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Unity

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Vision - Have you ever been a part of something that was bigger than yourself?

Today we’re going to look at number three, a Gospel Centered Community has the Same Mentality
A cooperative project, a play, a music group, a sports team?
There is something fulfilling about an entire group that is working well together to accomplish a common goal.
We have all seen Unity Gone Bad... You end up wearing the same nike tennis shoes, drinking kool aid, or something crazy like that You walk into a church and everyone looks like they’re related? The ladies and girls all hand made their dresses from the same pattern
Some people get scared of the word unity
San Francisco Symphony: they appear to all be pretty normal people. All different backgrounds, sizes, gender, but what they shared in common was a love for music and a desire to perform it with excellence. But the performance was actually just the fruit of what was already in place. What we enjoyed was the result of hours of practice, and failure, and undoubtedly frustration, and high emotions, but also a conductor that consistently pounded the vision of musical excellence, and the path to getting to reaching that goal in their heads until they all came together as a single whole. And when they played that night, the result was a gathering of a people who were moved and inspired.
Keep in mind, Unity is not the same as Uniformity But in efforts to bring a church together in unity - a pastor ends up pressing people into a cookie cutter mold and that is a recipe for UNIFORMITY, and unfortunately, NOT Unity (WRONG RECIPE)

Jesus had this Same Vision for the Church

A vision of a diverse gathering of people from all over the world, every language and tribe, and nation, male and female, type A and type B, C, D, E, single people, married people, moms and dads, retired and professional, blue, white, and brown collar, all kinds of people, no exceptions, no excuses, no provisos, Jesus prayed these words to the Father:
John 17:11 ESV
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
John 17:
Unity is not a bad thing, unity within the church is our picture of the TRI-Unity or the Trinity
John 17:20–21 ESV
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
John 17:
The Tri-Unity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit) is THREE persons in ONE Nature There are not three gods working independently of one another on different tasks that’s called polytheism - the Bible speaks of MONOTHEISM There is only ONE God
John 17:22–23 ESV
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Three times he prays that the Church of at that time primarily lower and a few middle and upper class Jews would be one each other, but not only with each other, but with the Gentiles not only of the first century but of the coming centuries into the 21st century (yes that means millennial’s and the iGen too) would be ONE.
Now if we stop right there, the door is left open for one type of people, or one gender, or one generation, or one denomination — one small sliver of people to make the determination that everyone is to be one, just as they are one, but that is not what Jesus prays three times. Three times he prays, make them ONE as WE ARE ONE.
The vision of unity that Christ has for His church is that we are ONE UNIT as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are ONE UNIT. Three distinct, unique, and equal persons living and being and acting as ONE. Each of the three persons of the Godhead has a unique role to fill in the world.
Paul was a great teacher
Great teachers know that students don’t learn JUST by being fed information Good teachers learn what their students know by QUESTIONING
So the vision that Jesus prayed for cast for the Church is that we would be one as the Trinity is ONE, so what happened?
When I look at the Church globally it’s hard to even discern where she’s at. Who actually makes up the Church? This is a question for another time, but it ought to grieve us to know that what Jesus prayed for and cast out as a vision for the Church is more often than not, NOT even on our radar. I wonder when the last time you thought about decisions that you’re currently making and whether or not by them you’re promoting unity or disunity?
Asking rhetorical is also a great tool to remind someone of something they already know... that’s Paul’s intention here
I had two conversations with people NOT in this congregation this week that inform me of where I think many Christians are at when it comes to unity.
Look at the way Paul words these phrases. It’s obvious that Paul is not questioning these things, he is reminding his readers of these profound truths - with a tag
Pastor friend from Yuba City shared the story of his own mentor who has been leaning towards a universalist understanding of salvation. And when the pastor confronted him about his position and literally pointed out that by following this view point that he would be teaching a divisive doctrine and is the opposite of unity, the man whom he had looked up to for so long looked back at him and said, “I don’t care about unity, I care about freedom.”
I met a friend of another friend I was spending some time with on Thursday. We had prayer together and he began talking about churches, and he shared that he was presently attending a church in the area. I spoke highly of the pastor and he said, wait, actually that’s the church we went to before we began attending this other church, but he was considering going to this other church because they have a better youth group...
I began to meditate on these truths
Guys, I’m not saying it’s never ok to go to another church, but let’s have a higher regard for what Jesus expects for His bride.
And it’s tempting to view this in only a grand perspective and therefore believe that Jesus really only cares about His big “C” Church, but while we know that Jesus was praying this for the Church that would span from when he prayed it until his return, let’s be clear, Jesus sees every local church too. We won’t read , but Jesus seems to be writing a letter to seven different churches, calling them each to repent for a slightly different error in each one.
And while it’s difficult to pinpoint what happened, I think we can all agree that there is a problem, we’re not going to fix the “BIG C” Church problem, but it is worth our time to see how we can be sure we understand how to be a unified local church in the 21st century in Sacramento, CA.
And realized, I need to be reminded of these four things on a daily basis. Briefly, let’s survey these truths
We won’t read , but Jesus seems to be writing a letter to seven different churches, calling them each to repent for a slightly different error in each one.

