Bible

The Voice of Worship

“… the Father is seeking …”

John 4:23 ESV

Did you know the Father is seeking? What is he seeking? He knows everything… why would he need to seek unless he was seeking someone.  Who is he seeking?

“… the Father is seeking …people to worship him.”

John 4:23 ESV

Why would he seek people to worship him? Is this something he needs?  No, God doesn’t need anything from anyone. He is seeking worshipers because it is the most loving thing he can do for people. We were created to worship Him and the Father is seeking people who are fulfilling the very purpose for which they were created.

“… true worshipers will worship …”
John 4:23 ESV

True worshipers will worship.  You don’t have to twist their arm or cajole them into worshiping. True worshipers worship and not just on Sunday they find reasons to worship day in and day out. They see the sunrise and worship.  They see the stars and worship. They feel breath in their lungs and worship.

If there are true worshipers, then there are also false worshipers. What does false worship look like?

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
Matthew 15:8 NIV

False worship is pretense. When we pretend to worship on the outside. We open our mouths to honor God with our lips but our hearts are dark and distant.  How do our hearts get this way?  When we cultivate a lifestyle of hypocrisy.  John Piper says “Hypocrisy is behavior that tells a lie.” It isn’t sin that makes you a hypocrite. It is your pretending that you don’t sin that makes you that way. If we were honest each of us would have to admit that before we lift our hands in praise we need to beat our chest and cry out “Have mercy on me God for I am a sinner.”

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.
Psalms 24:3-6 HCSB

The one who has clean hands and a pure heart is simply the one who has brought his sin to the Lord and repented. The one who cries out for cleansing by the blood of the lamb. The false worshiper is the one who sets his mind on what is false.

“… true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth …”  John 4:23 ESV

When we truly worship, we worship in spirit and in truth. We worship the Father with all that we are, all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Worship a Spectrum

We all worship differently.  How we worship is a product of our personality, our age and our preferences.  Jesus is the Light of the world.  There are two things that a lamp gives off, light and heat.  Some lights are more heat (like the old incandescent bulb) and some or mostly light (like a newer LED bulb).

Some of us are very open, expressive people.  Our bulb gives off a lot of heat when we worship.  We raise our hands, we clap, we shout and everyone can see the heat of our worship.  Remember our soul consists of a Thinker (mind), Chooser (will) and Feeler (emotions). And when Heat worshipers worship, we worship with mostly with our feeler.  Jesus said we are to worship in spirit and in truth… both of them.  But if you ask a heat worshiper “spirit or truth?”,  they will typically choose spirit.

Others are less expressive outwardly.  For them worship is a personal, intimate experience and though they feel their worship, they prefer to worship with their thinker.  If you ask a Light worshiper “spirit or truth?”, they will typically chose truth.

So much more to say about this but I’ll save it for next time.

Three Choices

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”  …2 Corinthians 12:8-9a NLT

You have a thorn.  You’ve asked God to take it away.  It isn’t going away.  Now what?

Unlike Paul, I haven’t had a direct revelation from the Lord.  I didn’t hear his voice saying “My grace is all you need,”  All I know is that every day is a struggle and sometimes I become very low.  It seems to me that there are three common responses to a thorn that isn’t going away.

Deny It

In 1875 after recovering from a fall Mary Baker Eddy wrote a book Science and Health that became the foundation of the Christian Science Church.  She taught that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone.  In other words, she taught people to deny that they were sick.

Strangely her teachings caught on in recent history in a different form.  There are preachers who teach people to deny that they are sick and to express their faith in the healing power of God simply by making positive declarations.  They claim that if you “Speak health” you will be healthy.  They say that your sickness is simply an illusion brought on by Satan and that if you speak your words of faith (and send them money of course) that you will be healed.

Of course, this sounds great.  You can declare “I have perfect health in my body” and your cancer or diabetes or whatever you have will simply vanish.  This works fine until the preacher who is teaching such things gets old, gets sick and dies.

