Friday, June 14, 2024

Slowing Down to Listen to God

God has really been challenging me to step outside my comfort zone in my relationship with Him. I was recently at a conference, and during the time of reflection after one of the meetings it was clear to me that I had been trying to take my will back from God, and guide my own life. I hadn’t done it completely, but I was starting to want to pull away. I think because it’s been painful lately, the hurts of ministry and of my personal life have made me want to turn away, and turn inward.

God challenged me to simply re-submit my will and life to Him. And let Him be in control. That’s the foundation of helping anyone else, is first going into the heart of God.

I need God to change my heart again and again so that I’m in alignment with His way of thinking. That doesn’t happen naturally. It takes intentionally spending long amounts of time with God.

Long ago when Mother Teresa made plans for her life, she had not been moved by the suffering the children of Calcutta as a reason to go there and serve. Instead she had been so close to the heart of God that she moved in that direction of service instinctually.

It took me slowing down at the conference, stopping everything and just sitting with God, my journal and a Bible, and asking God to speak to me. And then listening. God did speak, and it was powerful.

At the conference God gave me several encounters with other pastors at the conference. There were many opportunities for ministry. And in particular, ministering to pastors that I wouldn’t normally associate with. God does that. He brings people to us that we wouldn’t normally associate with. And when I encountered these people I just tried to listen, treat them with kindness and respect, and do my best to hear their hurts and when God gave me opportunity, I tried to speak a word that could bring inspiration and healing.

I sometimes dread visiting public places and going to conferences because God often brings me into uncomfortable conversations. It’s stressful. I’m an introvert. I just want to sit by the people I know and feel comfortable. Yet God calls me to connect with others again and again that I wouldn’t normally connect with. 

Yet when I think about it, that’s what Jesus did. He didn’t just stay with people who thought like him. He ministered to Samaritans. He ate with tax collectors. He debated with the Pharisees. He spoke to important leaders like Nicodemus. He ministered to gentiles. 

So, I’m learning. I’m a work in progress. The Holy Spirit calls me out of my comfort zone. It’s hard, because I’m already so tired, and exhausted, and I have way too much on my plate. But the Holy Spirit is gentle and helps me in those situations to not feel too overwhelmed.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Let him that would move the world, first move himself

When I think about the greatest evils in world history, the Nazi take over of Germany, or the communist uprising in Russia, I wonder, what would I have done? But I don't have to wonder. Because everyday I make the decision to either be a servant of Christ, or self-indulgent. I want to believe that I can make a difference. I want to believe that I can change the world in Christ, for the better.

The greatest asset has been looking within at my own heart. It's so easy to blame external circumstances or the inaction of others, and whine and complain about how the church isn't doing enough. How easy it is to complain about others! But what about me? What about my actions? Who am I going to be? That's the real question.

It's also the recognition that I can't fix my own heart with a hammer, nails, and a glue gun. It just won't work. 

Only God can change my heart. Only the Holy Spirit within can build me into a true hero of the faith. Only Jesus Christ himself can make me into who I was always meant to be, a servant-minded loving kind truth telling peacemaker. 

Of course I can cooperate with God in what he's doing, I can be careful to pray fervently, worship intently, study the word thoroughly, engage in concrete actions daily, and love God and others with a whole heart. But in the end, it is God who shifts my heart, as the word says, "from one degree of glory to another" into His likeness (2 Cor 3:18). As God does that work in me, it will be truly beautiful to behold.

So my goal will be to consistently engage myself first in the action of loving God, then the loving others will come naturally. As Socrates said, "Let him that would move the world, first move himself.” 

If I can get that right, and let God move me toward himself, by surrendering honestly to His lead, then I can begin to move the world toward Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Invite the Holy Spirit to Continuously Change your Heart

I think the single most important take-away I’ve gleaned from my life as a believer is to look within at my own heart and ask the Holy Spirit to change my heart. 

If I can find ways to cooperate with God in the heart-change needed in me, whether it’s prayer or practical actions of service, or reading the word, or gathering with a small group, then anything is possible. If I can find a way to let God change my heart deeply, then I can make a huge difference in the world, because my heart will be utterly focused on God’s purposes. If not, then I’ll always be divided within, and unable to make a real difference in spreading the gospel or meeting human needs.

