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Faithlife Corporation

The Power of Unity

Notes & Transcripts

I COULD HARDLY BELIEVE WHAT I WAS WITNESSING. IF YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD ME THIS STORY, I WOULD HAVE PROBABLY NEVER HAVE BELIEVED IT. BUT I WAS THERE. I SAW IT HAPPEN.

I WAS MAKING MY WAS THROUGH THE K-MART PARKING LOT AS A TEENAGER IN SOUTH FLORIDA. IT WAS VERY CROWDED AND YOU HAD TO TAKE YOUR TIME IN ORDER TO FIND A SPOT. ALL OF A SUDDEN I CAME TO A COMPLETE STANDSTILL. TWO CARS WERE BACKING OUT OF SPOTS IN THE SAME TIME FROM OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS. AT FIRST I THOUGHT, “OH NO, THERE’S GOING TO BE AN ACCIDENT.”

BUT AT THE LAST POSSIBLE MINUTE THE TWO DRIVERS SAW EACH OTHER AND STOPPED. I THOUGHT, “WHEW, THAT WAS CLOSE.” I EXPECTED ONE TO PULL UP AND LET THE OTHER BACK OUT FIRST, BUT THE TWO CARS JUST SAT THERE, THEIR DRIVERS GLARING AT EACH OTHER, MAKING GESTURES FOR THE OTHER TO MOVE.

I THOUGHT TO MYSELF, “THESE LADIES HAVE LOST THEIR MINDS,” AND FOUND A WAY TO BACK OUT AND GO TO ANOTHER AISLE TO LOOK FOR A SPOT. AFTER A FEW SECONDS IT BECAME QUITE APPARENT THAT THIS WAR OF THE WILLS COULD GO ON INDEFINITELY. FINALLY ONE DRIVER GOT OUT OF THEIR CAR AND STARTED WALKING TOWARDS THE OTHER CAR. NOT TO BE OUTDONE THE OTHER DRIVER GOT OUT AS WELL. WHAT FOLLOWED WAS A HEATED ARGUMENT OVER WHO HAD THE RIGHT OF WAY. WHEN I FINALLY PARKED AND MADE MY WAY INTO THE STORE, THEY WERE STILL ARGUING THEY PROBABLY WASTED TEN MINUTES ON A PROBLEM THAT COULD HAVE BEEN SOLVED IN FIVE SECONDS IT SOMEONE WOULD HAVE BEEN WILLING TO GIVE INTO THE OTHER.

THE ABSOLUTE RIDICULOUSNESS OF THIS SITUATION IS REAL EASY TO CRITICIZE WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS IN INVOLVED, BUT WHEN WE ARE ARGUING FOR OUR RIGHT OF WAY WE OFTEN DEVELOP AN ACUTE NEARSIGHTEDNESS. WHEN SOMEONE ELSE ARGUES A POINT THEY’RE JUST BEING STUBBORN; WHEN WE ARGUE A POINT, WE ARE STANDING FOR A PRINCIPLE.

AND, THE CHURCH IS NOT IMMUNE TO STUBBORN WILL AND DIVISIVENESS. AND USUALLY THE DIVISION COMES OVER SOME GREAT DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH SUCH AS CARPET COLOR, PULPIT SIZE, AND OF COURSE, THE STYLE OF MUSIC YOU SING. THAT IS A LIGHTENING ROD OF CONTROVERSY.

THE SAD TRUTH IS THAT, WHILE WE DEBATE TRIVIA, THE WORLD IS RACING ITS WAY TOWARDS HELL. WHEN WE DO MANAGE TO GET OUR MESSAGE OUT ONCE AND A WHILE, ITS TRUTH IS SUBVERTED BY THE VERY DIVISION WE ALLOW. THE ONLY LIMIT THERE IS TO WHAT GOD CAN DO THROUGH HIS CHURCH IS THE LIMIT WE PLACE ON HIM THROUGH OUR OWN DISUNITY.

WE HAVE A GREAT CHURCH HERE AT PEACE. THERE ARE SOME TRULY WONDERFUL CHRISTIAN PEOPLE WHO WANT TO REALLY DO SOMETHING FOR GOD. I SENSE THAT RIGHT NOW OUR CONGREGATION IS PLATEAUED; I SENSE THAT WE ARE WAITING TO CATCH THE NEXT WIND FROM HEAVEN THAT WILL PROPEL US INTO THE NEXT MILLENNIUM WITH A NEW VISION AND A NEW CONFIDENCE IN GOD.

WE FACE A BUILDING PROGRAM AND PAYING FOR A FACILITY THAT WILL BE STATE OF THE ART IN EVERY WAY, BUT WILL PROBABLY HAVE THE PRICE TAG TO PROVE IT.

WE FACE A CHALLENGE OF A CRUMBLING HOME STRUCTURE THAT THREATENS TO UNDERMINE OUR SPIRITUAL HEALTH AND DESTROY OUR CHURCH. DO YOU REALIZE THAT 66% OF ALL MARRIAGES TODAY END IN DIVORCE? WHAT DOES THAT SAY FOR THE CHURCH LEADERS OF TOMORROW.