With apologies to those who believe such things I have to say that I don’t believe this is true. I don’t believe it works and I don’t believe that the bible teaches this kind of magical thinking.  While it is true that having a positive outlook is a good thing and it is also true that there is a connection between mind and body that can produce good results when properly engaged, Your words, your declarations do not carry power to heal you.  If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this and the New Age “Law of Attraction” see my post Lie To Me.

Wallow In It

wal·low‌ (wŏl′ō)
To roll the body about indolently or clumsily in or as if in water, snow, or mud.

Thinking about your thorn is a very natural reaction.  Pain can be spiritual, emotional or physical.  The end result of the different types of pain is the same.  Pain is pain.  It reaches out and grabs you.  You can try to ignore it but sooner or later it breaks through your best efforts.  When we are in pain we reach out to others.  We want them to acknowledge our pain.  We want them to feel sorry for us (as if that will help.)

When do we cross the line into wallowing?  When we begin to feel entitled.  When we feel that we have a right to bad attitudes.  We say things like “You would feel this way if you were as sick as I am” or “You don’t know how I feel.”  We become grumpy and very self-centered even to the point of being rude to the very people who are trying to help us.

“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
Genesis 3:5 NLT

When your pain becomes the center of the universe you make it into a god.  You give it power over your activities, thoughts and relationships. Now that you have created an idol out of your pain it will naturally attack the one true God.  When you read the bible you will think “Jesus healed those people… why not me?”  Just as the serpent in the Garden of Eden lied about the character of God, implying that God held back good things from the man and woman, you will begin accepting lies in your mind.  Maybe God really doesn’t love you (forget about John 3:16).  Maybe God is the one causing your pain.  After all He can do anything right?  Why won’t he stop your pain?  If you wallow in your pain you will begin a downward spiral.  Your thoughts will build on one another until you are ready to throw away the one relationship that can truly save you.

Accept It

The hardest choice of all is to simply accept your pain. This does not mean that you don’t do everything possible to stop it.  You go to doctors and counselors, you listen to them and do what they say.  Sometimes, even when you’ve done everything you can, the pain persists.  This is the pain of the thorn.  I think Paul learned how to accept the thorn.  Why?  Look at what he said.

“So now I am glad”

Glad? How glad are you Paul?

“I’m so glad I’m Glad Glad.”

Yes, in the Greek text Paul uses the word hēdeōs twice, we might say Paul was “Mega-Glad.”  Hēdeōs means “sweetly” or with pleasure.  We get our English word Hedonism from it. Hedonism is a pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.  Somehow he learned how to find sweetness in life, even with a thorn.

“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT

Paul learned how to change his perspective.  He learned that even with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that when he was weak in himself, he was strong in Christ.

Acceptance is not simply accepting defeat.  No, rather it is a declaration of war on the pain that seeks to destroy your life.  You won’t deny it, you won’t wallow in it, you will bring it to the feet of Jesus and lay it there.  You will find strength in your weakness and even the grace to suffer for Christ.

Responding to the Voice of the Thorn

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What if you have a thorn?  What if it is speaking to you?

Do thorns have a voice?  Ever get a thorn stuck in your sock?  It has a voice… trust me.  Paul had a thorn and he learned how to respond to it.

“If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.”
2 Corinthians 11:30 NLT

Paul says a very curious thing here.  He said he wants to boast about the things that show how weak he was.  Huh?  Who boasts about that?

When I was a skinny teenager I was very weak.  I did my best to hide this, but I dreaded gym class.  It was the one class where I couldn’t hide my weakness.  Whenever we tested for push-ups it was a very traumatic experience for me.  The other boys would talk about how many push-ups they could do.  I stood by the side and did my best to hide.  When I was in ninth grade, me and another overweight kid waited as the others took their turn.  One by one they did fifteen or twenty push-ups and then left to go play basketball with the other boys.  Finally we were the only two left.  The overweight kid went first.  He struggled but he finally did one push-up.  I thought “Good I can beat that.”  When it was my turn I tried and tried but I couldn’t even do one. I was devastated. I was so weak and for a ninth grade boy it felt like the end of the world.

