Saturday, March 10, 2018

Taking Unity Seriously

So while my family and I were away this past week we went to California Adventure, which is another Disney park over in Anaheim. There’s the original Disneyland, and then across the courtyard, there’s California Adventure. On the first day that we were at that park, we had to go see the broadway play of Frozen. If you haven’t heard of the Frozen movie, then apparently you do not have granddaughters.
Frozen was a huge smash hit for Disney pictures, and is still drawing crowds upon crowds wanting to see the princesses Elsa and Anna. In fact, when Frozen’s broadway play first opened up in California Adventure, if you didn’t get a ticket at the moment you entered the park, then you were out of luck, because they were sold out.
Luckily we waited about a year and a half from the opening to go see the play, and it was relatively easy to get in. We just had to wait about 45 minutes.
Now since Marika and I graduated from college, we have gone to Disneyland and California Adventure about every one and half years. And there’s always been one thing that has struck me, when a new attraction opens up, you better be willing to become pretty cut throat to get in line. If not, you’re going to be that parent with the kid that throws themselves on the streets of Disney, making a scene, drawing attention to themselves, and ruining the trip for everyone. While all the other parents pass you by, thanking God that it’s not them.
And when I say you have to be cut throat, I’ve seen families bulldoze through groups to get to the front of a line. I’ve seen mad dashes by people that look like they haven’t run in decades. I have seen people try to coerce Disney employees to get them special seating.
And why do they do all of that? Because they want the best for their children. The best seats, the best experience, the best whatever it is.
Which, you might say is admirable. They want their child to have everything they can. But is that always the best for a child. Is it the best for us to literally trample on other people so that we may be the first? To disregard everyone else’s experience for the experience of our own?
Could the forcefulness of the parent, be more destructive to their child rather than helpful. And on the other side of the spectrum, could not be willing to push for a child be just as detrimental? 
As I watched parents around me deal with fussy, tired kids, I started to think, each of us parents has the same goal. A fun time for our whole family. Some parents fought to get their kids to the front of the line, others were just going with the flow. But in the end we wanted our kids to have a good time, and experience everything they wanted to. 

This brought me to start to think about us. You and me in what God calls his Church. I have seen people act the same way that parents act at Disneyland. You have people that push their way to the front to get the best seats, the best experience for their own. And then you have others who just go with the flow. And all the in-between as well.
And it got me thinking, what is the best way? How can you and I have both a good experience as God’s Church, and do it in a way that is honoring to him?
Today I want us to challenge our own place in God’s Church, and see if we can’t find out God’s desire in all of it.
If you have you Bibles we’re going to be mainly in the letter of 1st Corinthians chapter 12. But before we get into the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians, I want to ask you a simple question.  What is the goal of the Church in general? 
Now from here on out, I don’t want anyone to think that we’re talking about the Alliance Church in Quartzsite, because we’re not. I’m talking about the Church, the body of believers in Christ, that spans the whole world.
What is the goal of that world wide group? To answer that question I want us to first look at one verse from the Gospel of John chapter 17. To me, this one verse is the core of God’s Church. Without starting here, I think we can build our perceptions of the Church on false ideas. Without starting in John chapter 17 verse 22, we can view the Church through a very twisted eye, that makes the Church focus on the wrong things, for the wrong reasons. So let’s read starting in verse 22 of the seventeenth chapter of John.
22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 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.

The answer to the question, what is the goal of the Church is simple, Jesus says it’s to be in complete unity. That means that even in disagreement, we must come to a point were unity becomes our supreme desire. If unity is not our supreme desire, then we will make our own will become our supreme desire. 
And when that happens, local church slips occur. Fights over music, carpet, paint, and the list goes on and on. When the unity of the believers is not our goal, then our goal is ourselves. 
But when the unity of believers is our goal, then God’s work is accomplished. Because no amount of knowledge we have, no amount of good programs we produce, no amount of perfect music or preaching is done will ever prove God to be real. But do you know what will prove God is real? The unity of the Church. Listen again to what Jesus says, this in these two verses, "22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 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.”

“The world will know…” Our unity as the Church proves the existence of God. Not our arguments for God’s existence, but the unity of his people. And I personally think the reason why we see the rise of people disbelieving that God is real, is because of the lack of unity of God’s Church being unified in the last 200 plus years. I mean think about it, say what you will about the Roman Catholic Church, and there is a lot that could be said, but it was a unifying force. But starting with the Protestant Reformation, denominationalism became the norm. And with almost every new denomination a story of hurt, un-forgiveness, and disunity proceeded it.
I’m not saying the Protestant Reformation was bad, or the theology that came out was bad. What I am saying is that with the rise of denominations, we also saw a rise in philosophies, and world views that no longer believed in God. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

“The world will know…” That Jesus is the Messiah, because of the unity of the people of God, his Church. That’s one of the reason why I like the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the goal is unity of the believers. If you hold to the basic tenants of the faith, the basic doctrines of the Bible, then we can work together in unity to share the Gospel to the unreached people groups in this world. Is the Alliance perfect, no, we have people in it, of course it’s not perfect. Is it’s goal biblical? Yes, to be unified.