WE FACE THE CHALLENGE OF A PROSPEROUS SOCIETY THAT IS ALWAYS CALLING US TO MORE MATERIALISM INSTEAD OF GREATER SPIRITUALITY AND DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS.

IN THE FACE OF THESE AND OTHER CHALLENGES THE ANSWER TO WHETHER WE HANDLE THEM, OR THEY HANDLE US MAY BE AS SIMPLE AS WHETHER WE HANDLE THEM TOGETHER

WHEN IT COMES TO THE SUBJECT OF UNITY, I WOULD SAY OUR CHURCH IS MUCH LIKE THE CHURCH PAUL ADDRESSED AT PHILIPPI. THE CHURCH AT PHILIPPI WAS PROBABLY ONE OF PAUL’S FAVORITE CONGREGATIONS, AND WHEN IT CAME TO UNITY, THEY WERE CERTAINLY BETTER THAN AVERAGE, BUT PAUL DID NOT TAKE THEIR UNITY FOR GRANTED. LITTERED THROUGHOUT THIS FRIENDSHIP LETTER OF PHILIPPIANS, YOU FIND PAUL URGING THE THEM TO BE UNIFIED; TO HAVE ONE MIND, TO HAVE THE SAME LOVE.

PAUL RECOGNIZED THE DANGER OF DIVISION. WHENEVER HE SENSED DIVISION HE WENT AFTER IT LIKE A BEAGLE ON A RABBIT TRAIL. HE SNIFFED OUT DISUNITY AND ATTACKED IT LIKE THE GREAT THREAT IT IS. I WANT US TO LOOK AT ONE OF THESE PASSAGES TODAY, FOR IN PHILIPPIANS 2:1-4, PAUL TELLS US HOW WE CAN ACHIEVE UNITY IN OUR CHURCH. HE GIVES US 3 DISTINCTIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE THAT SHOULD GUARANTEE OUR UNITY. READ WHAT HE SAYS: (READ TEXT HERE)

THE FIRST DISTINCTIVE THAT GUARANTEES OUR UNITY IS OUR COMMON EXPERIENCE. WE CAN BE UNIFIED IF WE SHARE A COMMON EXPERIENCE.

NOTICE THAT FIRST VERSE. IN IT PAUL GIVES US IN A NUTSHELL SOME OF THE GREATEST BLESSINGS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. NOW THE CONSTRUCTION IN MANY BIBLES READS LIKE AN “IF-THEN” CLAUSE. “IF” WE HAVE THIS, “THEN” WE SHOULD DO THIS, BUT THAT IS NOT EXACTLY RIGHT. IT SHOULD READ “SINCE WE HAVE THIS, THEN WE ARE ABLE TO DO THAT”. SO YOU WOULD READ VERSE ONE LIKE THIS: “SINCE WE HAVE CONSOLATION IN CHRIST, SINCE WE HAVE THE COMFORT OF HIS LOVE, SINCE WE HAVE THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SPIRIT, AND SINCE WE HAVE GREAT AFFECTION AND MERCY, THEN FULFILL MY JOY BY BEING LIKE MINDED, ETC.”

NOTICE TO THE BLESSINGS PAUL MENTIONS HERE: CONSOLATION IS SIMPLY ENCOURAGEMENT AND REFRESHMENT. HE PICTURES JESUS HERE AS A TALL GLASS OF ICE COLD WATER ON A 100 DEGREE DAY. THE CONSOLATION OF CHRIST BRINGS REFRESHMENT IN OUR SOULS.

THE SECOND BLESSING IS THE “COMFORT OF LOVE”. COMFORT HERE GIVES US THE IDEA OF BEING CALLED TO ONE’S SIDE. IT IS THE PICTURE OF A MOTHER CALLING HER DISTRAUGHT CHILD ASIDE, STROKING HIS HEAD, AND REASSURING HIM THAT EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK.

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SPIRIT SPEAKS TO OUR RELATIONSHIP TO EACH OTHER. IT IS SHARED INTIMACY. THE GREEK WORD IS “KOINONEA” AND IT PICTURES OF GROUPS OF PEOPLE WHO KNOW EACH OTHER INTIMATELY, ENJOY EACH OTHER COMPLETELY, AND LOVE EACH OTHER DEEPLY.

THE LAST BLESSING PAUL MENTIONS IS THAT OF “AFFECTION AND MERCY”. IN THE OLD KING JAMES ENGLISH IT SAYS “BOWELS”. THAT IS A GREEK WORD THAT LITERALLY MEANS “KIDNEYS”. THE TRANSLATORS LOOKED FOR THE DEEPEST ORGAN IN THE HUMAN BODY THAT THEY COULD FIND TO SHOW US THE DEPTH OF MERCY AND EMOTION THAT A RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST BRINGS TO OUR LIVES.

