Unity Is Not Based On Me
For the past 14 weeks we have been on a trip through the songs of ascent. Often as an introduction to these sermons I have talked about some of the road trips that I remember taking as a young child, or the road trips that have taken with the boys, and how music made those trips not just bearable but enjoyable. Some of you have also taken the time to share some of your road trip stories with me. What I have realized is that road trips have the opportunity to be really, really good. But the other side of that coin is that sometimes they can be really, really bad.
What type of trip would you experience if you were joined by more than just your family? What if you were joined by all your relatives, what if your in-laws joined the trip? Imagine how the dynamic of the traveling party would change if your neighbors and all of their relatives also joined the caravan. All of those extra guests might have you rethinking that trip.
But that is exactly what happened as the people traveled to the annual feasts in Jerusalem. A single family never traveled alone, there was safety to be found in numbers, so families, relatives, and neighbors would all travel together. As they got closer to Jerusalem, their group would meet up and merge with other groups; people from different regions and different tribes, all coming together for the same purpose of worshiping the Lord.
For some of you here this morning, that sounds wonderful. While the idea of being with that many folks, make some of you break out in a cold sweat. You started dreading the family circus that is thanksgiving back in July. The truth is that unity doesn’t always come easily, especially in a family. As we come to the 133 Psalm we are getting to the end of our journey and the pilgrims sing this beautiful song of the unity that must exist among God’s people. And this is especially important as they all gather together and try to join different families that might share the same blood line, but they were often as different as we are today.
These men and women came to worship the same God, but they were from different cities, different walks of life, and different tribes. You know that you can have two kids living in the same house from the same parents that are as different as night and day. In very much the same way those who were gathering to worship God were very different, but when they gathered, it was for a common purpose.
No matter how hard the trip had been to this point as they get into the city and are surrounded by God’s people they are reminded of everything they have in common. This part of the journey made everything else worth it, and as they raised their voices to sing this song, they were reminded that they were all pilgrims traveling together, drawn to the same God.
One of the greatest parts of our movement is that it was based on unity. The leaders of the Restoration movement wanted believers to look for ways that we could join together and serve God instead of looking for all the ways that we disagreed. The call was In matters of opinion, liberty; in matters of faith, unity; and in all things, love. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for us to begin to draw lines of who was acceptable and who was not.
Christ must be the basis of our fellowship, A.W. Tozer once said that just as 100 pianos all tuned to the same tuning fork find unity, 100 worshipers tuned to Christ can find unity. That doesn’t mean that we will be one big happy family. The Gospels are very honest in the fact that the Apostles didn’t always get along. They constantly fought over who was the greatest in the Kingdom, and in essence who was the least. And on several occasions we see that Jesus had to remind them that they were brothers, not rivals.
The beginning of the church in Acts 2 didn’t do much to change that dynamic. How many times in Paul’s letters does he have to address the strife that existed in the church? Paul spent a lot of time reminding them that they were the body of Christ, and 2000 years later the epistles still have meaning, because we still want to be the greatest in the kingdom.
When we tune our lives to Christ we gain the ability to live Godly lives, but we don’t stop being sinners. Our personalities do not change. If we were quiet and analytical before coming to Christ, we’re not going to suddenly become touchy feely extroverts. We are who we are. And God loves the diversity in His family.
We may not think alike, but can work together. We might not have the same tastes, and preferences, but we can use what God has given us to find harmony and peace. And that can only happen if we accept one another and treat each other with dignity and respect. The fact that we are all unique is an advantage, and God’s design. Because we were created by a God who loves diversity and is best understood when we find unity in that diversity. Because He is a good, good, Father
Sing Good, Good, Father
One of the first things we must decide is Do We Want To Have Unity Within The Church?
Now some of you are thinking that is a ridiculous question. Of course we want unity in the church. But don’t be so quick to give what you think is the right answer that you don’t think it through. Unity is a costly thing and it will only come if we are willing to make changes. And I don’t mean changes in others I mean changes in me.
In John 5 we read about the time that Jesus healed a man who was an invalid for 38 years. Jesus knew the man’s situation but before He performed a miracle He asked him an important question. In verse 6 Jesus asked, Do you want to get well? The man had to consider what getting better would cost him because he had become accustom to depending on others for everything. If Jesus made him well there were going to be changes in his life, and in the lives of his family and friends.
So before you jump and say, Of course I want unity! Stop and think. What changes are you going to have to make before unity can be achieved? What type of unity do you want? Are you only interested in the type of unity where everyone agrees with you and you are always right?
That’s not unity, that’s being a bully. Children’s author Shel Silverstein expresses this idea in his poem Friendship when he writes I've discovered a way to stay friends forever -- There's really nothing to it. I simply tell you what to do And then you do it!
The call for unity is not for me to be unified to you, or for you to be unified with me, the call for unity is for all of us to be unified with Christ. It’s great if we can all agree with one another, but if that agreement is based on us then soon enough there is going to be trouble. We are a fickle people; that’s why we must bend our will and ideas to match Jesus , because He never changes.
