Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 15, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 1:1-11. Today the title of my message is “The Joy of Christian Unity.”
As we sit here today, we have an enemy, and not just any enemy, but the most powerful created being in the Universe, Satan. In Isaiah 14:12, Satan is referred to as the Day Star, son of Dawn. In Ezekiel 28 he is described as signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. In Heaven, he was the guardian Cherub before his fall. Because of his great beauty he became prideful and He attempted a coup. His desire was to exult himself above the Sovereign God. For the first time in Heaven, there was a break in harmony.
This obviously did not work out well for Satan, for he was cast out of Heaven by God. Jesus speaks of this in Luke 10:18. With Satan’s fall he took with him 1/3 of the Angels. Once on the Earth, he makes his first appearance in the Garden of Eden. What is he attempting to do? He is attempting to achieve more followers. He is successful in convincing both Adam and Eve to listen to him and not listen to God, and in that moment everything changes. He creates division between God and man and the tranquility of the Garden of Eden is transformed into shame, guilt and separation. And at that moment for the first time on Earth, there is a disruption in the harmony of Creation.
From that point on Satan wonders the Earth like prowling lion looking for people to devour; whether that be Job, Israel, Jesus, the Aposltes, the early Church or Cornerstone Church. Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion Jesus spoke to this reality. Jesus prays this:
From the beginning of the Church, Satan has hated its existence. He hates Christ, he hates his bride, he hates its mission, he hates its harmony, and he will do anything and everything to create discord. Cornerstone Church is not immune to Satan's attacks. In fact, I believe we are actually at high risk of attack. Why? Because we are a threat. As I stood here a few weeks ago, I rejoiced in the prayers that I heard come from our congregation, prayers of gospel orientation, Satan fumed. He hated every prayer request that came out of your mouths. Not only that but he hates mission trips, Bible studies, and discipleship classes called multiply. And don't think for one minute that he is not looking for a foothold for division.
And Satan will do it like he always does, with whispers of temptation. He will appeal to your selfish desires and your self interests. Perhaps you will start to be bothered by certain people, certain songs, certain decisions, certain conversations. As God told Cain before he killed his brother Abel, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you,“ the same is true for all of us. So the question I have is when that day comes, if it is not already here, will we follow Cain's lead and throw stones at our brothers and sisters, or will we head God's warning that he gives us today in his Word?
What is Christian Unity?
Let us now turn our attention to the question, what is true Christian unity? Let's start with what Paul and Jesus are definitely, not talking about. The unity we find in John 17 and the unity we find in the letter to the Philippians is not the same unity that we see in the fallen World. They are diametrically opposed to each other. The Unity of the World is a unity of rebellion, a rebellion against God.
If I were to chose a word for our generation, I would chose the word of tolerance. The way in which this word is being used and understood in our current culture is to advocate the acceptance of another sin. It is the “don't judge me” mentality that has infected the minds of our messed up western culture. It is a cry not to interfere with my transgressions. It is a mantra of “you sin they way you want to, and I will sin the way I want to, and we will be unified in our desire to sin without boarders.” It is a unity that we find in Sodom and Gomorrah. Were those two towns unified? Absolutely, the were unified in their wretchedness. This is not the unity of the Bible.
What is the unity we find in the Bible? The unity we find in the Bible is not a unity of self interest, it is a unity of self-sacrifice. It is not a unity of rebellion, it is a unity of obedience. Let us look at verse 3 in our text.
The greatest picture of this self-sacrifice is non other than Jesus. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. This sacrifice was more than just death, for everyone dies, and some even die for others in a heroic manner. Jesus' sacrifice was far greater, for He is far greater. Jesus gave up the Glory of God and came to Earth. His stepping down into the story was an infinite step. His humiliation of taking on the form of man is something we will never know the depth of, because there is no depth. His sacrifice is literally immeasurable. Jesus said it well when he said that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. This is infinitely true with this life that is laid down if the Author of Life. Why did he do this? For two reasons, so that you will be forgiven and because His Father asked him.
And this unity of self-sacrifice, obedience and love is a unity that God draws us into, and Christ achieves for us. Don't forget what Jesus prays to His Father in John 17:
Standing Firm and Participating in the Spirit
How on earth are we to achieve this? Is it simply a sermon? Let us look at two verses.
We are commanded to be one. This command is out of our reach, at least on our own. This request can only be achieved supernaturally, specifically by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. We must be swept up into the Trinity and participate in the Unity that already exists. There is only one way to achieve oneness and that is through the One Spirit. The spirit who, also perfectly sacrifices, perfectly obeys, and perfectly loves.
As I was preparing this week to preach this text, John MacAruthur provided a good picture of Unity in relationship to the Holy Spirit. He said there are two ways to attempt to achieve unity, I would actually argue there are three. The first way we have already discussed, it is the unity of inclusion, no borders, no rules.
The second way is a unity of external pressures. It is the unity of hallow religion. The unity that focuses on works. It is a unity of the Pharisees. It attempts to place everyone inside a predefined box, whether they want to be in the box or not. It is the unity of Islam, Mormonism, and unfortunately Roman Catholicism. This is not true unity, it is a mirage of unity. Not a unity of love, but a unity of burden. No one wants to be in the box, but they feel like they have to.
True unity is not a box you are thrown into. True unity is a force you are drawn to. True unity is like a magnet. Something inside of you is drawn to this magnet. The magnet is Christ and the force inside of us is the Holy Spirit. Each one of us drawn to the same Person, Jesus, by the same force, the Holy Spirit. True unity is not religion, it is a loving relationship with Christ. Our oneness is a product of Christ in us, and for that we rejoice.
This sermon was supposed to be preached two weeks ago, but because of the snow it is today's message. This delay has turned out to be a great blessing to me, for I was able to experience a unity in India that was breathtaking. They did not have logos, t-shirts, mission statements, or statements of faith, etc. They had one thing, an intense love for Jesus Christ. It was this love for Christ that was the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it was what touched our heart the deepest.
We have the same Holy Spirit inside of us, therefore, let us then lay aside our sin and our flesh and lay down our lives for each other, so that we can display the harmony of Heaven to the ears of this World is discord.