NOW THIS IS THE KIND OF RELATIONSHIP THAT YOU AND I ENJOY AS GOD’S CHILDREN: IS IT FULL OF THE REFRESHMENT OF GOD, THE COMFORT OF HIS LOVE, THE INTIMACY WE ENJOY WITH HIM AND OTHERS AND THE DEEP EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT WE HAVE TO HIM AND HIS CHILDREN. WHEN WE SHARE A RELATIONSHIP LIKE THAT, WE HAVE A GREAT FOUNDATION ON WHICH TO BUILD UNITY!

AND THAT IS PRECISELY THE POINT: THE SCRIPTURE HERE SAYS THAT SINCE WE HAVE THIS KIND OF SHARED RELATIONSHIP, WE SHOULD PURSUE UNITY. AND HE USES SEVERAL TERMS TO DESCRIBE THE UNITY WE ARE TO PURSUE.

HE CALLS IT LIKE MINDEDNESS: THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT EVERYONE HAS THE SAME OPINION, BUT THAT EVERYONE HAS THE SAME GOAL. OUR METHODS MAY DIFFER BUT OUR MISSION IS THE SAME. NOW IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE MISSION OF THE PHILIPPIAN CHURCH, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS LOOK BACK AT VERSE 27 OF CHAPTER 1. THERE PAUL SAYS THAT THEY SHOULD “STAND FAST IN ONE SPIRIT, WITH ONE MIND, STRIVING TOGETHER FOR THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL”. OUR MISSION IS TO REACH THIS WORLD WITH THE GOSPEL. WE MAY NOT ALWAYS AGREE OF HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE, BUT THERE SHOULD BE NO DOUBT ABOUT THE MISSION. WE CAN BE LIKE MINDED.

BUT HE ALSO SAYS WE SHOULD BE OF “ONE ACCORD”. THAT WORD LITERALLY MEANS “ONE-SOULED”, SO THAT AT THE DEEPEST LEVELS OF OUR BEING WE HAVE BEEN UNITED BY OUR MUTUAL EXPERIENCING OF GRACE AND MOLDED TOGETHER IN THE HEAT OF PERSECUTION INTO THE INSEPARABLE AND UNDIVIDED BODY OF CHRIST. WE CAN BE UNITED IF WE SHARE A COMMON EXPERIENCE OF GRACE.

I NEVER UNDERSTOOD WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT. I ARRIVED HERE IN WILSON IN FEBRUARY OF 1993 AND ALL ANYONE COULD DO WAS TELL ME HOW MUCH I WAS GOING TO ENJOY CAMP LAPIHIO. THEN THEY PRECEDED TO TELL ME WHY: FIRST THERE WERE THE SHOWERS TAKEN IN FILTHY LATRINES AT THE END OF A GARDEN HOSE SPOUTING ICE-CUBES. THEN THERE WERE THE INSECTS: HORSE FLIES THAT COULD CARRY OFF BIG DOGS AND SMALL CHILDREN; MOSQUITOES ABLE TO CAUSE ANEMIA WITH A SINGLE BITE. AND OF COURSE THERE WERE THE SNAKES. I BEGAN TO WONDER WHAT IT WAS ABOUT THIS PLACE THAT MADE IT SO SPECIAL. I MEAN, I HAD BEEN TO CAMP BEFORE AND I NEVER DEVELOPED SUCH A NOSTALGIA FOR PRIMITIVE LIVING.

BUT THEN I EXPERIENCED IT FIRST-HAND. IT WAS JUST WHAT THEY SAID: HOT, STICKY, AND PRIMITIVE, BUT WHEN I CAME BACK I WAS JUST AS SOLD ON THE CAMP AS THEY WERE, BUT MAYBE NOT FOR THE SAME REASON. WHAT I OBSERVED THERE WAS THAT AS WE ALL WENT THROUGH THE HEAT TOGETHER, AND SWATTED MOSQUITOES TOGETHER, THERE BEGAN TO DEVELOP IN THAT CAMP A WONDERFUL SENSE OF UNITY. IT PRODUCED A UNITY THAT NO AMOUNT OF SERMONIZING EVER COULD. IT WAS A UNITY THAT CAME FROM A COMMON EXPERIENCE.

THAT IS WHAT THIS PASSAGE IS TALKING ABOUT: WE HAVE A COMMON EXPERIENCE IN CHRIST AND, WHEN IT IS FULLY UNDERSTOOD, AND FULLY EXPERIENCED IT PRODUCES A UNITY THAT NOTHING ELSE CAN.

BUT I KNOW WHAT YOU MAY BE SAYING: IF THE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE IS SO UNIFYING WHY DO SO MANY CHURCHES SPLIT? NOW THAT IS A GREAT QUESTION, AND I AM SURE THAT IT MAY HAVE MANY ANSWERS, BUT I BELIEVE I KNOW ONE OF THEM: IT IS BAILEY SMITH THAT SAYS (AND I AM NOT SURE OF THE EXACT STATISTIC) THAT WELL OVER HALF OF THE CHURCH MEMBERS SITTING IN THE CONGREGATION TODAY AREN’T EVEN SAVED! THEY MAY THINK THEY ARE, AND THEY MAY INSIST THAT THEY KNOW GOD, BUT IF THEY DIED TODAY THEY’D MISS HEAVEN!

