I am currently doing some research for a message on unity. It is interesting when you look at what the Bible says on unity between believers.
The Bible often describes believers in the local church (and the wider church as a whole) in a number of ways including being one flock (John 10:16), one body (Romans 12:4-5) and one nation and one people (1 Peter 2:9). Psalm 133 talks about how “good and pleasing it is when God’s people live in unity” and that God’s blessings flow when this happens.
I think the key in being unified is finding and focussing on the things that bring us together when we meet. Some of the key reasons for our common unity are Christ’s death on the cross for each of us (Ephesians 2:14-16), our own unity with Christ (Galatians 3:26-28) and our one hope we all have in Christ (Ephesians 4:4-5). When we focus on these things we find more common ground that unifies us than the things that can tear us apart.
Another key reason why I believe unity is important is shown in Jesus prayer for all believers in John 17:20-23. This is right before He is arrested and is crucified. Jesus says…
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”.
In this passage we see Jesus’ reason why He prayed for unity. He wanted Christians to live in unity so the world (those who do not know Jesus) will know that the Father sent the Son and that they are one in unity. And as Jesus says in John 17:3 – to know the Father and the Son, is to know eternal life.
For me these Scriptures show the importance of unity in the local church and the wider church at large.
One of my lecturers said a statement last week that I thought was very profound. He said, “The greatest testimony for God is a liberated life”. As I have reflected on this I have found it to be very true.
Here’s a few things that I feel liberated from since coming to know Jesus. These are some of the things I used to worry about and fear…
- The future – I now know God has it under control. He has a wonderful plan and purpose for me and the Bible tells me it is good.
- The past – I now know God has forgiven me and set me free from past mistakes. I can now approach life with new freedom.
- My finances – I now know God owns all the cattle on all of the hills and He will supply our needs as we love and serve Him.
- My eternal destiny – I now know Jesus died for me to purchase my salvation. I know I will spend eternity with God and as a result I no longer fear death.
- Worldly standards – I now no longer feel compelled to compare myself to others and keep up with those around me. Since coming to know Christ I am free to be me.
- My health – Growing up with Rheumatoid Arthritis made me fearful of what my future health would be like. I now know God has it all under control and I trust Him.
I used to worry about these things. Some times way too much. I would always compare myself to others and wondered what they thought of me. I was also worried about the future and if it would be good.
Now since coming to know Christ I feel free and I am feeling more free each day. As the Bible says in John chapter 8 verse 36, “So if the Son [Jesus] sets you free, you will be free indeed”. Yes I feel free…very free indeed!
If you would like to know this freedom, it all begins with coming to know Jesus Christ in a personal way. I would encourage you to visit my “peace with God” page to invite Jesus into your life today.
Click here to find out more>>
Several weeks ago I shared on three stories that Jesus told from Luke chapter 15 that are sometimes known as the parables of the lost. In these parables we see how much lost people matter to God and how He longs to welcome people back to intimate relationship with Himself.
While Jesus shared these to show how much God loves people and wants to be in relationship with Him, He had another reason for sharing these stories. We get a glimpse of why when we read the opening verses of Luke 15. Verses 1 and 2 says…
Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
In this we see that Jesus told the stories to teach the tax collectors and other “sinners” about God’s love, but He also told them so the Pharisees could hear them too.
The Pharisees were a group of very religious people who were concerned with living right before God and following God’s law to the Nth degree. They were very careful to be ritually pure and did whatever they could to remain so. This included separating themselves from people who did follow their very strict and obsessive practices.
While Jesus told these three stories to show God’s love for all, He was also trying to get the message through to the Pharisees that while be right with God was important, it should never our sole focus and separating ourselves from others who might make us “unclean” should never take place.
As it was with the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, Christians today need to make sure we don’t separate ourselves from others, so we remain “ritually pure”. We need to be like the shepherd and leave the flock to venture out into the fields to bring back the lost sheep. Yes we might get “dirty” at times, but that’s part of the call of being a shepherd.
