Scripture Reference: Philippians 2:1-3
Good evening. I thought that since I’m going to be home for a few more days that I’d get to work on closing out this series. As of this message we’ll be three messages in to a seven message series. I am really enjoying this series, and I’m glad that we’re talking about this. I hope that the first two have really given you something to think about…I know that I have been re-reading them myself. Believe it or not, some times I have to go back and re-read what I wrote not just for the purpose of editing to find errors, but because some times I get on such a roll with the Holy Ghost that I don’t even know what I write. So, some times I have to re-read these messages myself so that I can get what God is trying to speak to me through them. I learn from my own messages…and I hope that you’re getting some thing from them also.
Well, let’s see what the Lord will speak to us today, shall we!?!
Today’s Message: “Fellowship and Unity”
I don’t know that it really needs to be said, but you cannot have unity without fellowship. If there isn’t fellowship then there’s just a whole lot of individuals running around.
How many of you are sports fans like me? Do you know that one of the most important factors in building a championship team is chemistry? There have been lots of teams like the New York Yankees that have tried to buy themselves a World Series title by buying up all the talented players…and some times it just doesn’t work. Why? You can have all the talent in the world, but if they’re not unified towards the common goal of winning a World Series…there’s division in the locker room.
Think about it. If everyone on the team is worried about their own stats then what they have isn’t a team. It’s a bunch of individuals playing together. Have you ever noticed that a lot of the teams that actually win the championships not only have talent…but they have what they call chemistry…teamwork…and what the church would call unity.
Think about this for a moment. LeBron James is probably the best basketball player in the world right now. He spent his first few years in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and while they did the best they could to surround him with talent…most of the time his team mates just stood around to watch him play. He actually managed to take his team to the playoffs, but couldn’t advance because he didn’t have any help. So, he went to the Miami Heat where they assembled a team around him accompanied by a couple of other players who understood that talent alone doesn’t win championships.
In the sports world you must have talent, team work, and they also have to have the chemistry of being unified towards a common goal…that goal of course is winning the championship of that sport.
Let’s look at that in light of what we should be as a body of Christ, and see how we can draw that parallel, and talk about today’s message.
In the body of Christ we have pastors, prophets, apostles, teachers, and evangelists. We also have all the rest of the church, and we know from Paul’s writings that everyone in the body has a place. Everyone in the body (just like our physical bodies) has a function or job to do in the body. Some will be in the five-fold ministry, but most will be in the ministry of helps.
What are helps? It’s basically everything else. Some do the office work. Some may do the cleaning. Some may be greeters and ushers. The point is the body of Christ is just like a sports team, and in Acts 2 we find out what the church did to be successful.
However, somewhere between Acts 2 and today…the church has become a bunch of individuals trying to do their own thing instead of working with the body of Christ in fellowship and unity towards the goal. What is the goal? To preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations. Our goal is the same goal that the early disciples had…to make the name of Jesus known and great throughout the world.
With that in mind let’s take a look and see just where Dr. MacDonald goes, and see what the Holy Ghost as to say.
A commitment to fellowship is a commitment to unity—one mindedness. Notice how Paul uses “mind” twice in this verse. This doesn’t mean we agree in lock-step on everything; it means we agree deeply on the most important things and we give one another a lot of latitude on what’s not so important.
This one mindedness is what I was getting at when it comes to the great championship teams not always being the ones with the most talent. Let’s face it. When you see professional sports teams they all have the same goal…to be champions.
So, let’s ask this question. What do you go to church for? Do you go to hang out and converse with the people you talked to last week? Do you go because the music is pretty good? Do you go to hear a message?
The main reason I go to church may shock some of you, and others of you may understand what I’m getting at with this point. My sole reason for going to church above talking with all my friends, above shaking hands with the pastor after service, above hearing the fantastic worship music, and above the preaching of the Word…the main reason I attend church is to encounter God.
That’s it. I want to encounter Jesus. I want to have the Holy Ghost fall. I want to experience God. That’s the point of church ladies and gentleman. It’s to get filled up with a good message, have the opportunity to worship God individually and corporately, get prayer if it’s needed so that we can be built up to go and do what we’re called to do…and to encounter the presence of God.
The goal is to encounter God. So…again…let me ask you…what’s your goal for church? Why do you go?
In Philippians 2:1, the phrase “participation in the Spirit” uses the Greek word koinonia, which is often translated fellowship. This is the third of Paul’s five signs of genuine life in the body of Christ (encouragement in Christ, comfort from love, fellowship in the Spirit, affection, and sympathy). If all this is going on between us and God, things are going to be really happening between us!
In the last message I mentioned that when my wife and I started attending New Life Christian Church we would usually sing all three songs, have a message, and then we would go on about our way.
However, I’ve noticed a shift lately, and that shift isn’t by accident. What is the shift? When we come together as a body of believers…it used to take us all three songs to get into that attitude of praise and worship as a corporate body. Remember how the disciples were gathered in the upper room in one accord…what eventually happened is the Holy Ghost came in like a rushing mighty wind and turned the disciples lives upside down.