What the Church is (and is not)

Let me be clear… the church is not place, not the building, it’s not even the Sunday worship service. So, just so we don’t misunderstand, the symphony analogy is not about having a well-oiled machine of volunteers who are working towards the common goal of pulling off an awesome worship experience so that others will flock to this place, we can grow, and meet in a bigger building ad infinitum...
The first, There is consolation in Christ
I DO believe we should have volunteers who work together with excellence, bringing order, beauty, and benefit to each other and to those who walk in those doors so that we can glorify or reflect who our excellent God is, but that’s not where I’m going, nor do I believe that was what Jesus had in mind.
There is encouragement - the offering of hope - IN CHRIST Discouragement? Depression? Debt?
Second, There is comfort from Love
Actually, our Sunday worship service is an opportunity to be recharged, renewed, equipped. An opportunity to love each other in a non-hostile environment, so that we can know how to love each other and serve the world in a hostile environment.
To use the symphony metaphor, when we gather we are being reminded by our conductor (Jesus) that we are his people, his disciples, we’re being inspired by His words, strengthened by his gentle and loving character, we are being reminded of the Music Score, not to deviate and start playing our own notes, and we practice going out of our way to serve and love one another.
To piggyback on this analogy with a sports analogy, it’s half-time; it’s time to put the ice pack on, wipe off the sweat, bandage the wounds, and to listen to the coach remind us of the game plan, the strategy, the playbook.
The love of God is a down pour of comfort (come along side) He saw me in my worst, but still came, died, rose, and lives for me today He sees my inconsistencies, my sins, but He still loves me and accepts me
We perform the music and play the game when we go outside these walls, as a team and tell the world with out lives and with our words what God is really like. We shine when we serve as ONE.
Third, There is Fellowship in the Spirit
Yes! This is NOT Game Time, this is practice, or this is the huddle. The performance begins when this huddle ends. And some of you might not be convinced of this just yet, and that’s okay, but I want you to read the words of Jesus one more time and answer this… what is the purpose of the Church being United as ONE as Father, Son, and Spirit?
The fellowship He is speaking of is the same word that we use for partnership It is through this partnership that UNITY is made possible In our church, marriage, work place, etc... The Holy Spirit indwells all who believe, but fills only those who will humble themselves and let Him do the work in your life
John 17:20–21 ESV
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
John 17:22–23 ESV
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Fourthly, There is Bowels and Mercies
So, if the purpose of our UNITY is that the world may believe Jesus was sent from God and therefore the Gospel, how will the world ever see the CHARACTER of Jesus if we’re never together in the world?
The bowels Paul speaks of here means affection and compassion Frank Graef was known as the “Sunshine Minister” he was one the happiest, brightest men alive, on the outside. Inside Mr. Graeff struggled with depression, insecurities, and suffering that no one really knew about. On the verge of giving up, he turned to the Casting all your care on Him for He cares for You... He then penned the hymn “Does Jesus Care?” OH YES He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief, when the days are dreary and the long nights weary, I know my Saviour Cares.”
I hope that this will light a fire in us to see why Sunday gatherings are so important. Going back to the conversation I had with a friend of a friend, when he told me what church he was going to be moving to, he looked at me as if to say, I know that my new church waters down the truth, but (and then he spoke out loud) “I can find God anywhere.”
Paul had them, just like he has us, all stirred up and grateful for the benefits of being IN CHRIST... and then the caveat
Sunday gatherings are important (among other things) because we need to know what we as a church, led by the Spirit are to be and do (AS ONE) in this community so that this community will know the truth about who Jesus is and believe.
If those things are true, AND YOU KNOW THEY ARE, then complete my joy and GET ALONG! No doctrinal error You can be doctrinally sound and not be totally mature, that’s where they were
So let’s take a look at a passage that gives us a few vantage points as it pertains to UNITY. The book of Philippians is a local church meeting throughout the city of Philippi. Paul begins this letter with a prayer of praise for their “Partnership in the gospel from the first day until the writing of the letter.”
A major thread running throughout the letter is that suffering wasn’t actually a sign that things were going wrongly, but that actually they were on the right track and instead of isolating to minimize the pain of suffering, they were to lean in together:
There is only one command being given and it’s our third reflection of a Gospel Centered Community... Having the Same Mentality
Phil 1:27-28
Philippians 1:27–28 ESV
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
New churches like Philippi typically begin with great momentum and excitement. Everyone is on the same page, there is little derailing them because they are unified. But that unity can be deceiving. Inevitably, a church like that will add to it’s congregation (and so every church should) and with addition comes in the addition of new backgrounds, new perspectives, new experiences, different taste for worship styles, preaching styles, outreach strategy’s. It’s just the nature of all living things.
So how does this happen in the church? What does unity look like? How can we keep it from becoming uniformity
This creates a fork in the road moment for leaders and the people in those churches, will we be a unified people working towards a common mission and goal, or will we resist all these new people and ideas; people who are either babies that need lots of attention and patience, or veteran believers who have hard lines in their theology and philosophy of ministry?
It is very likely that this is something that the Apostle is helping them work out. There are two lady leaders in the church, they both seem to be known by all the people, but there is something keeping them from working together:
Philippians 4:2–3 ESV
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Phil 4:2-3

