Unity

DIFFERENCES DISAPPEAR IN CHRIST

by Debbie Huber

People tend to be drawn to others who are similar to them by the world’s standards. The friends or those that people spend the most time with outside of family tend to be of similar age, or have similar socioeconomic, academic, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds. 

But as Christians we are brought together by something greater. 

The Bible tells us “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)

The worldly distinctions that once divided us no longer apply because the gospel is our shared foundation. We are united in Christ with an eternal bond that is not of this world. 

We can form relationships with people that may seem very different than us by the world’s standards because they are our brother or sister in Christ.  We should expect to see differences among us. 

These relationships set us apart from the world and are a testimony that we are united in Christ.

Take a step and seek out fellow believers of all ages and backgrounds.  Be intentional about these relationships because the bond is greater than anything of this world. And the world will take notice and our God will be glorified. 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 2.29.16

Live in Response to the Glorious Christ

Philippians 2:12-18

#1  Put God’s work in you into practice (vs 12-13)

Paul has the big picture understanding of salvation in mind

Our ‘salvation’ is more than our justification (being made righteous):

Ephesians 1:3 “(God) has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing”

The gospel brings comprehensive and wonderful transformation to us (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We routinely minimize what salvation has done, and so minimize Christ!

Faith picks up these truths and lives by them

To ‘work out’ our salvation is to live according to all our salvation contains

Think of this as your muscles, you already have them, but you need to develop them

In all responsibilities and circumstances, how do we live out our salvation?

This process is ‘work’, but it’s not drudgery

God himself is at the center in every moment of our labor (v13)

This gives us reason for celebrating and persisting even if we do so weakly

Paul adds that we are to put God’s work into practice with “fear and trembling”

Fear of God is a response that has awe at one end (for the believer) and dread at the other (for the unbeliever)

Christians should fear and tremble that the person of vs 9-11 is working in us

 

#2  Protect gospel unity and gospel mission (vs 14-16)

There are many sins we are to do without, but Paul here continues with the themes church unity and gospel mission

If we live with conflict in the church, we are not in fear and trembling

We all need accountability and correction, as described in Ephesians 4:15 “speaking the truth in love”

But complaining and arguing are corrosive responses that lack humility and grace

Paul reminds us that church life takes place before the world’s eyes

The world is a crooked and twisted place, we should be distinctly different

We are lights which are meant to shine

2 Corinthians 5:20 “God is making his appeal through us”

However, the gospel is not being revealed when we complain or argue

Paul’s use of the phrase “a crooked and twisted generation” is from Deuteronomy 32:5

He is describing the people of God who acted as if they weren’t

Grace abounded to them, but difficulty brought bickering from them

We fail to recognize that fighting and complaining are serious sins against God

The work of the gospel is a desperate need for every person, and the agenda of the gospel is our only God approved response

“Do all things without grumbling” is a biblical mandate

It comes down to whether or not we want biblical ways more than our own (v16)

 

#3  Take joy in Great Commandment living (vs 17-18)

Paul rejoiced when his life was entirely submitted to Christ

He compares it to being ‘poured out’ as a drink offering

Drink offerings in ancient religions involved pouring a cup of wine onto the ground to honor the gods

The idea is that once poured out, it can no longer be kept for us

This is Great Commandment living!

Why does Paul want us to rejoice with him over it? Because Great Commandment living is entirely good!

Every hesitation we have about Great Commandment living comes from deception

How can we know God and think that giving less of our life to him is better?

Paul was in prison facing the real possibility of execution

These realities made no difference to his conviction about joy

This is because his joy was in Christ and the trajectory of the gospel

If we see the glories of Christ, let us live by the glories of Christ

SERMON LEFTOVERS 2.22.16

“Gospel mission needs gospel unity”

 

Philippians 2:1-4

Chapter 1ends with Paul declaring the gospel of Christ is worthy of our unity in the face of opposition. In chapter 2, he adds the gospel is worthy of being guarded against disunity within church

 

Paul gives 4 reasons why unity should rule in us (v1)

1.  All believers are in Christ

Our common salvation and bond in Christ should encourage us toward fellow-believers

2.  All believers know love (Great Commandment living is all about love)

3.  All believers have the Holy Spirit – who works to bind us in community

4.  All believers have new character – which draws us to what is God pleasing

Any of these is sufficient reason for unity, together they are overwhelming!

How influential are these reasons to you?

If we don’t see one another (or ourselves) by these truths, are they true of us?

