Sermon Series: The Essential Expectations
Protect the Unity
PSBC, April 29, 2001 AM
In a nutshell: Jesus left us with an objective, a strategy, and tactics for influencing the world for Him. At the heart of this plan is God's desire for unity among His believers.
A. Movie Clip from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves
I want to start out this morning by taking a look at a clip from the movie, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves…
(Robin comes to a young man taking aim at an archery target. Robin asks, "Can you shoot amid distractions?" Just before the boy releases the string, Robin pokes his ear with the feathers of an arrow. The boy's shot flies high by several feet. After the laughter of those watching dies down, Maid Marian, standing behind the boy, asks Robin, "Can you?" Robin Hood raises his bow and takes aim. Just as he releases the arrow, Maid Marian leans beside him and flirtatiously blows into his face. The arrow misses the target, glances off the tree behind it, and scarcely misses a bystander.)
Distractions come in all types. And friends, when a church begins to become a threat to the devil's kingdom, one of the Satan's favorite ways to stop the church dead in it's tracks, is to bring distractions into it's life.
And you need to understand this… When distractions come, they don't always look alike. Sometimes those distractions are painful, sometimes they may seem good, and sometimes they may even seem pleasant. But the result is always the same: distractions cause us to miss God's mark. And that's how Satan can de-rail us from being a FORCE for Jesus Christ.
So, how do you overcome distractions and stay on course? The answer is really quite simple…you keep your focus on the essentials. For any church, those essentials include five basic things: 1. A doctrinal statement that's built solidly on the Word of God. We have that! 2. A purpose that incorporates the uniqueness of the people, the uniqueness of the leadership, the uniqueness of the church's situation and locale, and that ultimately reflects why God has called that church into existence for such a time as this. We have that as well! 3. An overall vision for what the church is attempting to become. We have that! 4. An agreement on the expectations we have for each other. This is usually called a membership covenant. And we don't have that, yet. 5. And finally, a commitment to align our personal values with the core values the leaders feel it is going to take, to accomplish the vision and the purpose. We don't officially have those yet, either.
It is the last two items that will be the subject of the Sunday morning messages from now, until the end of June. During that time, I want to expose you to 4 Biblical essentials that we must expect from each other; and 7 core Biblical values that need to become ingrained in our corporate personality, if this church is going to become an ever increasing threat to Satan, and a FORCE for Jesus Christ. I'm calling this next series of messages, The Essential Expectations: Part One and Two.
And starting this week, we begin part one of the series, where we will look at the four Biblical expectations we must expect from each other if we're going to be used by God to effectively reach this Coachella valley for Jesus Christ.
The first of these expectations is this… I will protect the unity of this church. And for that I'd like you to turn in your Bibles to the last part of Jesus' High Priestly prayer that He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before His arrest and crucifixion. It's recorded for us in John 17:20-26…
II. Jesus' Plan
John 17:20-26 20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message (that's talking about us, folks!), 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
A number of you, here this morning, have some military background. If you do, you know that there are three essentials to military planning-every successful military campaign will always have three things…an objective, a strategy, and tactics. Let me explain to you what I mean…
-The objective is the goal-in a military campaign, it could be a hill top, or a city you wish to capture; or a hostage you want to free; or an important weapon or a command post you want to destroy. If you're aiming toward something, that's your objective. -The strategy is the general procedure or the overall plan by which you propose to accomplish the objective. -And the tactics are the specific things you do to carry out the strategy. Any successful military campaign will always incorporate all three of these things.
A. Objective Well, twice in this section of the High Priestly prayer, Jesus states the exact objective that was always in His sight when He walked this earth, and that He was going to commit to all those who followed after Him, as His disciples-including us.
In verse 21 He says, "…so the world may believe that you have sent me." Then in verse 23 He states the same objective in similar words, "…to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." Friends, in these two phrases we see the entire objective of God aimed at one, single target-the world!
My favorite verse in the Bible states this as well… John 3:16 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The objective and focus of God's love is the WORLD! But we can get so busy in our lives that we can forget this, or get distracted from this objective.
Some of us have been Christians for so long that we forget that at one time, we were part of this world. Because of that, we also forget that God's objective didn't stop when we left the "world" and became a part of God's family. The fact of the matter is, God is still aiming beyond us. Ray Stedman puts it this way (front of your WIGs)…
"We seem to feel that God's program stops with us, that his entire purpose in coming into the world and leaving by the cross and the resurrection is to get us to heaven. If that were the case it would be much simpler if we would erect a chopping block in every church, and as soon as someone becomes a Christian chop his head off! We could be sure then that they would get to heaven without any difficulty! …But it is clear from the Scriptures that the Lord does not intend it this way. He leaves us here in order that we may learn how to share the painful process of drawing a struggling, rebellious creation unto himself. We must become part of the process of reaching the world." (Ray Stedman, from a sermon entitled: The Prayer for Unity.)
