Divided or United

Scripture: Acts 20:29, 1 Corinthians 10:24, Mark 10:7-9
Date: 04/05/2008 
The devil’s strategy in attacking God’s people over the course of history has been to use division. Not only does the devil do this in the church, but he does it in the community, in the world with the nations, and with cultures and races and families. The devil wants to divide. Jesus is the great “uniter” in truth. Christ wants unity in the home and in the church.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

The devil’s strategy, his mathematics in attacking God’s people over the course of history has been to use division. Not only does the devil do this in the church, but he does it in the community, he does it in the world with the nations, he does it with cultures and races and families. The devil wants to divide. Jesus is the great “uniter” in truth. The cross of Christ is a magnet that as we are drawn to Him it draws us closer together. The devil and his theology divides; it brings in separation. The greatest evidence of that is that sin has separated us from God. Jesus came to restore us to God. So there is an ongoing battle where Christ is drawing us to Himself and to one another and the devil is trying to drive a wedge in our relations, our relationship with God and or relationship with one another.

The message today is dealing with very simple principles, and we’ll look at a number of scriptures on this, dealing with the subject of divided or united. We’re talking about the right kind of unity, the wrong kind of unity, and why it’s so important for us to be together, to be one as families, as communities, as a church. First of all, there is a principle that the devil operates under and it’s called divide and conquer. Every military general has always known that the way that you conquer an opposing force is you flank them, you do this pincer movement, you get in and you separate their forces, you break them up and then it’s a lot easier to overcome them. You read about this in Acts 20, Paul realizing the devil was going to use these tactics on God’s church, he warned them. He said, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” The devil will send in some, they will be counterfeit Christians and they will bring in division. They’ll try and split you up.

I ordered this recent DVD series, this spectacular photography, it was called Planet Earth. Some of you probably saw it. It was produced by BBC. You sort of have to hold your nose a little bit when it talks about evolution, but the natural photography was just outstanding. They showed one scene up in the arctic regions of the north where this pack of wolves were hunting reindeer and they had a helicopter that was able to videotape them in their natural environment. They had this camera where the lens was enormous and they had a gyro that eliminated any vibration. They were able to take long-distance high resolution photography such as they’d never taken before. The technology had been developed by the military. The helicopter was not interrupting the hunt that it was observing. Almost a mile away, and yet it was able to take this close-up photography of these wolves chasing these reindeer, and the way that they worked as a pack in an organized way to get one of them separated from the flock. If they could get one separated from the rest of the herd then pretty soon they ran it down, they wore it out and they had it for dinner. Lions do the same thing. Matter of fact, Peter talks about this, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil” he goes “about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” Now how do you resist what the devil, the lion, the wolf is doing? They try to separate the gazelle or the wildebeest or whatever it is from the rest of the herd. They’re especially strong if they can keep, if elephants stay together, but you know, lions can even bring down an elephant when they can separate it from the herd. When those Cape buffalo are together and they’ve got their horns pointed out against the enemy, it becomes a fortress that the lions can’t do anything. Someone said one time, thoroughbred horses, when they are threatened and there is a herd of them will aim their heads together and kick at the enemy. Donkeys will aim their heads at the enemy and kick each other. They’re a little different than thoroughbreds. You’ve got some churches that when the enemy is out there, we face the enemy and kick each other, and what we ought to do is get our heads together and kick at the enemy. But this is the devil’s plan is to separate the lambs from the flock and then bring them down. It’s divide and conquer. He does it in the church, he does it in communities, he does it in families and maybe that’s where we ought to begin.

The devil tries to bring division into families. I’m starting here because families are really the foundation block of communities and nations and churches. It’s so important that we learn to have harmony there in the home. I know we often say at our wedding ceremonies how marriages are made in heaven, but let’s not forget thunder and lightning is made in heaven too. In many of the families there is division, and it’s through the Spirit of the Lord that this harmony can be brought back in. 1 Corinthians 10 has a principle for us to remember to have unity and harmony in these families rather than division. It says, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” Now I’m coming to you from the perspective of both someone who is married, though I am a Batchelor, I am a married Batchelor and also someone who is a pastor that has done a lot of marriage counseling.

I have no real qualifications in marriage counseling other than I’ve just done a lot of it. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but one thing I’ve observed both in my family and in the counseling I’ve done, in almost every example where there is strife and division in the families it’s because someone is seeking after their own rather than the others. It’s usually pride and selfishness at the heart of it, most of the time on both parties, and it could be the children and the parents, it could be multiple parties, it could just be the husband and wife. Very rarely is it one, but it’s selfishness, people seeking their own. The principle for developing unity in these relationships, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” And again, what happened in the beginning? How did the devil operate with Adam and Eve? After sin they ran from God and they tried to cover their own nakedness. Look at what happened. The man said to the Lord… God said, “What is this that you’ve done? Who told you you were naked?” Man said, “The woman! It’s her fault! You gave her to be with me. She gave me of the tree and I ate.” Recriminations and blame and fear. The Lord said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” She said, “It’s the serpent that deceived me and I ate.”

