Only Christ Can Bring Unity

Recently, Ravi Zacharias presented a lecture entitled “The Coalescence of Contrarieties” on his weekly radio program. How incredibly well-timed this recent broadcast has proven to be this week. What have we achieved with now decades of preaching tolerance to an increasingly multicultural Europe (for a salient example of growing disunity see the following news item http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904006104576499631544932082.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond). How far have we progressed in preaching the same message in America. The recent riots in Europe are revealing that the enormous amount of time and energy that has been poured into encouraging unity has been a colossal waste of time. The Bible reveals and history proves that there is only one way to achieve a true unity among cultures. Paul described this notion of unity among cultures in Galatians 3:28 and Colossians 3:11. The missing ingredient in the world’s most recent efforts is the Lordship of Christ. Unity is not possible unless there is a recognition that Christ is Lord. He is the only one capable of offering us the true gift of humility. Recognizing the value of fellow human beings begins with recognizing the God of creation in worship and ends with falling at the feet of Jesus. This idea of “coalescence of contrarieties” is also related to our multigenerational discussion. Only God can achieve a miraculous unity among various generations. As many of you have pointed out, the attempt seems pointless at times. The goal seems impossible at times, but deep within our spirits we know that God is calling His church to unity. I would encourage you to listen to Ravi’s presentation. He explains that God can bring together seemingly irreconcilable items: http://www.rzim.org/resources/listen/letmypeoplethink.aspx

19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jason Brown on August 11, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Unity in diversity is indeed hard to find anywhere else outside the bounds of authentic Christian community. Perhaps this is why some pick either right or left, haves or have-nots, square or circle on and on. Then they so vehemently rail against the other “team” because it provides a sort of pseudo-unity for your team. But this unity is only superficial and fosters no real life change.

    You and Ravi are certainly right. Only in worship does one lay down his own pride in order to serve others. And only at the cross does one find himself on level ground with all others. No man made institution will ever foster true unity in diversity.

    However, though true unity is possible in the church it is still fragile and the community must always keep a close vigil to protect unity under Christ’s headship.

    Reply

    • Posted by Michael Weis on August 15, 2011 at 4:29 pm

      Good point on the last sentence. We forget that unity requires work too! Though it is by God’s power, we are also responsible in our actions and attitudes to obey the Lord, love others, forgive others and stand for truth. We must seek to preserve that unity, based on the truth without compromise. Well said…

      Reply

  2. Posted by Mike Chitwood on August 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    The church that I pastor at when I was voted in as the Pastor, apparently that was the first unanimous decision that was made in over 10 years. I knew it would be a challenge going into it and that I would have to play the diplomat a lot. However I had no idea that there would be so much fracture in one place. Often many people were giving their criticism’s of what was wrong with others. I reminded them that they shouldn’t criticize without a solution at hand. Then the solutions came but the solutions that were given and each side said that they were the one’s right and everyone should do what they suggested. However to no surprise no one has given up any ground to be on the same unified page because they believe they are the one’s that are “right.” The Lord has led me to combat this by teaching the full truth of the Gospel and encourage people that unity will only occur when we believe and act upon what Jesus taught. A churches traditions will not do it, nor will one’s slanted view. There is still much work to be done and I at this point celebrate the victories when I can. After we singing “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” God did lead a lady to say last Sunday night, “I have not been able to sing this song because I didn’t believe it to be true at this church. Tonight was the first time in over a year I have been able to sing this song.” God has led her to believe unified change based on His principles are happening, and I also commend her for worshiping in spirit and in truth, even if it meant not singing a song that really would not have been worship for her!

    Reply

    • Posted by Michael Weis on August 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm

      Wow… I had no idea this was the case and praise the Lord for working in this lady’s heart and good job to you too Mike for proclaiming the truth of the Gospel. A pastor friend of mine has been in similar situations and he has lifted up Christ, who He is, what He has done and the Lord, likewise, did some wonderful things in those churches where Christ was proclaimed – truth in love. May God keep working in you and through you my brother…

      Reply

    • Posted by Derek Mitchell on September 12, 2011 at 3:15 am

      Mike … Thank you for sharing a personal testimony of how your experience relates to the subject matter. Jesus said in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by thy truth. Thy word is truth!” Brother, you did the best thing you could have done. PREACH THE GOSPEL! It’s so important, especially in the context of unity, to let unity happen. We can’t force it. And when you teach truth, the truth will bring the unity. The best part is witnessing the church body will walk through a process of sanctification by the truth. And, in your case, you have living proof of the Spirit’s sanctifying work … He’s given us a “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” that we don’t deserve, yet He transforms our life when we live in obedience to His truth.