Do you get it? The church is here for one thing! THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THE FATHER SENT JESUS-in other words… -that Jesus is God in human flesh; -that Jesus is the only way for sinful people to be reconciled with a holy God; - and that Jesus is the authoritative voice of God, telling human beings how to live as God has always intended them to live.
So, friends, we cannot not, and dare not isolate ourselves from the world. Because the world is the very objective that we are trying to reach with the good news of Jesus Christ.
So, how does God expect to accomplish reaching the world? That's the strategy we need to know. And that's found in verses 21 and 23. Look at those two verses again…
John 17:21 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Then look at verse 23 again…
John 17:23 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
The strategy by which God intends to accomplish His objective in the Coachella valley is that we Christians who are part of Palm Springs Baptist Church-people who are from a variety of countries, backgrounds, personalities, talents and giftedness… be brought together into complete unity.
Let me put it in another way… God's divine strategy for reaching the world-and let's make that more personal-the Coachella Valley… with the awareness of Jesus Christ and His message and plan of salvation… …is to create a family at this church, that spans color barriers, race barriers, socio-economic barriers, interest barriers, class barriers, national barriers, age barriers, and any other barrier that is known to human kind.
And this family is to be so filled with joy and warmth, care and concern that those who are on the outside of this family, who are observing what goes on at this church, will be envious of the special relationships they see here.
In other words, the non-Christians of this valley will be like homeless orphans, pressing their noses up against the glass, looking with envy at the activities of a large family who has gathered in a warm house for a Christmas celebration. And the incredible thing is that when a church is this way, there isn't any more powerful evangelistic thrust known, anywhere!
Illustration: But friends, at least in the past recent years, we have failed miserably at this strategy in our community. I wish I could illustrate this point by pointing to a huge number of people in our church today, who saw what was taking place here, and were drawn to our church by the oneness and joy and excitement they saw in this church family. But I can't. Instead, over the past several years, we have been responsible for alienating people, driving some away, getting some angry, frustrating others, and making this an uncomfortable place for some. Not because we are terrible people. Not because we are mean-spirited. Not because we don't care about people's feelings. But because we forgot the "holy strategy" set down by our Lord Jesus Christ-we forgot that unity in our midst is God's strategy for reaching the Coachella Valley.
I know we are beginning to recapture a spirit of unity at Palm Springs Baptist Church. But, to truly recapture it, we must never forget that this is God's strategy, and we dare not violate it every again!
You see, friends, the world is starving for meaningful personal relationships. And if we are not providing those relationships in the church, we are just another organization, among many. And that was never God's intention. He wants His church to be a FORCE for Him, in order to reach the world with His message of love and reconciliation.
But unity is hard to see. Our relationship with Jesus Christ, and our commitment to His objective and strategy is an invisible thing. That's in your heart and mind. And people can't see your heart and mind. So, that's where the tactic comes into play. Look at verse 22…
John 17:22a 22a I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one…
That word glory, means an exalted state. In other words, we have been entrusted with the highest commodity anyone could ever have in his or her possession. What is that glory or commodity that we've been given? Look at verse 26…
John 17:26 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
Now, folks, here is the tactic for reaching the objective of God-the world. Here is the tactic by which God's strategy for unity in His church will take place…WHEN CHRISTIANS LOVE EACH OTHER WITH A LOVE THAT IS PATTERNED AFTER GOD'S LOVE. Now, don't misunderstand this. This isn't a feeling love. This isn't an erotic love. This isn't some syrupy love. This is a commitment to an unselfish love that seeks the other person's best. And Jesus said…
John 13:35 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." So, there is God's plan… -The objective is the world. -The strategy is unity in the church. -The tactic is that we love each other.
III. Three Essentials of God-like Love
But I don't want to leave the tactic of love, this morning, without giving you some practical ways to make this happen. So, hear are three essentials that you must have is your are really going to demonstrated this tactic of God-like love…
A. Mutual contact
The first essential is mutual contact. One commentator I read this week said, It is simply hogwash to speak of loving another Christian to whom you will not speak.
God says of His love…
Deuteronomy 31:8 8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
So, if we're showing God's love, we will retain contact, not avoid it!
