Summary: An expository sermon that instructs us how to achieve unity in our churches
Unity Comes Through Humility – Philippians 2.1-11
Meassage given by John Stensrud at Immanuel Baptist Church on Sunday, June 10, 2001
Tonto and the Lone Ranger were riding through a canyon together when all of a sudden both sides were filled with Indian warriors on horses, dressed for battle. The Lone Ranger turned to Tonto and asked, "What are we going to do?" Tonto replied, "What you mean ’we,’ Whiteman?"
I remember watching the Lone Ranger as a kid every Saturday. In reality this opening anecdote was not my childhood impression of the masked man and his faithful sidekick. They were my heroes and they made a highly effective team against the forces of evil. The Lone Ranger was not really alone—he had Tonto. There’s only one thing I don’t understand – why the script-writers of the Lone Ranger would name the Lone Ranger’s true blue companion “Tonto?” Did you know that Tonto means “stupid or foolish” in Spanish? In reality, the Lone Ranger was not alone and Tonto wasn’t stupid. They fought together against evil. The alliance between them leads us to a very important biblical principle—that our team as the body of Christ must work together—to be interdependent in a spiritual battle against evil and the works of the Devil. But if we choose to go it alone becoming Lone Rangers literally without our comrades, then that would be foolish.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People writes: "Dependent people need others to get what they want. Independent people can get what they want through their own effort. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve the greatest success."
Our text this a.m. is in part a continuation of the last 3 vss. of chapter 1. Our text begins with the word “therefore.” Whenever we see the word “therefore” we need to ask “what is the therefore there for?”
Vss. 1&2 “Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Let’s rewind the tape 3 vss. back to vs. 27 – Remember from last week that Paul exhorts the Philippian Church to “Conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” He has high expectations for them, and for us. In vs. 27 He longs to hear “that they are standing firm in one spirit, w/ one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.” God hopes the same for us at Immanuel Baptist Church.
Unity in our church is essential for us to accomplish our mission. Like the Philippians, we also must have unity. But this begs the question: “What are we to be unified about?” “What is our rallying point?” Should we base our unity on the fact that we’re American Baptists? Is our foundation of unity our belief in believer’s baptism by immersion? How about this -- should our unity be based upon the heritage of this church--that our parents, uncles, aunts, in-laws, cousins, nephews or nieces or friends may have been members of this church? In part, yes. But what is the preeminent foundation for unity? The bedrock of Paul’s existence was that the gospel was advanced, that Christ was preached and proclaimed. That was his passion, and his purpose for living. Therefore, it must be our passion and purpose.
Now that we have established the biblical basis for our unity as a church, then we need to live out that unity, put shoe leather on our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ at Immanuel Baptist Church.
Our text this morning in a nutshell, boiled down, teaches us How we can achieve that unity in our church and what we can expect as a result of unity – Again, How we can achieve unity at Immanuel Baptist Church and what we can expect as a result of unity.
Ill. Donkeys are rather stupid animals I am told. I don’t have much experience with these stubborn beasts of burden. I am told that donkeys are a particularly dense species of animal. Especially when it comes to self-defense. When in danger, donkeys will form a circle with their long faces outward, kicking their rear legs inward. That’s just the opposite of what they should do, don’t you agree? So, they end up kicking their fellow donkeys in the backsides instead of kicking outward toward their enemies. Isn’t that what some churches do in the face of change, in the face of perceived danger. There is “Donkey Churches” spread out all over our land. A dime a dozen. They are so busy kicking themselves in their backsides that everyone gets hurt, everyone gets mad, everyone gets offended, and they have as much harmony as the bray of a donkey.