NAVIGATION

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In the Gospel of John, chapters 13-16 tell the story of Jesus’ last meal with His disciples and the precious truths He shares with them. Then in chapter 17, the focus shifts, from Jesus talking with His disciples, to talking with His Father. 

“Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.’” – John 17:1-2 

And sure enough, in John 18:1, what it means for the hour to come begins! The garden, Judas’ betrayal, Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ trial – mocking – spit – scourging – crucifixion – forsaken! 

Jesus knew what was ahead for Him in just a few short hours!!! He knew the excruciating suffering He would experience so those who trust in Him can have eternal life! Knowing that, as it neared the time for them to leave that safe Upper Room, what was on His mind as He prayed to His Father? 

We were!!! 

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word.” – John 17:20. 

There are plenty of times in reading Scripture where we are tempted to try and duck the application, using various techniques… like, “that was for them and is not applicable to today.” 

Jesus didn’t leave this prayer up for debate! 

And what does He pray for US? He prays for our UNITY! 

John 17:21-23 –

21- that they may all BE ONE… 22 – that they may BE ONE... 23 – that they may be brought to complete unity. 

THREE times expressed…

Jesus didn’t have a stuttering problem… His Father wasn’t hard of hearing! 

The repetition screams of intensity... possibly the peak of His prayer… for on this unity MUCH was and is dependent! 

And what EFFECT necessitates unity’s expression? 

21- so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

23 – so that the world will know that You sent Me, and have loved them even as You have loved Me. 

Once again the repetition of intensity! 

Jesus is praying, “Father, PLEASE, don’t let all I am about to go through be for NAUGHT! NOR let it fall short of ALL that is intended! Let Your GLORY, Father, be FULLY revealed, through the sacrifice of my life being proclaimed LOUD & CLEAR, through the POWER & CREDIBILITY of a UNIFIED Body, unto the salvation of MANY!” 

Bottom line… The sobering fact is, Jesus’ sacrifice being effectively communicated and received by a world in desperate need is somehow tied to our unity as a people of God! 

To BE ONE is mission critical to the believer. 

Yet united is not a word that describes our lives or our churches in 2022. Quite the opposite actually. In speaking with spiritual leaders around the state, the word that best describes the current state of the church is divided… the very opposite of united! 

What would we see happen if the issue of unity moved to the top of the priority list both for the individual believer as well as for all ministry and church leadership? 

In our separation, we can but muster a faint whisper!

In our UNITY, we can SHOUT with POWER and GLORY and IMPACT! We can divide over many things, but we have ONE to unite around! And as the church unites, we will shine bright into the darkness! 

  • Fights have torn us apart
  • Fears have kept us apart
  • Faith is our start… of coming back together

We invite you to be one this year who will take practical steps towards the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer to Be ONE!

John 17:21-23 - 21- that they may all BE ONE... 22 - that they may BE ONE... 23 - that they may be brought to complete unity.

BE ONE TO RECONNECT WITH COMMUNITY

Romans 12:2

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

On the list of overused phrases over the last two years… “new normal!”

It’s a term we use to articulate a belief that something has fundamentally changed in our circumstances that has created subsequent changes to the way we then need to think, feel and/or behave!

One of the risks of this mindset is to mindlessly accept changes that are neither real changes nor ideal changes!

They are not real changes meaning that which is now different doesn’t HAVE to continue to be different moving forward!

They are not ideal changes meaning that which is now different, if allowed to continue, has very negative impacts!

One such example? Our disconnection from community!

Early covid we all experienced an unprecedented disruption… lockdowns that resulted in many being DISCONNECTED FROM COMMUNITY!

The new normal became “connection light” via church online and ZOOM!

For a window of time, we all were so grateful for these technologies and what they provided… TEMPORARILY!!!

It is like marriage which is meant to be a temporary picture of the love relationship Jesus invites you to have with Him, but it’s not a substitute for your personal relationship with Christ. A picture, no matter how vivid, could EVER take the place of the real thing! 

