the only Jesus some my ever see!”

Question is: DOES MY BEHAVIOR MODEL JESUS?  As a follower of Jesus, does what I say I believe match up with what people see??  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE CHURCH- Is leadership, ministries, life groups, people in ministry, UNITED in our words and actions??  Our conduct is our credibility!  IN the church and TO the culture!

HOW we BEHAVE determines what those who are far from God will BELIEVE!

What We BELIEVE.  (Eph. 4:4-6)  “For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.”

Doctrine matters. What we believe matters. What we believe is how we live. The two go together.  Eph. 4 makes the point: “Doctrine – Devotion = Spiritual Meaninglessness.  Devotion – Doctrine = Spiritual Mindlessness.  Doctrine (What I Believe) + Devotion (How I Behave) = Spiritual Maturity!

Eph. 4:4-6 is a profound and powerful doctrinal statement!  “We BELIEVE in ONE CHURCH, ONE GOD, and ONE WAY!  This is not “intolerance”- this is TRUTH!

THIS HAS PROFOUND CULTURAL IMPACT so let’s address it!  TRUTH is more important than TOLERANCE!  Let me explain please!  Tolerance that is not based on truth- a moral standard, is not tolerance at all.  It actually breeds more bigotry, hatred, and strife.  ONLY TRUTH can bring UNITY!

Because the TRUTH of GOD is based on THREE PROFOUND STATEMENTS THAT JESUS MADE!

  • John 3:16 “God so loved the world he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him…”
  • Matt. 22:37 “You are to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind…”
  • Matt. 22:39 “You are to love others as yourself…”

DOES THAT SOUND LIKE INTOLERANCE?  No, that’s TRUTH and truth sets us free, TRUTH unifies.  SO WHAT ABOUT THE TOLERANCE ISSUE IN OUR CULTURE TODAY??  (Ephesians no different- Jews/Gentiles)

Consider the Chick-fil-A affair.  Remember that?  Why such a cultural firestorm and, clearly, a divide that runs deeper than just gay marriage?  What’s going on is a massive divide about what is meant by “tolerance.”

“Toleration is one of the most attractive and widespread ideals of our day,” writes Alan Levine.  “It is…the predominant ethos of all civilizations in the modern world.”

The degree to which this has become ingrained within our culture was evidenced by Allan Bloom’s observation in his critique of higher education, namely that students have been taught to fear that the great danger is not error, but intolerance.

But this is where the cultural divide is critical to understand.  WHAT, PRECISELY DO WE MEAN BY TOLERANCE??

LEGAL TOLERANCE.  This has to do with basic first amendment rights to believe what we want to believe.  Cries against the legislation of morality, often directed against the infamous “moral majority” of the 1980’s, spoke to this aspect of tolerance.  Of course, all laws involve the legislation of morality, but the concern is valid – there should be great tolerance for diverse viewpoints and beliefs, as opposed to the stifling of opinion or the freedom to worship as one chooses.

And, of course, nothing in Christianity would advocate the refusal of legal tolerance.  Indeed, the Bible is a great advocate of legal tolerance, providing the philosophical basis for much of democracy’s contours of thought.

SOCIAL TOLERANCE.  This is all about cultural tolerance.  This is accepting someone regardless of what they believe.  Social tolerance seeks to love others, care about them, and remain open to them relationally regardless of such things as their views, ethnicity or sexual orientation.  Of course, the great ethic of the Bible, not to mention the life-model of Jesus, would advocate this form of tolerance without reservation.  If Jesus stood for anything, it was open, loving acceptance of others as people who mattered to God.

Despite their sin, lifestyle or philosophical moorings, Jesus was so relationally welcoming that it earned him a rather bad reputation as being, well, one of them (“friend of sinners,” “drunkard,” “glutton”).

INTELLECTUAL TOLERANCE.  This is accepting what someone believes as right regardless of what you believe or think is right.  Or affirming a lifestyle as good when you do not believe it is good.

And it is only in this sense – intellectual tolerance – that Christianity would be considered intolerant.

Jesus did not believe that everything and everyone was right.  He did not muddy the waters between acceptance and affirmation.  The Bible holds that there is right and wrong, true and false, and is wildly intolerant in saying so.  And it is precisely at this point that the cultural divide is both wide, and superficial.

Not only do many confuse acceptance with affirmation, but they confuse intellectual tolerance with legal or social tolerance.  Even though, in truth, NO ONE BELIEVES in intellectual tolerance.

EX. If someone came up to me and said, “I believe that the best way for you to optimize the performance of your laptop is to remove your anti-virus protection, take down your fire wall, open up every email attachment from people and companies you do not know and download as much free software as you can from sites you have never heard of.”  I could easily be tolerant of that person legally, not to mention relationally, without buying into what he says about the way to optimize the mechanical performance of my computer.  I would neither affirm, nor agree, with handling the internet, much less my computer, in that way.

