Summary: if we’re ever going to be able to stand together against the world, we have to first stand together as a church. In order to do that, we'll have to follow the example of Christ. So the message that God has given me this morning is A Call to Spiritual Unity.
A CALL TO SPIRITUAL UNITY
Have you ever had one of those moments when you realized you were on the wrong track, and you knew that it wasn’t going to be easy getting things straight?
Years ago, a vacuum salesman decided he would leave the big city to concentrate on gaining customers out in the country. He went as deep as he could into the backwoods, knocked on his first door. An elderly lady answered and the salesman quickly launched into his sales pitch, pointing out the different features of his vacuum cleaner. He talked so fast and showed her so many functions, she didn't have a chance to say a word.
Suddenly, right in the middle of his sales pitch, he saw an ash tray on a table. He picked it up and dumped the contents on the floor! The lady was stunned and speechless. "Ma'am," he said with great confidence, "what this vacuum won't pick up, I'll lick up!" Finally, with an opportunity to respond, the lady said, "Well, you'd better get started, 'cause we ain't got no electricity out here!”
Getting back on the right track for this salesman was going to be a distasteful activity! I think somewhere along the line, we’ve gotten on the wrong track. And I’m here to tell you that it’s not going to be easy setting things straight. But if we’re ever going to be able to stand together against the world, we have to first stand together as a church. In order to do that, we'll have to follow the example of Christ. So the message that God has given me this morning is A Call to Spiritual Unity.
Living together in spiritual unity is the best way to honor and promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is a message of reconciliation and peace with God. How can we expect to be reconciled to God if we’re not reconciled to each other? I believe that God is more concerned with the health of the church than He is the size of it. Here’s why, because a healthy church will automatically be a growing church. Healthy churches are identified by three important signs: faithfulness to correct doctrine, holiness of life and unity of fellowship…which is one of the biggest hinderances to many churches today.
When it comes to getting along with other Christians, the Bible doesn't waste words. We’re about to read a message from Paul that is very clear, and very important: If Satan can’t destroy the church from the outside, he’ll try to destroy it from the inside. In our passage this morning, Paul teaches us why spiritual unity is important, what it looks like in practical terms, and how we should think, live, and treat one another in order to build and maintain spiritual unity.
THE MOTIVATION FOR SPIRITUAL UNITY (v.1)
The motivation for spiritual motivation is found in the word “if”, which is used four times in this verse. In its original context, “if’ means the same thing as since. So Paul presents them with the idea that the things he’s talking about are true. Paul’s saying, “Since these things are true, you should to live in unity with one another”.
Also, notice the repeated use of the word “any” in this verse. Paul does this in an effort to make the point that this call to unity is not just addressed to the spiritual leaders or spiritually mature people in the church. No, this call to unity is for every member of the church who has experienced salvation in Jesus Christ.
Paul doesn’t use any commands, threats or gimmicks here. He’s simply encouraging the church to unity. That’s because spiritual unity, like all spiritual things, has to be desired internally and not externally. Church unity is ordained by God, established through Christ, and carried out through the Holy Spirit. So when we don’t make every effort to keep unity in the church, we’re not just rebelling against the local authority of the church, or the vision of the church to advance God’s kingdom. We’re sinning against God Himself. We often talk about how same-sex marriage is an abomination to God, and I believe that it is. But it’s not the only one:
These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren (Prov. 6:16-19).
2. THE MARKS OF SPIRITUAL UNITY (v. 2)
This verse begins with the primary command of this passage. Paul says, “fulfill my joy.” Now remember, Paul was in prison. At this point he didn’t know whether he would be released or executed. But he doesn’t ask the Philippians to send him material things, and he doesn’t ask them to bail him out. He tells them that even though he’s in jail, his joy would be fulfilled if they were living in spiritual unity.