Could you imagine any newly wed couple choosing to spend their wedding night in separate hotels with their favorite picture of the other? No matter how luxurious the hotel, no matter how delicious the meal, no matter how vivid the picture, it just doesn’t compare to being TOGETHER!

Modern technology has many benefits. We can use it in many positive ways. But we must be on guard against unintended consequences. It’s great that we can livestream our services, but watching on our computer, no matter how vivid the picture, is not an adequate substitute for actually being together.

God has called His church to gather together to worship, to encourage one another, to help each other grow and to care for one another. Watching a picture at home… it’s just not the same. 

One impact our response to covid has had on too many Christians is we’ve fallen into some unfortunate habits that have become unacceptable new normals. One of those has been the devaluing of gathering in person to be the church. If allowed to continue it will have an increasingly negative impact!

For your sake and the sake of those who need your encouragement and care, let’s make gathering together a priority again! 

Let’s reject this new normal and… Be ONE by reconnecting with community!

BE ONE TO RESTORE RELATIONSHIPS

A foolproof way to score a win against your adversary is to launch a counter-attack by seeking to restore a relationship!

When it comes to your adversary, a prime target in his attempts to destroy your life is your relationships!

Your relationships, at times, are literally on the front lines of his attack!

Do you have a relationship that has been left ravaged by his previous attacks?

Do you have a relationship where the battle is raging right now?

Don’t just sit back! COUNTER ATTACK!!!

Now, your counter-attack must begin with taking back control of what the military strategists call the “Center of Gravity!”

The Center of Gravity is: “The hub of all power and movement on which everything depends, the point at which all energies should be directed.”

So, what is the Center of Gravity on the battleground of your relationships?

You don’t have to look any further than YOUR OWN HEART!!

Your heart is the “Center of Gravity!”

Your heart is… the hub of all power and movement on which everything depends, and thus it is the point at which all energies should be directed!

Proverbs 4:23 says it well!

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do!”

And Hebrews 12:15:

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”

When it comes to your relationship that is experiencing or has experienced an attack… What is the state of your heart?

Who has operational control of the center of gravity of your heart??

According to Galatians 5:19-26, it is pretty simple to figure out.

You can discern who is at the root by inspecting the fruit!

Verse 19… “Now the works of the flesh…” also known as the evidence something or someone other than God has operational control of our hearts… “Now the works of the flesh are evident!”

“Enmity, strife, fits of anger, divisions… and things like these…”  which also means roots of bitterness, holding grudges, unforgiveness.

In contrast, the fruit of the SPIRIT… also known as the evidence that God has operational control of our hearts…

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… humility… forgiveness…

So once again…

When it comes to your relationship that is experiencing or has experienced an attack… What is the state of your heart?

Who has operational control of the center of gravity of your heart??

Ephesians 4:30-32 (NASB1995)
[30] Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. [31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. [32] Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

A foolproof way to score a win against our adversary… is to forgive!

We remove a favorite weapon from his arsenal when we forgive!

We re-establish God having operational control of our hearts when we forgive!

And with God in control, the battle has already been won!!!!

Enemy

BE ONE BY RECOGNIZING THE ADVERSARY

The amount of division we are experiencing, that has invaded the church, goes WAY beyond being logically explained by race, gender or opinions medically or politically! 

We are in a battle! And the battle we’re in is a spiritual battle!

In a 2009 survey, Barna Research discovered that only 35% of Christians in the United States believe that Satan is a real being. That is very frightening. Our adversary is seeking to steal, kill and destroy, while also convincing us that he doesn’t exist.

Recognizing our TRUE adversary is absolutely crucial in our battle for unity! To fail to do so will result in friendly fire assaults!