      Reply

  3. The tolerance and unity that they preach in Eurpoe is not the same tolerance and unity that they teach in USA. The EU has been strong for 20 years but it is still made up od seperate counties and unions. France and Germany still play each other in the oylmpics. In America we preach unity in America; white, black, brown,or green – your and american First. Remember after 9/11, there was a swell of america pride and an added fear to the unkown or Muslim cuntires. Paul knows what he is talking about in Gal 3:28 and Col 3:11, if we are christians fiist and claim our citizenshp to the body of chirst, that is true worship. I enjoyed Ravi Zacharias talking about the mystery of personailtes and talking about the many who leave the faith becasue they see the contradiction. True unity in christ is true worship, its human nature to be selfish and to trust the people that are like you but if you listen to the teachings of Jesus and follow the Greatest comandemnt and believe that the last will be first and the first will be last a true worship between cultures can be reached.

    Reply

    • Posted by Michael Weis on August 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm

      This goes with some of what I tried to state about how the world can’t bring true unity. You also make a good point about the 9/11 and how there was a resurgence, albeit short, of “American pride.” Yet that too faded becuase it was not based in Christ. I heard Ravi’s messages on the radio and liked what he said. But one thing I think we also need to keep in mind is that some people use the lack of unity or percieved unity they think we should have as an excuse not to be a part of the church. Some will see one little thing wrong and blow it way out of proportion. That is where the truth needs to be proclaimed even more!

      Reply

      • Amen! Unity is a 2 way street. We all have something wrong with us and we need to accept that in others and in ourselves. Makes the story of Jesus so much more awesome when you think about the unity that Jesus brings.

  4. Posted by Michael Weis on August 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Very true… We try so hard to “force unity” whether in schools, families or Sunday schools, church and the world. We think if we spend more money, have different regulations and rules or get rid of things or come together in some cause, we can have unity! We have seen that this is not possible. The unity the world gives is empty, futile, self defeating and limited. We could think of Nazi Germany. They were united but hated by others becuase of their atrocities. Or think of how Communism seeks to “unite” nations, only to destroy them from the inside out. No… only through the power oft he Holy Spirit, based on the love of God and love for God founded in His word, can we be united. It is not by might, nor by power but only by His Spirit – Zechariah 4:6.

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  5. Posted by Stephanie on August 20, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    I think the lack of unity in our churches among the folks in the pews is easy enough to identify: lack of conversion, followed by lack of maturity. First, you have to know God. Those statistics that float around about the 80% of the church being unsaved are real. In Supervised Ministry 1, our prof quoted the number higher than 90%!!! Either way, if 80-90% of people in your church are not saved/redeemed/transformed/in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ Jesus, then the unity question is mute. Without a relationship in Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit, there is no unity. Second, you have to grow! Focusing on the multi-generational, being older in years does not equal being older in maturity…though we act like it does. I have met several ladies in their 70’s that were silly little gossiping busybodies openly admitting no prayer/study in their life, and conversely, women in their 20’s and 30’s that had something to offer and living lives of devotion. Our folks, by and large, have no relationship to God or other believers when they walk out of our church doors. They want something “else” in worship, because they are hungering and thirsting after the Living Water Himself! They want an experience with Him, but then, they really don’t want an experience with Him. They don’t know that it is Him that they need. They can’t see Him because of all of our self-serving, self-glorifying ways. Worship is not about Him anymore. We have become a new brand of Pharisees: just call us the Burgerkingians.

    Before we can strive for unity, I think we must embrace the call to repentance. We who know Christ, must be willing to start it. We have loved the Burger King mentality more than we have loved our call to worship and service. At the very least, we have sat passively by while others complained about their Whoppers. Possibly, the reason why their Whopper is not right is because the guy at the counter is still calling out “number 49!” and they haven’t received it yet. “Taste and see that The Lord is good!”