I’ve always longed for “lasting change” to come about because of the presence of our church in the community. I think a single church can have a massive impact on a city. Even just one small church can bring massive change for good to a community. Or it can have little to no impact. 

Honestly I think the best way to do that is to get one person at a time saved, sanctified, and firmly focused on their discipleship journey to heaven. One person who becomes a Christian, even just one, has a big footprint in their city. Imagine five, or twenty, or one hundred, or five thousand, pretty soon, the gospel will spread everywhere, and if Christians are rightly trained to love their neighbors, meet needs, and serve each other, it will make the city a beautiful place to live.

The biggest challenge in all this is the selfish nature of American society. That coupled with wealth and affluence makes many apathetic to the gospel message. But there is great hope in prayer, spreading the gospel intentionally, and ministering to people in their desperate moments. 

We all have moments when we’re hurting and desperate, even in the affluence of American society. If we can reach people in those circumstances, they are often more likely to listen and respond to the gospel message. Pain brings change, as they say.

The Source of our Prosperity: Retaining the Knowledge of Where our Blessings come From

It's so easy to begin to take for granted all we have. That is the cycle of nations in fact. Israel would often forget that God was the source of their prosperity. And as soon as they forgot the source of their prosperity, they began to believe it came from their own genius. And the path to destruction was paved, and they began to walk it. 

Do you understand how absolutely vital this is? Where is my prosperity from? Heaven or Earth? If I get this wrong or right, it will guide me either down the right path or the road of disaster. 

I am truly privileged to live in a nation that has such prosperity and wealth. I look at everything I have, the things I own, the fact that I have electricity, a motor vehicle, a warm house, a safe neighborhood, and it reminds me that billions around the globe don't have access to half of these amenities. At the same time many Americans don't, and I have to remember that as well. But it makes me feel extremely grateful to live in this nation where I enjoy religious freedom, freedom of speech, abundant food, shelter, and endless entertainment.

I'm extremely privileged. I grew up in a two parent household. I've never seen war out my bedroom window. I never was homeless. I never went without food. I have internet, movies, television, videogames, insurance, investments, on and on the list goes.

I think the worst assumption that arises out of the numerous privileges that I enjoy is the danger of assuming that all this abundance came from the genius of the people of the society. Or from my own abilities. I think most people assume that the United States is so prosperous because of the ability of the people. That is certainly not the case.

The only reason I enjoy so many blessings is because God has provided all of this abundance. Unfortunately the abundance has led to a nation that has forgotten God. Why? We didn't steward the blessing. We took it for granted.

I try to stop and pause, in my prayer times, and say, "God, I don't take any of this for granted. I know every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of the Heavenly Lights."

It reminds me of Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation (1863) in which he stated, "No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy." During that time the United States was brutally divided along ideological lines. It's similar today in our country we find a nation deeply divided over ideological lines. He reminded the people, that we need to refocus our attention on God. We need to remember every good gift comes from God.

That's the danger of privilege. We have many blessings. I have many blessings. So I must learn to steward this privilege I find myself in, with so much abundance, wealth, influence, and higher learning, by always remembering that anything I have is from God. I must "Give God all the glory."

I must always make sure I never let the privileged state I find myself in become an excuse to mistreat someone, or to think that I'm better than anyone else. Wealth can easily make us assume that we're better than someone who is poor or who lives in a hut or shack. But it's not true! We're both made in the image of God. We're entirely equal in value before God. We've got to steward the privilege by seeing it as a gift from God to have wealth and influence, while at the same time making sure we use our wealth and influence to bless those who have less than us.

Lastly, I think it's staying very humble as well. It says in James 1:9-10, "9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower." 

People like us, who are devastatingly wealthy compared to the rest of the world, ought to stay intensely humble. Take pride in their humiliation. Because we will pass away, and all the wealth and influence will pass away with us.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Christ in the Heart: It's just that Simple

In all this deep discussion of prayer and God’s presence and turning ourselves toward Him, we must always return to the basic, simple understanding of who Jesus Christ is to us.