NOW MY PURPOSE IS NOT TO DEBATE THAT TODAY, BUT DOESN’T IT MAKE SENSE THAT ONE OF THE REASONS THERE IS SUCH DISUNITY IN MANY CHURCHES IS THAT WE ARE SPIRITUALLY TRYING TO MIX “OIL AND VINEGAR”. WHEN YOU ADD TO THAT THE NUMBER OF BELIEVERS THAT ARE WALKING FAR FROM GOD, IT IS NO WONDER THAT THERE IS OFTEN DISHARMONY.

BUT IF THAT DESCRIBES THE PROBLEM, WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? IT IS TO SIMPLY MAKE SURE YOU REALLY KNOW GOD, NOT JUST IN SOME EXPERIENCE THAT HAPPENED 20 YEARS AGO BUT THAT YOU INTIMATELY KNOW HIM NOW. THAT YOU ARE ENJOYING HIS CONSOLATION, YOUR ARE EXPERIENCING THE COMFORT OF HIS LOVE, THAT YOU ARE INTIMATELY RELATED TO HIM AND TO HIS CHILDREN. THAT KIND OF EXPERIENCE FORMS THE FOUNDATION OF UNITY. A CHURCH THAT IS CONSISTENTLY EXPERIENCING THE GRACE OF CHRIST WILL BE A UNIFIED BODY!

BUT THERE IS ANOTHER DISTINCTION THAT GUARANTEES THE UNITY OF THE BODY OF CHRIST. WE CAN HAVE UNITY IF WE EMBRACE A HUMBLE ATTITUDE: LOOK AT VERSE 3: (READ VERSE 3)

IN VERSE 3 WE ARE TOLD THAT NOTHING SHOULD BE DONE OUT OF “SELFISH AMBITION”. THAT IS AN INTERESTING WORD, AND THE PICTURE IT DRAWS IS ONE WE ARE VERY FAMILIAR WITH. YOU SEE IT EVERY FALL OF AN EVEN NUMBERED YEAR WHEN EVERY OTHER COMMERCIAL IS A POLITICAL ANNOUNCEMENT. IN THE ANNOUNCEMENT, THE DEMOCRAT CALLS THE REPUBLICAN A “RIGHT WING WACKO” AND THE REPUBLICAN CALLS THE DEMOCRAT A LIBERAL, AND THEY BOTH PROMISE YOU THINGS THEY CAN NEVER DELIVER. THAT IS SELFISH AMBITION: IT IS “POSITIONING YOURSELF FOR PERSONAL GAIN; DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET WHAT YOU WANT WHEN YOU WANT IT.”

“VAIN CONCEIT” MENTIONED NEXT, FURTHER ADDS TO THIS CONCEPT: IT MEANS LITERALLY, “EMPTY PRIDE” AND IT IS THE PICTURE OF THE CURRENT AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT. MANY ARTICLES IN THE MEDIA HAVE BEMOANED THE FACT THAT OUR STUDENTS ACADEMICALLY BEHIND THOSE OF OTHER DEVELOPED COUNTRIES. THE INTERESTING FACT IS THAT, WHILE WE ARE BEHIND OTHER COUNTRIES IN MANY AREAS, THERE IS ONE AREA IN WHICH WE CONSISTENTLY RANK FIRST: OUR OPINION OF HOW GOOD WE ARE! THAT’S RIGHT WE ARE DOING POORLY ACADEMICALLY, BUT WE FEEL REAL GOOD ABOUT IT! NOW THAT IS VAIN CONCEIT. IT IS THINKING YOU ARE MORE THAN YOU REALLY ARE. VERSE 3 TELLS US THAT WE CAN HAVE UNITY BY AVOIDING THESE ATTITUDES.

BUT WHAT ATTITUDES SHOULD WE SEEK? PAUL DESCRIBES IT AS “LOWLINESS OF MIND”. IT IS NOT PUTTING YOURSELF DOWN. IN FACT, I SUSPECT THAT THE ONE WHO CONSTANTLY PUTS HIMSELF DOWN IS REALLY SEEKING THE ATTENTION THAT SUCH AN ACTIVITY PROVIDES. TRUE HUMILITY IS AWARE OF ITS WEAKNESSES AND ITS STRENGTHS, BUT MAKES NO BIG DEAL OF THEM. IT IS NOT FOCUSED ON ITSELF AT ALL.