    Reply

    • Posted by Derek Mitchell on August 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm

      Stephanie … With regards to the disunity among believers, I couldn’t agree more that we first must examine how we view God. We have to examine ourselves individually and corporately and humbly ask God to search our hearts so that we know areas in our lives and churches where His Lordship has been replaced. And, yes … REPENT and turn from areas where sin has made its way into the routine of fellowship! If disunity exists among congregations especially in multi-generational settings, it’s my plea that the leaders of that church would SEEK God and ask for his Spirit to work among their congregation to lead them to repentance and restoration, so that all might experience power in sactification and refocus their gaze on the Holy One worthy of all our affections. If we give our lives and our affections to God and Him along, then we’re moving towards unity as His desire and His passions transform our lives from our time spent with Him. Claim God’s Promise, Seek His Truth, Pray and Wait on Him.

      Reply

  6. Posted by Derek Mitchell on August 22, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    The “missing ingredient from corporate disunity among believers is the Lordship of Christ”. I agree and this is a crucial reality for corporate worship. It’s imperative that Church leaders embrace and question if Christ is Lord of their own lives and do they imitate His Lordship to their congregations? By faith given by God, we embrace and declare that Jesus Christ is our Lord, completely, and He is Lord over everything. From this, Christ has the sole right to determine all of our decisions and direct our lives individually and corporately, as the Holy Spirit works in us and through us. Colossians 3:11 points out that Christ is all, and in all. Therefore, He is unity. We’ll never know perfect unity until we get to Heaven, but until then we can move towards that end exalting Christ as our Lord. In response to this declaration, it matters how you live (live in a manner worthy that leads to unity – Eph 4:1-16). We are now encouraged biblically to live out from our declaration of our Lordship in Christ with actions expressed in through the remaining verses of Colossians 3:12-15, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has complain against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which bind everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” We understand we can’t put these things on in and of ourselves. We depend on the Spirit of Christ to guide us through these actions. Unity is not a matter of formulas, programs, revivals and retreats. We don’t seek unity to build unity. We seek Christ and live as we are encouraged and called to live by Christ. Our joy and satisfaction we experience when we honor Christ with our lives leads to transformed attitudes and expressions of service towards others for the sake of nonbelievers to know Christ. Experiences in unity, in time will come, hopefully quickly for Church families, as they look to Christ and not themselves, so that unity be satisfied in Christ and the gospel continue to be can be preached without hindrance of disunity.

    Reply

    • I like your point of how we find unity in Christ and not in a formula, program, revival, or retreats. But I’m hesitant to agree with you saying that we wont have perfect unity until we go to heaven. Yes, we wont have perfect unity in the global scale but you cant over rule the unity that is done at the smaller scale in many churches around the world. Don’t count out that great job that many churches are going around the world, we became a new creation in Christ, one that is made perfect and perfect in unity of Christ.

      Reply

  7. Posted by Donnie Jones on September 10, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Looking around, we do see unity in many secular places. It appears that everything is in place and everyone is getting along. It will be ok and they will get along for a while, until pride takes over.

    Yes, it’s only in worship and when Christ is forefront and center when people are able to be unified. When Christ is exalted, self is put on the backburner! True unity is only found within the community of believers in the presence of authentic faith!

    Reply

  8. Posted by Jerry Lee Kelly on September 11, 2011 at 1:49 am

    It amazes me that Christians are still so theologically inferior in that they persist in believing and teaching that there is a possibility of peace on earth in its current state. The Word of God is crystal clear in that the world system is corrupt having been stained by sin. Man is a sinful creature, and that sin causes rebellion against God. The movement toward ecumenicalism as normal is a futile task and a goal that is not achievable until God gets through with history. Remember, it really is HIS-STORY and he is in complete control. There is no clarion call for agreement, acceptance or tolerance between those who hold to the truth of the Word and those who have no problem in trying to destroy it. Sometimes, I think we forget who God is; I mean, we forget what he does. He is the creator and sustainer of the universe in every detail. Than means that he knows our hearts in spite of our attempts to hide. The only true peace in this life is the peace experienced between believers as they rejoice in the same Savior. Worldly peace is at best a cheap imitation. The peace between fundamental truth believers and those who teach heresy is a false peace; it is just an agreement to disagree. When the truth is compromised, God is dishonored. There will be no universal peace on earth until God has re-created it after the Great White Throne Judgment where sin, along with its effects, is once and for removed from the presence of mankind and only holiness remains. Then there will be peace among true believers as all worship the Lord God of Creation.

