Summary: How to be used of God to promote peace and unity in the body of Christ.
Introduction: A great saint from ages past once prayed, "Lord make me an instrument of thy peace". What a lofty goal, to be used of God to bring peace to the lives of others. Jesus said this would be a common characteristic of God’s children. He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God". If this is true, then Christian homes and churches should be havens of peace and unity in the midst of a world that is torn by controversy and conflict. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. One day a man decided to conduct an experiment. He put a dog and a cat in a cage together. Initially there was a great struggle. Then they began to live peacefully together. Then he put in the cage a monkey, a tiger, and a bear. After an initial conflict they began to live peacefully
together. Then he put three baptists in the cage. In a short time nothing was left living in the cage. We laugh, but unfortunately Christians often cannot seem to get along. It was true of Corinth, where paul proclaimed, "I hear that there be divisions among you." In James’ letter he addressed a church saying, "from whence come wars and fighting among you?"
And in our text today, Paul addresses an apparent problem of disunity in Phillippi. In chapter four we see that there are two women "Euodias and Syntyche" who are apparently having a conflict. Perhaps the members of the church are taking sides around these two women. Paul addresses this problem with the most comprehensive and beautiful text on church unity in the Bible. In it he tells us how we can be instruments of God’s peace. (READ verses 1-8)
If we are going to be used of God to promote peace and unity in our church and our homes there are four things we must do.
I. CONDUCT A PERSONAL INVENTORY (1)
A number of years ago a movie came out called, "The Right Stuff". The movie was about the space program, and the implication from the title is that one must have the right stuff, the wherewithall to make it as an astronaut. Paul tells us if we are going to be peacemakers that we have to have the "right stuff". What is it? He says, "if there be any" In other words, "Do you have any?":
a) Consolation in Chirst--The word interpreted "consolation" here can also be translated "encouragement" or "help". Its from the same root Jesus used in designating the task of the Holy Spirit. It can mean helper or strengthener. Do you have any help from being in Christ? If we are going to be used of God to bring unity to the Body we must have the help of Christ. When that sharp word is directed towards us, or when we find out that we are the object of the latest church gossip, when our flesh cries out for revenge, we need the help that comes from being in Christ,Christ who when reviled, reviled not again. I definitely need his help in this area. Some don’t need as much help as others. There are two extremes in the pastorate. On one side there are the "Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood pastors." They are very mild and tend to be doormats. On the other side of the spectrum are the "John Wayne Pastors". The John Wayne Pastors are quick to conflict. "This church aint big enough for the two of us pilgrim". I unfortunately tend more toward John Wayne. I need Christ to temper my natural bent toward conflict. Paul says look at your life. Do you have the help of Christ available to you?
b) Comfort Of Love---Some interpret this "comfort of his Love", and I believe this is accurate. You see, we are not called just to be tolerant of other believers. The world can be tolerant. We are called to love other believers in spite of their sin, in spite of their flaws. The only way we can do this is if we ourselves have experienced unconditional love. We cannot give this type of love unless we have recieved it, unless we know what it means to be loved of God in spite of our weaknesses and sin, just as we are without one plea. Paul asks, "have you experienced this unconditional love of God that looked beyond your fault and saw your need?"
c) Fellowship of the Spirit---Fellowship means sharing or having in Common. What Paul is asking is, "do you have a kinship with other believers that comes from being indwelt by the same Spirit?" The bond of the Holy Spirit goes beyond all other ties. Ravi Zacharias told of a man who was in Bucharest, Romania just after the fall of the Iron Curtain. He didn’t know the Romanian language. As he walked down the crowded street he heard someone humming a familiar hymn. He walked right up next to the man and began humming the same hymn. The Romanian man stopped pointed up to heaven and placed his hand on his heart. The american man did the same and they embraced there on the sidewalk. The Bond of the Spirit went beyond cultural barriers, racial barriers, language barriers, and geographical barriers. Paul asks, "Do you have a bond with other believers through the Spirit?"