They started blaming others for what they had done wrong instead of saying I’m going to take responsibility. And then of course the Lord spoke to the serpent and the serpent didn’t say anything because he didn’t have a leg to stand on, right? Mark 10:7-9, Jesus said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Marriage is a metaphor for the church in the Bible and the church is a metaphor for marriage. That’s why it’s important to understand unity in the church, to have unity in our homes. The Bible tells us in the same way that Christ loves the church and gave Himself to the church a husband should love his wife. Wives should love their husbands. There should be this oneness, and the same terminology that Jesus uses in identifying His relationship with the Father, His love for the church, that there should be this unity; this oneness is what we should experience in our families and yet there is division. The devil is a wolf, he’s a lion. He will come in and do everything he can to create a wedge in these relationships and to bring disharmony. What does it do to our witness in the community when Christian families have the same levels and percentages of divorce as the world? It pretty well neutralizes our influence that we have something extraordinary to offer. It must begin in our families. Amen? Aw, come on.

I know you may think you’re indicting yourself, but you know it’s true. The first step to recovery is acknowledge the truth that you’re a “sinoholic”, you’re all selfish. We had this little illustration pastor Steve did with the candles for the children’s story. I’ve done a lot of weddings where they have a unity candle they unite. I heard about this one wedding rehearsal where a family was there and this couple came together and they’re putting… and someone was explaining to someone else in the family sitting there watching the rehearsal that they put their candles together and they light this one unity candle and they blow out their individual candles now representing that they burn as one light. A lady was heard speaking up, “That’s what that means? I thought it meant ‘no more old flames.’” It does mean that too, but it means that you’re supposed to be working together. There should be this commonness. What about the cases where there is division? Now there’s a lot of things that bring division in and principally it’s selfishness.

Somebody was saying that God must know something, if He takes a man who is unique and different from a woman who is unique and different from a man and He puts them together in spite of these very obvious differences, and I’m not just talking about the physiological ones; there are psychological differences. The way that we think, our natures are different. He puts us together knowing there are these differences. It’s either a big cosmic joke, and God is up there snickering, or He’s wanting us to learn something from the differences about love and unity. In counseling couples, you can almost always guarantee that some of the same problems that you’ll find in your relationship will be found in just about every relationship when men and women are married. Some of them are because the men are men and the women are women and we do think different and it’s like the Lord is trying to teach us men to be a little more intimate and relationship oriented, women to understand more the task orientation of men and we complete each other, we become one flesh.

The man was not complete without Eve and Eve is not complete in one sense without the man, but this is really even more talking about Christ than the church. Some of these differences come into the marriage relationships because sometimes there is a difference; one is a believer, one is not and you’ve got a built in division. So what do you do? Well, obviously get divorced and marry a believer, right? Wrong. You might find yourself in the circumstance where two unbelievers are married, one becomes a believer, now what do they do? The spouse, the husband or the wife just doesn’t happen to believe for whatever reason. Do you separate or are you still married? The Bible says that the unbelieving husband can be converted by beholding. This is 1 Peter 3, the conversation, the behavior of the wife has a sanctifying, converting influence. You stay together and your number one missionary field is your unconverted spouse, and before you think, “Well, I’m going to go divorce her, divorce him and marry a believer. We’ll go do mission work overseas. It’d be so wonderful to be one.” God has given you a mission project. They’re in your house. Try and reach your unconverted spouse, not by badgering them or pressuring them or nagging them into the church, but as they behold your conversation.

Let them see the joy and the love, how superior your life is because of your relationship with Jesus. Let me read this to you from 1 Corinthians 7:13. “And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” This is something I don’t even completely understand, but it seems to be saying that in the same way Joseph’s believing influence sanctified the house of Potiphar, there was a blessing there, and the Bible tells the disciples when they went out preaching, he says, When you enter into a house say “peace” or “shalom” to this house and the Son of Peace will be there that the believing spouse in this household invites the presence of the Spirit and the Son of God into that home and it has a sanctifying influence on your children. Does it make a difference, the children of believers, if they are not yet at the age of accountability, can you expect to see them in the kingdom if they die before they reach that age? Yeah, there’s something there, and I don’t even claim to understand it all, but by all means if you can stay together, stay together.

Then Paul says, “But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart...” you’re “not under bondage in such cases.” But don’t drive them away and say, “Well, they left.” I’ve seen that game before. God knows your heart. You want to do everything you can to make it work. Amen? And if there is division, if there are disagreements and if there are children, have enough sense not to bicker in front of the children. Nothing creates more insecurity especially for young children when they see mom and dad going at it like wolves. It just creates a fear and an insecurity and all kinds of other psychological problems start to bubble up in their lives when they don’t see love between mom and dad. Can you have disagreements in a home between the mother and the father and still have love? You’ve got to know how to talk about these disagreements in an agreeable way. You can disagree without being disagreeable, right? If something pops up and the children are in the room and there is this disagreement say, “Mom, could we go into the room for a minute and talk a little bit?” and excuse yourselves, shut the door and the kids will hear the plates breaking in the other room and stuff, but at least they think you’re just playing in there. Excuse yourselves and don’t do that to them. There needs to be love in the family, the devil is trying to bring in division. There is a thousand ways he does that.

Does it come naturally or does it take an investment of effort? Having a good marriage takes communication. You may not always feel like it. I’m especially speaking to men now. So often we think that our wives should just know by osmosis what’s going on. They get frustrated because… and I’m speaking from experience now, they get frustrated because there is so much going on and they want to know, they want to be part of your lives and if you don’t take the time to communicate… and if you say, “Oh, man. I’m tired. I just went through all this trouble. You want me to now come home and rehearse all of the things I experienced?

I’m wanting to come home and forget about it.” They’re wanting to know what’s going on, to share your burdens with you, to be part of it, to have this intimacy so you feel like one flesh and you’ve got to do, you’ve got to have a bibliography at the end of every day and communicate with your spouse. It takes work sometimes. You say alright we’ve got to have time together and you’ve just got to carve it out and communicate and it brings a harmony and a oneness and an understanding and you feel like you’re on the same team. You’ve got to do it. Having harmony in your homes requires work. Having harmony in our church requires work. By the way, just in case you’re wondering, I’m not preaching this message about unity and division because there’s some great schism in the church. There’s not. This is a preemptive strike. There’s great harmony in this church and I want to keep it. Let me read something to you from Second Selected Messages a great book, page 374. “I have somewhat against thee, says the true witness…” quoting Revelation “because you have left your first love.”

Not only does this happen in our relationship with Jesus, but sometimes it happens in marriages. Revelation 2:4, by the way, he says, “Except thou repent, I will come to you quickly and remove the candlestick out of its place. Why? Because in our separation from one another we are separated from Christ.” Unless we learn to come together we’re separated from Christ. That’s heavy. “We want to press together, O how many times when I seemed to e in the presence of God and his holy angels I’ve heard the angel voice saying, ‘Press together! Press together! Press together!’” You ever seen people pressed together? It’s like when the wolves are circling the flock you see them pressed together, don’t you? And this is what we need to do. We forget that there is an adversary out there. He is roaming to and fro like a hungry lion. We need to press together.

Do not let Satan cast his hellish shadow between brethren. Do not let Satan cast his hellish shadow in homes that ought to be a little bit of heaven on earth. “Press together. In unity there is strength. I repeat the message to you, as you go to your homes be determined that you will press together. Seek God with all the heart and you will find him and the love of Christ that passes understanding will come into your hearts and your lives and your homes. Alright. We need unity in our families, amen? It takes work; it takes investment. Have regular devotions in your family. You’ve heard it said many times the family that prays together stays together. It’s also true the family that plays together stays together. Do things together.

Well, this whole message is not just about families. There’s also division in countries and communities and racial division, cultural division. Now I lump that all together because I think it’s interesting right now especially in a political season. This is a unique political season where you have all kinds of different people from different perspectives and different backgrounds and different genders and different races all running. It has a tendency to polarize a nation. As Christians, I’m not taking a political position here, but I will tell you what the Bible says about unity, that we are all one people. Acts 17:26, there’s no room for racism in the Christian belief. Amen? “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their” dwelling.

We are all made of one blood. The debate on immigration is heating up and there is fear and frustration and it creates division, but as a people, as a country we ought to love each other. As Christians we ought to understand love. It doesn’t matter if I’m on my way home from church and I get hit by a Mack truck and I get cut and I start to bleed and they take me to the hospital and they say they’re out of blood and they ask for donors, if an illegal Mexican alien with the same blood type as me shows up, it doesn’t matter. I’ll praise the Lord. We are all made of that one blood. It will save my life. Right? We sometimes forget that. Even though I speak a little Spanish I don’t even need to be able to speak that language for that blood to save my life. Yeah, we were divided at the Tower of Babel. I’ll get to that in a little bit. Malachi 2:10 “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another…” We have one Father. We’re all going to live together in heaven.

I heard about a church where an elder announced, and he said, “While the special music plays, stand up and shake hands with people who are not in your click.” Because we have a tendency to just kind of click together. We need to go out of our way sometimes to say, “You know, I would normally sit with my buddies within the church…” Now if your church has three people in it, it’s hard to find a click, but in bigger churches like this, we do have tendencies to kind of flock together. It’s good for us to mingle with each other and get to know people and get out of your comfort envelope a little bit. You know I look out there, I see you from week to week. Most of us sit in roughly the same place surrounded by roughly the same people. And in a church this size there’s some people I’ve met them before and said, “You go to Central?” They say, “I’m there every week.” I say, “How come I never see you?” They say, “I sit in the balcony.” Uh, huh. I can’t see you up there because my eyes are getting bad, but when the closing song plays they skedaddle, you know, avoid the parking jam.

We don’t get to connect with each other. So balcony doe not get dismissed today until everyone downstairs leaves first. No, I’m just, I’m sort of kidding. Force us to mingle with a new group. Galatians 3:27, 28 “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We do all have differences, don’t we? Makes it interesting. But those differences should not separate us, they should unite us. I went to visit some dear friends not too long ago, and the subject of politics came up. We usually talk about religion. I couldn’t have disagreed with them more on what their positions were, and I told them so. I said, “Let’s talk about it. This is going to be fun because I believe I’m right.” Don’t you believe you’re right? You’re not sure what you believe. Well, you could be in the middle. So it was very, what’s the word for it? Stimulating for me to talk in a loving, Christian spirit with loving Christian friends about political things that could divide people, but we did it in the Spirit of Christ. Well we smiled and we prayed together, and I just love those people even if they are wrong about those things. You know I’m kidding. There’s the very remote possibility that I could be wrong and I accept that. So as a country, as a community with our different cultures, God wants us to be one. You can disagree and still be one. Love each other, right?

We need to have unity in our faith and I’m talking about what we believe theologically. That’s important for us as a church. Now sometimes in a family you’re going to have people, well, if you’ve got a believer that’s married to an unbeliever that can be difficult. If you’ve got two people who believe in Christ but they believe differently that’s better, but it still has its challenges. But it’s difficult when you get people that are in the same church and they can’t agree. You see schisms, you see divisions in the church over theology, that’s I think very troubling because all men will know about Christ through your love for one another.

When you go to churches and you see that they are split and there’s divisions… and I’ve been in a lot of churches. I’ve probably visited more churches than you have visited in my travels and I am amazed as I go from place to place the different kinds of splits and you know there’ll be doctrinal splits and they’ll be different groups that believe these strange deviant teachings and they’re all clustered and they’re battling with others that don’t believe these things and that’s all from the devil. How are we going to have a unified faith? Maybe I should read you my verses first. Ephesians 4:13 “…till we all come to the unity of the faith…” That’s our goal. You notice, “till we all come”. Will God’s people in the last days have a unity in the faith? Yeah. “…till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” Growing up in Christ is a, it’s a concise world view based on the Bible where there’s a unity in the fundamentals. Romans 16:17, 18 “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine…” Those who are creating divisions contrary to foundational doctrine and what does he say to do? “…which you learned… avoid them.” Well, you can’t excommunicate everybody that might believe something different. There are some things that are pillars of faith and if a person doesn’t believe those anymore they ought to have the integrity to say, “I’m not coming here anymore.”

But you know what often happens? People will come into the church, they’ll claim to believe what you believe. They get into the church, they become part of the church, but there’s something they never really did agree with. So they want to go around, what did Paul say? “grievous wolves will rise up from among you dividing the flock.” They don’t have enough integrity to say, “I should really go somewhere else because I don’t agree with you folks.” They feel like they’re on a mission to change everybody’s mind.” The Bible says when you see people like that who are going from one Bible study to another and they’re just trying to create disruption and they’ve got this pet doctrine. I could name a lot of pet doctrines right now, but it might happen to be yours so I’m not going to pick them out. They’ve got this pet doctrine that’s usually off true north a little bit and they just want to convince everybody of that one thing. I’ve discovered folks that are all wrapped up in this one note on the piano they hit all the time, the reason they’re trying to share that with everybody else is because they’re really not convinced themselves and they try to convince themselves by convincing everybody else. All they do is create division and uncertainty and instability, and the Bible says when you see people like that, avoid them.

Just avoid them. Pretty soon if they don’t have any fodder or they don’t have an audience they often give it up or go somewhere else. 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” the strongest appeal that Paul can make. In the name of Jesus, I plead with you “that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you…” What does that mean “all speak the same thing”? Are we to go around like robots just kind of echoing like it’s on record all of the same theology going through our twenty-seven fundamentals or even the thirteen on the baptismal certificate. “What do you believe?” “Well, let me see. I’ve got it memorized.” That’s not what he’s talking about. speaking the same thing doesn’t mean you cannot have disagreements.