 

Gospel unity drives us to gospel mission (v2)

Paul has gospel mission in view (he uses the same language as the previous verses) 1:27

(1) Gospel unity gives us “the same mind”: that the gospel is everyone’s great need

(2) Gospel unity gives us the “same love”: our hearts value Christ above all

(3) Gospel unity brings us into “full accord”: we labor for the same purpose

It is important to recognize that biblical unity is gospel unity

Questions of church unity are often misapplied

Some too easily create disunity out of differences in secondary doctrine and practice

Others go the opposite way and claim unity is sacred regardless of belief

Some want peace at any price; rather than deal with heart issues, they sweep disagreement under the carpet

Disagreement among believers will happen

Sometimes it’s for reasons that are important for truth and godliness

However, as believers, we can have disagreement without disharmony (Romans 14-15) 15:1

The gospel is wonderful enough and powerful enough to keep us in unity

v1 the gospel is powerful enough

v2 the gospel is wonderful enough

With our common reality in the gospel, the Church should not allow anything to keep us from our common gospel mission

 

To have this unity we must eliminate what hinders it (vs 3-4)

Pride and selfishness are the great hindrances to unity (and godliness)

We see these at the root of sin and conflict throughout the Bible and life

Pride and selfishness relentlessly seek to erode what God wants to do

Our pride may not openly reject God, but it distorts how we serve him

Without humility, the gospel is not possible

It was necessary for Jesus leave heaven, stay on earth, and die in our place (vs 5-8)

Jesus’ every moment on earth required him to exercise humility

For us to receive the gospel, our hearts had to be humbled

If the gospel is to rule over our lives, we must embrace humility

So, how can the Church clearly go forth in the gospel without humility? This is why v3 so emphatic!

Humility frees from the bondage of pride and selfishness

Think of your experience with people: those who are extremely selfish are in bondage to it and they are miserable!

Our weaknesses and limitations are not in the way of gospel mission, it is our pride and selfishness that distract us, and muck up our lives

Where is selfishness and pride getting in your way?

Do you become offended, rather than look for people’s true intention

Do you pull away, rather than seeking to care for people’s weaknesses

Do you want members to meet your expectations, rather than look how to serve them

Are you going through life in self-pity and disappointment, rather than encourage others with gospel truth

 

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

Church Discipline

That’s a phrase that will instill dread into the heart of the most seasoned pastor or church leader.

There are good reasons and bad reasons for this.

The Good Reason is that it means a church member whom you love has become snared in serious and unrepentant sin. This rightly grieves the soul.

The Bad Reason is that the actions church discipline requires are not only unpleasant, they are explosive!

Some people think you are being too hard, some people think you are being too easy. The pastor and church leader who is trying to be faithful to the commands of God’s Word ends up being attacked as if they are the guilty party.

At Greentree, we take church discipline serious, because the alternative is to disobey God and fail our church family – including the guilty person.

Over the years there have been a couple times I have had to ask a church member to forgive me because I did not confront their sinful behavior out of my own fear. I had failed to be a faithful pastor to them.

Church discipline is a process we approach slowly with an abundance of prayer and conversation. We try to give time for grace and the Holy Spirit to work, but eventually if repentance doesn’t come forth, we have to move in. The entire process is heart wrenching for us; from the moment we become aware of the sin, through all of the conversations, prayers and actions.

Jonathan Leeman wrote this article entitled “22 Mistakes Pastors Make in Practicing Church Discipline”. The article is not as long as it sounds. The items are in list form.

Although the article is geared for pastors, I think it is good for all church members to read. It will help you understand how to support your pastors and be a healthy influence in your church. And if necessary, you will understand what accountability your pastors may need from you.

Leeman’s article is also beneficial for all of us as we take biblical community seriously, which means we cannot run when uncomfortable situations arise. Rather we are called to stick it out through joy and sorrow with those God has knit us to in the body of Christ.

“Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”   Ephesians 4:15-16

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.16.15

Life Together

Acts 2:42-47

This passage has much to teach us about being the Church. We will examine five 5 dominant themes concerning “Life Together”

 

1. Commitment to the Disciplines of Being Mature Disciples (v42)

We usually think of spiritual disciplines on a personal level such as Bible reading and prayer

These are vital, but those listed here are corporate disciplines that the church was “devoted” to

(1) The members were under the Apostle’s teaching

They were being ‘equipped’ as we saw last week in Ephesians 4:11-14

When the whole body is hearing together the teaching becomes shared truths

The members help each other remember them, dig into them and apply them

(2) The members were committed to “the” fellowship

The context is that it was the fellowship of worship gatherings

The entire experience that takes place when gathered is deepened

We easily experience this in worship, yet the reality is that the Holy Spirit is doing this in all aspects of our gathering

(3) The members were committed to breaking bread (Lord’s Supper)

The Lord’s Supper is primarily a corporate celebration

It helps us affirm Ephesians 4, which tells us we have “one body . . one hope . . one Lord, one faith”