How does a church become and stay unified?

The recipe for unity is first, having the same love
This question must be answered for us, because our propensity is to find unity by either assimilating to just what everyone else seems to think or believe or those with deeper convictions who are persuasive will use a my way or the high way approach to unity. Neither of those options are very biblical. Because the first group doesn’t really know what they believe and will have no witness in the community, and those who are tight fisted about everything they believe will create a false unity that is actually just uniformity.
The same love that is spoken of in verse 1, the love that comes from God Oh, that love, like God’s AGAPE? The love that gives without having any expectations? YEP Right away we know that Paul has to get them to realize that the source of UNITY is the Holy Spirit of God, because it is only through Him that we can LOVE the way that GOD loves! You will not be buddy-buddy with everyone in the church, but when it’s their time of need, you better be willing to give with no strings attached - that’s AGAPE love
So unity is not saying, “I just believe and think whatever she thinks or believes.” Nor is it, “You’re welcome here if you believe and think just like I think.”
Second, being United in spirit
Paul answers the question and I’ll give it to you up front and then he breaks it up to show us how to get to that goal:
he says being of one accord, of one mind - being united in spirit, is being stirred up - no benchwarmers, consumers, or spectators The apathetic mentality has no place in a Gospel Centered Community Get on board, get committed, get stirred up, get serving BY the way - it’s hard to be on the same page, if we only gather periodically, for one hour on a day that we have 23 hours planned for pleasure and one for corporate worship... just sayin...