THE VERSE GOES ON TO SAY THAT WE SHOULD ESTEEM OTHERS BETTER THAN OURSELVES. THAT WORD BETTER IS USED IN ROMANS 13:1 TO SPEAK OF THE RESPECT WE SHOULD HAVE FOR GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITIES. IT IS NOT RESPECT WE GIVE THEM BECAUSE THEY DESERVE IT PERSONALLY, BUT A RESPECT WE GIVE THEM BECAUSE WE RESPECT THE LAW THEY REPRESENT.

NOW CATCH WHAT PAUL IS SAYING: WE DO NOT ESTEEM OTHERS BETTER THAN OURSELVES BECAUSE THEY DESERVE IT. WE DO NOT PREFER OTHERS BECAUSE WE FEEL LIKE IT. WE MAKE A COLD, HARD, FAST DECISION TO OBEY THE WORD OF GOD AND PREFER OTHERS AHEAD OF OURSELVES. THAT IS HUMILITY. MAKING A CONSCIOUS DECISION TO PUT YOU AHEAD OF MYSELF.

BOOKER T. WASHINGTON, THE RENOWNED BLACK EDUCATOR, WAS AN OUTSTANDING EXAMPLE OF THIS TRUTH. SHORTLY AFTER HE TOOK OVER THE PRESIDENCY OF TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE IN ALABAMA, HE WAS WALKING IN AN EXCLUSIVE SECTION OF TOWN WHEN HE WAS STOPPED BY A WEALTHY WHITE WOMAN. NOT KNOWING THE FAMOUS MR. WASHINGTON BY SIGHT, SHE ASKED IF HE WOULD LIKE TO EARN A FEW DOLLARS BY CHOPPING WOOD FOR HER. BECAUSE HE HAD NO PRESSING BUSINESS AT THE MOMENT, PROFESSOR WASHINGTON SMILED, ROLLED UP HIS SLEEVES, AND PROCEEDED TO DO THE HUMBLE CHORE SHE HAD REQUESTED. WHEN HE WAS FINISHED, HE CARRIED THE LOGS INTO THE HOUSE AND STACKED THEM BY THE FIREPLACE. A LITTLE GIRL RECOGNIZED HIM AND LATER REVEALED HIS IDENTITY TO THE LADY. THE NEXT MORNING THE EMBARRASSED WOMAN WENT TO SEE MR. WASHINGTON IN HIS OFFICE AT THE INSTITUTE AND APOLOGIZED PROFUSELY. "IT'S PERFECTLY ALL RIGHT, MADAM," HE REPLIED. "OCCASIONALLY I ENJOY A LITTLE MANUAL LABOR. BESIDES, IT'S ALWAYS A DELIGHT TO DO SOMETHING FOR A FRIEND." SHE SHOOK HIS HAND WARMLY AND ASSURED HIM THAT HIS MEEK AND GRACIOUS ATTITUDE HAD ENDEARED HIM AND HIS WORK TO HER HEART. NOT LONG AFTERWARD SHE SHOWED HER ADMIRATION BY PERSUADING SOME WEALTHY ACQUAINTANCES TO JOIN HER IN DONATING THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO THE TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE

WE OFTEN SAY I’LL RESPECT YOU IF YOU DESERVE IT. I’LL HONOR YOU WHEN YOU EARN MY HONOR. AND WE, ON THE OTHER HAND, REFUSE TO HONOR ONE THAT WE FEEL DOES NOT DESERVE OUR PRAISE. YOU MIGHT SAY, “IT IS NOT RIGHT TO GIVE HONOR TO SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T DESERVE IT.”

WELL, YOU MAY HAVE THAT OPINION, BUT I MUST TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE IN DIRECT CONTRADICTION TO THE SCRIPTURE IF YOU DO. THE MIND OF CHRIST WAS ONE THAT WAS WILLING TO COMPLETELY GIVE UP ITS POSITION. WHEN COMPARED TO YOURSELF, YOU MAY BE CALLED ON TO EXALT SOME PRETTY UNDESERVING CHARACTERS, BUT I WILL GUARANTEE YOU THAT YOU WILL NEVER BE CALLED UPON TO EXALT ANYONE MORE UNDESERVING THAN YOU OR I WAS WHEN CHRIST EXALTED US. HE HUMBLED HIMSELF TO BECOME OUR SERVANT BY DYING ON THAT CROSS. WHEN IT COMES TO EMBRACING HUMILITY, CHRIST WAS THE ULTIMATE EXAMPLE.

SO MAY I ASK YOU A COUPLE OF VERY DIRECT QUESTIONS?

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU DID SOMETHING, IN SUCH A WAY THAT YOU COULD RECEIVE NO GLORY, FOR SOMEONE WHO DID NOT DESERVE IT?

WOULD YOU SERVE IN THE SAME WAY YOU DO NOW IF NO ONE WOULD EVER KNOW WHAT YOU HAD DONE, AND NO ONE COULD EVER PRAISE YOU FOR IT?

THOSE ARE SOME TOUGH QUESTIONS TO ANSWER, BUT THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO MAINTAINING UNITY WITHIN THE CHURCH, BECAUSE THOSE ARE THE QUESTIONS THAT TEST OUR MOTIVES AND REVEAL OUR HEART.