In other words, I can hold to the value that other people have a right to their beliefs, without believing that all points of view are equally valid.  Or be compelled to uphold the pursuit of such beliefs.

Now let’s be more aggressive.  What about speaking out in favor of a particular position?  Should we simply allow for intellectual disagreement, or is there a place for – brace yourself – evangelism, and even a prophetic word of warning?

Some would say that being an evangelist is the ultimate affront to the uber-virtue of tolerance.  But again, they are not thinking through what they mean by tolerance.

Penn Jillette is the “talkative” half of Penn and Teller, the Las Vegas comedy-illusion team.  Penn has been an outspoken atheist.  But he posted a video blog on his personal website about a man who gave him a Bible, and his reflection was arresting: “I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize.  I don’t respect that at all.  If you believe that there is a heaven and hell and that people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?  How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?  I mean if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, but that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you.  And this is more important than that.”

He’s right.  It is.  But that doesn’t mean our culture “gets it.”  In fact, it doesn’t.  So the next time you wonder what’s going on in our world, remember the deep cultural current that is dividing two very different worldviews: One believes in truth that is made, and one believes in truth that is found.

And those who believe it is found are finding there is little tolerance – of any kind – for their belief.

 

Here’s the other thing that’s important… IF WE BELIEVE THE BIBLE is our PLAYBOOK- God in essence “calls the play and we run it” with the “right motivation – love (1 Cor. 13)” then there must be a unity, a synergy, regarding WHAT WE BELIEVE IS HOW WE BEHAVE!

The culture says the Church has no credibility because we “say one thing and do another!”  We don’t live what we believe!  Paul says (speaking to Gentiles) unity is an “agreement” and an “alignment” dynamic!  WHAT I BELIEVE IS HOW I BEHAVE!

Unity is a mark of Christlikeness!  A church characterized by unity is a church with lots of credibility!  You are chosen to BELONG to a TEAM/CHURCH that is UNITED under ONE VISION! 

BELONGING TO CHRIST, TO THE CHURCH IS ALL ABOUT UNITY!  Also, there are the Characteristics of DIVERSITY, MINISTRY, and MATURITY (look at later).

How we BEHAVE (Duty) and What we BELIEVE (Doctrine)!  Do we believe in “one church”, “one Lord”, “one faith”, “one way”??  Do we behave like Christ- “worthy of our calling”, “humble and gentle”, “patient”, “loving”, “gracious and merciful”, “united and bound by peace”??

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”

The most profound thing Paul says here is “make every effort to keep yourselves united!”  Paul says unity is that important!  Unity, oneness is a precious gift of the church.  God is so jealous for it that it’s difficult to overstate the case.  Oneness, unity is God’s dream for the human race. Human beings were created in God’s own image, and God is a God of Oneness- God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit- three in one, which is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians.

Paul says in this letter to the church at Ephesus, that when Jesus Christ died, He died to destroy what Paul calls “the dividing wall of hostility.” In other words, he’s writing to a situation where there’s this huge barrier between Jew and Gentile — this dividing wall of hostility.  And Paul says that Jesus died so that dividing wall could come down and that they could become one.

The unity of the church was purchased at the price of the blood of Jesus. And so, for people to violate the unity of the church, for people to trample on the oneness of the church is in a sense to say that they choose for the death of Christ to have been in vain. They choose to re-erect the dividing wall of hostility that Jesus died to tear down.

Paul says, “Make every effort” — in other words, spare no pains at all, exhaust every possibility — “Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” He says don’t give up… every possible effort.

Are you devoted to oneness in the body of Christ?  Because it doesn’t happen by accident. And there’s churches that just get ripped by bitterness and hostility and enmity — people that want to push it in different directions.  And we lose all our credibility with those who we’re trying to reach who are far from God!

Is there unresolved conflict between you and anybody else in the body?  Do you ever speak negatively about somebody who is your brother or your sister, to a third party? Do you ever do that? Do you ever have a kind of a judgmental spirit, or a critical spirit towards other people?

Do you ever expect other people to be tolerant and forgiving of you, because after all, you’re only human, but refuse to offer the same tolerance and same forgiveness to them? Do you ever kind of shut people out in coldness of heart? Do you ever fail to try to understand other people? Do you ever just fail to be for them?

Do you understand, friends, that disunity is a cancer? It is like a blight that threatens the beauty and the very life of the body of Christ.

Some people in this room — some people who are listening right now — have work you need to do on this one before you go to sleep tonight.  And I just encourage you as strongly as I can to do it. Pray to God, ask for help, make the call, write the note — whatever you need to do. Unity is the most precious gift of the church; it is God’s dream for humankind, and it was purchased at this terrible price. And God really does expect it — He really does.

 

 

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