Can you imagine me running around my school boasting in my weakness?  “Yeah – I did ZERO push-ups!”

“If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,”
2 Corinthians 12:6 NLT

When we start boasting about things we are constructing an idol.  We construct an idol out of lies and boasting and we bow down to it in self-worship.  We raise up our idol before others and ask them to worship it as well.

Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
Exodus 32:4 NLT

Why do you suppose God commanded that we not make an idol?  I think the reason is that anything that you or I could create would fall short of God’s glory.  Instead of worshiping God who dwells in unapproachable light we would settle for something that doesn’t even come close.

The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.
Exodus 32:6 NLT

If you worship anything other than the living God.  If you create an idol out of anything, even yourself through boasting, your worship will devolve into something very ugly.  The Hebrew word ṣāḥaq, translated above as “indulged in pagan revelry”, indicates that sexual immorality was a part of their worship.

How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live!
Exodus 32:8a NLT

Genuine worship of the Living God brings us closer to Him.  His Holy Spirit leads us to a life that is increasingly purified as we learn more and more to walk in the Spirit.  When we craft an idol and worship it we turn away.  As John Piper says, our favorite idol is the one in the mirror.

How will you respond to your weaknesses?  Paul learned to boast in them.

The Voice of the Thorn

“If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:6-9 NLT

Do you feel weak?  If so, you are in good company.  Paul boasted in his weaknesses when others belittled him for them.  Paul came to realize that being weak is a good thing and the way he learned that was from the voice of the thorn.

Paul said he received wonderful revelations from God. He even said he went to heaven and heard things that man is not permitted to speak.  God entrusted Paul with the job of writing the majority of the New Testament.  It would be very easy with that kind of revelation to become proud.  In fact, I’m sure that Satan was actively working on Paul to try to make him proud and boastful.  Why?  Because that would render him ineffective for the mission of spreading the gospel.

Paul said “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.”  Who do you suppose gave that messenger to him?  It was a very bad thing given for a very good reason.  I think this is just one of the many ways that God works in our lives for our good.

At first, Paul didn’t think it was good.  He asked the Lord to take it away from him.  Three times… he begged Jesus to take it away.  Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”  One thing I am learning as a brand new pastor is that people are hurting.  People share their struggles with their pastor in a way that they don’t typically share with other people.

Paul never said exactly what the thorn was.  There is a lot of speculation that it might have been a physical, emotional or even spiritual ailment.  Whatever the case, I think the Lord prevented him from saying what it was.  I believe that everything in scripture is there for a reason and in the same way things that are left out are left out for a reason.  As an author I try to carefully craft what I write and I think that Paul did as well.  Why did God not let Paul include what his thorn was?  Perhaps he wanted us to not get stuck in the specifics.  Maybe he wanted all of us to catch the principle.  What is the principle?  “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

My Grace Is All You Need

Are you hurting because of something you don’t have?

  • You don’t have a job
  • You don’t have money
  • You don’t have a spouse
  • You don’t have your health

What do you suppose Jesus would say to you?  I think he would say “My grace is all that you need.”  There is something about the grace of Jesus that can fill every hole in your heart, life and soul.  It is truly all that you need.  You may be struggling with that idea.  When the hurt is great it is hard to feel it but I think that the greater our hurt the greater our desperation.  The more desperate we are the more likely we are to go to extremes.  You can turn your desperation into desperately evil acts or you can turn it into desperation for the grace that only Jesus gives.

My Power Works Best in Weakness

We like our preachers strong.  We like them with strong voices and strong arms.  We want them to be good looking and tall.  Our culture is obsessed with strength and beauty.  Saul, the first king of Israel was a head taller than any other man.  He was all those things but in the end he failed terribly as king of Israel.  Why?  Because God’s power works best in weakness.

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT

Few of us were wise, powerful or wealthy.  We weren’t the “A” team and yet God chose us.  He chose the things that are powerless.