Several weeks ago I was praying with some friends at our regular Wednesday night prayer time. Before we started we read some Scripture. It came from Hebrews chapter 3…
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:12-15)
After we read the passage some of us shared a couple of thoughts on it and then we prayed. The key flavour of our prayer was asking God to bring revival to our town and that He start in us. A few weeks later when we got back together a few of us had really noticed God softening our hearts towards Him and His works.
Personally I noticed that when I read some passages of the Bible I really appreciated what God had done for me and sometimes I cried in thankfullness. The same thing happened when I listened to the lyrics of some worship songs. Tears were beginning to flow easily and my heart was softening. The same thing happened when praying for those around me.
I really believe that when we pray for revival we should ask God to start with us. As He does move in our lives we become more open to Him and what He is wanting to do in and through us. When we are revived we also get a deeper appreciation what is important to Him – His great love for those around us.
If you are praying for revival at your church, you might like to start with the words from Hebrews chapter 3 and see where God takes you.
I was reading through 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 recently and I found that it gives us some very useful information on how the Church (or Body of Christ as it is sometimes known) as a whole should use their spiritual gifts and how we need each other to function properly. The TNIV separates these two chapters with three main headings.
1. Concerning Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)
In this passage verses 4-7 Paul tells the Corinthians that there are many types of spiritual gifts and they are used in different ways. However, the purpose of these gifts is to build up the body for the common good of all. Verse 11 reminds us that it is the same Spirit that is behind all the gifts and He gives to those as He sees fit. As Christians today we need to remember that He has distributed these gifts as He has chosen and that we must all to work together to bring His plans to pass.
2. Unity and Diversity in the Body (1 Corinthians 12:12-30)
This section tells us that in the same way the human body is made of many parts, the church is one body that is made up with a diversity of gifts (v12). Because of this diversity of gifts all members of the body are useful and necessary to each other. In this passage we are reminded of the importance of all Christians being in fellowship too. This is because we all need each other for all the gifts to be displayed and for the church to function properly.
3. Love is Indispensable (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13)
In 1 Corinthians 13 we see the importance of love when using our spiritual gifts. Verse 2 and 3 says that we if we don’t exercise love we “are nothing” and we “gain nothing”. When we exercise of spiritual gifts without love they can become defective and selfish in the way we use them. This passage tells us that as Christians our love for God, our love for each other and the desire to build up the church needs to be our overriding heartbeat as we exercise our God given spiritual gifts.
In Luke chapter 15 we find three parables or stories that Jesus told. They are sometimes known as the Parables of the Lost. These three stories give us a glimpse of God’s heart towards those who are lost and need restoration with Him.
In the first parable about the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7) Jesus talks about a shepherd leaving the 99 sheep and going out into countryside to go after the one that is lost. In verse five we see the joy that is expressed when the sheep is found and in verse seven Jesus likens this to the rejoicing in heaven for one sinner who repents. This parable teaches us as Christians that we need to have the same concern for the one individual person that God has. It teaches that we should go out and look for those who have wandered away from the faith and that we can’t stay in the confines of the church and expect people to back come to us. We need to go out into the “fields” and invite people back into fellowship with God and other Christians.
The second parable talks about a lady who loses one of her ten silver coins (Luke 15:8-10). This parable explains the lengths that she goes to find the coin. In this parable we see the importance of finding what is lost to God. In the case of the parable it is a coin, but in reality Jesus is talking a lost person. A person who is alone and separated from God. In these first two parables Jesus provides a clear example for us to follow and shows that finding lost “sheep” and missing “coins” is a disciple’s priority.
The last parable records the story of a wayward son who returns to his father after squandering his inheritance in a foreign land (Luke 15:11-32). We see that the son decides to return home and beg his father’s forgiveness. As the son approaches home the father runs towards him and accepts and restores him to the family. While this parable is talking about a natural father and a son, the father mentioned is actually an illustration of the character of God and the central theme of this parable is the pardoning love of God. For Christians this parable shows us God’s heart towards wayward people who come to Him. His heart is to love, forgive and accept them in to His arms and into His eternal family.
How about you? Do you feel lost and like you need to be found by God the Father? If so, I would encourage you to visit my “Peace with God” page today so you can find love and acceptence in God’s arms and be welcomed into His eternal family.
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