That’s what has happened in my church. Lately we can hardly get through a two songs at the most before we tap into the Holy Ghost, and before you know it the power of God floods the room just like it did for the disciples.
Why is that? I believe it’s because we have learned that fellowshipping together as a body of believers and unity go hand in hand. We’re becoming a family, and as we grow in the bonds as a body of Christ…we desire to fellowship and worship together, and we find we all have the same goal…to encounter Jesus…and we do.
The transforming of lives happens in the presence of God, and that only happens when we’re together as a unified body.
Ephesians 4:3 says we should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” God’s Spirit wants our church to be unified. God’s Spirit wants us to love and forgive and forbear with one another (see Ephesians 4:2).
Let me address this point cause as soon as I saw it I sensed the Holy Ghost all over it. “God’s Spirit wants us to love and forgive and forbear with one another.”
Can I tell you that being judgmental, unforgiving, and impatient with one another doesn’t do anything but divide us and drive people away from the God we’re trying to draw them to?
Listen. There’s a reason so much emphasis is put on loving, forgiving, and bearing with one another. It’s not because it’s a good idea…it’s because that’s what draws people to God…and what draws people into the body of Christ.
Listen to me. I found it easier to fellowship and have unity with complete strangers in the bar, and I find it extremely difficult to fellowship with believers whether I’m at church or on Twitter. I find people in the world less judgmental than I find in the church. I find more people in the bar willing to help people out than I find in the church.
THAT SHOULD NOT BE.
It should never be easier to find in the world what we should be able to find in the church. Can you imagine the rebuke for the church that Paul would have towards us today? Can you imagine what Jesus would write to the churches today? Can you imagine what Jesus would say to the churches today? Can you imagine the rebukes? We think Jesus was mad when He went and turned over the tables in the synagogues…can I tell you that if He were to walk into some churches today He would be more likely to throw out the preachers!?!
But genuine unity among us isn’t going to be maintained if we are not first deeply connected and living in fellowship with the Spirit ourselves. There are all kinds of examples in Christian history of groups who have tried to impose unity because it was a good idea. Our role isn’t to create unity; that’s God’s job. Ephesians 4:3 tells us we need to be attentive, committed, and “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.” When we sense things going sideways, our prayer should be, “Father, am I maintaining or am I disrupting the unity of Your Spirit?”
Here’s the truth. Fellowship is our part. Unity is God’s part. If we are here’s the key…genuine in our love and fellowship with one another…God will cause us to become unified. I know that because I’ve seen it in action in my own church. The more we genuinely love one another and fellowship together…the more unified we become. That’s why it no longer takes us three songs to get into the presence of God…because we’re all coming together expecting to encounter God.
I think that’s a fantastic prayer and a great place to wrap this message up and give us something to actually pray and really seek to hear the voice of God in response. What place is that?
“Father…am I maintain or disrupting the unity of Your Spirit?”
Father, I come to You in the name of Jesus asking You, Lord God to point out anything in me that disrupts or blocks the unity Your Spirit is going for in my church. Keep me from committing sins or omitting service that harms unity in Your body. Remind me each day You are the decider of what place and role I am to carry out in Your body. Lead me into faithfulness that preserves the unity of Your Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I have learned that my role in the body of Christ is one that’s behind the scenes…and that’s kind of what I do here. I write my messages, I try to find good stuff to tweet and post on Facebook, and that’s about it. I’ve found my place in the body of Christ, and I know that I’m called to be one of the five fold ministry members…and that I’m called to do what I do in the shadows.
I believe that fellowship within the body of Christ is actually one of the reasons that the church has such a lack of power today. I believe the number one reason the church has no power today is because they have strayed from preaching the Word of God, but a close second is the lack of genuine fellowship and unity between believers.
Listen, we know the disciples had quarrels…we read about them, but going back to the sports analogy…they maintained their fellowship and unity because they were still united by the Holy Ghost for one purpose…making Jesus known.
I just wonder when the church today will put aside all their dysfunction and differences to come together for the common purpose of fulfilling The Great Commission to go into all the world preaching the gospel to every creature, making disciples, laying hands on the sick to see them recover, and being about the important things…and leaving the not so important things behind.
There’s a world that’s dying and going to hell because the church is too busy arguing amongst itself about who is the greatest denomination, and which has the most converts, and which has the best programs, and which has the best preaching material, and which rules and all this other stuff that has no eternal value at all.
We have preachers trying to be evangelists and evangelists trying to be prophets. We have all these body parts in the body of Christ trying to be a different body part than the one God created and called them to be.
I was supposed to be closing this message, and instead we got into a bit of a side journey didn’t we!?! I’m not a preacher, but some times I can get to going.
Friends, the bottom line is that we as a body of Christ need to put our differences with one another aside, and focus on that last question I closed today’s message with…are we helping or hindering unity?
I think we all need to think about that…and with that question again…I am going to close this message.
Blessings & Grace