A church becomes and stays unified by everyone placing their focus on something other than themselves. That something is Jesus the King, His Gospel, and His Kingdom.

Third, Doing nothing from selfishness or conceit
Yep, life changing.
As long as there are humans, there will always be strife and vainglory, everyone dealt with it It’s interesting that there must have been a bit of self-promotion going on in Philippi because the word strife (eritheia) was a political term that carried the idea of campaigning, self-serving, someone who can’t take their eyes off of themselves And vainglory meant a vain opinion of oneself, a high self esteem I wish we had a little more insight to what was going on, but we don’t, so we just get to make stuff up... JK But it’s probably the same stuff that goes on in churches today - people either don’t care anything about what’s going on or ONLY care about getting themselves involved in what’s going on. They should be a part of every committee meeting, they should have a say in every decision, they want everyone to know how much they know about the Bible... grow up dude, this isn’t the re-election for being on the student body council.
Here’s the thing, all of us probably could have answered that. And that’s because we’ve been taught that. We focus on Jesus, we focus on the Gospel, we focus on the Kingdom… but it’s all really noise if we define those things in a way that doesn’t align with how Scripture defines them.
Paul uses the do this don’t do that, except backwards...
Philippians 2:1–4 ESV
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
So, Paul touches the points we need to hear in order to really understand what this means: He hits the motive for unity, the personal work in unity, and the practical application of unity
Let’s see what the motive for unity is first,

Motive One: We find our encouragement from being In Christ

When we talk about motivations we’re talking about fuel. Paul is asking a rhetorical question, “Is there any encouragement from being in Christ?” The answer is a resounding yes, but the way that this connects with a motivation for unity is that being In Christ works on at least two levels; first a personal level because being in Christ literally means that what is true of Jesus is true of you. On the corporate level this means that you are a part of a new family. That family has the blood of Christ flowing through their veins.
This means that you’re no longer in search of home, but you have found your home in the eternal Kingdom of God. Fuel for unity is that you’re IN CHRIST, with a new name and identity and a new family.
From a motivational stand
In other words, you should be unified because this is your family. Family from a general sense doesn’t give up on family. Let that fuel you to be unified with your brothers and sisters.
Fourthly, Count others more important than self

Motive Two: We receive our comfort from the love that being in this family brings

You should work towards unity because it is the place where you can experience real sacrificial love. I know, it isn’t always the case in every church. But, it should be something that we are longing for and working towards.
You should be unified because not only is this your family, but God designed the family to be the place where He showers his comfort on you when you experience the difficulties in life and the persecution that comes from being a light in the world.

Motive Three: We gain our direction from the Holy Spirit

Because we’re in Christ, we’re a part, a critical part of God’s plan in the world. But it’s not our creation, it’s not our ingenuity, it’s not our abilities that leads us. The Holy Spirit lives inside the family. He directs us and strengthens us. And when we’re led by him, unity is a byproduct.
You should be unified because ultimately you’re not being directed by any human, but by the actual Spirit of God as he works through His Word and His people.
So what fuels us all is that Christ has gathered together a bunch of undeserving people, people who really don’t have the most in common, and at any other time may never be in the same room, but knowing that he’s chosen us to be his ambassadors in the world, and that built in to that fact is the knowledge that the family rule is: comfort one another, and we don’t have to try to figure out his plan, we have been given the very Spirit of God to direct us. That is our motive.
Those motives are wonderful, but the motives themselves do not automatically lead us to unity, there is a work that each of us personally must commit to:
Paul says, we must personally more accurately would be to say, in our inner life “having the same love, being in and of one mind.”
In other words, our whole self (emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual and everything in between) should be in alignment with everyone else.
This is polar opposite of strife and vainglory Instead of having campaigning for self and having a vain opinion of self - lowliness of mind means have a humble and modest opinion of self - it literally says, moral littleness The world would say weakness, but God says, humble yourself before me, and I will lift you up Instead of raising self up, he says, esteem others better than self Esteem is to consider or account others better than yourself Now, don’t be lame about this and next week start showering each other with lies He is not saying flatter each other and pat each other on the back like a bunch of pansies This is to humbly consider others better than yourself - someone who thinks they’re BETTER than someone else feels that they are entitled to more than the next guy
This is where everyone bursts out in laughter… this sounds completely unattainable. I have a hard time being in unity with my wife and children, but this sounds like God wants us to be unified as an entire congregation.
Paul is basically saying, don’t be the guy that gets in front of the line of cars waiting patiently in traffic to exit the freeway - hate that guy
Ok, so let’s clear up what he is not saying: He’s not saying that every person somehow keep changing their position on everything from child-rearing to dietary habits until everyone is doing and thinking the same things in every area of life. Because, uniformity is not the goal.
What he is saying is that the personal commitment that must be made is that:
Lastly, Paul elaborates on what it means to have the Same Mentality, Not only looking to your interests, but also to those of others

