There is nothing quite like being a part of a large group of people who have the same passion for something! Take a sporting event for example! It’s the finals and your favourite team is playing in the Stanley Cup and they are one game away from holding up the Lord Stanley to display their conquering win.The feeling is electric.....you can almost feel the passion and energy coming off the people seating around you! The excitement is so electric as you participate to see your team win the game. You feed off other people’s excitement and energy for the thrill of the game. NOW! What if we treated the church the same way we do our favourite hockey team or sporting event?What if we put that same passion and excitement into church as we do the things that excite us on a day to day basis? I’M USING HOCKEY AS AN EXAMPLE! IT COULD ALSO BE:
• Fishing or hunting
• Your favourite TV shows
• Going to Disney World
• A song or artist
• Video games
• Dirt bike riding
• Community events and functions
• Hockey team or sporting event
What if we put that same excitement and energy as we anticipate our Lord’s return as a body of believers? What if we had that same passion and excitement for the Gospel and His blessed church? What if we used all our time and energy for the proclamation of the Gospel and our exaltation to the Lord for His sovereign goodness to sinners like us? What if we had the same united passion for His bride and the lost people in our communities? Jesus said that the world would know that we were His disciples by the love that we have for one another.“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35. Paul was a man who had a mission for the church. What was that mission? Have his same passion for the church and to be a unified front to a fallen and broken world. "Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose," Phil 2:2. Next to Heaven with Christ and the Gospel proclamation..............unity amoung God’s children were he found his deepest joy. Paul spoke of this passion.........a passion for unity was Paul’s crowning glory. Look at the opening sentence of His letter (v1).................he gives the church 4 important names of endearment!
1. “my beloved” is the adjectival form of the richest, deepest, and strongest Greek word for love.........This was Paul’s pastoral heart and passion for the church.
2. “long for brethren” this sign of a deep affection.......This being the church of Philippi.
3. “my joy” Paul found a joy in the people he loved
4. “my crown” the church of Philippi were the trophy or headdress of honor for Paul........They were the proof of his effective service for the Gospel.
This is a heart of endearment for the church and it should be our passion as well! We should feel the same way towards one another! Why? We are His sanctified children. He saved us from what we were! Lost and without hope.......but He has brought us together so that we can share in the same passion for the Gospel that saves to the uttermost. Let me ask you this morning! Can you say that about our church? Does this place of worship excite you every Sunday? Can you say with Paul, I love being with my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ? Is the fellowship and the church your crowning joy?.............Not just on Sundays but every day of the week. See we need to understand that unity is a must if we are ever to continue on for His glory and His precious gospel. Disunity only leads to frustration and heartache and worst of all a testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul knew this! He knew the importance of unity among God’s children. Why do I say that? Look at (v2). He says “I implore” he says this not once but twice in same sentence! Implore means “I urge, I beg, I’m pleading” that these two ladies to get over their differences and be restored to fellowship of the church.” This tells us that Paul was greatly concerned for the unity in the church and so should we as a church family. These were two women who were not speaking to each other.........and disputing in the church is very dangerous for the body of Christ! Paul understood that discord and divisiveness create an equally crippling threat to the church. John MacArthur said “even if its doctrine is sound, disunity robs a church of its power and destroys its testimony.” So this is something we need to take seriously AS A BODY OF CHRIST! Why do I say that? It’s interesting that Paul tells the church leaders not to leave these godly saints to themselves to work it out! Look at (v3) We are to come along side one another to help keep the unity among the family of God. We are to keep each other accountable as one body under Christ. I think this is why we have so much disunity in the church today! We really don’t care about the person that is seating beside, behind or in front of you. We really don’t want to take the time to get involved in one another’s life. We really don’t want to come along side one another to encourage or correct a brother or sister.....Think about that for moment! Again going back to hockey! Your team is down by a goal in the third period and your saying to yourself “it’s over there is no way we can win” This is when your good friend outs his arm around you and say “hang in there buddy we still have a chance....don’t give up or be so pessimistic have some faith in our team." Why not do the same in church when someone is having a bad day!When someone has lost their joy or worse caught in certain sin.......This is when the church needs each other! We need to build the body and present it holy to a holy God. Again what Paul said “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Rom 12:1-2. He also said to the church of Ephesus “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Eph 4:14-16. Do we realize the church body is so severed that it would take a miracle to sow the pieces back together again? Take this for example: Census Canada said “the church is on a continuation of a long-term downward trend in the population who report Protestant denominations. At the same time, the number of Canadians who reported religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism has increased substantially.
