Date Preached: February 8, 2009
Text: Romans 12:16, Romans 15:5, John 17, Philippians 2:5
Title: Of the Same Mind as One Another
o Last week was the Super Bowl and for me the game was capped off by an amazing play that made Super Bowl history.
o It was the last play of the first half when the Steelers’ defender Dave Harrison intercepted Cardinal’s quarterback Kurt Warner in the end zone and ran 100 yards for a Steelers’ touchdown.
o What a dream come true for many children who grow up and want to go to the BIG game.
o One man who actually lived out that college dream was named Roy Regal. He made it to the Rose Bowl and was able to play in this great game. He did more than just play. He got his hands on the football and he ran. He ran all the way down the field almost the full one hundred yards, making it almost all the way across the goal line before he was finally tackled.
o He lived out the dream. Yet this dream was not the dream he thought it was. There were two problems with the run that Roy Regal made. One is he was going the wrong direction and secondly he was tackled by his own player.
o This is a picture of disunity. The team normally goes one way together across the goal line. Can you imagine if in a church there is this kind of disunity? A church where someone is running in the wrong direction and being tackled by their own teammate. And yet sometimes in the church people are all running their own directions and one of two things are happening:
§ 1) No one is there to tackle them in order to set things right,
§ 2) They are dodging tackles because they don’t want to be set right.
o Church unity is so important.
o I was talking to a minister this week who shared a story of such a situation.
o Apparently one of the leaders in the church approached the rest of the elders and said that if they didn’t change something he would be leaving the church.
o What could it be that caused a Christian leader to feel so strongly that he would not only be stepping down from leadership, but also leave the church if it was not corrected.
o Clearly some spiritual “tackling” needed to take place in order to set things right and get everyone headed in the same direction.
o Well this leader’s motives were probably not what you might think.
§ He was not wanting to bring the church together,
§ He was the one who needed tackled.
o He told the other leaders that they were passing the communion trays incorrectly.
o Instead of passing one tray down the pew at a time, they were passing both the bread and the cup one after the other.
o To him this was just wrong!
o Now I don’t know what will become of that situation, but church people become divided over the most trivial of things.
q Church History
o If we were to look back in church history we can see this same pattern happening over and over again.
o In fact, I believe Satan’s primary strategy involves destroying unity among Christians.
§ Satan is the author of confusion, insensitivity, false doctrine, and church splits
o But when we turn to the Bible, we can discover that God has given us the power to defeat Satan’s strategy.
o That power is found through “being like-minded” or “having the same mind as one another”
o Turn with me over to Romans 12:16 to see what I mean:
§ READ Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”
§ The verse begins with the statement, “Live in harmony with one another.”
§ It is a word that literally means “Have the same mind” or “Think the same way.”
§ The same word is used a few chapters later in Romans 15:5 when it says: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.” (NIV)—This is a poor interpretation.
§ The KJV actually words it better when it says: “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:”
o Still another verse uses this word that we are familiar with—Philippians 2:5
§ We looked at that verse last week. It says: “You attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”
§ In other words we could understand that verse to say: “Your mindedness should be the same as that of Jesus.”
q So how do we come to the place where we have this “likemindedness”—this kind of “unity”—this “harmony” with one another?
o Today I want us to first look at Jesus heart as he prays for this kind of unity among believers.
o Turn with me to John 17.
I. Jesus’ Prayer for Unity
A. A Little Background:
1. John 17 records Jesus’ final prayer before he was arrested at the Garden of Gethsame and taken to be crucified.
2. A central theme to this prayer is the theme of unity or oneness:
a) First, his own unity with the Father (vv. 1-5)
b) Then, a prayer that his disciples would be one with each other and with God (vv. 6-19).
c) Finally, Jesus prays for you and me. He prays for believers of all time, that we may be one (vv. 20-26)
3. Follow along with me as I read a portion of this part of Jesus’ prayer:
a) As I read this prayer, listen to all of the purpose statements Jesus makes (italicized).
b) READ John 17:20-23--“20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
4. Jesus primary concern for his church stands out clearly in this prayer:
a) That we may be one as He and the Father are one.
b) He reveals to us that unity is the very essence of the gospel he gave to us and the very essence of its purposes being accomplished.
B. Satan’s Strategy:
1. I mentioned earlier how Satan’s strategy throughout the church is to destroy the unity within the body of Christ.
2. If you think about it, this strategy makes a lot of sense from Satan’s point of view.
3. If he can destroy unity, he has destroyed the most powerful means of communication to the lost that Jesus Christ is God.
4. When that message is blurred by the hypocrisy of disunity, then Satan has won the battle over the lost.
C. Battling the Enemy:
1. When Jesus was on earth, Satan’s attacks were fought more directly because Jesus was present to lead his followers personally through miracles, teaching, and personal guidance.
2. But now, after Jesus has gone to heaven, he has left his church to communicate the truth of the gospel—This, too, is a miracle for the proclamation of the gospel.
3. Since God created mankind, disunity and disharmony have been the norm:
a) Wars have ravaged every generation.
b) Disputes have broken apart families and kingdoms.
4. So for the church to be united it is truly a miraculous thing.
a) Jesus prayer for us shows us that it is by the miraculous power of God that we may be of the same mind as one another.
