Series: Stuff You've Got To Know
Why Can’t We Just All Get Along?
September 23, 2018 | Randy Smith
Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Sunday, September 23, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith
Many of us can remember the summer of 1992 and the infamous Los Angeles riots. It was a monumental time for our country. Many can also recall the famous quote from the late Rodney King as well, “Can we all get along?”
If there is any human gathering, there is bound to be conflict: athletic teams, work, neighborhood, school, friendships, family, church. Why is that?
James 4 has the answer. The source of our conflicts is pride. Pride always wants what we want and it sees other people either as a means to get what we want or a blockade to prevent us from getting what we want.
No institution on the planet is more relationally diverse than the church: age, gender, economics, personality, gifts, education, ethnicity. Yet we are called by God to one. We are called to be unified. You see, when we are unified, it shows the world the power of the cross, God’s grace in action. It glorifies God and brings us much peace.
Today as we meet together for one combined service, I’d like to share six items that will preserve our unity and help us grow in this area. As we go through this message from the Bible, ask yourself if you are personally playing your part to contribute to a unified church?
1. Encourage One Another
First of all, encouragement will be a dominant mark of a unified church.
Jesus, in giving us the second greatest commandment said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:31). There are no limits. We are not permitted to determine when or who we desire to love. There is no neutrality. Either we will “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22) or we will “bite and devour one another” (Gal. 5:15), passively through disregard or actively through cutting words and actions.
Has God given you a heart after His own heart that is genuinely concerned for the concerns of others? Does the welfare of every attendee in this church take greater priority than that of your own?
The world seeks to tear one another down, top the other person, be jealous over the success of another, but the church, in giving evidence of their transformed lives, seeks to build one another up. And the greatest way we can do this is through the intentional actions of encouragement.
Biblical encouragement is not flattery, false hope or sheer emotionalism. Biblical encouragement, on the contrary, is noting the actions and behavior of others that honor God and seeking to build them up making them pleased with their conduct and desirous to continue in it.
Hebrews 3:13 commands us to “encourage one another day after day.” Grace Bible Church does it not mean a lot when others tell you they have been blessed by your ministry through their timely comments expressed either verbally or through cards and e-mails? Many Christian servants see little fruit and receive much criticism. However, we feel appreciated and used by God in other’s lives when people take the time to notice.
What do we want here at the church? The better question is what does God want here at the church, since it belongs to Him? Hunger for, growth in and application of the Word of God, committed prayer, personal growth in Christlikeness, genuine repentance, personal evangelism, love for one another in word and deed, using our time and gifts in church ministry, strong marriages, obedient children and the list continues. The world cares for none of these, but the church should and we should want to see more of it. Look for it and when you see it in others, encourage them! Make righteous behavior contagious!
We may have no control over the encouragement we receive, but we do have control over the encouragement we give. And the more we give, the more others will receive.
2. Do Not Judge One Another
Second, a unified church rightly understands the sin of legalism. This issue is currently killing the evangelical church in two ways.
First, there are many who misunderstand the term and associate legalism with any pursuit of personal holiness. To do so not only chaffs against God’s clear command to “pursue…godliness” (1 Tim. 6:11), but is also deters from the church unity as the most unified churches are the most Christlike and holy churches. God wants His children to imitate His character (Eph. 5:1). He wants them to “be Holy as He is holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). Legalism is a sin. The last thing God wants is false sheep running around His church telling people it’s legalistic (or sinful) to obey Him by following the Word and developing personal convictions.
Second, there are many in the church actually committing the sin of true legalism without knowing it. Salvation, biblically explained, is through grace. The Apostle Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Anyone who adopts a works-orientated gospel to achieve his or her salvation will be damned. The Apostle again, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed” (Gal. 1:8)! Obviously, legalistic unbelievers without the Spirit of God seeking to be saved by their works with a greater focus on self-accomplishment over a focus on Christ’s atonement cannot contribute to a selfless unified environment.
Furthermore, the “small-l” sins of legalism (as I called them) are also damaging to the church. These are the extra-biblical convictions that we have a tendency to elevate to biblical mandate. Grace that comes through Christ’s work of the cross is jettisoned in favor of rules and regulations to become more Christlike.
I’m so thankful we know where to draw the lines. I believe we understand the biblical requirements, live them out and seek to hold each other accountable. At the same time, we respect one another to follow the leading of their conscience and the Spirit to individually develop convictions that honor God in all the gray (non-biblical) matters of Christian living.
In a unified church people are passionately committed to pursuing holiness, boasting in the true Gospel and yet respecting each other in their personal convictions.
3. Be At Peace With One Another
Third, a unified church is one that quickly resolves interpersonal conflict by seeking to “be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18b; cf. Heb 12:14a).
