The other day I was watching the show Shooter and for those that don’t know its about a phenomenal Marine Sniper who is set up and made to look like he attempted to assassinate the president of The United States. The show lets you know two things right away
1) He didn’t do it
2) He was set up by a long time friend and Marine
As the show winds its story around these two mens lives continue to intertwine and eventually they find themselves working together in one explosive episode. As they try to fight their way out of the building together, the wayward friend puts his hand on the heroes shoulder.
I was at the edge of my seat as I waited for something to go wrong? Was he going to stab him? The camera lingered on that hand on his shoulder for what felt like an eternity. Shoot him? Betray him again?
Well thankfully none of that happened. Instead, he let our hero know he wasn’t alone, but that he had his back. They repeated this scene twice but the same thing was said both times as he placed his hand on his shoulder
God With Us
God With Us
You might recognize this phrase “God with Us” right away. It was a prophetic name that was given to Jesus, “Immanuel, God with us.”
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
The thought of God being with us brings comfort even in our most difficult times.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
I will be with you!
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.
I am With You!
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Will be with you
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I am with You
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Goes with You
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You are with me
I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the Lord.
I am With You
There are many other portions that convey the same comfort, the same reassurance, the same confidence that only those who believe in Jesus have. God with us and the ultimate God with us is when Jesus, the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
And there is no question that God is with His redeemed, scripture declares it to be true time and time again.
We know that God is with us in intense trial.
We know that God is with us when everything seems dark and hopeless.
We know that God is with us when we face incredible odds, God is with us.
And what happens when God is with us? The fortified walls of Jericho fell, the Red Sea parted at just the right time, saving God’s chosen people and destroying their enemies. A handful of small fish and bread feeds thousands of people, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, demons are cast out, healings of every manner, and the dead are brought back to life and eternal life and a full pardon of sin are available for all. God with us is miraculous!
Us With Us
Us With Us
This next admission is going to be painful for a life long Buffalo Bills fan: The New England Patriots understand the concept of us with us. Tom Brady, arguably the best QB to ever play the game, regularly takes pay cuts to free up enough money for the team to keep key players. Everyone does their job and when someone is injured the next man up does that job nearly as well as the man he replaced. As a result they just continue to win championships, every player giving credit to the entire team effort.
In the second chapter of Acts we see the great coming of the Holy Spirit and His filling of the believers. The gospel was being preached in every language. Peter delivered the message and this united group of believers had over 3000 new converts added that Day!
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
So this is what it looks like when we are us with us and God with us. Hunger for study, real fellowship, prayer. They even sold personal possessions and property to help give to anyone who had need. Their hearts were glad and sincere, they praised God and look what happened, God gave them the increase!
God with us and us with us is amazing! In fact the combination of the two is the only way we can be a light on a hill, a city that cannot be hidden.
People were being saved daily!
So What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
So What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Now it doesn’t take a great deal of intelligence to know how this went down. I like to picture the Church at a gathering… almost like a Corps dinner and there’s conversation in the food serving line because someone at the head of the line just can’t quite make their mind up about desert.
“So who enrolled you as a soldier?”
“Well what about you?”
A third party in the line hears the conversation...
“Did you say Major Jones?”
“You heard correct”
“Well he enrolled me too… of course he was a Colonel when he enrolled me so...”
See you can almost see it go down in the Church in Corinth like this too. Isn’t that crazy? It all sounds so immature doesn’t it?
Thank God that we don’t do anything quite like this...
They were so caught up in arguing with one another, trying to one up each other, fighting for position and recognition that I am sure they started fighting about even the most significant things… like who got the most ham at the church dinner, or who was going to control the serving lines. I’m guessing pretty soon rather than cheering each other on they began to hope for one another’s failure or embarrassment.
I’m confident that I can make this jump in human nature because Paul is still addressing the Church in Corinth and ha to continue spelling this out to them:
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
So people in that church were thinking or feeling one of a few different things:
We’d be better off without so and so…
Or I wish I had what so and so had
But it went beyond just thinking about it because Paul mentioned that he had heard there was fighting and so it probably sounded like this:
“You know you’re just the dishwasher, we can find another dishwasher, we don’t really need you”
Or from the other direction, “Did you see SHE’s on the Sunday program reading scripture?
The Ugliness Of Division
The Ugliness Of Division
So what happens at this point is usually fairly predictable. When I was younger my dad and I were invited to a church that was having an outreach dinner. We sat at the table and food was being passed around, it was nice. When the ham was passed I took a few pieces and before I could pass the plate on I heard someone mutter a complaint about the choir, how they got their food first. Someone else agreed and muttered in return about seeing the cook eat a plate before the food ever made it out . I tuned my young ears in to try to try to hear some more and then I regretted doing it. So much negativity. So much jealousy, so much bitterness.
About a year later we were driving down around that way and the church was boarded up. We asked the gentleman who had initially invited us for dinner what had happened and he cited finances, location and a slew of other things, but even then I knew it was because of the way they treated one another.
Loved ones, I want to be honest with you this morning. This kind of attitude, this kind of behavior never ends well. Pretty soon rather being filled with the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, a church body becomes infested and produces the fruit of the flesh. Listen to how Eugene Petersen interprets
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
This is what it looks like when its no longer us with us and none of this is pleasing to God.
1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
Now usually when I read this portion human nature wants me to think about how everyone else might fit into this category, but what I’d like us to do this morning is focus on verse 5
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
The reason for centering our thought here for a moment is simply this: In the Corinthian passage its clear to see that when we get to this point its certainly no longer us with us, and in the Timothy passage we can see that when we get this way its not God with us either.
Prescription for Unity
Prescription for Unity
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 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.
This morning as these passages are read, I wonder if there is some resistance? It says honor one another above yourself… think about that this morning. Are we going the extra mile, turning the other cheek and giving someone both our shirt and cloak? Maybe for those we like or who like us, but these portions of scripture imply that we need to do these things for those think so little of us that they would strike us on the cheek...
The bigger challenge lies in our own hearts when we come to terms with the truth on how we treat one another within the body.
My mothers family would have a great gathering every Christmas season and when I say great it was great. You see, we are Polish and everyone came and the food was crazy, it was quite a time. One year we arrived early, very unusual for us and helped set up. As people arrived my grandmother, whom I assumed loved everyone, would utter commentary about their faults or flaws but when the doorbell rang, loving grandma time. I haven’t thought about this in quite a while and then Tricia mentioned something the other day that really stuck with me:
Be the person that everyone likes to see coming and not the person that everyone is glad to see leave.
So this morning don’t let this be an elbow message. It isn’t meant for you to nudge someone else so they’ll pay attention, its about the Holy Spirit nudging you and me so we can all listen to Spirit as He convicts and corrects. Because it is all about God with us and Us with us.