(4) The members were committed to “the” prayers

This again is describing organized times of prayers

Prayer affirms that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit

Prayer “together” helps us to keep focused on Christ’s agenda rather than to our many agenda’s

In these disciplines, we see that the church was led by the Holy Spirit, who was devoted to growing them in the context of community

 

2. They Experienced Wonder Over the Greatness of God (v43)

The realities of our life in Christ are the same regardless of how we feel, but when we have a sense of God, we are better at being steadfast

Awe of God also encourages us to push forward in our mission

Satan continually attacks our perspective about God

Biblical Community reinforces our sense of God, because He is displayed in it

We experience the blessing of the Holy Spirit working through each other’s gifting

We see God’s activity in one another (v43 the apostles works)
And we have it affirmed in us from others

3. They Cared for One Another (vs 44-45)

This was far from casual or mere friendly church engagement

The members of the body were taking responsibility for their role

The care given was what people could do, for those they could serve

People gave intentionally from what they had, rather than from their leftovers

We have different gifts and resources, but we should share a similar commitment

What would be the quality of care at your church if everyone had your involvement?

How effective would the ministry of your church be if everyone served like you?

How well could your church go forward if everyone had your approach to generosity?

4. They Shared Life Together (v46)

They were together in worship (the Temple) and in their ‘homes’

They shared time and life together

We don’t necessarily need to do new things to be together, we can try to be together in what we already do

Christ whom they served, had brought them together in his kingdom

Fellow church members are not part of a life segment, like the circle of friends we know in our kid’s soccer league

The church is our ‘forever family’; these are the closest human connections we will ever have

Biblical community is community based on biblical characterlove, patience, forgiveness, humility, gentleness and reconciliation

However, biblical community is also something much deeper and amazing

Biblical community is part of the supernatural union we have in Christ (John 17:20-23)

What Jesus prayed is beyond our comprehension, and our present experience

But we must get this – because it is God’s mission for us

This realization should radically affect how we approach church life

It should affect our commitment to this body that the Holy Spirit wonderfully formed us into

It should affect our unity which overshadows the fact that we will disagree and fail each other

 

5. The Result is That This Church Had An Impact (v47)

The context of v47 is that God used all we read in vs 42-46 to bring rich fruit

People were forever changed and God was eternally pleased

Let’s seek to become the church Christ made us to be

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.09.15

 “Our Unity & Peace Together”

Ephesians 4:1-16

 

By Eric Huber

 

The world seeks after peace, but it is builds off a false premise.

The world believes that humanity is basically good.

The thinking is: if we could just meet the physical and emotional needs of people, then we would live in unity and peace. There would be no more wars and no more conflicts.

The problem is that the world ignores the deeper spiritual reality of our fallen nature.

We were created to image God to the Creation.

We were to reflect His character and love for the Creation. But we did not want to submit to God.

We wanted to be God. We sinned and rebelled against God. The conflicts that we now have with one another are simply the fruit or symptom of our conflict and rebellion against God.

If we are going to have unity and peace with one another, we must first have peace with God.

And peace with God can only come through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace who has promised to return to inaugurate the fullness of His Kingdom.

When He returns He establish peace in the world for every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.

There is this future reality of His perfect Kingdom, but those who are in Christ are citizens of His Kingdom now.

Christ rules over us in and through the local church. It is in the church that we are to have a taste of His goodness that is yet to come.

We experience God’s future promise in the church, in our shared life together as we love, serve and forgive one another because God in Christ forgave us.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1

“…to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Our calling is our inheritance with all the saints in Christ (Eph 1:18).

We are to live in light of the eternal life that God has given us. We are to love and care for one another just as Christ loves and cares for us who are united to Him through faith.

Paul says we should be, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

God does not call us to manufacture unity and peace.

He has already given it to us in union with Christ. He calls us to maintain the unity and peace we already have.

We can have disagreements with other Christians about some important, but secondary issues in Scripture. However, those disagreements should not divide us because we have united as one body in Christ.

God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit that unites us to Him and to each other.

He has also given us the gifts of the Spirit for the purpose of serving one another. Each of has been given, “the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7).

God gifts us not primarily for our own personal benefit, but for the sake of the body, His church. And so we should use our gifts to serve one another in the local church.

God has also given the church His Word.

The Bible is what should shape our life together.

God has also given the church pastor and teachers who proclaim the Word in order that the whole church is equipped for ministry together.

It is so we might grow into the image of Christ. God’s intent is that we grow together into Christian maturity.

And so we need to be ready and willing to speak truth in love to one another.

As we do that we are functioning in the way that God designed for us to be: dependent on Him and interdependent on one another.

And in that process, we become a healthier church.