5. This miraculous like-mindedness is what gives the church power as it stands up to the attacks of the evil one.
D. I believe is why Jesus says in verse 15 of his prayer for the disciples, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”
1. Jesus knew that Satan’s strategy would be to divide his church.
2. But what does a church really look like if it is able to stand against these evil attacks against the body of Christ.
3. Turn with me to the Book of Acts to see what the church looked like in Jerusalem after Jesus went up to heaven.
II. The Dynamic Example of the Jerusalem Church
A. Flip over to Acts 2:46
1. Immediately after Jesus returned to heaven, the Jerusalem church emerged as a direct answer to Jesus prayer in John 17.
2. Their unity was so complete it was profound.
3. Acts 2:46 says, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,”
4. It is interesting to note that the NIV leaves out a word here.
5. The NASB more accurately translates Acts 2:46 and gives us a clearer picture of the depth of unity within the church of Acts—“And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple …”
6. It’s the same word we saw in Romans 12:15 and Romans 15:5.
7. These Christians in Jerusalem were living in harmony with one another—they had the same mind as one another!
8. Acts 4:32 adds to this description when it says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind.”
B. What would it be like if we saw that kind of unity and harmony in the church today?
1. The church in Jerusalem saw incredible influence among the lost because of their unity.
2. Acts 2:41 says that more than 3,000 people became followers of Christ in one day.
3. Beyond that Acts 2:47 says that “the Lord continued to add to their number daily those who were being saved.”
4. Now, we may be thinking, “But those were special circumstances. That was the first generation of the church instituted by the Lord himself. That church was headed by the apostles themselves. That church experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost that moved them in a special way. That church never experienced problems like the church today. That kind of thing can never happen in the church today.”
C. Turn over to Acts 6 with me so we can see that the Jerusalem church did, in fact, have problems.
1. READ Acts 6:1-4: “1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
D. See, even the Jerusalem church was attacked by Satan through efforts to bring disunity.
1. But the Christians responded through prayer and found a solution which brought the body of Christ together in like-mindedness.
2. Their solution was so effective that Act 6:7 tells us that “the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”
E. So the question today is not, “Did the early church not have problems that challenged their unity?”
1. Clearly they did.
2. The question is for us today is, “how did they become like-minded in the midst of these attacks against them?”
3. And the question for us today is, “how can we become like-minded in the midst of attacks against our unity in the body of Christ?”
III. Developing Unity in the Church
A. So to wrap up this morning, I’d like to spend a few moments reflecting on some practical things that may help us become one as God the Father and Christ the Son are one.
1. First, we must grow in faith.
a) We must learn to believe God’s word that like-mindedness is possible.
b) Now, we all know that when we have all died and risen to be with Jesus for all eternity, we will have unity with him for all eternity.
c) But the we are not talking about eternity here.
d) The scripture we have looked at today speaks of something that is tangible, concrete, visible, and practical.
e) It is a unity that we can have now!
f) There is a great deal of mystery about how this can be possible—especially when we have strong disagreements with our brothers or sisters in Christ.
g) But that’s what makes Christian like-mindedness a miracle—that’s what makes it so powerful as a witness to a lost world—that’s why it is Jesus that unites us and not other things.
h) In Jesus Christ unity is possible!
2. Second, we must realize that unity in the church is not automatic.
a) It takes effort on everyone’s part to come together in mind.
b) It takes sacrifice to reach common ground.
c) It takes a willingness to say Jesus is more important than my own personal opinions.
d) It’s not automatic, but practical and visible unity will happen when every believer does his part as a member of the body of Christ.
e) Imagine what would have happened if the Jerusalem church had not faced the reality of the neglected widows in Acts 6.
(1) Not only would widows have been left unfed, but no doubt the church would have split.
(2) The apostles would have neglected the calling they had been given—to preach the word—so the message would have lost some power.
(3) The lost would have seen the church as just another example of a social group with infighting—so the power of the gospel would have been reduced.
(4) The church would not have grown by leaps and bounds.
(5) And ultimately, we probably wouldn’t be here today.
f) Every believer recognized that they had to work together if unity was to happen.
(1) The story is told of two men who made pledges to their church toward the purchase of a new projection system for worship.
(2) Rather than pledging in a general way to a projection fund, both men made their pledge with explicit instructions about which brand of projector should be purchased.
(3) Each said if the church did not purchase their specified brand, then the church would not receive the pledged money from him.
(4) Friends of each man began to side with their particular friend.
(5) As weeks went on arguments began to take place even in the foyer of the church building.
(6) When all was said and done several left the church.
(7) Ironically, the church does not have a projection system to this day.
(8) And expectedly, the church does not have but a handful of members today.
h) If the church is going to overcome these types of problems, then members learn to recognize trivial matters when they come up.
i) This, I believe comes through growing in Christian maturity.
3. Finally, we must recognize that the key to Christian unity is maturity through love.
o During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. Among the Brethren assemblies, half complied and half refused. Those who went along with the order had a much easier time. Those who did not, faced harsh persecution. In almost every family of those who resisted, someone died in a concentration camp.
o When the war was over, feelings of bitterness ran deep between the groups and there was much tension. Finally they decided that the situation had to be healed. Leaders from each group met at a quiet retreat. For several days, each person spent time in prayer, examining his own heart in the light of Christ's commands. Then they came together. Francis Schaeffer, who told of the incident, asked a friend who was there, "What did you do then?" "We were just one," he replied. As they confessed their hostility and bitterness to God and yielded to His control, the Holy Spirit created a spirit of unity among them. Love filled their hearts and dissolved their hatred.
o When love prevails among believers, especially in times of strong disagreement, it presents to the world an indisputable mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ.