Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Living in Victory, Week 1 - Following God's Victory

So last year I had a heart wrenching experience. An old friend of mine was dealt a tragic blow. This friend had been a family friend even before I was born. I had heard of the many great things my dad experienced with our family friend. But as I grew up, our friend really didn’t do much. I saw them every year, but every year, they seemed to be getting worse and worse. But something amazing happened, in the last couple of years our friend seemed to be getting better. Almost like they were in their hay-day. They seemed strong as ever, but then last year hit.
My dad and I both felt it. Our dear friend, was so close to coming back strong, but within seven days they fell apart. At the critical moment, when there seemed to be a glimmer of hope, they fell, and for the last five months I have been waiting to see them again. I am of course talking about the Los Angles Dodgers, who, in October 2017 lost in game seven of the world series.
And at that moment, I felt what it was like to be a fan from Chicago. I don’t know if you are a sports fan, I know that there are a lot of intense people that love sports. I’m one that likes sports. I like keeping up on it, in an overall manner. I like following my team during baseball. I like going and seeing my team play when I have the opportunity. But I have never been one of those guys that knows ever stat. I’ve never been one of those guys that follows every team. I like to see what’s going on, but that’s about it. But being a baseball fan, I do something that is completely unbiblical. I have rituals. And here is my biggest one. If I miss a game, and my team starts winning, I can’t watch them, until they lose. When they lose and can start watching them again, and if they win, I keep watching them until they lose.
It’s kind of strange, but they did make it to the world series last year, so there’s that. But I bring this up, because even though in reality it doesn’t matter if I watch the Dodgers or not, they are going to perform the way they will with me or without me. But when they win, I win. When they lose, I lose. And when they lose in game seven of the world series, I mourn with the other fans that just watch their season end in heartbreak.
If you’re a sports fan of any kind, you know the exhilaration of victory, and the sorrow of defeat. In those moments of victory or defeat, we connect ourselves to the players and teams, and as I have thought about Palm Sunday, I have asked myself this question, do we do the same with Jesus?
Do we recognize the victory that he has accomplished, and do we connect ourselves with it in our daily lives? We might sing songs like Victory in Jesus, where it says, “Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior forever! He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him, He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.”
But does it effect our lives moment by moment? Today I want us to take a look at, what is called Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and I want us to see how Jesus’ viewed this as more than just his victory march. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be going into the book of John, chapter 12, starting in verse 12. And as we go into the 12th chapter of John, verse 12, I want to set up what is happening.

Jesus had been preaching and teaching for about three years. Now in the book of John that we’re looking at today, there are twenty-one chapters. The first eleven talk about the first one-hundred and fifty five weeks of these three years. Whereas nine of the last ten chapters focus’ on one week. And this is where we begin to read in John chapter 12, verse 12.

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!”
14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”
16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

This is a moment of great triumph, the Savior of the world is fulling prophecies about him that were written down hundreds of years beforehand. To the people that surrounded Jesus, everything was going to get good now. The oppression of the Roman government was going to be gone, because Jesus was going to usher in a great new kingdom where God would live with his people Israel, and the nations would tremble before them.
The people were exhilarated at the prospect of going to the world series, their team was going to win. But within less than a week, Jesus would be crucified. Killed at the hands of the people he was supposed to overthrow. The bitter taste of defeat was in everyone’s mouths. What was once an assured victory, was gone in the final game. And all of the fans of Jesus fell away at his defeat.

And here’s the thing, in our lives we know how this roller coster of victory and defeat feels like. At one moment you can be on top of the world, with everything going your way, and then circumstances out of our control hit like a tsunami, and the high life of victory comes crashing down in defeat. Financial markets can be up at one moment, and then down the next. You can be driving along having a wonderful car ride, then all of a sudden someone runs a red light and tragedy hits. Victory and defeat, up and down, we all know those feelings. And that is what happens in these last pages of John’s book. Starting on the Sunday of John’s twelfth chapter to the Thursday of John’s seventeenth chapter, the people were riding the victory train, and then Jesus is taken, crucified, and buried. And with his burial, all that victory they had felt when Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding a donkey and fulfilling the prophecies, were shattered.