There are certain foundational, fundamentals of Christianity and in our church that we ought to be together on. They’re summed up, for instance, on the baptismal certificate. If you don’t believe there’s one God that is made up of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and you don’t plan on believing, well, you’re in the wrong place. If you don’t believe the Bible is the word of God, if you don’t believe that Jesus is the savior of the world, there are foundational things, and if you’ve forgotten what they are just look; the back of your baptismal certificate will have the summary of thirteen, the inside has got twenty-seven. I think the new certificates have twenty-eight that represent a little more full, foundational. You know you’re not going to find that addressing the seven trumpets of Revelation.

You might have a little different view on the hundred and forty-four thousand than I have. You know what I’m saying? There’s so much room, there’s so much room for variety and different interpretations and different opinions where we can have fun and we can stir up each others’ pure minds by conversation about these things. Pilgrim’s Progress called it “profitable conversation.” But there are certain foundational things, that if a person is wrong on those, the whole train starts jumping track. Those truths should be vigorously defended and we should speak the same thing. You know what’s wonderful for me is I get to travel and I’ll go to another country that has very different customs and I remember being in Japan and you know the service was a little different and you take off your shoes, but they believe the same thing from the Bible I believe.

We spoke the same thing. You could go to China, you could go to New Guinea and it’s wonderful getting together with these Bible Christians in their huts. They spoke the same thing. How do we get that kind of unity? If we’re all reading the same book, we’re going to speak the same thing. That’s the key to having that kind of unity, if we’re preaching from and studying and reading the same book. I would also commend you not only the Bible, but the spirit of inspiration, and that brings us together. There’s a unity in the churches that believe in that, that foundation. So we should have unity in our faith. We should have a united mission. Once we’re united in our faith we’re united in what we do when we go from here. We would not be the first group that struggled with that. You can find in the Bible, turn in your Bibles, Acts 15. Even in good churches sometimes they get mixed up on what the vision and the mission is. By the way, you cannot have good vision when you have division. A church that has division cannot have good vision.

There needs to be a uniting on the fundamentals of our faith. Acts 15:36, “Then after some days…” After their first missionary tour together, Paul and Barnabas had a very successful experience, Paul said, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” Let’s go through another circuit, visit them. “Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark.” Better known as John Mark or Mark, very likely the one who authored the Book of Mark which was dictated probably by Peter, an important player in the New Testament. “But Paul” (verse 38) “insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.” Evidently on their earlier missionary tour when they got to Pamphylia Mark said, “You know, I’m just so homesick I can’t take this anymore. This is too hard. I’m heading back. You guys better go on without me.” Paul was so upset and disgusted that Mark would give up when they were in the midst of this adventure for the Lord that when Barnabas said “let’s take Mark again,” Paul said, “Not on your life! He’s a quitter!” Barnabas said, “Oh, you know everyone gets discouraged. Give him another chance.” “Not going to give him another chance.”

They went back and forth. Listen to what it says. “Then the contention…” Can I use the word division there? “…the contention became so sharp…” I don’t know exactly what they said, but I think they were stomping their feet. Here you’ve got Paul and Barnabas and Barnabas is the first one who accepted Paul’s conversion and Barnabas introduced Paul to the other apostles and now these dear friends who had endured the road and persecution and preaching together and seen these miracles and the power of God, they can’t get along. They fiercely disagreed on this subject. It’s kind of sad that this is in the Bible, but God works all things together for good and in spite of this division, you know what happened? It says, “…so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus…” He said alright, Paul, you’re on your own. And “Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” Now this was an example where they were divided on their mission because they couldn’t agree on how to go about it and so God says, “Look… and all through this, maybe you’ll accomplish more if, Paul, you choose a new partner and, Barnabas, you choose a new partner.” They ended up with two groups.

This is kind of strange because I think that the devil brought a disagreeing perspective into their relationship, but God worked it together for good. Unfortunately, do you know one reason that there are a lot of different churches in communities? Because there is a split in the church. I can’t tell you how many times a church has gone through a building program or a decorating program and the contention is so sharp over something that they say, “Well, we’ll just go and build our own church!” And so because of the division a church splits into two, a few years later now there’s two options where people can go. It ends up working out as a blessing, but it wasn’t healthy right when it happened. God can turn those things around. Now I don’t know if I confused you or not, but did that make sense? You’d be surprised how many churches have grown up that way. It’s not the best way. The best way is to proactively plan your church growth and not because of contention, church growth by contention.

