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The Results of Unity

The second chapter of Philippians begins by picking up where chapter one left off.  It begins by focusing on one of the most important facets needed for the Christian faith, unity.

Paul begins with Therefore.  He is referring to what he had just written about standing together in one spirit and more mind.  This is necessary in the difficult times that come with following Christ.  Paul begins describing what unity looks like.

Paul first writes about four motivations for unity.  If there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion.  Encouragement in Christ comes from a word that is similar to how Christ describes the Holy Spirit as another Helper.  Consolation of love indicates living closely with one another.  Fellowship of the Spirit describes a partnership and mutual sharing.  The affection and compassion Paul describes being emotionally tied to one another and merciful to one another.  These four motivations are where unity begins.

Unity truly makes Paul joyful.  He begins verse 2 that these four motivations make my joy complete.  How does this happen?  By being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.  Literally this means being like minded, intentionally loving, one Spirit, and thinking one thing.

Paul finishes out by describing what unity in Christ does not not look like by comparing and contrasting.  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  What Paul is really saying is that we should put others before ourselves.

So what do we take from this?

1.  We have been given the motivations for unity by coming to faith in Christ.

2.  Seeking unity leads to a oneness.

3.  Unity leads to putting others before yourself.

What Gratitude Can Do For You

October 21, 2013 8 comments

Thoughts on Colossians 2:1-6

Gratitude is something that we all can agree on.  We all would agree that we should be grateful.  This goes for not only what the Lord has blessed us with, but also for what people do in our lives as well.  However, few of us probably think of the benefits of gratitude.  We might be surprised that gratitude offers us much more than mere reflection back to who or what we are grateful for .

Gratitude helps you fight for unity.  It helps knit the Body together.  We will find ourselves closer within our communities when we express your gratitude.

Gratitude causes you to love.  It is difficult not to love when gratitude is part of the equation.

Gratitude results in a better understanding of God Himself.  We will come to the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, Christ Himself.  We simply limit our understanding of God if we are not grateful people.

Gratitude helps prevent us from being deluded.  It is harder for us to grow disillusioned with our faith when we have grateful hearts.

Gratitude leads to an encouragement of faith.  We are built up and established in a faith that includes gratitude.

All of this comes from lives that are overflowing with gratitude.

Are you living a life of gratitude?

 

Preserving The Gospel

As we continue our journey through Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, we move to chapter two this week.  Paul has spent his time in the first chapter doing three basic things:

  1. Defending his apostolic authority
  2. Defending the gospel he is called to proclaim
  3. Defending the mission he is called to

Chapter two brings Paul to a different focus.  Whereas he was trying to establish his independence from the other apostles in the first chapter, now he attempts to show his unity with them.  Why?  For the sake of preserving the gospel.

After Paul had previously gone to Jerusalem, he spent an interval of fourteen years away on missionary journeys proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles.  He, Barnabas and Titus went up to Jerusalem.  Why?  Because of a revelation.  While at Antioch, some false brethren came from Jerusalem teaching that one had to be circumcised as well as have faith in Christ to be in the Church.  The brethren decided to send Paul and Barnabas, prompted by the Holy Spirit it seems, to Jerusalem to settle the matter.  That is how important this issue was.  They took Titus along, who was a Gentile, as evidence of the results of the gospel work they were doing.

Paul met with those who were of reputation.  He submitted to them the gospel that he preached.  Notice how he did this.  He did this in private.  Why?  For fear that the work he had been doing was in vain.  Paul wanted unity in the gospel, so he was afraid that his gospel and the other apostle’s were not in unity.

Paul goes on to state that those who were of high reputation contributed nothing to him.  Why is Paul saying this way to the Galatians.  He has already described the apostle’s as being reputation.  There must be significance to this.  We must remember that the false brethren, the Judaizers, came in throwing the apostles from Jerusalem names around.  Paul is simply bringing them down a notch from the loftier status they had been placed.  They did nothing to add to the gospel Paul preached.  Instead, they saw that Paul had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.  The same God and the same Christ who worked through Peter worked through Paul.

What were the results of this meeting?  They gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship.  Unity was preserved.  Most of all, the gospel was preserved.  The apostles and Paul were on the same page.  They only thing they encouraged Paul was to remember the poor –  the very thing he wanted to do.

What can we learn through this set of events?

1.  Truth matters.  Paul believed in what he was doing.  He was willing to fight for it.  He was not willing to lay down or compromise with the false brethren.

2.  Handling conflict.  Paul handled the problems in a way that was biblical and practical.  How much better would our conflicts be if we approached them with someone in private first?

3.  Unity was maintained.  Unity within the church remained and the gospel flourished.

Learning From The High Priestly Prayer, Part 3

Jesus continues to pray for his disciples in  John 17.  This week we tackle verses 13 thru 21.  There are six requests Jesus makes of the Father in these verses.

JOY

Jesus tells the Father that He is praying this prayer so that they will have His joy made full in them.  They are about to face a traumatic time with Christ dying on the cross.  His time with them is growing shorter and shorter.  Their lives are going to change forever.  What does He want for them?  Joy.  His joy.

CHANGE OF STATUS

Jesus declares to the Father that the disciples are not of the world any longer, just like Jesus is not of the world.  He has given them the Father’s word and the world hates them now, just as the world hates Jesus. (By the way, this is the same world that God loves so much that He sent His only begotten Son.)

KEPT FROM THE EVIL ONE

Jesus then asks that they not be taken out of the world, but to be kept out of the power of the evil one.  I imagine that the saying I have heard much of my life, “In the world, not of the world” comes from.  The implication is that the world is run by the evil one.  Jesus is praying that the world will not have any hold over His disciples.