Not only will we need to change, if we want unity we will have to become really invested in each others lives. Christianity is not an internal and isolated faith. It can only be lived in community. The idea that we can be a part of the body of Christ and take this journey by ourselves is a joke.
Jesus worked with twelve disciples and lived with them in community. The church was formed when one hundred twenty people were all together in one place. When some early Christians were dropping out of the community a minister wrote to them urging them to nurture their precious gift of community. They wrote in Hebrews 10:25, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.
When Jesus was asked what the great commandment was He said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength, and then immediately, before anyone could go off and make a private religion out of it he added The second commandment is to 'Love others as well as you love yourself.
We are called to serve one another through encouragement, prayer, fellowship, and service. We are called to confess our sins to one another. We are called to reassure one another of Christ’s forgiveness. We are called to represent the truth of the gospel to one another and we are called to really know one another so that we can rejoice and weep with one another. That can only happen if we spend time together.
That’s why we must first decide if we really want unity, because unity calls us to be involved and to really know one another. In our song today we sing that it is good and pleasant when brothers live together in unity. There is something great about community, about people coming together and finding a reason to unite. But we need to acknowledge that we will never find unity on our own, we can only find unity if we are bound together by God. True unity is not about agreeing on everything, but bowing before the Lord and allowing Him to bind us together in love.
Sing Bind Us Together Lord
In our song this morning David shows us two different ways that we can find unity by using two poetic images, oil and dew. I believe that David is using these images to show that To Have Unity We Must Learn The Value Of You.
David begins with a picture that is lost on us today. When I think about someone pouring oil over my head that runs down and covers my beard and then pools in my collar, I think more of a practical joke than a blessing. It just sounds messy and I am not sure Trista would get excited if I came home and said, Baby you never guess what happened. I was blessed today when Ockay came in and poured oil all over my head, down my face and onto my clothes.
It might help if you understand this is not just oil, its anointing oil. By pouring oil over your head it is a way of designating the person as a priest. Living together in unity means that we see the oil flow over the head, down the face, and onto the shoulders of men and women who serve as your priest. We are united with brothers and sisters who are God's anointed, and that is a true gift.
The people who are sitting next to you are your priests, and you are theirs. They are accountable to God and to the family for your well being and you are accountable for theirs. It is easier for me to find unity with people who are looking out for me, folks who will put their wants and desires behind my well being. Unity screams that the more I value you, the less I value things or my wants, or my opinions.
Before we can live a life of worship, or gather to worship God we must understand not only the value of each person within this congregation, but my responsibility to them. Unity can only be achieved when we learn to value each person within this body.
Secondly, if we are going to have unity David says We Must Learn To Be A Blessing, Not A Burden.
Can we be honest and admit that there are times we struggle with folks who just seem to take, and take, and take, and never give anything in return. I understand that we all face difficult times when we are struggling and the best we can do, the most we can give, is 15%. And that’s okay, if it is from time to time when you are weary.
But if you live a life of just taking and never giving, never sacrificing, for the mission field that exists in our church family then you need to check your heart. You were created to bless people with you time, talent, and treasure. You were created to be a blessing and not a burden.
David mentions that dew that is present in Hermon, which is vitally important if we have any hope is being the church that God has called us to be. In a country that is dry and often goes months in between rains, the dew is a blessing that not only helps sustain life, but makes it bearable.
As we close this morning I want to quickly mention three things you can do to be a blessing to those in the congregation that you are called to love and serve.
First, Be a forgiver. I know there are some here today and on the internet that are struggling with bitterness because you’ve refused to forgive someone for something they’ve done or said to you. It’s time to put on forgiveness and repair your relationships.
It might be a good idea if we were more like the young child who was trying to pray the LOrd’s prayer, but got little confused when he said: “And forgive us our trash passes, as we forgive those who have passed trash against us.” Are you passing trash around this morning? Get rid of it before it starts to rot in your heart and soul.
Secondly, Be a lover. We are called by Christ to love one another in John 13:34-35: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Loving one another is not an option; it’s a command. And when we love, people will take notice and know that we’re followers of the One who loves unconditionally.
Is there someone you don’t love right now? Anyone you’re avoiding? Giving the cold shoulder to? Every great awakening, large or small, in the whole course of Christian history, has invariably begun by a breaking down of barriers between Christians first of all.
Finally, Be a server. One of the best ways to find unity is to find someone to serve. In Ephesians 4:12 Paul writes that ministers are to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Our Shepherds and I have the call to equip you to become growing and faithful followers. But it doesn’t end there. As equipping and serving take place, notice what happens next in verse 13: …until we all reach unity in the faith… One of the best ways to build unity is to serve side-by-side with other servants.
When we have made the decision that unity is something that we desire to have we can strive for it in different ways. We can yell, boss, and bully our way to unity that is nothing more than compliance. Or we can set out to bless, forgive, love, and serve people and find unity in Christ alone.