Everyone must develop a Christ-Centered inner life

Paul uses a word to help us understand his point here, the word also indicates that in addition to taking care of ourselves that we are ALSO to be looking on the things of others Completely giving no attention to ourselves sounds awfully spiritual, but the admonition here is equally as challenging, because he is saying, with the same consideration that you look after your own interests, look out for the well being of others
I believe that, that’s what Paul means because of verse 5
Philippians 2:5 ESV
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
Look, if we’re want to truly be biblical, we’ve got to stop the thinking that says, it’s only about me and my family - God commands us to be likeminded and the only way to the Same Mentality is through these five ingredients
If we’re going to have the same mind and thereby be unified as ONE as the Trinity is ONE, we have to gather our life accounts and scrutinize them towards Christ-Centeredness.
How does the gospel speak in to those areas?
Having the Same Love Being United in Spirit Doing Nothing from selfishness or conceit Counting others more important Not only looking to your own interests, but also to those of others
It’s not the pastor’s job to monitor the facets of your life to make sure you’re keeping your commitment to aligning your thinking with Christ, so I’m not going to flesh out all that that means, that’s your work through prayer, and Scripture reading, and asking people you don’t agree with questions, like “That’s an interesting position, how did you come to believe that?” Who knows, you might actually be the misinformed one?
Lastly, Paul gives a practical application. If we are going to become unified and stay unified:

We must practice selflessness

Phil 2:3-4
Philippians 2:3–4 ESV
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
You can’t begin with this imperative because the practice of putting others first tends to create an entitlement mentality and that’s the exact opposite of what God wants in the church.
Jesus never played that game. Jesus did not say, “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine.” He said, “I’m going to rescue you from the bottom of the ocean, resuscitate you and breath life into you, nourish you to health, pay all the debt you owe, clothe you, feed you, and then give you a place in his family and a role to play in his grand plan. And when you fail he is going to be the one to comfort you, he’s not abandoning you, he’s going to equip you to go again, day after day, after day.
He did nothing from selfish ambition or conceit. In humility, Jesus counted everyone, even Judas as more significant than himself, he looked on the interests of Mary and Martha, and the fisherman disciples.
Jesus entire life was about practicing selflessness and that landed him hanging between two thieves and even in that moment he cared about the interest of a thief and not just his own, he cared about the well-being of his mother.

Conclusion

We often misappropriate disunity as someone who is divisive and stirs things up, but this ups the ante. Disunity is far more dangerous when everyone is content to do nothing and say nothing.
Imagine that in an orchestra, imagine that on a sports field, imagine that on a battlefield. “Hey come on, we need your help, let’s go, we’ve got a mission to go after.” And the response is… crickets and blank stares.
How would, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” apply in a corporate setting? Holy Spirit speak to us and answer that and give us the boldness and the strength to follow.
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