And I think I know why. Let’s take a look a few verses down from where we left off. In verse 28 a voice from heaven speaks, and in verse 30 Jesus says this, “30 ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”

Two things happen in these verses: 1) A voice from heaven confirms that Jesus is long awaited Savior of the world. This encourages the people by emphasizing Jesus’ victory. 2) The second part is Jesus’ words, and John’s commentary on them. In verse 33, John says, “He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”
Jesus is letting people know that his death, is going to happen. But it’s in the death, and eventual resurrection, where the victory is truly fulfilled. See the people are only looking at the triumphal entry. They’re looking at the future with Jesus destroying the Romans, but what Jesus is trying to get across is victory through a different means.
This is why the people reply to Jesus’ words in verses 30-32, with this, “34 The crowd spoke up, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, “The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man”?’”
We see the two views of victory in this instance. On one hand, the people view victory only when Jesus overthrows the Roman government. And on the other hand, Jesus views victory when he is crucified and resurrected.

And when Jesus is killed a few days later, the people lose their victory, because their trust was in the wrong triumph.

And this is were we have the tendency to do the same thing. A lot of the time, when we want a victory, our trust is in the wrong kind of triumph. We want triumph in our retirement. We want triumph in our schools. We want triumph in our families. We want triumph in our nation. We want to overcome the bad things that can steal our victory, and we’re willing to try anything to accomplish it. 
But Jesus’ response to the people is interesting. In verse 35 Jesus says, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”

Later on in verse 46 Jesus says, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
Jesus is saying the victory is not found in what you perceive it to be, but rather what God sees it as. Hear that again: victory is not found in what we perceive it to be, but rather what God sees it as.

The people perceived their victory was in Jesus the conquering king, but God saw their victory in Jesus’ death and resurrection. And this is the key difference between how victory is brought into our lives. If we look for God to come rushing into our lives fixing all of our ills, then we will be devastated when it falls short.
But if we trust God to work out the victory by his own way, by his own plan, then we will experience the victory in our lives, the way that God intends it. 
The two views of victory here, are the same two victories that happen today. The people’s view is the same type of view where we have the idea that if I just say something over and over then God will do it. If I say money be in my pocket enough times, then God will put it there. If I just say this marriage will be restored enough times it will be. What we’re really doing is seeking to make God bring victory into a situation by telling him what needs to happen. 
As if God is not paying attention, or doesn’t wants to heal situations. But instead of trying to force God into our perception of victory, we need to come before God humbly. We need to come to God and recognize he is good, and he wants good in our lives. So we need to seek his victory in our situation. We need to go to him asking him to take care of our needs, to restore our relationships, to right the wrongs. 
When we do this, we are putting ourselves in a position to experience victory as God intends it. And that might mean some hard times. God’s victory over sin, was won by the blood of Jesus. The broken, crucified body of the Savior. 
Victory God’s way usually means a harder road is ahead. But, the victory is true and lasting.

Now when you walked in today, there were palm leafs making a path into the building. They represent the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. How many of you walked around them? That is probably was the safer choice, we don’t want anyone tripping so we have to call the ambulance. But those palm leafs represent a choice that we each of have to made on a daily basis. Do we put our trust in the victory as God sees it, or do we try to find a different way to achieve the victory?
Do we walk on the victory path that Jesus walked, or do we walk our own path. If we chose to try and achieve victory through our own means, the victory will never satisfy. But if we chose to walk the victory path of God, though it will be difficult at the time, the taste of victory will be all the sweeter.