I want to read something. Again the book Selected Messages, page 159. Listen to this. This is powerful. Are you still with me? It’s getting warm in here. Are you getting warm? Yeah, let’s… how many of you are warm? How many are lukewarm? Maybe we can open a door just let a little breeze in. Do we have some deacons that can “deac” or did they pass out from the heat? Thank you, Bob and others. Let’s let some air in here. This is important. I don’t want you to miss this. Again, Selected Messages, 159, “Unity is the strength of the church.” That’s a short sentence. “Satan knows this and he employs his whole force to bring in dissention.” That sums up everything I’m saying. That’s why I’m preaching this message. Unity is the strength of the church. The devil knows this and so he does everything he can to divide us. “He desires to see a lack of harmony among the members of the church of God. Greater attention should be given to the subject of unity.” That’s why I’m talking about it today. “What is the recipe for the cure of the leprosy of strife and dissention” or division? Here it is. What’s the recipe? “Obedience to the commandments of God.” You didn’t expect that. Obedience to the commandments of God is the cure. What does that mean? It’s not just talking about don’t steal.

What is the principle command of God? “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” If we’re obeying the commandments of God and loving God and loving our neighbor, what happens to the division and the contention? It’s principally a lack of love when you see division in relationships and division in churches. If they really have the love, you know what? I am convinced that these churches that are sometimes divided over pet issues and slights, offenses, whether they are imaginary or real, sometimes people do some very inconsiderate, mean things and people are bruised and they stop coming to church. This division drives them away. But if we could see Christ, that six hours of His sufferings there on the cross and His death on the cross and then all be brought together, all fo a sudden we’d say, “You know, we really don’t have any reason to be upset with each other.” We’d have this love where those things would stop. It’s because we’ve taken our eyes off Jesus that the divisions usually come in. Petty things. We’re not getting our way.

We get irritated. We’ve been offended. We’ve been neglected. Someone didn’t appreciate us. Do you know how many times people stop coming to church we’ll visit them years later, “Where have you been? We’ve missed you. What’s going on?” “Oh well, you know what happened?” And then they’ll tell some story about somebody in the church was unkind and sometimes, like I said, it’s imaginary. Sometimes the devil just makes them imagine, it’s not even real. Sometimes it is real. Sometimes it’s very painful, but nothing that I can think of is a good reason for us to turn our back on the body of Christ because of these slights, this division. Jesus said, John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The devil heard that. If all men are to know that we’re Christ’s disciples by our love for one another, then the devil naturally realizes that people will doubt they’re His disciples if they’re divided. If our love and unity advertises for Christ, our division advertises for the devil, right? How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, man, they’re all at each other’s throats. I mean, look at the Christians in Ireland; Protestants, Catholics killing each other. Christians, ha ha ha!” So the division, it evangelizes for the devil. The unity evangelizes for Jesus. You heard about that church, they had a big fight. They were forming a new church. They couldn’t decide whether to call it the First United Church or the United First Church. You didn’t get that?

Oneness. The Lord says so much about oneness. Now when I say that I’m talking about God says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God is One.” But then He says, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image.’” That one God is God the Father, Son, and Spirit. You’ve got one family. Two people and maybe the children, they become one flesh through love. There needs to be a oneness in our hearts, a oneness in our purpose. It’s a marvel to me. You ever watch these birds, these flocks that are flying through the sky and you wonder who is in charge? They just kind of turn in a cloud and it’s amazing to me. It’s like they’ve all got one part of our brain, they’re all in touch with the other and I’ve done a lot of scuba diving and you’re down in the ocean, you see these beautiful massive schools of silvery fish and they swim around some buoy or obstacle and they part just long enough to get around it and they’re back together again. It’s like there’s a oneness to their movement. God is inviting us to be one. There are a number of verses on this that I’m sure you know.

In our memory verse we talked about John 17, but we did not read verse 11. Jesus said, “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world,” Jesus is praying, “and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.” What kind of oneness does the Lord want us to have with each other? Can you think of higher example of oneness than the oneness of Jesus and the Father? He said that they may be one as We are one. Phew. That’s a pretty tall order. Heard about the pastor who was doing the children’s story up front and he was trying to teach the children about how God wants us to be one and a little three year old girl put up her hand and she said, “I don’t want to be one! I want to be four!” So when you think about one, it’s not talking about numerical quantity, it’s talking about a unity in our midst, amen?

One mind. Philippians 2:2 notice how often it says this in the Bible “…fulfill my joy by being like-minded…” It doesn’t mean we’re all cloned and we all think exactly the same, but when it comes to loving each other, we have the mind of Christ. That we might be “like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” If we all follow the same word we will have the same mind. If we have the word in our mind, we’ll be of the same mind. Philippians 4:2 “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” 1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous…” Church members are something like coals in a fire that we just don’t burn when we’re separated from each other. Two pieces of wood keep burning a lot better than if you have one piece of wood and you plop it on the fire. We warm each other, as iron sharpens iron, through our staying together we develop this oneness, this unity.