Illustration: When I was on the staff at Scottsdale Bible Church, I had a run in with the Senior Pastor, where we vehemently disagreed on how to handle a situation that involved some of my Sunday School teachers and programs that I oversaw. I felt that I knew more than he did, because this was a Christian Education matter. And he had no training in Christian Education, where I had my Masters degree in that discipline. But he pulled rank on me, and said I had to do it his way. I submitted. But I also gave him the cold shoulder. For three days I avoided him, avoided talking to him, and avoided even making eye contact with him. It wasn't a comfortable situation around the office. After three days, he called me into his office and said two things:
1. "Why are you trying to punish me?" He said, "It's obvious that you're avoiding me, since we had our disagreement, and that's not what godly men do. You're trying to punish me by your avoidance, and I can't allow that. We need to talk things out." So, we did. And he listened to me and eventually changed his decision on the issue.
2. The second thing he said was a something I will never forget. He said, "In a personal conflict, the stronger of the two parties will always make an effort to resolve things, first."
Let me ask you… Have you been "hurt" by someone in this church? Who is the stronger one in that situation? The stronger one will always make an effort at resolution, first.
You see friends, we are to love each other, simply because we are Christians. There is no room in the Christian faith for selective love- -Oh, I love this Christian, but not that one. -I only love the people at church who haven't hurt me or offended me. -I only love people Christians who are just like me. -I only love you when I agree with you.
You see, that's the kind of love that the world uses. And when we use that kind of love in our church, we are no different than the world. So, the first essential to the tactic of love is that we have contact with all Christians, just because they are Christians. No matter if they are stupid, or wrong, or irritating or stubborn, or foolish, or different from you. Contact is essential to love.
B. Mutual concern
A second essential to this tactic of love is mutual concern.. What I mean by that, is a genuine interest in other Christians at this church.
This isn't some passing or superficial greeting, like: "Hi, how you doing?" and then go on your way. This is a willingness to listen to the answer. Every contact we make with each other should be marked with a readiness to help, to share, to listen, to pray, or some other way to demonstrate a willingness to bear one another's burdens.
Galatians 6:2 2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
The meaning of this verse would not change a bit, if we were to paraphrase it like this…
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the tactic of God that's needed to build unity in the church and penetrate the world with God's message of love and reconciliation.
Friends, you all would do well to carry a 3x5 card and a pen each week to church. With those two things, you could write down the things people tell you, and remember to pray for them. Many of the things shared with each other on Sunday morning never make the Prayer Line. And most of us aren't prepared to show mutual concern by remembering what we are told when we come to church. Let's start changing that, and starting carrying each other's burdens on a deeper level that we've ever done before. Start writing things down and demonstrate a mutual concern.
C. Mutual Benefit
The third essential to the tactic of love is a mutual benefit to each other.
1 Corinthians 12:7 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
That verse is simply saying, In this church, I have something you need; and you have something I need.
Illustration: Last Sunday night, 6 year old Austin Erb challenged me. At the age of six, he articulated his faith so clearly, before his baptism. And already, he has started on the road of carrying out the Great Commission, by sharing the gospel with another child, and leading that child to faith in Christ. I needed that after a weekend of ministering to a bunch of hard core bikers in Yuma, who loved to argue that they have a better way. Austin re-taught me that the gospel is simple, and I need to be about the business of sharing it, simply.
-You older saints, can learn from younger people in this church. This world is not the same as when you grew up! It's changing, and to reach the next generations for Christ, we have to change our methods from the way we've done things in the past. -And you younger people, don't have all the answers. You need the wisdom and experience of the older saints in this church. They can keep you from making mistakes that will take years to recover from. -The bottom line is that we need each other. And when we see each other's mutual benefit, we are carrying out the tactic of love.
Friends, I hope you see that this love and unity that we've been examining this morning is not something that we conjure up within us. It is something that is given to us. It is in us by the virtue of the fact that we have a relationship with Jesus Christ. But… it does require our consent.
God stands ready to love someone else through you, if you let yourself be the channel of that love. When the people of Palm Springs Baptist Church are ready to consent to love, God is very ready to show up, and pour out His love.
We can't forget that the thing that makes the objective of reaching the world with God's message of love and reconciliation, and keeps you and me from sabotaging that divine objective, is when we willingly and gladly consent to love any Christian, at any time, for the sake of Jesus. That is the basis for Christian unity. And that is the first of four essentials we must hold on to more tightly than our own prejudices, our own preferences, and our own desires.
Let me ask you, "Are you willing to join that?" Are you willing to say, in order to reach the Coachella Valley, "Lord, make me willing to love the people of my church, and the Christians in this valley, without reservation. Help me to show that love to them, for the sake of the One who died for me."
This page was last updated on Sunday, October 31, 2004 03:36 PM