SANCTIFICATION

Jesus then asks the Father to sanctify the disciples.  Sanctify is a delightfully old-fashioned word that most of us don’t use on an everyday basis.  It means to set apart and make holy.  Jesus is asking that the disciples will be made more like Him.  He even tells the Father how it can be done.  How?  Through His word.  He had previously said that the Father’s word had been given to them.  This word had power to make them holy, to set them apart.

EXAMPLE

Jesus then says that He is sending them into the world as He has been sent into the world.  He describes that He has been sanctified for their sakes.  What Jesus is saying is that He is not asking the disciples to do anything that He has not already done and set the example for. 

UNITY

Finally, Jesus once more asks that the disciples be unified just like He and the Father are.  The wonderful thing is that He says that this prayer is not just for these remaining eleven disciples.  It is also for those who believe in Him through their words.  So, this prayer is for all followers of Christ throughout the history of the Church.

How does it make you feel to know that Jesus prayed these things for you 2000 years ago?

Are We Looking For Unity?

Do you have unity?

In your church?

In your family?

In your relationships?

In today’s world, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of unity.  Families are fractured.  Relationships are torn apart.  Churches are stressed.

Why?

It could have something to do with you and me.

Are we looking for unity?

I think one of the problems is that all of us have our own agendas.  We have our own desires.  We want what WE want.

If we don’t get it, we pout.  We quit.  We run.  We fuss.  We complain.  We stir up trouble.

We do everything except what we should do.

We don’t look for unity.

We don’t, as Paul says in Ephesians 4, try to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Why did Paul, just a few verses later, tell all of us to submit to one another?  Because it’s awfully difficult to not have unity if we’re submitting to each other and looking out one another’s best interest.

Are we looking for unity?  Or are we looking out for our interests?

Are there some areas in your life where you don’t have unity?  Is there unity in your church?  Do you need to submit and look out for someone’s best interest?

Fight For Unity

February 7, 2012 7 comments

In the 1960’s, while running for governor of California, Ronald Reagan subscribed to what became known as the 11th Commandment.  This commandment stated that “Thous shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”  This philosophy seemed to work out well for President Reagan.

Unfortunately, the same doesn’t seem to happen in the Church.

I don’t know about you or my fellow bloggers, but there seems to be a growing trend on Twitter  and the blogosphere.

I know this because  I’ve been guilty of this in the past.

It seems like rather than unity in the Body of Christ, there are fractures.

There is something that I would like to see more of.

I want to see a fight for unity.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know it can’t happen every single time.  I know there are some lines that have to be drawn.  We can’t always be in total unity with everyone.

The problem is that I continue to see more and more folks who want to focus on what they disagree with others about.  What I see is that some consider some things essential that aren’t truly essential in the faith.

In Ephesians 4, Paul encourages his readers to “be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  He says to do this “with humility and gentleness.”  I think we see what the problem is in this section of scripture.

I think there is a lack of humility.

I think pride is the problem.

I think we get our pride all worked up in these situations.  I think we want to get our soapbox and let some brother or sister have it.  We want to prove to them that we are right and they are wrong.

We fight with each other instead of fighting for the important things that unite us.

Let’s stop it brothers and sisters.

You disagree with someone?  Fine.  Promote what you believe.  Make a strong case for what is important to you. Convince us of what you believe.  Don’t tear down that guy or gal for what they believe.  Trust that the Lord is in control and that what He is for will win out.  I’ll respect you a lot more.

Have you noticed this trend of late?  Are you fighting for unity or just looking for a fight?

Whatever!?!

January 15, 2012 3 comments

You might not have been cool like me.  You might have stayed home and watched Full House from 1987 through 1995 while it was on TV.  Me?  I was out having fun on Friday nights.

Those who stayed home on Friday night have told me that there was a character named D.J. who had a friend named Kimmy who had a boyfriend named Duane.  Those same people told me that whenever Duane was asked a question, he would answer, “Whatever!?!”  They say that Duane just had a nonchalant, not caring attitude toward almost everything.  If I had watched the show instead being out having fun, I might be able to testify to it.

Depending on what group you belong to or who you listen to, today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  And you are asking, “What does that have to do with Full House, Duane and Whatever!?!

I’m afraid that many of us, like Duane,  take a Whatever approach to life.  We take the same attitude.  We just don’t care.  We don’t care about things.  We especially don’t care about people.  We, as a society, don’t seem to care about life.  Sometimes we, the Church, do the same thing.

Sure, we care about being pro-life and hate abortion.  We all want to help kids.  But do we care about life elsewhere? Do we care about life inside the church?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Why I Quit Being A Hater.  In it I said that I was going to quit being a “hater”.  I was going to let my love for Christ flow through and quit being negative.  Like I told my friend, David, this week, this is easier to say and write than to put into practice.

So, what does Sanctity of Human Life mean to me?  Sure, like I said above,  it means that I hate the thought of abortion.  However, it means much more to me.  It means that I want to promote a culture of life.  It means that I want to uplift others.

How do I put that into practice?

If you’re a regular reader you know that I am looking for a new church.  Perhaps we are about to zero in on that.  We are about to meet a lot of new people.  If we join this church, we are going to be gaining new brothers and sisters in our lives.  How will I live with them?

Will I live with them in unity?  Or will it be “Whatever”?

Will I let no unwholesome word proceed from my mouth and only speak good words that will edify my new brothers and sisters?  Or will it be “Whatever”?

Will I consider how to stimulate everyone to love and good deeds?  Or will it be “Whatever”?

Will I be an encourager?  Or will it be “Whatever”?

Will I speak the truth in love, with the attitude of building them up instead of tearing them down?  Or will it be “Whatever”?

Obviously, you know what I want to do.  My prayer is that I follow through on this.

How about you?  Do you take a Whatever approach when it comes to others?  Or do you look for opportunities to build them up?