You can sit in church your whole life and never let Christ into your heart. You can try very hard to adjust your outward behaviors but never let His love into yourself.

Many I believe who claim to be Christians are actually rebels against God. They are hard at work trying to be good everyday, not because they love God, but because they desire to prove that they are already good.

They may not fully realize it, but they have blocked God out, and their practice of religion is simply trying to be good without God to prove to God that they are good. And that is the road to hell.

If you are in that path right now you’re in great danger. I recall I was at a conference and we at the table were talking about the Lord, talking about God’s presence, and one person at the table became increasingly uncomfortable. As the Spirit surged around that table, she got up and left. It was astonishing. But I wonder, what was really going on inside her? Does she know Jesus or is she trying to be good to prove to God how good she is?

What I want for each of you is to be able to look into your own heart right now and examine yourself, and then look to Jesus Christ the Lord, and then look back at your own heart, and say three words:

“I Know Him.”

And you’ll know its either true, or not true, when you say it in your heart.

“I Know Him.” I really know Him. I know Jesus. Jesus knows me. We are one. He is my savior. I’m his brother. God is my Father. It’s really true.

Now recently I met with a young man in my office who I’ve known for years here. He expressed his love for God. He expressed how he prays. He knows about Jesus. He talks to Jesus. I dare say he may indeed know Jesus in his heart.

But his actions don’t line up with whom he claims.

I’ve seen this many times. Someone who does know Jesus in their heart. But they are living in so many sins. And the excuse he gave me was that everyone sins, you can’t ever be perfect.

Christians do battle sin. But they are not controlled by sin. Sin does not consume them.

For a Christian sin is like walking through an area of puddles. Sometimes you successfully avoid the puddle, in fact as you pay attention more closely, you avoid the puddles more and more effectively.

But occasionally, you step into a puddle, your shoe is soaked in mud, and you shake off your boot, clean it off, and keep going.

That is very different from someone who is in the swamp up to their ankles and rarely sees dry ground.

These are two separate situations that need remedy. I’m sure some of us here are in the first camp. We’ve never really let Jesus into our hearts. We’ve tried so hard to be good without Him. And we’re exhausted and empty, and we need to let His love in to change us from the inside.

Is that you? Repent right now. Invite Jesus in. Call on the name of your savior, Jesus Christ help me!

Second group, you really do know Jesus in your heart, but you’ve allowed sin to dominate your life. You’ve made excuses for it. You’ve rationalized why it’s ok. You’ve ignored the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And you are living a double-life.

And you probably think it’s too late for you. But you would be wrong. It’s not too late.

You can get real with your savior right now, admit to Jesus Christ what you’ve done, and ask for His help. But here’s the hard part, you’ve got to let go of your pride, and let Him be God.

When he tells you to go to AA, you just go, you don’t argue. When he tells you to read that book, or go reconcile with your enemy or old friend, you just do it. Don’t argue. Don’t try to rationalize. Just take that first step of obedience.

And that first step will begin to lead you down a road of real victory where you’ll see sin after sin vanish from your life in the blood of Jesus.

Walk the road of miracles. It takes courage, but in Him, you will find such victory.

I walk that road. It’s a glorious road. You’ll be amazed. Now take the first step. What is Jesus asking you to do? Is to go to rehab? Read a book? Meet with your pastor? Attend a conference? Embrace the road of victory, victory over sin!

In all this we want to return to the simple knowledge of Jesus Christ, the simple relationship to know who Jesus is, to love Him and be loved by Him.

Real inner knowledge of Jesus. What if every pastor and teacher taught their people the simple path of knowing Jesus, His life, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His parables and teachings, the sermon on the mount, and the kind of life he lived?

As Jeanne Guyon said… “We would see the simple farmer, as he plowed his field, spend his days in the blessing of the presence of God. The shepherd, while watching his flocks, would have the same abandoned love for the Lord which marked the early Christians. The factory worker, while laboring with his outward man, would be renewed with strength in his inner man.” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 118

That farmer, that shepherd, that factory worker knows Jesus in their heart. They really know Him. They’ve honestly authentically called on Jesus to save them from who they were, and as a result, they are no longer who they were.