Satan wants to divide, but God wants our personal relationships to resemble the divine relationship He enjoys within the Trinity (Jn. 17:21), one of togetherness, peace and unity. That’s the model of our fellowship. It’s a lofty standard, but God has provided the Bible that gives us all a unified set of beliefs and the Holy Spirit that personally dwells with each of us to unite our spirits (Phil. 2:2) and grant peace (Gal. 5:22). As a matter of fact, God gave us the ultimate example to reconcile estranged relationships. Can our sacrifices to mend a broken relationship ever compare with His by sending His only Son to the cross so we might live in peace with Him (Rom. 5:1; 1 Pet. 1:2)?
It’s such a blessing to my heart when I see this church act as the “family of God.” When I see you live at peace with one another through the absence of conflict, but also with the promotion of fellowship through reconciled relationships. What a blessing to see you enjoy spending time together in prayer and Bible Study and fellowship outside the walls of the church. What a blessing to see the avoidance of cliques and partiality. What a blessing to see many of you extend yourselves to “live in peace with one another” (1 Thes. 5:13).
Imagine a church where all people feel accepted and loved and the worldly games of manipulation, silent treatment, intimidation, retaliation and verbal assault are nonexistent. Peaceful environments in the home and the church take work, but they show evidence the Prince of Peace dwells there.
4. Submit To One Another
Fourth, and I mention this one in all humility, a biblically unified church submits to her leadership.
Naturally, if we are to live at peace with one another (1 Cor. 1:10), we need someone to have the final say. A community of Indians with no chief is disunified and chaotic! Even worse, is a community where everyone thinks he or she is the chief! If I can use the biblical expression from Judges “everyone (will do) what is right in his own eyes” (Ju. 21:25). People need to put their own desires aside for the greater good. Someone needs to steer the ship, chart the course, watch for hidden reefs. Someone needs to make a final decision when group consensus cannot be reached. Someone needs to coordinate the affairs of the church. Somebody needs to stand accountable before God. This is true for all the ministries here at Grace and their assigned leaders. And there is a chain of command among these leaders that works up to the elder board. Fortunately, the Bible gives us clear counsel. Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
Speaking on behalf of the other leaders, it is such an awesome blessing to shepherd this flock. Your trust and submissiveness and support of our leadership have led to much joy because a unified church promotes the joy of her leadership. In Philippians 2, Paul spoke the heart of any pastor, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Phil. 2:2). Only through respecting God-ordained and God-qualified leadership can the leaders experience this joy and the church experience this unity.
5. Pray With One Another
Fifth, a church committed to unity will be a church committed to prayer.
Four passages from the book of Acts (1:12-14; 4:29-31; 12:5; 13:2-3) not only describe the commitment the early church had toward prayer meetings, but also demonstrated the power they experienced from God as a result of their corporate gathering for prayer. Somehow, today’s evangelical church thinks they can go without a Christian discipline so essential to the Apostles and even the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we have the audacity to wonder why we experience such worldliness and lack of spiritual blessings. Could it be that we don’t have because we don’t ask (Jas. 4:2)? Corporate prayer is the best means to seek church unity and the best way to demonstrate church unity. Corporate prayer is the most intimate thing and the most loving thing we can do together.
If you have yet to experience the joy that comes from seeking the face of God with your brothers and sisters in Christ, I would encourage you to prioritize Wednesday evenings on your calendar. If you’re looking for more family time, how about bringing your family to church! I do agree with the many respected Christians throughout the ages who say the prayer meeting is the spiritual barometer of the church. If true, I believe ours is rising! Group and individual prayer – do you have the faith to believe it is valuable?
6. Be Faithful To One Another
And sixth, a unified church is marked by her faithfulness.
Just months before I began dating Julie, I took a solo trip out west to visit some National Parks. I loaded my car with some swimming shorts, a tent and a few items of food and headed to Yellowstone.
One thing I distinctively remember at this incredible National Park was the geysers I visited. Little to the awareness of most, the site actually contains over 500 geysers. Some are extremely spectacular. However, they do not receive the same attention given to one in particular; one called Old Faithful. Old Faithful, though incredible, lacks the drama of the other geysers. It only shoots water straight in the air and its duration lasts only a few minutes. But due to its punctuality and predictability, this geyser has received worldwide attention.
I believe the people that catch God’s attention are those that emulate His faithfulness. There are many in the church that are inconsistent and unreliable, white hot for God one day, but cold as ice for the months that follow. Unified churches are composed of Christians who make it their goal to be reliable, consistent and faithful.
If we are to remain unified, we need everybody in this church to practice consistent faithfulness – faithfulness to serve and pray and attend and encourage and forgive and love. We need men and women and children of integrity: people of their word, people who observe dates and times, people who are faithful in the big things and faithful with the little things as well, people who desire to hear their Lord say, “Well done [My] good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21-NIV).
It’s possible, beloved, to have the God-honoring, unified church our Lord intends (Jer. 32:39) and our hearts desire. The Spirit that dwells in all of us is willing and the biblical instruction is clear. Here is the big question. Are you playing your part to contribute to this environment? Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”