    Reply

    • I’m not sure this issue is as cut and dry as it might appear. Paul certainly encouraged a spirit of unity among churches in the NT. We should not seek unity for the sake of unity–God will take care of unity in his time. However, Christians will be unified in heaven. All worship this side of heaven is to some extent practice for heavenly worship. I have observed services where the desire for unity was so strong that the reign of Christ was not apparent. At the other end of the spectrum I have met Christians who seem to not even comfortable worshipping with a fellow conservative Southern Baptist because a minor point of difference on some aspect of theology. Somewhere between these two extremes lies the answer. I would encourage Grudem’s section on unity among cultures in Christ–I might add that this is the perspective of a very conservative theologian.

      Reply

  9. Posted by Mike Cobb on September 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    After viewing the message by Bob Kaufman concerning the questin “Can We Worship Together?”, I can honestly say that our “woship wars” are based upon the disagreements is music, forms, and liturgies. Kaufman’s major point that rooted and relevant worship forms both make up biblical values and proportions. His last statement in the message is both visceral and conteplative: No single form of worship can express the greatness of Jesus Christ. Therefore, should we not accept all forms of biblically base worship?
    C.S. Lewis’ insight into the learned music minister and the humble laymen express the truth of God’s desire for unity in worship. The trained and sophisticated music minister used what he described as “Humble and coarser fair than he would wish, in a belief, that he can thus bring them to God.” In essence, the music minister humbled himself and sought to glorify God by using music that was personally not of his liking.
    The second insight of Lewis is equally important, for it displays the humbleness and acceptance individuals should bring to worship. A laymen, not understanding the music being played in worship, humbly and patiently listens, believing that it gorifies God and that if it does not edify him, this must be his own defect. What refreshing attitudes! Certainly, Lewis’ vignette should be taken to heart by the Body of Christ and put into practice when worshiping God in unity. Yes, we can worship together, and God desires that we do so.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Christopher Fuselier on September 22, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    It is a great tragedy that many of our churches and sometimes our convention cannot worship God in unity. Even when their are some disagreements about different issues. Our Lord’s desire is that His followers would be one. We should be one people worshipping one God!

    Reply

    • Posted by Jerry Lee Kelly on September 24, 2011 at 3:51 am

      Christopher,
      I share your frustration regarding disunity, but at the same time I think we need to examine the base or cause of the disunity. For example, and I might take some heat on this, but how can two denominations who claim to be “Christian” but hold different beliefs dwell in unity? I refer not to the argument over what color to paint the chapel, but rather to issues that deeply divide. How can a true believer have fellowship and unity with, say, a Church of Christ person? They both claim to know Jesus, but one says anyone can be saved and be in a different body, but the other says that if you are not a member of that specific denomination you are on your way to hell. One says that salvation is by water baptism, the other says not so. How can there be unity? Again, how can a Church of God person have fellowship with a true Christian when the Church of God says you must join their assembly? Uniity is not possible in the instances. To go a little deeper, some denoms teach that to go to heaven the believer must have spoken in tongues. Obviously, that issue would cause disunity. It is not a matter of a style of music, it is a matter of core beliefs. How can a true Christian have unity with a word faith church, i.e. Vineyard, etc.? There is a fundamental difference in the core belief of the word faith movement and true Christianity. Yes, i am old school, but proudly so. I believe that the Bible is still true today, that the message has not changed, and that we must contend for the faith based on clear understanding and Holy Spirit leadership. Let me offer one more example. Suppose that Dr. Kelly was going to preach in chapel at the New Orleans campus, and all of a sudden in walked T. D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland or Joyce Meyer. All of these people claim to be Christian, yet each one of them is word faith, i.e. they do not believe that the sacrificial death and resurrection of Chiist is sufficient and Jesus had to go to hell and be born again in order to save us. Could there every be fellowship or “unity” in that situation? We live in a time when churches have let down their guard of the truth and have opened the door for heresy just in an attempt to have unity. I will stand alone before I compromise.
      Jerry

      Reply

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