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Summary: A message on Christian unity based on shared commitment to Biblical faith. Suitable for joint meetings of local churches from various evangelical denominations.

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How Large is Your Family?

Text: Luke 9:49-50

Text Introduction: Some of the incidents in the ministry of Jesus are well-known. Others are mentioned briefly and then the story moves on. The incident in my text is one of those. We shouldn’t miss its implications.

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Imagine the scene.

Remember that earlier Jesus had sent the Twelve out to preach the Kingdom of God. It was a breathtaking experience: First, they were used by God to heal people and free them from the clutches of Satan; then they had the privilege of announcing what God was doing through Jesus. In the midst of this mission John and one or two others enter a village to tell the people about Jesus.

The disciples call the people together and say something like this, “We’ve come to tell you about a wonderful man named Jesus.”

To this the villagers reply, “Oh, we know about Jesus.”

Then they take the puzzled disciples to another part of the village where they observe a stranger doing what they had been doing,

Quickly, John and the others approach this stranger and say, “Stop! You must not do this.”

The stranger replies, “If you knew Jesus, you’d know why I must do this.”

With great indignation the disciples retort, “What do you mean ‘if you knew Jesus?’ Why, we’re some of his closest followers. We were commissioned to proclaim the Kingdom of God. And we didn’t see you at the commissioning service.”

As the stranger calmly returns to his work, he says, “Well, I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t mind what I’m doing.”

The disciples rush to Jesus to tell him what has happened.

John says, “There’s a man who’s liberating people from the power of Satan. He’s doing it in your name but he’s not a member of our group. We tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen.”

Then Jesus says something like this, “You’re right, John. He’s not a member of your group, he’s a member of mine.”

There’s a touch of tragedy in this little story. Here’s a man doing a power work of spiritual liberation. He’s bringing honor to Jesus. Yet, the disciples tried to stop him.

Jesus saw the danger of such a chauvinistic spirit and moved quickly to squelch it. He knew the challenges of the future could not be overcome if such a spirit prevailed.

In this little incident, Jesus shows us how we ought to respond to others who minister for him.

I

JESUS CALLS US TO DISPLAY A SPIRIT OF COOPERATION NOT COMPETITION

Lots of people see the work of the church as a kind of competition. We need to understand the peril of a competitive spirit.

A few years ago a mother in Channelview, Texas, tried to hire someone to kill the mother of her daughter’s chief rival in upcoming cheerleader tryouts. She thought the girl would be so upset that her daughter would easily win. That’s competition gone bad.

When we’re motivated by a spirit of competition, the losses and defeats of our fellow-Christians become our gains. We hope that the fallout of another church’s problems will somehow benefit us.

When were motivated by a spirit of competition, the quality of our own efforts is diminished. We become mere spiritual headhunters.

If only we could understand the power of a cooperative spirit. We’re able to multiply our influence.

Our spiritual growth is furthered as we discover our own strengths and weaknesses. A spirit of cooperation makes us part of a great support system.

II

JESUS CALLS US TO DISPLAY

A SPIRIT OF CELEBRATION NOT CRITICISM

A spirit of condemnation can be harmful to the work of God. Historian Edwin Gaustad has written much about the Great Awakening, that spiritual revival in 18th century America which say thousands come to Christ and churches transformed. Gaustad says the Awakening began to wane when its leaders began to criticize one another over minor differences about how the revival was being conducted.

There are differences that should be discussed and debated. But such things as church music shouldn’t become the focal point in our evaluation of fellow believers.

Instead, we should celebrate the faith of our fellow-believers.

We should rejoice because they share our allegiance to Christ. That focused devotion to Christ is something we share, something that ought to create a kinship, something which creates a ground for communication and understanding.

The faith of Christians who belong to different churches or denominations reveals the breadth of Christ’s appeal. The custodian and the banker, the teacher and the student, the pacifist and the general find something of beauty in Christ. We should celebrate that.

Maybe this is time to mention a matter which some of you have raised with me over the past couple of weeks. We’ve been reading stories of how a once great denomination is now debating some of the most crucial elements of the faith, how some of that denomination’s leaders are raising doubts about the Biblical assertion that Christ is the only Savior.

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