Here is the challenge for this coming week, I want you to make a list of three areas in your life that you want God to bring you victory in your life. Is that family, friends, finances, school, job, vehicle, dealing with the loss of a loved one. Whatever area you’re trying to achieve a victory in right now, I want you to list it. And for the next week, I want you to go to God every time that need arises, where you want to make the victory happen in your own power, and turn it over to God. Ask God to bring the victory in his way, even if that way means some heartache.

We need to realize, God is the God of victory, he overcame our sin on the cross, and if he can do that, then there is nothing that our God can’t do. 

Now may God bring you into victory through his way, so that the victory may be lasting, and glorifying to him. Amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mark, Week 17 - What Will You Do With Jesus?

How we respond to a situation, especially those situations that happen when we’re in a heighten state of stress, say a lot about the deficiencies in us. Three years ago, Marika and I took a group of teens to Watts, California for a week long missions trip. The last day we were there was a Sunday. The plan was for us to stay for the service and leave around noon. We were then asked to help take some of the teens that had been helping us that week home. Okay, I thought, since we were running a head of schedule. Now picture this: The whole week we had been there, it had been unusually hot. And the only time that the weather changed was about half way through the week on the day we were supposed to go to the beach. On that day it rained. But that was the only day. The rest of the time it was hot. 
Well, guess what happened on the Sunday as Marika and I took these helpers home? It rained. And not just a small rain, a torrent happened. And what should have been a 20 minute drop off, took an extra two hours, because the freeways were packed with traffic. Couple the fact that we were now running late, I received news that a wash located by the little town of Desert Center off of interstate 10, had destroyed a small bridge on the interstate. So now we were looking at an additional 4 hours in rain, going up to 29 Palms and through Parker. So while in the middle of it raining and stand still LA Traffic, I began to have chest pains and an inability to breath. I had never had such a feeling of stress, coupled with physical pain. It quickly past and the next time I talked to a doctor, he brushed it off and said, sometimes stress will do that to you. 
That taught me a lesson, apparently my body can only take so much stress. And it’s in these high stress situations we learn about ourselves.

Last week in the book of Mark we had talked about how Jesus was asleep in a boat when a massive storm came out of nowhere. The disciples, with some being fishermen, understood the storm to be one that could kill them. They even said as much when getting Jesus out of his sleep. They accused Jesus of not caring if they all died. In that high stress situation, they learned something about themselves. They learned that they did not fully understand who Jesus was. This Jesus they had been following around, was not just another Rabbi. He wasn’t even an above average, or even great Rabbi. He was something else. Someone else. And they were terrified of who he was, and their inability to understand him.
And that’s the lessons we took away from it. We too do not fully understand who Jesus is, but instead of being terrified of him, we should seek to know him better. Constantly learning from him, so that we may have deeper and fully trust in him.

As we get into Mark chapter 5 today, we’re going to see another example of a high stress situation, that leads to people revealing something about themselves. So if you have your Bibles, we’ll be in Mark chapter 5 verse 1. Let’s read.

1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

So Jesus and his disciples arrive where a demon possessed man is running a muck. And not just any demon possessed man, because we have seen demon possessed people before in Mark. And they have actually lived among non-demon possessed people. But this guy, this guy is so out of control that the people have tried to chain him. Tried to imprison him. But he has broken loose. This guy physically harms himself. He is cutting himself, and he has made his home around the tombs of the dead.
And this demon possessed man runs to Jesus. Just Jesus’ presence has whipped him into a frenzy of fear. And the two have this interaction. The demon that speaks knows who Jesus is, just like the ones previously in Mark. But, where before Jesus simply called the demon out, this time the demon gets a word in, and asks not to be forced. In Luke 8:31, when this same event happens, we learn that Jesus doesn’t just cast out demons for them to go find someone new, he sends them to the Abyss or the underworld a place the demons greatly fear. Instead they wished to go into a herd of pigs. And Jesus allows them to enter the pigs, which run off a cliff right away.
Why does Jesus allow their request? Who knows. It could have been as a symbol to the man, of the horridness that was inside of him, that was leading him to destruction. It could have been, that no matter what, these demons were headed to the Abyss either way and this was just one way to do it. Whatever the reason was, Jesus allowed it to happen. Which sets the stage for  what happens next. Let’s pick up the story in verse 14.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well.

