THAT THEY MAY BE ONE
Text : John 17:1 - 11
Someone (William Arnot) once made a wonderful point about God’s design in how we work as His creation: “He gives what he demands, and demands what he gives. The same master both gives the talents and requires an account of their outlay”. (William Arnot. Lesser Parables Of Our Lord. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1981 reprint of 1884 edition, p 253). Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment that they love on another just as He loved them so that others will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35). What does our love look like to those on the outside? Is our love inviting and contagious? Does our love reveal the kind of oneness that Jesus prayed for? Do others truly know that we are Jesus’ disciples by the way that we love?
Does Christian unity happen by default? Jesus gave us His love setting us free from sin, death and the fear of death through His victory for us on the cross. Jesus also gave us the Holy Spirit who regenerates us in our baptism, unites us in the Body of Christ and animates us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. What God wants is for our lives to be fruitful in unity and the love that He gave and gives to us so that we might allow others to experience God’s life transforming love. Matthew Henry described God’s plan as “incorporating Christians into one body, animating us by His Holy Spirit and knitting us together”.
INCORPORATED INTO ONE BODY
What does it mean to be incorporated? 1) True Unity: It Is God that brings us together. Unity is not the same thing as uniformity because as someone (Tommy Tenney) said, “Uniformity means everybody looking alike, dressing and acting alike”. (Tommy Tenney. God’s Dream Team. Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1999,p. 50). 2) Unity in spite of diversity: Have you ever noticed how music is put together? There are different musicians that together playing different instruments to bring about harmony as each person plays his or her part. We were brought together for the purpose of salvation and fellowship. 3) Burden bearing: Do we all have the same individual burden? We are suppose to help one another by “bearing one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6: 2). This means that we must strive toward becoming what God wants us to be. As someone (Tommy Tenney ) once said, “If God has a bad reputation in the world today, it is our fault”. (Tommy Tenney, p. 39). How often have we incriminated ourselves as Christians by contradicting our call to love of God and love of neighbor?
Have you ever heard of a conscientious objector?
According to Wikipedia, “A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscientious_objector). Muhammad Ali was one of the most famous CO’s during the Vietnam era. He actually went to prison for his refusal because of his religious convictions.
Recently, another CO was brought to light and his story as portrayed in the recent movie Hacksaw Ridge. Desmond Doss, as portrayed by on screen actor named Andrew Garfield, was a CO whose religious convictions led him to be a medic. Instead of being a fighter, he felt his divine calling was to be a rescuer. Did you get that? At first, his military peers were tough on him and urged him to leave the army because he refused to touch a gun. Many who resented him later praised him because of his courage under fire as a medic who rescued a total of 75 men. He was the first CO in American military history to be awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor. Doss’ military service as a CO earned him praise because it was within God’s will for him to have that role! With every rescue he prayed “Lord, let me save one more.”
How well are we doing at rescuing those who have been wounded on the spiritual battle field? Do we pray to God to help us “save all those we” can? Or, do we say “Lord let someone else do it?” If we are not doing God’s will, are we not CO’s who are doing our own thing when we have our marching orders to “make disciples? (Matthew 28:19).
Can a bicycle wheel be used as an object lesson? 1) Spiritual inertia: The very things that draw us away from the center who is Christ are the same things that create competitions and almost mandate divisions. We are drawn away by differences in doctrine, differences in political interests, differences in styles and tastes. 2) Spiritual hinge: It is Christ who draws us and calls us to abandon the things that divide us! Using the wheel analogy, we can say that Christ calls us away from the rim and to the center at the hub where He is. When we are gathered at the hub, we practice humility as we realize that it is Christ that makes us righteous. The world does just the opposite. The world calls away from Christ to the rim of self-assertiveness, self-reliance, self-righteousness.
On March 30th of 1981 when the President Ronald Reagan was shot in the left side of his chest by a deranged John Hinckley, Jr., Reagan was rushed to George Washington University Hospital. When one of the doctors told the President that they were going to operate on him, Reagan, with his characteristic wit quipped, “I hope you’re a Republican.” To which the surgeon replied, “Today, Mr. President, we’re all Republicans.” (Scott Carson. An Illustration of his submitted to Sermoncentral.com). In the Body of Christ, we are all blood relatives!