Call on Jesus right now, and ask Him, "Jesus save me from who I am now, and make me someone completely new."

We have to go straight to the heart.

As Jeanne Guyon wrote, “Go straight to the heart! Laying down rules and trying to change the outward behavior will not produce a work that will endure in the life of a Christian.” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 118

I can’t change your outward behavior. Government and laws can’t change your outward behavior. We just find ways to get around the laws or avoid the authorities. Outward rules can’t produce righteousness. Only a heart change can do that. Only total surrender to God can do that. That often comes in a time of crisis in our lives.

For an unsaved person, as you grope toward God in the dark, the heart should be your target. The mind will argue, the mind will rationalize, the mind will justify, the mind will try to dance around the facts, but not the heart. The heart knows that God is real. 

The mind when given apologetics, evidence for God’s existence, explanations for the problem of evil, is able to dodge and weave and escape and argue and create any sort of pathway away from the truth.

But the heart is different. You can tell a person, God is real, you can see it through nature, cosmology, and DNA and so on. But the mind may say well all this is ridiculous, how could there be a God, where did God come from, how could Jesus rise from the dead, it’s all ridiculous!

But when you go to the heart, directly, and indicate to the heart, you know in your heart that God is really real. You also know that you’ve sinned against God. You know you’ve done wrong. And you know deep down that you need a savior. And you know when you read the Bible, something deep inside your heart says, “It may sound odd. Yet I know it’s all true.”

In the heart is where you believe in Jesus and find salvation. In the heart is where you come to a state of desperation strong enough to call out to Him for forgiveness. In the heart is where you come to Him. 

We wrestle in that back and forth between heart and mind, resisting it and embracing the truth, and when that crisis culminates, you will either cry out to Him, or turn further away from Him. But we’re offered that option again and again and again in our lives.

After the heart has been changed, after the heart has given itself over to Jesus, after you’ve allowed Jesus to be the King of your heart, to have authority over you, then, after, we begin to instruct the mind in the ways of God. And from degree to degree the mind is transformed.

And you add power and logic to your faith through apologetics after salvation. You learn the evidences for God’s existence, you learn the scientific facts, you learn the historical realities, you learn the manuscript evidence, and slowly but surely your mind becomes the defender of the heart reality that already exists.

That is all the lead up to salvation, the battle within the heart to be willing to turn oneself over to God completely. That’s surrender to God. That’s asking Jesus to forgive your sins. That’s repenting of your sins and allowing God to remove them from your heart.

Now we’re off on the journey together toward heaven. And so it becomes a daily pattern of seeking God within each day. Because the moment of salvation is not the end of the journey, it’s the beginning.

Now for the believer to prosper they must learn on their own to continuously seek God. Not just in church. Not just on Sunday. But all week.

Jeanne Guyon writes, “Accomplishing all this is very easy. How? Simply teach a believer to seek God within his own heart. Show the new Christian that he can set his mind on Jesus Christ and return to Him whenever he has wandered away.” -Jeanne Guyon, p.121

Does that mean that you actually will? I have no idea if you do or not. I get you for an hour here on Sunday. I pray for you, and I know you pray for each other during the week, but at the end of the day, I don’t actually know if you take any of this and apply it. That’s between you and God. I’ve done my job to tell you plainly what to do next to grow in your relationship with Him.

If you don’t then you’ll have to explain that to God on judgment day. But I’ve done my part.

Your goal should be a single eye on God. As Jeanne Guyon writes:

“Furthermore, show him he should do all and suffer all with a single eye to please his God.” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 121

The goal is, to seek to please God in your life.

Just as much, your goal is to express love for God and be loved by God.

“The simple, undisguised emotions of love express infinitely more to Him than the words of any language.” -Jeanne Guyon, p.123

All this happens in the heart. Love expressed toward God is more important than any words. That’s what God wants. For us to learn to love Him with all of our heart.

This is all very simple salvation in Jesus. Love Him in your heart. Cry out to Him in your heart. Let your heart go to that place of inviting Him in. Let your heart be desperate enough to want Him. Then once being changed by Him, seek to love Him, and please Him the rest of your life. 