WE CAN BE UNIFIED IF WE SHARE A COMMON EXPERIENCE, AND EMBRACE A HUMBLE ATTITUDE; BUT WE CAN ALSO BE UNIFIED IF WE PURSUE A SELFLESS SERVICE.

VERSE 4 SUMS UP WHAT PAUL HAS SAID TO THIS POINT AND POINTS TO HOW THE CONCEPT OF THE UNITY BROUGHT BY HUMILITY LOOKS IN SHOE LEATHER. HE SAYS WE SHOULD NOT ONLY LOOK OUT FOR OUR OWN INTERESTS, BUT ALSO FOR THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS.

UP TO THIS POINT IN THE PASSAGE PAUL HAS BEEN MUCH LESS CONCRETE IN HIS MESSAGE. HE HAS TALKED ABOUT ATTITUDES AND SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES, BUT IN THIS LAST VERSE HE GETS PRACTICAL. AND HERE COMES THE HARD PART. IT IS ALWAYS EASIER TO TALK ABOUT HUMILITY THAN IT IS TO BE HUMBLE. IT IS ALWAYS EASIER TO SPEAK OF ACTION THAN IT IS TO TAKE IT. IN PRACTICAL TERMS PAUL IS SAYING YOU CAN JUDGE A PERSON’S HUMILITY BY THE ACTIONS THAT THEY TAKE. A PERSON IS NOT HUMBLE WHO HANKS HIS HEAD AND TALKS SOFTLY; A PERSON IS HUMBLE WHO GETS OFF HIS CHAIR AND ACTS UNSELFISHLY. IT IS A MATTER, NOT OF WORDS BUT OF ACTION. UNITY, IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS IS A RESULT OF SELFLESS SERVICE.

AND IT IS A RESULT OF SELFLESS SERVICE IN THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE. IT IS NOT THE BIG OPPORTUNITIES THAT OFTEN MAKE THE GREATEST IMPACT FOR CHRIST, IT IS THE LITTLE THINGS. THE WORDS SPOKEN AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME. THE CARDS YOU SEND TO ENCOURAGE. THE GREETINGS YOU GIVE TO VISITORS WHO WALK INTO OUR WORSHIP. THE DISCIPLINE IT TAKES TO REALLY LISTEN WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS SHARING THEIR HEART. THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT MAKE THE GREATEST IMPACT ON OTHERS. THOSE ARE THE SELFLESS ACTS THAT BRING UNITY.

SUCCESSFUL SALESMEN LEARN THE POWER OF ACTION VERY QUICKLY. AND MOST OF THEM USE SOME TECHNIQUE TO FORCE YOU INTO MAKING A DECISION AND TAKING ACTION. I WAS AMUSED THIS WEEK WHEN WE WERE DEALING WITH THE COPIER MAN OUT HERE. OUR LEASE ON OUR COPIER WAS UP AND OF COURSE THE SALESMAN WAS OFFERING US THE DEAL OF A LIFE TIME, BUT THERE WAS A CATCH: IF WE WANTED THAT BEST OFFER, THE ONE THAT WOULD SAVE US HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS IN UP FRONT COSTS, WE HAD TO DECIDE BY 11:00 A.M. THAT VERY DAY, SO KATHY AND LINDA WERE SCRAMBLING AROUND TRYING TO GET THEIR BUSINESS TOGETHER SO THEY COULD MAKE A DECISION. THERE WAS A SENSE OF URGENCY THAT FORCED THEM TO ACTION. NOW I DON’T DOUBT THE SINCERITY OF THE SALESMAN THAT STIPULATION ON THAT DEAL. BUT I ALSO KNOW WHAT HE KNEW...IF IMMEDIATE ACTION IS NOT REQUIRED, PEOPLE TEND TO CHANGE THEIR MINDS. NOTHING HAPPENS UNTIL ACTION IS TAKEN.

IN THE SAME WAY, THE KIND OF HUMILITY THAT REALLY UNIFIES A BODY OF BELIEVERS IS A HUMILITY THAT IS CHARACTERIZED BY UNSELFISH ACTION. HUMILITY IS NOT A FEELING OF INFERIORITY. IT IS NOT JUST AN ATTITUDE I HAVE. IT IS NOT EVEN JUST A SHARED RELATIONSHIP I HAVE WITH GOD AND WITH HIS FAMILY. AT IT’S ROOT, HUMILITY IS DEMONSTRATED BY LOVING ACTION THAT PREFERS OTHERS AHEAD OF MYSELF. IT IS THAT KIND OF HUMILITY THAT WILL CAUSE THE CHURCH TO EXPLODE WITH GROWTH.

