AW Tozer once gave a great illustration on unity: “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
Someone said to me, “I have never heard a pastor emphasize ‘unity’ as much as you.” That may very well be true. Unity is a priority in my whole approach to pastoring a local church. There has not been one Wednesday in as many years as I can remember where unity has not been on the board for us to pray specifically for. You have and you will continue to hear me weave unity into sermons and teachings. If you’ve been confronted by me, or counseled by me, or in conversation with me, unity has come up.
Why? Because of what I said last week: unity was a top issue for our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles. It’s all throughout the NT: Acts 6, John 17, Romans 15, 1 Corinthians 1, Ephesians 4, Philippians 1 and 2, and so many more.
Ever since we’ve been driving Big White out there in the parking lot its as though I see them all over the place now. I thought we were the only ones with a massive Ford Transit. But now they’ve all appeared out of nowhere. One time I even saw an entire travelling circus stuffed into one. (Then I realized I was seeing our own van in a reflection off a building!)
Its like that with unity. As you read through the NT and have unity in mind, watch and see how it just “appears” all over the place. One of my favorite verses on this actually comes from the OT, in Psalm 133:1, when it says, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” Good. Pleasant. That’s the result of relational unity among God’s people.
Now I want to present 9 reasons unity is so important to me, and should be for every single one of us as believers in this local church.
(1)UNITY BRINGS JOY (Psalm 133:1)
Unity brings Joy. Turn to Psalm 133:1 with me, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” AMEN! Goodness and pleasantness is in the air of a united local church. Notice though that that good and pleasant joy is a product of unity. Real biblical unity brings a real biblical joy for those who are producing that true unity.
We see Paul connect joy with unity in Philippians 2:1-4. Turn there with me and follow along…
(2)UNITY IS EVANGELISTIC (John 17:21)
Another reason unity is important among believers is because of unity is evangelistic. Turn to John 17:21 and 23 with me…[READ]
Notice that what causes the world to believe Jesus was sent by the Father is that the believers are one with each other and with the Son and the Father. This is cause and effect language: unity causes the world to see who Jesus really is.
APPLICATION: Do not give the world a reason to doubt who Jesus is. They will have plenty of reasons on their own, but let us not give them reasons to shake their heads and justify their unbelief because of our inner divisions and infighting.
Prioritize unity for the sake of evangelism.
(3) UNITY IN WORSHIP (Ps 34:3)
Turn to Psalm 34:3 with me, [READ]
“WITH me.” “Let US.” “TOGETHER.” David wanted two things for himself: to bring God-glorifying worship, and to do it with others! One of the ways to gauge your heart towards God is how much you desire to be in the company of all your fellow believers worshipping him as one big group. If that is not important to you something is wrong with you. This is why one of the most basic requirements of membership in this local church is faithful attendance. I have never lost sleep over how big we are. But I do lose sleep over those who belong to this church not being here. When we hit our high numbers like 150 and above there is something encouraging about it. Not because of the number, but because it means nearly everyone who makes this their home church is here and it just feels good to be with the whole EFC family. Like David I say, “Glorify the LORD WITH me, EFC. Let US exalt his name TOGETHER.”
(4) UNITY IS MATURITY (1 Cor 3:1-4)
When believers live together in unity, it is a sign of their maturity. Turn to 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 with me. Notice Paul says they are immature because they are quarrelsome, jealous, and divided.
Mature believers handle interpersonal issues differently than immature believers. The difference is seen in the overall condition of the church: mature believers produce unity, whereas immature believers produce conflict and division
Mature believers apply NT teachings and practice self-control, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, grace, love, kindness, selflessness, make sacrifices, are motivated by a view of honoring God and what He gets out of this situation. Immature believers act out of their own selfishness, are ignorant of or disregard NT teachings on how to act, are focused on their own fleshly desires, ambitions, insecurities, and are prideful and quarrelsome. Disunity among believers is a sign of immaturity and worldliness in those believers. Only mature believers produce, protect and promote unity.
(5) UNITY CENTERS JESUS CHRIST (1 Cor 1:10-12)
Now what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3 is actually him finally coming back around to what he started with early in chapter 1. Turn back to 1 Corinthians 1:10-12.
Notice very carefully that the divisions among the believers developed because the believers began to identify themselves with their favorite teachers and those whom they were baptized by. Notice very carefully that the divisions among the believers developed because the believers were no longer making Jesus the one they identified with. If they had, they would all have felt a unity with each other, a sense of camaraderie, and the jealousies and petty sense of superiority and childish competition with each other would never have developed.
APPLICATION: Do not make any man your hero. Calvin, Luther, Sproul, MacArthur, Piper, Wesley… no one alive today or dead in the past should be your hero. Christ and Christ alone is our hero. Now, by all means love and learn from men. And go ahead and make them heroes. But do NOT make them your heroes in a way that makes you start to feel superior to your other believers. “Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other” Paul told the Corinthians (4:6b). Do not make them your hero in a way that now alienates you from other believers. Do not make them your heroes in a way that you understand Jesus through that guy rather than understanding that guy through Jesus. Think about that.
The point is this: our unity centers on Jesus Christ by centering Jesus Christ. Each and every one of us is to make Jesus the one and only ONE whom we find our identity in. Like the illustration about tuning pianos earlier, if we are all tuned to Jesus, we will all have a wonderfully beautiful harmony. Do not tune to anyone else but Jesus. Unity centers Jesus. Centering anyone else causes disunity.
(6)UNITY OVERCOMES DIFFICULT INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS (Eph 4:2-3)
Turn to Ephesians 4:2-3 with me…The reason these commands are given to believers is because unity is not a default condition in the local church. Unity is not something that all the believers wake up with and go, “Wow! How did that happen?” When you have to be patient, forebear, show love be COMPLETELY humble and gentle, then you know exactly how that unity came about in the church. Those things are not easy.
Turn with me to Romans 15:1-8. Follow along with me and notice the instruction for the “stronger” believer, the more mature believer: [READ]…
Bear with…please our neighbor….build them up…same attitude and mind towards each other THAT CHRIST HAD…accept one another as Christ accepted you…be a servant to your brother and neighbor like Christ became a servant. This is the practice of mature believers who understand that unity is “on purpose” and takes work and sacrifice.
I guarantee most interpersonal disputes can be resolved by practicing Ephesians 4 and Romans 15 – and Colossians 3. Colossians 3 can be your homework.
Unity overcomes difficulties in interpersonal relationships.