Jeanne Guyon writes, “It is amazing and delightful to see that it is the simplest Christians who often progress farthest in an inner relationship with Jesus Christ!” -Jeanne Guyon, p. 123

The greatest heroes of the Christian faith were not necessarily the most brilliant men and women. They were simple people who hungered for God. Brother Lawrence was a dishwasher at a monastery, Madam Guyon was not a pastor, Smith Wigglesworth was a plumber, Peter, James and John were fishermen, it’s the simplest of people who God uses. 

They were simple, but the word of God made them special, because they sought it out so diligently. 

As the scripture says about wisdom: “Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says, “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed." -Proverbs 9:4-5

And as Jesus himself said: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” -Matthew 11:25

In conclusion, allow God into your heart! It's that simple. It’s in the heart we believe and are saved. Pray right now and invite Him in to save you, to change you, and to lead you down the victorious pilgrimage road to heaven.

Review of Main Points:
1. Avoid the trap of trying to prove to God that you are already good – repent of this evil way, and ask for forgiveness of your sins, and let Jesus change you

2. A true believer is able to say in the heart: “I Know Him”

3. A genuine believer lost in sin can find the victory road in allowing Jesus to direct their pathway out of sin

4. Go to the Heart to find a true knowledge of God, then afterward train the mind to follow what the heart has found in Christ

5. The believer having found their love must now keep their eye on one main purpose: To please God

6. What God wants most from you is for you to honestly love Him, and to honestly receive His love

7. The most simple Christian is often the one who takes the relationship with God the furthest

Unity in the Church: And the Boundaries of Unity

You can tell when you walk into a church, and spend any amount of time there, whether that church is united or not. What is Christian unity? We know it when we see it. We can feel it.

You can feel the peace around the table. You can sense the peace and unity in the service, the bible studies, the business meetings, and so on.

There is general unity. The believers there love Jesus, they are humble, and they enjoy the peace of unity. They don’t allow their egos to break it.

Similarly, we can tell very quickly when there is disharmony, disunity. You can sense the hostility. You can sense the annoyances and anger. You can see the pride and ego in the eyes of the people there who want their way. There is faction, rebelliousness, and it’s toxic.

For Christians to be united in any way is a testimony to the world that Jesus is real. I recall being in Escanaba, and there was a unity of 14 churches that had all agreed to join forces to create a rotating homeless shelter. And I always remembered that, being at the meeting of those church leaders, and seeing their unity, to work together to help the homeless was a powerful witness of Christian unity.

Yet at the same time, there is also a boundary to unity. We as Christians cannot be united with false teachings, sometimes the suggestion of unity is used as a guise to implement false teachings.

A church may split, if half the church says we are going to go against what the Bible says. We are going to throw out God’s design for marriage, and change it. Well, in that case, the true church should split off from those false teachers, because we cannot have fellowship with darkness. We cannot have fellowship with lies. That is the line.

But Jesus longs for the fellowship, the unity of true believers. He prays for it famously in John 17.

John 17:1-5 says, “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

We have a perfect example from Jesus about what it means to walk in unity. On Earth, Jesus sought to do the perfect will of God the Father.

He was always focused on one thing: What is my Father’s will?

God gave Jesus work to do, and Jesus did that work successfully, joyously, and even when it was very hard and painful.

If our eyes are focused on God our Father in heaven, humbly seeking to do His will, we will walk in unity.

If we are self focused, and prideful, and rebellious, we will cause disunity among the believers.

So much of this, when we talk about unity, is going to be internal.

Next Jesus says, verses 6-8, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.”

Jesus reveals the Father to us. Who is God? Jesus reveals the Father to us perfectly.

In unity we find our example in Jesus himself. How can I be a person of unity, a Christian of unity? By being an accurate example of Jesus to the world.

Jesus in His prayer here is talking about the disciples in a particular way, he says they obeyed the Father’s word.

It says they “accepted His word.”

They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.

That is something I honestly believe about Jesus, that the Father really did send Jesus. I really believe that every word of the Bible is true. I accept His word as it is written.

Do you accept the word of God as written?

A hallmark of a person of unity is that they honestly accept God’s words as written.

But be on guard friends. It is very easy, so very easy to begin to twist God’s word to suit our desires.

