Summary: Let the people of God be together,one heart and one mind.
Note: This is the sermon manuscript that Ben carried into the pulpit. Feel free to use it in any way to advance the kingdom of God.
When Christians Disagree
Englewood Baptist Church
Sunday Morning, July 13, 2008
We have been working our way through the book of Romans and we are just about finished—two weeks remaining. Of course, we could invest years on these 16 chapters and not fully exhaust them, but this study has provided a general overview of the themes and truths of Romans. What an incredible book it is.
Today, the title of my message is “When Christians Disagree” and we will look at chapter 14. Paul is discussing the issue of unity in the church. Did you know that in any given church, there are differences of opinion? Were you aware of that? If you don’t believe me, just serve on a building committee or a finance committee or a personnel committee. Do that and you will see that godly, sincere people sometimes see things a little differently. Everyone has a unique perspective. That’s not a bad thing, but the devil would love nothing more than cause division and alienation between the people of God. If he cannot defeat us, he will seek to divide us. A man named Thomas Brooks once said,
For wolves to worry the lambs is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous. –Thomas Brooks
So much of the division that is happening in churches today is unnatural and unnecessary. We see splits, schisms, divides. One group goes this way and another goes that way. Hear me on this: truth should always trump unity. We don’t have to be together, but we do have to contend for the truth. For example, if your Sunday School teacher began class today by saying that he no longer believes in the historical event of the resurrection—that Jesus never rose from the grave. It’s all made up. If that were the case, it would be time to part company, because Jesus did walk out of that cold tomb. That is the truth and it’s worth fighting for. But so much of the division that occurs in churches today has little to do with disputes over sound doctrine. Most church splits today occur because two groups of people have different preferences and opinions.
In other words, we are not dividing over black and white issues in 2008. We are choosing to part company over the gray areas in the Christian life. I am convinced that nothing grieves the heart of Jesus like the unnatural infighting that occurs among the lambs.
In John 17, Jesus is savoring some of his final moments on earth and he is praying. What do you think he is praying for as he considers his physical departure from the planet? He is crying out for unity. Look at this passage:
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me. John 17:21-23 (The Message)
Jesus says, “Let the believers show the world a miracle to prove the existence of God. Let them show the world a true miracle! And what is this miracle? It is not the ability to make the sun stand still. This miracle is not the ability to fly through the air or to heal people of disease. The miraculous demonstration of the church is in its unity. Let the people of God be together—one heart and one mind.
In the church at Rome, there was division among the lambs. There was danger of disunity and Paul is explaining in this chapter how a church can stay together even with its differences. You see, we can have unity without uniformity. God did not design us all the same, but he has called us to be about the same mission. In the church at Rome, people were beginning to lose sight of the mission. They were bickering over little, trivial things. What were those things? There were two issues: diets and days. These sincerely disagreed about what a Christian should eat and what days a Christian should celebrate. And the temperature was raising day by day. People were getting upset and heated about it. Two camps were forming, and Paul addresses the issue.