NOW I KNOW WHAT YOU BUSINESS ORIENTED GUYS ARE THINKING, BECAUSE ITS PROBABLY THE WAY I WOULD THINK AS WELL. PEOPLE WHO ARE LOGICAL THINKERS AND WHO ARE ORGANIZATIONALLY ORIENTED OFTEN THINK THAT THE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEMS OF THE CHURCH IS MORE ORGANIZATION, BETTER COMMUNICATION, OR MORE DETAILED PLANS OF ACTION. NOW THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT WE CAN ALL BENEFIT FROM MORE ORGANIZATION, BUT THE SPIRITUAL HEALTH OF THE CHURCH CANNOT BE PROGRAMMED. IT DOESN’T DEPEND ON TOP DOWN MANAGEMENT AND YOU CAN’T GRAPH IT ON A PIE CHART. SPIRITUAL HEALTH BEGINS WITH A GENUINE RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST THAT BEGINS TO BE REFLECTED IN OUR LIVES AS WE LEARN ALL THAT THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST REALLY MEANS.

IT IS REFLECTED IN THE ATTITUDE OF HUMILITY THAT CHRIST DEMONSTRATED WHEN, IN THE MIDST OF A GROUP OF MEN WHO WERE GRUMBLING ABOUT WHO WAS TO BE FIRST IN THE KINGDOM, HE GIRDED A TOWEL AND WASHED THE FEET OF HIS DISCIPLES. HE WAS THEIR LEADER; THEY SHOULD HAVE WASHED HIS FEET, BUT HE HUMBLED HIMSELF, AND HIS HUMILITY DROVE HIM TO ACTION.

NOW SOME OF YOU OUT THERE ARE LIKE MY WIFE: FOR YOU GIVING COMES NATURALLY. YOU HAVE A SPIRITUAL GIFT IN THIS AREA AND YOU ENJOY IT. FOR OTHERS OF US, IT CAN BE A REAL STRUGGLE, BUT WE MUST TAKE ACTION. WE MUST CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE TO HUMBLE OURSELVES AND TAKE UNSELFISHNESS ACTION DAILY.

ONE GOOD FRIEND OF MINE MARKS IN HIS DAYTIMER AND “A.O.K” FOR THE DAY. AN “AOK” IS AN ABBREIVIATION FOR AN “ACT OF KINDNESS.” MAYBE YOU NEED TO ESTABLISH AN “AOK” IN ORDER TO BEGIN TO PRACTICE ACTIVE HUMILITY IN YOUR LIFE.

WE CAN HAVE UNITY IN THE BODY OF CHRIST: ALL IT TAKES IS A SHARED EXPERIENCE, A HUMBLE ATTITUDE, AND A SELF-LESS ACTION.

IN ERNEST GORDON'S TRUE ACCOUNT OF LIFE IN A WORLD WAR II JAPANESE PRISON CAMP, THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE KWAI, THERE IS A STORY THAT NEVER FAILS TO MOVE ME. IT IS ABOUT A MAN WHO THROUGH GIVING IT ALL AWAY LITERALLY TRANSFORMED A WHOLE CAMP OF SOLDIERS. THE MAN'S NAME WAS ANGUS MCGILLIVRAY. ANGUS WAS A SCOTTISH PRISONER IN ONE OF THE CAMPS FILLED WITH AMERICANS, AUSTRALIANS, AND BRITONS WHO HAD HELPED BUILD THE INFAMOUS BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI. THE CAMP HAD BECOME AN UGLY SITUATION. A DOG-EAT-DOG MENTALITY HAD SET IN. ALLIES WOULD LITERALLY STEAL FROM EACH OTHER AND CHEAT EACH OTHER; MEN WOULD SLEEP ON THEIR PACKS AND YET HAVE THEM STOLEN FROM UNDER THEIR HEADS. SURVIVAL WAS EVERYTHING. THE LAW OF THE JUNGLE PREVAILED...UNTIL THE NEWS OF ANGUS MCGILLIVRAY'S DEATH SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE CAMP. RUMORS SPREAD IN THE WAKE OF HIS DEATH. NO ONE COULD BELIEVE BIG ANGUS HAD SUCCUMBED. HE WAS STRONG, ONE OF THOSE WHOM THEY HAD EXPECTED TO BE THE LAST TO DIE. ACTUALLY, IT WASN'T THE FACT OF HIS DEATH THAT SHOCKED THE MEN, BUT THE REASON HE DIED. FINALLY THEY PIECED TOGETHER THE TRUE STORY.