But this is all well and good. Unity of the Church is a good goal, but how to we accomplish it?

That’s where we come to the 12th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church. It’s in this letter that this whole unity of the Church is fleshed out. I want us to see the big picture that Paul is getting at in his letter. Because Paul doesn’t write in sections, so much as he writes in big ideas. And the big idea of unity in 1st Corinthians swivels from the focus on an individual’s relationship with God, to the whole of the Church.
Up to chapter 11 verse 1, Paul had been focusing primarily on how the believer needed to honor God. And if you read the last blog post a couple of weeks ago, we talked about how 1st Corinthians 10:31 focused on how we are to honor God. Which is kind of the final point Paul was making up until that point. But with that final point of how we as individuals are to honor God with our lives, he shifts in the very next verse saying, “32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
In other words, our individual relationship with God is not detached from our corporate relationship with God, or our unity as God’s Church.
And if we look at the next two chapters, Paul focus’ on how the Church is to run, and interact with each other. With it leading Paul to say this in chapter 12 verse 12, “12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” 
Paul adds to this in verse 25, “25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
We as individuals must take out relationship with God seriously. So seriously in fact, that we do not detach it from the whole of the Church, recognizing that we are needed to work in unison with others. We must realize our role in the Church and perform it. Paul talks about body parts, and how each of them is not more important that the rest, but each is import and useful when they perform the job God created them to do.
We must take seriously our job in God’s body the Church. Because if we are only looking out for our own, then the whole of the Church suffers. Here Paul’s words again from verse 26, "26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

When we seek our own good. When we focus wholly on ourselves. When we do not use our gifts that God has given us to aid the Church, instead we are causing the Church to suffer. And when we fall into this mentality that we are only out for ourselves, then our goal is no longer the unity of the body of Christ, but rather, the goal becomes about ourselves. And in the end, God is not honored in our lives, he is not honored in his Church, and the people outside the Church have no way of seeing that Jesus is the Messiah.

Paul ends his talk on the body of Christ by pivoting again with these words in verse 21 of chapter 12, “And yet I will show you the most excellent way.”

In other words, Paul is saying, do you know how to honor God with your individual life? And how that individual life can bring unity to God’s Church? Here is the way you do that.

Chapter 13 of 1st Corinthians is called the love chapter, because is lists the do’s, don’ts of what love is and what it is not. And we tend to talk about this being a chapter about how we are to love. But in the context of it all, it’s not about the individual alone, but how love brings us into unity. It is through the do’s and don’ts of love that we are to be unified. And here is the whole chapter summoned up and how we are to bring unity to the Church, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do you know where that comes from? Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:31. We show love and build unity by wanting the best for each other. By putting others first, by keeping the central things of our faith central, and letting go of everything that doesn’t make a difference in the light of eternity.

I want to tell you, as a local church we have a master plan of all the things around here that need to be undated, or replaced. One of those things is carpet, I have my taste in carpet, and when it comes time I will give my thoughts on it, but carpet means nothing to me. I would rather have the 1970’s shag carpet or another one of the ugliest carpets on plant earth, if it means that the church moves forward in unity.

This past Wednesday in our apologetics class we went through the Doctrine of the Last Things. And I made this statement, out of all the doctrines of the Church, it is my least favorite one. The reason being, it has been the source for the most disunity in the Church. None of us knows exactly what will happen at the end, we have ideas, with some being better than others. But is it really enough to cause disunity? I don’t think so. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re pre, mid, or post trib. or if you even know what that means.
I want my desire to be that of God’s, to be unified with his people, so that the world will know that Jesus is the Messiah.

We can either be the parents forcing our way to the front to see the newest Disney princess and making it harder for everyone else. Derailing other people’s experience in the process. Or we can work in unity so that we all get to see the King of kings. 

This week my challenge for you is to read through 1st Corinthians chapter 13 and answer this simple question, how can 1st Corinthians 13 help me be more unifying in God’s Church?

Because when we take seriously the unity of God’s people, then the world will take seriously the claims of Jesus.

Now may God bring you into complete unity with his people, as the Father, Son, and Spirit are in complete unity. Amen

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