Then we want to talk a little bit about being one flock. Jesus said in John 10:16, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” The Lord wants us to have this unity in our midst. Now when I started talking about flock there, not only am I thinking of sheep, I remembered reading something I may have shared with you years ago about some lessons from geese. I don’t know if they’re flying north right now, but someone observed in the fall when you see geese heading south for the winter that you might be interested in what science has learned about the way they cooperate to get where they’re going, and why they fly in these vee formations. As each bird flaps its wing it creates uplift for the bird immediately behind it. Flying in a vee formation the whole flock adds seventy-one percent greater flying range than if any bird is flying alone. How many of you driving down the road and you have gotten in the back-draft of a truck before? You get up there just one or two car lengths behind a large semi, you can let off your gas and you can maintain your same speed because you’re caught in the back-draft of that truck. He’s paying for it. The one, the lead goose is really having to flap, but all of the others benefit by staying in a formation and going the same direction as opposed to when they go off on their own it creates drag for everybody. If we all move together, even if you might disagree with the lead goose, if we all move in the same direction it is so much easier.

We’re getting ready now to start some evangelistic meetings. I hope that we’ve got one mind and we’re all together praying that God will pour out His Spirit in the Granite Bay area. Amen? And that we’ll support the people there who are leading out. Pray for Pastor Eric Flickinger and his wife. It’s a lot of work doing evangelism. It’s the front lines.

Back to my geese. Sorry. Quite similar to people who are part of a team and they share a common direction, they get to where they’re going quicker and easier because they’re traveling on the trust of one another and they lift each other up along the way. Something else about geese. Whenever a goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag. I already talked about that. Then they get back into formation, they can benefit from the power of the flock. If we have as much sense as a goose, we’re going to stay in formation and share information with those who are headed the same way that we’re going. When the lead goose gets tired he rotates back in the wings and another goose takes over. It pays to delegate and to share leadership. That’s something we really appreciate about our church here is that we have people that use their talents to share the leadership. The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep their speed. Words of support and inspiration help energize those on the frontline helping them to keep pace in spite of the day to day pressures and fatigue.

It’s important that our honking be encouraging. Now all churches have honking. We want to honk encouragement, right? Not the other kind of honking. Otherwise it’s just honking. Finally when a goose gets sick, I thought this was interesting, I’ve seen it actually. I saw some people out in the blinds shooting at geese and they hit one. They only hit one, but when it fluttered to the ground because its wing was wounded another one came down with it to watch after it. When a goose gets sick or is wounded and falls out of formation two geese follow it down to the ground and they help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly again or until he is dead, and then they join another formation and catch up with their group. When one of us is down or out it’s up to the others to stand by them. That’s why we’ve got to bear one another’s burdens and watch out. If you see that somebody is falling out of formation. Sometimes it’s difficult in a large church like this because people will say, “Oh, Pastor Doug, do you know so-and-so hasn’t been here in two months?” We don’t always know because it’s so big and maybe they’ve been in the balcony. You’ve got to tell us. We’re not psychic. In the office sometimes we’ll hear, “So-and-so has been in the hospital three weeks. How come you haven’t visited them?” Nobody told us. You’ve got to tell us, and not just us. You go visit them, right? Amen! Amen! That’s my own amen, that’s not yours. Yeah, you go visit them. So there are some things we could learn there from the geese that I thought were valuable.

Well, I’m almost out of time, and I wanted to share a couple more thoughts on these principles of unity that we find in the word of God. For one thing the Lord hates dividers. I’m not talking about file dividers that are in your file cabinet. I’m talking about people dividers. Some people are insecure and they seem to find some kind of hellish satisfaction by going around dividing others. They feel like they don’t have any friends or they’re insecure about their friendships so they don’t want anyone to be anyone’s friend except them. So they go around and they gossip and they divide and they spread things that they shouldn’t spread. Proverbs 6:14, 15 “perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord.” You picture a person going around throwing seed; these people are throwing out weeds, weeds of division. They sow discord. “Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.” Proverbs 6:16, this is really heavy, “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies,” notice this last one, “and one who sows discord among brethren.” One who spreads division among brethren.

I head when the three great tenors, you remember when they had these three great tenors. What were their names again? Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, they were performing in Los Angeles. The reporter tried to create a little issue of division and competition and he asked about what kind of competition exists among them. Domingo answered and he said, “You can’t be rivals when all you’re doing is making music together.” They’re trying to make beautiful music together. In order for them to do that, they’ve got to focus on harmony not who can bellow louder than the other. You might think that when you hear those incredible tenors that there’s one trying to outshout the other, but they’re not. They’re really supporting one another, and that’s the way we want to be. We want to help each other make the right kind of music. God doesn’t like this division and those that encourage it.