THE ARGYLLS (SCOTTISH SOLDIERS) TOOK THEIR BUDDY SYSTEM VERY SERIOUSLY. THEIR BUDDY WAS CALLED THEIR "MUCKER," AND THESE ARGYLLS BELIEVED THAT IS WAS LITERALLY UP TO EACH OF THEM TO MAKE SURE THEIR "MUCKER" SURVIVED. ANGUS'S MUCKER, THOUGH, WAS DYING, AND EVERYONE HAD GIVEN UP ON HIM, EVERYONE, OF COURSE, BUT ANGUS. HE HAD MADE UP HIS MIND THAT HIS FRIEND WOULD NOT DIE. SOMEONE HAD STOLEN HIS MUCKER'S BLANKET. SO ANGUS GAVE HIM HIS OWN, TELLING HIS MUCKER THAT HE HAD "JUST COME ACROSS AN EXTRA ONE." LIKEWISE, EVERY MEALTIME, ANGUS WOULD GET HIS RATIONS AND TAKE THEM TO HIS FRIEND, STAND OVER HIM AND FORCE HIM TO EAT THEM, AGAIN STATING THAT HE WAS ABLE TO GET "EXTRA FOOD." ANGUS WAS GOING TO DO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING TO SEE THAT HIS BUDDY GOT WHAT HE NEEDED TO RECOVER.

BUT AS ANGUS'S MUCKER BEGAN TO RECOVER, ANGUS COLLAPSED, SLUMPED OVER, AND DIED. THE DOCTORS DISCOVERED THAT HE HAD DIED OF STARVATION COMPLICATED BY EXHAUSTION. HE HAD BEEN GIVING OF HIS OWN FOOD AND SHELTER. HE HAD GIVEN EVERYTHING HE HAD -- EVEN HIS VERY LIFE. THE RAMIFICATIONS OF HIS ACTS OF LOVE AND UNSELFISHNESS HAD A STARTLING IMPACT ON THE COMPOUND. "GREATER LOVE HAS NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS" (JOHN 15:12). AS WORD CIRCULATED OF THE REASON FOR ANGUS MCGILLIVRAY'S DEATH, THE FEEL OF THE CAMP BEGAN TO CHANGE. SUDDENLY, MEN BEGAN TO FOCUS ON THEIR MATES, THEIR FRIENDS, AND HUMANITY OF LIVING BEYOND SURVIVAL, OF GIVING ONESELF AWAY. THEY BEGAN TO POOL THEIR TALENTS -- ONE WAS A VIOLIN MAKER, ANOTHER AN ORCHESTRA LEADER, ANOTHER A CABINET MAKER, ANOTHER A PROFESSOR. SOON THE CAMP HAD AN ORCHESTRA FULL OF HOMEMADE INSTRUMENTS AND A CHURCH CALLED THE "CHURCH WITHOUT WALLS" THAT WAS SO POWERFUL, SO COMPELLING, THAT EVEN THE JAPANESE GUARDS ATTENDED. THE MEN BEGAN A UNIVERSITY, A HOSPITAL, AND A LIBRARY SYSTEM. THE PLACE WAS TRANSFORMED; AN ALL BUT SMOTHERED LOVE REVIVED, ALL BECAUSE ONE MAN NAMED ANGUS GAVE ALL HE HAD FOR HIS FRIEND. FOR MANY OF THOSE MEN THIS TURNAROUND MEANT SURVIVAL. WHAT HAPPENED IS AN AWESOME ILLUSTRATION OF THE POTENTIAL UNLEASHED WHEN ONE PERSON ACTUALLY GIVES IT ALL AWAY

IN THE DARK DAYS OF HIS FIRST ADMINISTRATION BEFORE THE COUNTRY EXPERIENCED A FINANCIAL TURN-AROUND, THERE WAS A LITTLE PLAQUE ON REAGAN’S DESK THAT READ SOMETHING LIKE: THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO LIMIT TO WHAT CAN BE DONE IF NO ONE CARES WHO GETS THE CREDIT. I WANT TO SAY THAT THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO LIMIT TO GOD CAN DO WHEN HIS CHILDREN ARE UNIFIED AND ARE PRACTICING HUMILITY.

SO MAY I ASK YOU, ARE YOU A PART OF THE PROBLEM, OR A PART OF THE SOLUTION HERE AT PEACE? ARE YOU WAITING TO BE SERVED OR ARE YOU ACTIVELY SERVING THE LORD. ARE YOU EXPECTING TO RECEIVE FROM OTHERS, OR HAVE YOU GOTTEN BUSY SERVING OTHERS.

WE FACE GREAT CHALLENGES IN THE NEXT MILLENNIUM. WILL WE FACE THEM IN VICTORY OR DEFEAT? I PREDICT GREAT VICTORY AS LONG AS WE FACE THEM UNITED.

Action:

1. SOME DON’T KNOW ABOUT UNITY BECAUSE THEY’VE NEVER EXPERIENCED GRACE. - NEED TO BE SAVED

2. SOME DON’T KNOW ABOUT UNITY BECAUSE THEY ARE FOCUSING ON THEIR OWN REPUTATION. COLD HARD DECISION, I AM GOING TO PREFER OTHERS AHEAD OF MYSELF. ONLY THROUGH THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT

3. SOME DON’T KNOW UNITY BECAUSE THEY ARE LIVING SELFISHLY. YOU NEED TO SAY, “I AM GOING TO START FOCUSING ON BEING A SERVANT, DOING AT LEAST ONE THING FOR SOMEONE EACH DAY AS THE HOLY SPIRIT REVEALS IT TO ME.

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