Summary: The best advertisement is a witness of oneness to the world.

The Unity-Centered Life

John 17:20-23

Rev. Brian Bill


I get a kick out of amusing road signs. Here are some that I came across recently.

* One yellow caution sign shows a curve ahead with a bunch of other squiggly lines going in all sorts of directions. The words underneath read, “Good luck.”

* Another one filled with dents and holes contains these words: “Notice: Do Not Throw Stones at This Sign.”

* A construction sign placed in a closed lane of a highway announces: “You’ll Never Get to Work on Time. HaHa!”

* Another sign has an arrow pointing to the left with this confusing caption, “Keep Right.”

And here are some “church signs” that made me chuckle.

* There Are Some Questions That Can’t Be Answered by Google

* Don’t Let Worries Kill You – Let the Church Help

* You Have One New Friend Request From Jesus – Confirm or Ignore?

* What is Missing From CH_ _ CH? U-R.

As I pondered the pluses (and minuses) of publicity like this for the church, I wrote this down: The best advertisement is a witness of oneness to the world because when we’re unified we display the personality, purposes and power of God.

In the final moments before His arrest, Jesus could have prayed for His own strength. He could have requested that the eleven would support Him. His intercession to the Father could have been filled with a desire to make the disciples better teachers or servants or givers or leaders or administrators. Instead, His prayer was dominated by a single thought – that His followers would have a witness of oneness to the world.

Please turn to John 17 as we finish up our short sermon series called, “What Jesus Wants For You.”

* In verses 1-5, Jesus prays for Himself to be glorified. We discovered two weeks ago that if we can’t do something for God’s glory, then we shouldn’t do it.

* In verses 6-19, Jesus prays for the disciples to be protected. We learned that because we are secure, we can be satisfied with Christ, which should lead us to live a separated life, sanctified for His purposes so that we can saturate this world with His Word.

* In verses 20-26, He prays for the church to be unified. On the eve of His excruciating death, He utters an appeal for unity. That tells me that we need supernatural strength to be united with fellow followers. If the early Christians struggled to maintain unity, and we do as well, it’s obvious that we need God’s help in this area. The very fact that Jesus prayed for unity indicates that we can’t accomplish this on our own.

Let’s go back and look at verse 11 again: “…Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one.” This protection that Jesus prays has a purpose in mind: “so that they may be one as we are one.” In the original this is even more forceful. The meaning is this: “so that they may constantly be one…” Notice that He ties this request for oneness to the type of relationship that He has with the Father. Just as Jesus and His father are one in essence and purpose, so too, his disciples share the same fundamental nature as brothers and sisters of the same Father. And we share a similar purpose with Jesus – to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

Jesus knows He is about to leave His believers behind in a very tough world. He can foresee the upcoming persecution and every temptation they are going to face. He knows how the Deceiver will work to divide His disciples and so He prays for their protection by appealing to the power of God’s name. Satan’s strategy throughout church history has been to destroy unity within the body of Christ. If he can attack our oneness, then our power will be diffused and our message will be obliterated or blurred.

Many of us are quick to divide over just about anything. As someone has said, “to live above with those we love, oh, how that will be glory. To live below with those we know, now that’s another story!” The Bible is filled with a focus on family togetherness. God’s people are designed to fit as pieces of a puzzle in order to form a united picture of divine love. In a world defined by conflict, broken relationships, political division, dysfunctional families and fractured communities, such unity would indeed be a sign that God is at work because human effort alone can’t make it happen.

Here’s a brief survey of some Scripture passages that lift up the spiritual standard of a cohesive community of faith.

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