Then finally, while we’re on the subject of unity I need to make it clear, there is the wrong kind of unity. Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful…” People might say, “Let’s all get together.” There are some groups you should not unite with. We should avoid any kind of confederacy with sin. It gives it more detail in Proverbs 1:11 “If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like” the grave, “and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil;” and then listen, it says, “cast in your lot among us,” let’s join, “‘let us all have one purse’ my son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path…” Revelation 13, speaking of the beast power, is there going to be unity in the beast? Are they all going to be worshipping a certain way? Revelation 13 “all who dwell on the earth will worship him…”

There is going to be some kind of confederacy. They’ll have a solidarity. There’s the wrong kind of union you don’t want to be part of and so some people are going to use unity and abuse the teaching of unity. They’re going to say, “You know, it’s more important that we are one and so lay aside your distinctive teachings so that we could have unity. Don’t make such a big deal about some of the things that we theologically might disagree on. Be willing to sacrifice a few of your things, we’ll sacrifice some of our things and we’ll all just agree on some things we’ll hold in common. We’ll downplay the differences.” You’re going to hear that. That is not the kind of unity that the Lord wants. The Lord wants us united in the truth. Jesus is the truth. It’s the truth that sets us free. If you have to compromise one iota of truth for the sake of unity, that’s the wrong kind of unity. So say, “No, I’m not going to sacrifice my belief.” People are free to believe what they want and you need to love and respect them, but we don’t want to sacrifice our beliefs. The word of God has a tendency to divide. Matthew 10:34, Jesus said, “Do not think I’ve come to bring peace on the earth, I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to `set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.' And `a man's foes will be those of his own household.'” So sometimes if we’re taking a stand for the truth you’re going to find that there’s division and you can’t do anything about it. Jesus does not want you to sacrifice truth for the sake of the illusion of unity.

Well, finally in the principles about unity and division I want to end where I started. Jesus is the great uniter. Christ and His cross is the cost of our division. Sin separated us from God. Jesus came to earth to create a bridge once again, to unite heaven and earth. Not only does the cross create this kind of unity, the cross creates this kind of unity. You’ve heard it said the closer we come to Jesus, the closer we will come to one another. So what’s the key for us to have more unity in our families, more unity in our church and our community? If we keep our eyes on Jesus and we move towards Him as the single goal, you’re going to see that we can’t do anything but invariably come closer together. If we say, “Lord, You’ve forgiven me so much, I’m willing to forgive others.” If we embrace His forgiveness as our own and we pass it on, it’ll bring us together.

There are some people, they might annoy us, there are things that people do that are different, there are different views. In spite of all those things, that is the best culture to be a real Christian, to learn how to love each other in spite of the differences, to be like Christ. Well, I’d like to invite you to be a church that attracts people to Christ. Behold how they love one another. All men will know you’re His disciples by your love for one another. The most powerful thing we can do to show the world we’re Christians is by loving each other. I know that theology is important, but that, I think, is the key. And that’s what really converts people and transforms them. That’s my invitation to you is that we can be bound together through the power of love and become one, one flock, one people, one mind, that we could be one in Jesus because that was His prayer, “Father, that they might be one…” Is His prayer going to be answered? Can I participate in that answer? We can. Let’s sing that closing hymn “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds” and it’s number 350. Could we stand together?

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

I want to stop right here before we go to the next verse because I want to give you an opportunity to respond. You may be feeling that you have drifted from the flock and become an easy prey, and you want to be one with God’s people. You want to be part of the body, and you’d like special prayer to that end. Or it may be that you have felt there’s been some division between you and somebody else. It may be someone in your home, someone in your church, someone in the community and you’re saying, “Lord, I want Your mind; I want the mind of Christ. I want the love of Christ to be in my heart. Help me to do all I can do to develop this oneness that I can witness for Jesus.” If that’s your prayer and you have some special need you’d like to bring, you can come as we sing the remaining verses and we’ll have prayer together.

Before our Father's throne we pour our ardent prayers; our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.

We share each other's woes, our mutual burdens bear; and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.

Almighty Father, Lord, we’ve talked about one of the most important issues today that all men will know we are Your children by our love for one another. We’ve talked about the principle prayer for Jesus that we might be one even as He and Thee are one. Lord, we cannot do this without Your Spirit giving us that oneness. We know that we cannot do it without reading the same word that we might have the same mind. Lord, I pray that You’ll help us to press together. In our families, I pray You’ll bring love, Lord. Bring understanding. I pray, Lord, in our church family that there can be love and unity working together and forgive us if we have done anything to sow discord or do back-biting, Lord. Help us to have the mind of Christ. In our community, in our nation, Lord, we pray that there can be a unity. I pray that this prayer is recorded in heaven, Lord, that it will be bathed in the blood of Jesus that will give it effectiveness, and hear it for the sake of Your own Son that we might be one. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

You may be seated. Please remember to be praying for the evangelistic meetings that begin Friday night the eleventh. You’re welcome to come to the Granite Bay meetings. You’ll find the map at the Granite Bay website. www.granitebaysda.com

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