We start to soften certain aspects. We start to ignore certain bible verses that make us uncomfortable. This is becoming increasingly common in modern Christianity. You see once prominent denominations that were so firmly embedded in truth, now going off into error. They change the word of God to suit their desires. The United Methodist church split. Even organizations like Cru and intervarsity are beginning to stray on certain key issues of our day.

The Salvation Army itself, is wrestling with these issues.

The hallmark of a man or woman of unity is that they first of all humbly seek to do God’s will, but second, they are a man or woman completely dedicated to the revealed word of God.

And I mean even up against your own theology that you hold right now. I think about the theology that I held ten years ago, and wow, what garbage it was. More and more I’ve allowed the word of God to disrupt my theological understanding. So many things I heard from so many bible teachers I later realized just weren’t true.

Know the word. Know it intimately and deeply. And then you’ll be able to discern.

Now watch out at the same time. You’re being told how important unity is. Suppose suddenly many leaders and pastors and groups start proclaiming that that its ok to have multiple wives. Or groups and leaders start saying, actually stealing is ok, or God’s grace means you can live in sin. Or we can redefine marriage. Or we should stop believing in miracles.

And then when you say, "Wait a minute that’s not what the Bible says" they say well you’re causing disunity by arguing with us about this.

That is false. Don’t ever fall for that trap. So many times false teachers bring in destructive heresies and false teachings, and then when Christians speak up against them they say, “Why are you causing disunity in the body?”

It reminds me of when King Ahab in the Old Testament saw the prophet Elijah he said to him, “When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” -1 Kings 18:17

King Ahab is the one troubling Israel by leading the nation into idol worship. But he accuses Elijah of being the one causing trouble.

Biblical unity does not mean unity with unbiblical garbage and false theology. Christians must stand up boldly against false teachers and false teachings. Always remember that.

Next it says, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” -John 17:9-12

We find in God protection, a power that surrounds us as Christians, that knits us together, and keeps us functioning as one.

Jesus held his disciples together in His power. Now the Holy Spirit holds us together as believers. God’s power keeps us united.

You may ask why then do church splits happen? You hear about it, I recall when I was in the upper peninsula, a very prominent church had split, the pastor had been removed, and he took with him half the congregation, and they started meeting at a local hotel conference area. Why does it happen?

I’ve seen it happen with The Salvation Army. The current corps officer leaves and the church vanishes once they leave, and it’s very sad.

Why would these things happen if God’s power holds us together? Because there are three factors at play in all things, God’s power is one. Second is free will, that is, human decision. Third, we'll talk about in a moment. 

I am nestled safely in the power of God holding us together, but with my own foolishness could I get all out of whack and cause massive problems? I certainly could.

It happened several years ago here, and several people left the church over a change in leadership. I've made dumb decisions as a leader that caused problems in the church as well. 

Friends, back when I was a young Christian I caused problems with the pastor because I was young, and energetic, and opinionated, and I put stuff on social media I should’ve never posted and it caused problems. Thankfully I’ve repented of that bad behavior.

That’s why its so important to know God’s word, go back to point two, we’ve got to build this understanding of unity one upon the other.

The scriptures show us a series of barriers to unity which come from 
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV, "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

The scriptures warn about dissensions, intentionally acting in a dissenting way against a faithful leader. 

The scripture warns against factions, and I’ve seen factions form in churches, this group against that group.

The scripture warns against backbiting, slandering others behind their back. Yet how often do we do that?

The scripture warns about selfish ambition, when instead of doing things for God’s glory, we do things for promotion and to show off ourselves.

The scripture warns about strife. Strife is the idea of showing that you’re better than someone else, arguing to show yourself as the correct one constantly.

The scripture warns about divisions. Being divided, intentionally splitting, and splitting off, and dividing up, and it's ugly. 

Sometimes to consider unity, we must look at what disunity looks like. I think we’ve all seen churches that are united, and it’s a glorious thing.

“How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalms 133:1.

And we’ve also seen churches that are divided, and it’s unbearably uncomfortable and miserable to behold.

So we see God's power, and human free will at work. What about the third factor? The third factor is Satan/demonic influence. 