ANIMATED BY GOD’S SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit does many things for us. 1) Animated: Children love to watch cartoons. Cartoons are pictures that have been animated, meaning brought to life by artists. 2) Animated by the Holy Spirit: Until the Holy Spirit animates us, we are spiritually dead. The Holy Spirit regenerates and seals us in our Baptism, unites us in the Body of Christ, gives us gifts for ministry, and convicts us when we go astray. To show that we are alive and animated in the Spirit, we possess the fruits of the Spirit as is mentioned in Galatians 5:22. 3) Enthusiastic: The Holy Spirit empowers us for ministry. The Holy Spirit empowers us by filling and indwelling in us. There is a word for this. The word is enthusiastic which means en theos and translates as in God. It is in God that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
“Unity is the cause of revival.” (Tommy Tenney, p. 128). As the old saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall”.
How well do we co-operate with the Holy Spirit? We have to intentionally walk with God's Spirit. It doe s not happen automatically. Satan is always going to throw curve balls and tempt us to get off track. Satan divides and subtracts but God adds and multiples. Do we as Paul says work out our salvation with fear and trembling as we strive to allow God to work in us and through us (Philippians 2:11 - 12 paraphrased)? Paul tells us not to quench the spirit ( I Thessalonians 5:19) but to fan the flame of the gift of the Holy's Spirit's working in our lives (II Timothy 1:6). Jesus gives to us the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth (John 16:13). Again, we have to work at with walking with God's Holy Spirit because it doses not happen by cruise control.
THE BODY OF CHRIST IS KNITTED TOGETHER
To be knitted implies that there is organization in the knitting. 1) Organization by God’s design: We are united in spite of diversity. “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament , grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV). 2) Integrated: There are many parts, but one body (I Corinthians 12:20). Each part has a function. There are hands, eyes, ears, feet, legs, arms, fingers and etc. God has arranged the parts as He sees fit for the upbuilding of the ministry of the church.
To be knitted together means that there is a fabric for one purpose which is to glorify God. Satan cannot stand to see God glorified which is why he always trying to unravel the fabric of what God has knitted together. It is Satan’s desire to frustrate God’s purposes. In order for Satan to be successful at frustrating God’s design of unity, he must do all that he can to overthrow the things that make unity possible. Satan has a twofold plan which is to first attack the individuals and then to frustrate the harmony and fellowship that each of these individuals share.
I once heard the story of a young woman who was attending a high school reunion only to find out an amazing discovery. She had been a member of the high school’s dancing squad. During her time a member of that dancing team, she had an accident that left her slightly hindered. The injury had effected her ability to move her left leg a certain way. As these former members of the dance squad were reminiscing at the reunion, she asked why they quit a certain move to the left when she resumed her place following her recovery from her accident. One of her classmates then told her that the reason they quit doing that one fancy step to the left was because they knew that she was no longer able to do it well. (A story told by Leo Buscaglia). When Satan sees this kind of unity and harmony that glorifies God, he does all that he can to reverse the progress.
I Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (NIV). Her team members had the knowledge of her injury, but they helped her by meeting her where she was out of love: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (I Corinthians 8:1 NIV).
Evangelism is a powerful and a possible thing when the Body of Christ is what it ought to be. God wants us animated by His Holy Spirit, having died to the sins that would otherwise hinder us in our mission to go and make disciples. Yes, there is faith, hope and love and we know that love is the greatest of these (I Corinthians 13:13). The Body of Christ grows when our love and fellowship becomes contagious. That means that we must strive with the help of the Holy Spirit to be one with each other as Jesus prayed that we would be. May we all be conscientious objectors to all of the things that rival God’s kingdom from coming on earth as it is in heaven! Lord through our obedience, help us to be the answer to Your prayer to be one with you as you are with our Heavenly Father! In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.