Summary: The purpose of this sermon is two-fold: to explore Jesus’ prayer for unity and the Scriptural mandates for unity to occur; and secondly, to enlist the congregation’s commitment to see it happen among us!
Scripture Text: John 17.20-23
I have played on some really-rotten basketball teams! It’s no fun. Even-though I love the game, …teammates make such a difference! When the others on the team are selfish, …half-hearted, …arrogant ~ …it’s no-wonder when a team becomes divided. …And motivation wanes. …And cooperation suffers.
I’ve long-believed that sports can give some great life-lessons. And all-those-years - through junior-high-school and high-school, …playing on teams that were a team only-because we wore the same color uniform ~ …I learned that a team is not made by talent or time or name. But a team emerges as it’s members put their egos in the back-seat, …and they commit to something bigger than themselves. Bigger than their wants. Bigger than their ideas. Bigger than their personal-ambitions. Bigger than their own strengths-and-weaknesses!
Well, it’s hard to argue… Actually, it’s impossible to argue that unity isn’t-important in God’s eyes. It is. It’s vital. It’s essential. Without it, the church suffers, …our witness is impotent, …and the members of the church languish in discouragement. If you’ve ever been-a-part of a church that was divided, …you know what I’m talkin’ about! But-today, I wanna give you a recipe for success. It’s a recipe that will surely lead to a beautiful experience: Unity. And, keep-in-mind that the ingredients in this recipe are not good-ideas that Pastor Josh came up with on-his-own. These ingredients are thoroughly scriptural.
I wanna pause-a-minute, here, to say-something. I believe that every-week, God wants to use the Sunday-morning-message to speak to someone’s heart ~ …and-that whenever God speaks, …there’s-the-potential for a life to be changed. It’s a miraculous-thing: …that He takes the Ancient-Word, …and somehow is able to guide and to inspire such-that what-happens on Sunday-mornings is not an eloquent speech, …or, on-the-other-hand, a case study of some long-ago events and people; …but-somehow, God takes the foolishness of preaching to speak a fresh-word to the hearts of His people. It’s a crazy-thing ~ …but God pulls-it-off each-week!
But, there’s something about this particular-message. If we really get-this, …it has the potential to turn this-city upside-down for Jesus! And… if the entire-church got-this, …it would shake the foundations of the kingdom-of-darkness! It’s that-big!
You’ve heard-it-said that Satan is content when believers are luke-warm or apathetic in their faith. Well… I’m tellin’ you that he is even-more-pleased when a church is divided, …dis-united, …at-odds with-one-another, …when relationships are in dissaray. Why?... Why would Satan be so-pleased when there’s discord in the church? Because he knows that it undermines God’s will, …God’s plans, …God’s designs for working through the body-of-believers. There is no-possible-way for the church to-be and to-do all that God plans, …if we are not united. Unity is a big-deal! It would be hard-to-over-estimate the importance of unity. And it’s time the Church of Jesus Christ ~ …and every-local body-of-believers – …whether it’s Nazarenes, …or Methodists, …or Episcopaleans, …or Roman Catholics, …it’s time that the Church of Jesus Christ woke up to this!
Well… I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get-back to the ingredients, …the ‘ingredients’ to unity.
What’s a church to be like? ~ United… that’s the answer. How do we get-there?… What are the steps that we’ve-gotta-take to be a united body?
I. Unity Requires Submission
The first ingredient in the recipe is: submission.
Don’t-ya-love that word: ‘submission’? For most-people, …when we hear this-word, …the hair on the back-of-our-neck stands-up; …we feel the muscles across our shoulders tense-up; …our jaw clenches. Submit? Uggghhhh!
But, without submission, …unity will not happen!
Do you remember the movie Hoosiers? ~ It’s the story of a coach who’s given one-last-chance, …but it’s at a tiny-small-town in Indiana-farm-country. The towns-folk are suspicious. They’re pessimistic. They think the new-coach is off-his-rocker. Dissention. Back-biting. Under-mining. The team is no-team at-all. There’s no support in the school; …no support from the movers-and-shakers in the town; …and for-quite-a-while, …there’s no-support from the team-members, themselves.
But, something-changes-all-that. And as the players begin to submit to his plan, …and play his-style, …and buy-into his-way of doing-things, …that’s-when beautiful-things start-to-happen. It’s not-just that they start winning. But, it’s that they become a team. Submission is the key to bringing the team-together, …so that they’re on the same-page, …and they play-together.
Why in-the-world should we ‘submit’ to one-another?
Well, actually, …there’s no-reason in-the-world to submit! But there’s-every-reason in the kingdom-of-heaven to submit! Let me give you two of-those-reasons: First, Scripture tells us to “Submit-to-one-another out of reverence to Christ.” (Ephesians 5.21) Every-believer is a living-temple for the Holy Spirit. When we accept Jesus as our personal-Savior, …we are not-simply accepting a proposition, …or a truth, …or a statement-of-faith. We are accepting, …receiving the living Spirit of God. Jesus comes to us, …and He dwells within us. What that means is: …it affects how we respond to one-another. When we are called to submit to-one-another, …we are actually submitting to the living-Christ who dwells in our brother, and our sister!