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” -John 17:13-19

Jesus prays and ask God the Father to protect his disciples from the evil one.

The evil one seeks to sow disunity among the body of Christ. We’ve seen it so many times throughout history, denominations splitting, churches splitting, believers divided, friends divided, and it’s ugly.

We have to remember that it’s not just ourselves that we’re fighting against when it comes to unity, we also have an enemy seeking to sow disunity.

If the enemy can get you upset about something, some decision that was made, some issue or controversy, whatever it might be, he can drive you out. I remember there was gentleman who attended the church, and he felt that I looked at him in a way that indicated that I didn’t like him, so he had left the church.

Don’t let the enemy peel you off from the body of believers. The enemy wants to target you, make you feel different, get you to run away from the safety of the flock, get mad about something, and then he’s got you where he wants you, disconnected from the body of believers, alone, isolated, and then he moves in with the lies and false thoughts, and pretty soon, he takes you out, sin takes over, and it’s a shipwrecked believer.

Next, it says, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” -John 17:20-23

Next point, Jesus has given us the glory he received from the Father. We are now shining people, noble people, different people, set apart people, unique people. We must walk in that uniqueness and know that we are different.

You wear each day the rob of righteousness of Jesus Christ, His perfect righteousness, was His gift to you. And in exchange He took your filthy garments of sin and deleted them on the cross.

How then could you walk in the sins of disunity? We cannot. We must not. We are different people now.

Last scripture portion, “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.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 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.” –John 17:24-26

Jesus promises to continue to live within us, reveal the Father to us, and to make sure that the love the Father has for Jesus, will continue to go from the Father, to Jesus, to us.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

When we are united, knit together, connected, and of one accord, of one mind, then we will manifest true, deep, real love, and that will prove to the world that we are Christians. And that love will win many over to become Christians.

Now you may be thinking to yourself well, that will just naturally happen in a church. I think that’s somewhat true. I think it’s also not quite right. We need to be intentional about loving each other. We need to be intentional about helping each other. We need to be intentional about praying for each other.

How often do you connect with another church member during the week? When did you last pray for a brother or sister? When did you help a church member with a project or a need during the week? Well the church will handle that. You are the church! Others aren’t going to do it for you. You need to make it happen.

Last point today, I want to direct you to the beginning of the message. Unity among Christians is beautiful. But there is a limit to unity. It’s this: There can be no unity with falsehood.

The book of Jude talks about this. This has been attempted in the church from time to time. We attempt to be so unifying that we try to include false teachings. We try to include other religions, other philosophies, and then the people behind this celebrate how unifying they are being. But it’s a false unity. If you believe in Jesus and I believe in atheism, we can tolerate each other, befriend each other, but there can be no Christian unity there. One of the major flaws of American society is we’ve tried to include so much, be such a big umbrella of ideologies and philosophies that we’ve destroyed our social cohesion. Some ideas and philosophies are good, some ideas and philosophies are not good. But we're so desperate to be inclusive, and show our virtue, that we bring in bad ideas, and they harm our society. Similarly, in the church, if we bring in bad ideas, bad theology, false teachers, wrong teachings, under the flag of being inclusive and open, it will harm the body. 

False teachers often come in with ideas that contradict the Bible, contradict our faith, and when we challenge them and say, no, that’s not what the Bible says, we’re accused of causing disunity. But we should stand up against false teachings, not unite with them. 

Avoid the seduction of trying to show how open and inclusive you are. It's a tempting desire, it feels very virtuous. Conversely it feels a bit ugly to tell someone, that idea is not who we are, that concept is wrong. But it's necessary. Our society has struggled with this basic principle, and it's led us to ruin. We can't let it lead the church to ruin as well. 

The basic principle is this: Humble unity in love at all costs among Christians, dogged protection of the truth from evil ideologies and false teachings at all costs.

Review Main Points:
1. Unity is humbly walking in the Father’s will

2. Unity is being completely committed to God’s word

3. God’s Power keeps us united

4. The Enemy seeks to destroy unity

5. In Christ’s Glory we are shining people, noble people, set apart people (able to be united)

6. God’s love is made manifest in unity

7. Unity’s limit is there can be no unity with falsehood