Sunday, February 14, 2010 pm
“Can’t We All Just Get Along?”
The title of this lesson is a phrase that became popular a few years ago based upon divided reactions to the way someone was treated. It has become the mantra of so many who want to see unity. And honestly, it ought to be the desire of everyone that we can all just get along. However, what is usually meant when this saying is used is a call to set aside differences for the sake of unity. In other words, it is a call to COMPROMISE. While such may be acceptable and even preferred in the secular world, when it comes to serving God we CANNOT just set aside the clear teachings of the Bible for the sake of unity. Compromise of doctrine is unacceptable to God. It always has been and always will be.
BUT, that does not change the fact that God wants us to be united. He wants us to get along with one another. NO where is that more true than in the local church! In fact, it is KEY to long term survival and doctrinal soundness. It is the key to peace.
Sadly, unity is lacking in many local churches. When there is division and strife in the Lord’s church things are NOT as they ought to be. And, without exception, when such attitudes exist, brethren are NOT acting like they ought to. SOMEONE is sinning and often everyone involved has some fault in the issues at hand.
Do you ever wonder why brethren can’t get along? Why is it that some divisions seem to be inevitable? The broad answer is one of two options:
1) We don’t know everything the Bible tells us about unity; or
2) We do know what the Bible says but we THINK that our circumstance is the exception and thus we seek to justify setting aside the Biblical pattern for unity and dealing with problems.
3) WE do know what the Bible says but we don’t care and intend to do what we want anyway.
It is with this in mind that I want to begin an ongoing study of Biblical unity and how to deal with problems in our midst. From time to time, throughout this year we are going to be addressing the elements of Biblical unity. These include:
· What is TRUE Biblical unity?
· What is fellowship? (We are brethren)
· Godly attitudes that promote unity (love, humility, patience, etc.)
· Ungodly attitudes that destroy unity (selfishness, pride, bitterness, envy, stubbornness, etc.)
· The need for self-examination (Am I a part of the problem? Am I a part of the solution?)
· The need for forgiveness when I am wronged
· Controlling the tongue! (How many problems are caused or made worse by what we say?)
· It’s not about me (the importance of thinking about my brethren)
· How to treat each other as brethren
· How to go to one who you believe to be in error or that you have a problem with
· How to respond when someone comes to you with a problem
· Matters of Christian liberty (When can we differ?)
· Discussing doctrinal differences
· Dealing with divisive brethren
Like so many topics we discuss, many of these subjects are not new, but we all need to be reminded of these things as we strive to be the true church that Jesus prayed for and shed His blood to purchase. Doctrinal soundness is important when it comes to being the church of Christ we read of in the New Testament (and we understand this), but SO IS the attitude we ought to have toward one another. In many ways, the latter will have greater impact on our ability to reach those within our community, because the way we treat each other is what they will observe first. So let us begin this important study that can affect the future of this congregation AND our individual souls as well.
In our lesson today, by way of introduction, I want to begin by noting 5 things necessary for TRUE Biblical unity!
a. John 17:20-21 – our Lord’s prayer before His betrayal and crucifixion was one of true unity. He prayed, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” Be reminded again of the degree to which He desired unity among us – “as You, Father are in Me…”John 13:35 (NKJV)
b. John 13:35 – “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
c. Philippians 2:1–4 , “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
d. Ephesians 4:1-3, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
e. 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
f. Many more verses could be added to these AND these are worthy of further examination. We will address them in more detail in our next lesson.
If we are to achieve godly unity and get along with one another as we ought to, there are some key elements that are necessary at the foundation of our discussion. These are elements that are non-negotiable in reaching our goals. To set aside any one of them could derail the process.
a. We are interested in TRUE unity. That means we must respect His standard. The reason there is so much religious division in the world today is a failure to respect His standard.
b. The same is TRUE in our midst. Where there is division, SOMEONE has failed to respect God’s instructions!
c. We understand the need to apply God’s word in doctrinal matters! We demand “book, chapter and verse” for the work, worship, organization and teachings of the church, and rightly so. Do not His instructions also apply to our attitudes and actions toward one another?
d. Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
e. 2 Pet. 1:2-4, His divine power has given to us “all things that pertain to life and godliness.”
f. In God’s word, we find the Christian attitude, the ungodly attitude, the call for unity, the sin of division, examples to follow and to avoid, how to deal with problems and every other aspect of this subject. The question is WILL WE RESPECT WHAT HE SAYS?
g. Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
think beyond what is written! (1
Don’t add to it or take away from it (Rev. 22:18-19).
another key element to unity.