Who your adversary is not:

  • the member of your church who made a different choice than you did regarding shots, or masks, or political candidates
  • the one with whom you disagree ideologically regarding race or gender or schools or the state of our country

Who your adversary is:

  • For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12
  • Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – I Peter 5:8 
  • Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. – 2 Timothy 2:23-26 
  • Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:4  
  • But one whom you forgive anything, I also forgive; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did so for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. – 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 
  • We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. – I John 5:19 
  • Submit therefore to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:7 
  • But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. – 2 Thessalonians 3:3 

If you don’t know who your enemy is you could be destroyed.

If you don’t know who your enemy is you could be used to destroy.

If you don’t know who your enemy is our witness could be destroyed.  

Spiritually speaking there are really only two categories of human beings. (hint: It’s not Democrats and Republicans!)

  • It is the found and the still lost!
  • It is the “seeing” and the still blinded!
  • It is the FREED!!! and the ones still held captive!

With the freed, we should be passionately fighting BESIDE! With the captive, we should be compassionately fighting FOR!

In neither case should we be fighting AGAINST!

Our call to Be ONE is for the glory of God… unto the worthiness of Christ… for the hope of our state… in the proclamation of the Gospel! 

Satan is going to have a problem with that! He will work hard to keep us divided.

The lion doesn’t attack the flock of sheep unified together in a bunch. It attacks the strays, the ones who have been separated, who have wandered. There is power in unity to resist the devil. 

So, let’s not be surprised when unity is difficult.

And let’s remember… Our brothers and sisters in Christ are not the enemy… they’re the army!

Be ONE to recognize the adversary!

For a good read on recognizing the adversary and his subtle ways of getting us distracted and believing he doesn’t exist, we recommend reading “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis and “Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table” by Louie Giglio.

 

Truth

BE ONE TO REFOCUS ON TRUTH

  • Fights have torn us apart
  • Fears have kept us apart
  • Faith is our start… of coming back together

We begin to apply our faith by believing and obeying God’s commands about unity!!!

God’s Word is His communication of truth to us. And while a command appearing ONCE in Scripture carries with it God’s full authority and expectations, there are areas so core to His heart that He is redundant in His communication of them.

Love… forgiving… caring for the poor are a few that come to mind.

How about unity? Have you ever consciously grasped how often God’s command for His followers to be united is repeated throughout His Word? One source referenced 179 passages of Scripture about unity!

With the level of redundant clarity, WHY HAVE WE MISSED THIS! Why is this not the topic of books and the title of sermons? Why is there no tension within us as we recognize the gap that exists between this CLEAR command of God and our lack of obedience to it?

How did and do we miss this redundantly clear THEME of unity? We believe there are 5 root reasons…

  • We have redefined unity to mean the absence of disunity! Positives are NEVER merely the abstaining from negatives! Unity must have a positive expression!
  • We have reduced the scope of application to be within our local churches! We act as if only getting along with those within our local churches is the fulfillment of God’s call to unity!
  • We have rationalized our disobedience, explaining that unity is impractical! We reason that we can’t possibly be united on a practical level with the diversity and number of churches in our community.
  • We have justified our disobedience in the name of doctrinal integrity! Yes, truth both unites and divides, yet we focus on dividing because of truth rather than on the unity inherent in truth!
  • We have minimized the importance of our obedience by shrinking our mission! The sobering fact is, Jesus’ sacrifice being effectively communicated and received by a world in desperate need is tied to our unity as God’s people!

Refocusing on Truth: The Call for Our Unity 

Our call to Be ONE is for the glory of God… unto the worthiness of Christ… for the hope of our state… in the proclamation of the Gospel! 

Understanding the clarity of God’s call to Be ONE will be your starting power and your staying power when walking in unity gets difficult. 

Let’s allow God’s Word to form our commitment to Be ONE! 

Be one to look up these 3 chapters in your Bible, read them more than once, journal your thoughts, and ask God to show you what these truths mean.

  • Romans 12, Philippians 2 and John 17. 

Then be one who will memorize Ephesians 4:1-6 as our foundation to Be ONE!

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 being diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

BE ONE TO REPRIORITIZE THE LOST

BE ONE TO REMEMBER OUR SAVIOR