Over 3800 American churches close their doors annually throughout the USA alone. The reasons for these closures run because of pastoral incompetency, strife, infidelity in leadership marriages, lack of financial integrity, doctrinal discrepancies, power struggles, persecution, congregational distrust or dissatisfaction (only 43% of Christians surveyed say they fully trust their church). If there such a high percentage of people that feel that way about their church how are we to come alongside disputing saints? This can be so damaging to a church body!! How damaging? Michael Tummillo said “Satan can use a church split to spiritually destroy the most vulnerable. For babes in Christ, seeing the world through rose-colored eyes, nothing on Earth can compare to the sweet fellowship from which they've found nourishment. Suddenly, boundaries become obscured. Friends become enemies. Brothers become adversaries. And another church-attender goes down with the ship.” See we stop the ship from sinking! It starts by loving each other despite our quirks and short comings! These two ladies are not in disagreement theologically.....they are not disputing over what colour the carpet or music style we have in the church. They are personally upset with one another and it’s our duty as a body of Christ to do surgery where surgery is needed. We are not to sit by with our blinders on and watch a person or persons get worse with time. The church isn’t a game or a place where I can be selfish and do whatever I want. It’s a place to grow and be used for the ministry outside these doors. THE BIG QUESTION IS............. if we can’t get along in here how are we to reach a lost community for Christ? We have an obligation and responsibility to one another! Why? We are all susceptible to fall because of our sin nature. This is why we must get involved...getting yourself plugged into one another’s lives! WHETHER IT’S: prayer meeting....youth group....Bible study.....small groups...moms and tots......whatever it is.....................GET PLUGGED IN and get involved with the children of God. We need to stop turning a blind eye to the body of Christ and ask the Lord to open our eyes to the concerns of one another. This is your family whether you like it or not! And it’s our duty as the Lord’s children to love each other none the less. Unity and the fellowship of God’s children is vital part to church and to the community! How you treat one another in here, is how you really treat people in general out there! Paul says the church needs “to be of the same mind” which means to live together in harmony! ............This is a must if we are ever to fulfill that command. Again John MacArthur also said “loving unity in the fellowship of believers creates an environment of stability. But discord leaves the church collectively and its members individually vulnerable and unstable. Spiritual stability requires peace and harmony in the church.” Remember what Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matt 5:6. HOW DO WE DO THIS? Simply by the words penned by Paul! “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel and Jesus Christ.”. IN ORDER TO HAVE A UNIFIED CHURCH WE MUST CONSIDER THESE 4 SIMPLE BIBLIBICAL PRINCIPLES.
1. BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS
1 Peter 3:8-9 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. Brotherly love (means) loving each other as Christian brethren, Be lovers of the brethren. Tender hearted (means) pitiful of compassionate, sympathetic. We must not look to hurt the brethren with words or actions. We should be ready to spread blessings towards one another. We should be ready to bear and to wish them well and return evil.
2. DON’T INSIST ON PLEASING YOURSELF
1Cor 13:4-5 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;” Remove your selfish pride! Why? Selfishness always leads to conflict and disunity. In order to preserve the unity of the church we must disregard our selfish desires.
3. DEPEND ON GOD’S WORK IN OUR LIVES
Rom 15:5 “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,” Realize that without His enabling grace we will never deny self and please others.
4. BE RECEPTIVE TO EACH OTHER
Rom 14:1 “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” Instead of rejecting one another through argument over differences of opinion let us receive one another in spirit of unity.
Let us overlook our differences over non essentials. The church is the family that God has set apart for His glory!!
This is your family.......................Look around this room because these are the ones God has entrusted by putting them in your life to love......care.......edify.......... and come along side! “To a true child of God, the invisible bond that unites all believers to Christ is far more tender, and lasting, and precious; and, as we come to recognize and realize that we are all dwelling in one sphere of life in Him, we learn to look on every believer as our brother, in a sense that is infinitely higher than all human relationships. This is the one and only way to bring disciples permanently together. All other plans for promoting the unity of the Church have failed.” A.T. Pierson
So it’s time to get busy and love this church. Look at people through the eyes of Jesus Christ and see how you can help someone in the church today. As D.A. Carson said “What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together because they have all been loved by Jesus himself. They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus' sake.” Let’s walk closer together and keeping each other accountable as a body of believers who are saved by sovereign grace. Remember what I said “Godly people will always reproduce other godly people.” We must work together to build a strong foundation....Why? Because............................ "there is joy found in fellowship of unity."