So often unity cannot be reached and problems cannot be solved
because we are not completely honest in our dealings.
What do I mean by this? Rather than approaching an issue with complete honesty we tend to twist the events in our favor.
When we veer from straightforward answers to our problems and begin attacking the one who brings it to our attention, are we being completely honest?
When we begin making excuses to justify or WEAKEN the seriousness of our errors are we being totally honest?
When we fail to tell the WHOLE story are we being honest?
When we seek to blame others to mask our weaknesses and problems are we being totally honest?
b. If you want REAL and lasting unity with your brethren, it will begin with YOUR honesty! I will say again, where there is division, envy and strife, I will GUARANTEE that someone is not being totally honest! And it has to begin with ME! I have to do my part before I even start to think about the other person. Consider Matthew 7:1-5 where Jesus spoke of judging one another. This text is a used DISHONESTLY by many to get out of making tough decisions and to accuse others who call their actions and motives into question. However, there is a TRUTH in this text we MUST face: Read Matthew 7:3–5 says, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” NOTICE how before you even begin to deal with your brother’s fault, you have to FIRST be honest with yourself!
c. 2 Peter 1:5, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge…” Notice at the founding of building on our faith is VIRTUE! It is the Greek word ARETE which means, “moral excellence” (Vine’s). The word that comes to my mind is integrity! If we don’t have integrity we will probably not be totally upfront as we deal with problems with ourselves and our brethren.
d. Proverbs 20:7 says, “The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.”
e. As we study about dealing with problems we need an open mind. That will only be there if we are TRULY honest!
a. One thing that can help us resolve problems is beseeching the help of God.
b. We cannot overemphasize the importance of prayer in our lives.
c. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
d. James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
e. Philippians 4:6-7, ”Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
f. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our cares upon Him because He cares for you
g. Let us appeal to God in our prayers to help us open our minds to what He tells us in His word! Pray that He will help us to be totally honest as we confront our problems with ourselves and with one another. Pray for wisdom as study and seek to properly apply His word. Pray for His help for us to be honest to ACCEPT what we can change! Pray that we will have proper attitudes toward one another. Pray for unity!
a. Like integrity, we need humility before Him. While this will be dealt with more extensively at another time, it is mentioned here because it is a pivotal attitude to resolving conflict and coming face to face with our own faults and failures.
b. How many problems could be almost instantly resolved if we possessed a humble spirit? How many problems are caused or made worse because of arrogant pride? How many passages of scripture are ignored or twisted because of sinful pride?
c. Romans 12:3 says, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
d. Romans 12:16, “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.”
e. 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;”
f. 1 Peter 5:6, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,”
g. IF everyone would possess a humble spirit, there is no telling what problems could be resolved.
a. The final element we want to notice tonight is spiritual maturity. Countless problems go unresolved or become worse simply because we refuse to grow up! We fail to come face to face with the REAL issues behind our own problems because we are spiritual babes.
b. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:11 said, “When I became a man I put away childish things.” Yes he was talking about the cessation of spiritual gifts, but it was based upon a life changing principle. Paul said he needed to GROW UP!
c. Hebrews 5:12-14 points out how we need to reach a point of spiritual maturity so that we can “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
d. 2 Peter 1:5-11 describes the “Christian graces” – faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. It also what we will be like if we fully develop these in our lives. With maturity we will be able to “never stumble”.
e. 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 finds Paul describing brethren who were divided and consuming one another. He said, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?” Paul was telling the, GROW UP!
Dealing with problems requires maturity.
That is why leaders have to demonstrate a good measure of it.
It takes maturity to be humble and honest.
It takes maturity to admit faults and do the difficult and often
It takes maturity to want what God wants for me more than what I want for myself. It takes maturity to think about others more than yourself. It takes maturity to understand and be willing to dig deeper to find answers in God’s word.
g. May we all seek to grow up spiritually. IF we do, there is no telling what we can accomplish.
And thus we can see some elements that are necessary to promote true unity and deal forthrightly and completely with whatever problems we have with ourselves and with one another. It is my prayer that this study will make me a better person and preacher and that it will draw us closer to one another as the Lord’s church here in Bellflower. Ultimately, may it draw us closer to God!