So, the herders run off and tell everyone. They must have ran in terror. Not only was their herd destroyed, but the man who had been uncontrollable was now calm. The demons were gone, and it was by one man’s word that it happened. This man came out of no where, and commanded the demons. These herders must have been terrified, that a person could command such power.
And then people started to come to the tombs to see if it was true. And there was the man. The man who had been chained, who had been out of his mind, sitting, fully clothed and fully coherent. And what does it say? They were afraid.

Here’s a highly stressful situation. A raving lunatic, a powerfully man, a destroyed herd, and an astounded and fearful public. What is going to happen next? Let’s find out in the last few verses.

17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

The public told Jesus, who had set free the demon possessed man, which led to the destruction of the herd, to leave. Just leave. Why? Were they upset with the pigs being killed? Probably, but I don’t think that was it. It seems to me they were more upset over who Jesus was and what he could do, than they were over pigs. They understood the magnitude of what Jesus had done. They understood the power that was at his command, and they wanted nothing to do with it. Just like the disciples. Jesus calmed the storm, and the disciples were terrified of Jesus. These people saw the demon possessed man in his right mind, and they too were afraid of Jesus. 
But you know who wasn’t afraid? The man who had been set free. Instead his desire was to be with Jesus. To learn from him and follow him where ever Jesus went. In that freeing moment, Jesus became everything to this man. 

And what did Jesus tell him? “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Jesus sent the man away, why? Because the man understood. He no longer needed the training, that the disciples did, that the people rejected. This man was not fearful of Jesus, because he understood what Jesus saved him from. And the man didn’t stop at his family’s house, he went on to tell about Jesus in the Decapolis. That’s the 10 cities in the region. This guy was the first to be sent out from Jesus. One moment is all that it took, for this man to display everything Jesus was teaching the disciples, and everything we have been reading from the last chapter. This man was good soil, and he was willing to share what God had given him.

This man’s high stress moment led him to being a sharer of what God had done for him. While the people around him shrunk back in fear.

We can do this too. We can be fearful of the great works Jesus wants to do around us, or we can be proclaimers of them. We can see and shrink back, or we can experience and tell others. And do you know what God wants? He wants us to be sharers. The disciples are almost a year into their training, and they’re still not ready to be sent out. This man encounters Jesus for a brief moment, and he is ready. Do you know what that means? Our ability and calling to share who God is, is not based on our knowledge of him, but rather our willingness to share what God has done for us. 

I don’t know where you are in your spiritual walk. I don’t know if you’re like the disciples, and have all this knowledge about Jesus, but are not ready. I don’t know if you’re like the people  who wanted Jesus to go, because maybe you’re fearful of how your life will be if you let Jesus in. I don’t know if your like the man possessed in need of God’s work in your life. And I don’t know you have experienced Jesus and are ready to share him. But I do know this, there is one common factor to each of these, and that’s Jesus.
Jesus stands ready for you to do something with him. To be trained, to be rejected, to be accepted, or be shared. What are you going to do with him?
Need more training? Reject him? Let him in? Ready to share? This week the challenge is this, you know what you need even as you read this. What you need to do is seek Jesus. Ask him for what you need, ask him for what you lack. If we do not ask, we will never receive him. If we do not ask, we will never receive his training. If we do not ask, we will never share. And if we never ask, we will never know if he is even there.
So seek him, go after him, until he responds to you.

Now may God reveal himself to you, and to give you all that you need. Not only for your benefit of a deeper relationship with him, but so that others may know the depth of knowing him as well. Amen.

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