  • He chose a group of slaves in the land of Egypt to go to a promised land.
  • He chose fishermen, tax collectors and zealots to be his disciples.
  • He chose a proud Pharisee to be knocked off his horse to become a missionary to the gentiles
  • He chose you and me

The next time you feel weak and powerless remember this.  “God chose things despised by the world.” Why?  So that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

May you boast in your weaknesses and in infirmities.  You can boast in the Lord because his power works best in weak people.

Voices you should not listen to

When somebody says they are hearing voices, our first reaction is to think they are crazy. While it is true that this can be a sign of mental illness, the fact is we all hear “voices” (thoughts) in our head all the time. These voices come from many sources (from the most common to the least common):

  • Myself (the most common source by far)
  • Culture (books, music and video)
  • Friends / Family
  • The Bible
  • Angels / Demons
  • God

I know… it sounds like we just stepped of the edge of rational thought but stay with me here.  You know there is a dialog in your head constantly. Your thinker (mind), feeler (emotions) and chooser (will) are constantly debating:

  • What should I do next?
  • How should I feel about what just happened?
  • What should I say?

The voices all serve as input to this discussion.  It’s important that you not be gullible when listening to voices.  There are many voices that you should just ignore.

My Voice

I think that most of what goes on in my head is me.  I have good ideas and bad ideas.  My thinker and feeler are constantly processing and interpreting the input of my eyes and ears  and trying to adjust.  The adjustment comes in various forms.

  • Am I good looking enough?
  • Do other people approve of my life?
  • Do I approve of myself?

There is a societal instinct in all of us.  We feel this as the need to belong to a group.  We want people to like us and this pressure to be liked causes us to take all sorts of action.

Our thoughts often spring from our fears.  In our minds we are imagining giants that we run from as in a dream.

  • Financial fears
  • Relational fears
  • Spiritual fears

If you spend your life running from your fears you will develop an emotional panic we call anxiety.  You need to face your fears and confront them with the word of God.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:31-33

You might find yourself saying something like this.

“I’m afraid that I won’t have enough money to meet my needs.  But God’s word says My Father knows what I need.  Jesus says that I shouldn’t worry about these things but instead seek first his kingdom.  I agree with God.  I’m going to give my fear to him now.”

The Voice of Culture

This is the voice that says:

  • “Come on, everybody else is doing it.”
  • “You deserve to be happy”
  • “You can do or be whatever you want”
  • “Don’t be a prude”
  • “Aren’t you getting a little crazy with this Jesus stuff?”

This voice comes from the inputs of friends, family and media.  It pressures us to conform.  Back in my college days I had a roommate named “X”.  His real name was Xavier but he told everyone to call him “X.”  Anyway he was a big fan of the band Rush.  I listened to Rush all the time and I hear some good things from their voice.  They are not Christ Followers (as far as I know) but their songs sometimes speak powerfully.

Subdivisions
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out

Subdivisions
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

Read more: Rush – Subdivisions Lyrics | MetroLyrics

The pressure to conform is at the heart of so much pain in our world.  It is the tool of the judgmental person who says “You shouldn’t do that.” It is the tool of the non-conformist who takes delight in pressuring those around them to be like they are. The pressure to be cool is enormous.

“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
Romans 12:2 HCSB

When Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this age” he was speaking about “The Voice of our Culture.”  For the first century Christian there were many cultural voices that had to be ignored.

  • “You need to be circumcised”
  • “Why don’t you worship Artemus of the Ephesians?”
  • “You have to worship the emperor first.  Then you can worship Jesus”

Paul told those early Christians to not conform.  They paid a heavy price for doing so.

“Look! I (Stephen) see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Then they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They threw him out of the city and began to stone him…
Acts 7:56-58 HCSB

Think about this.  All Stephen had to do to save his life was just cave to the pressure.  Just tell them what they want to hear.  You can tell them a lie.  People would have understood if you lied to the Jewish leaders to save your life.  Stephen stood up to the pressure even though it cost his life.

God has a reason for telling us (through Paul) to not be conformed to the pattern of this world.  The pattern of this world is a pattern of sin and death.  Christians are called to live the pattern of heaven instead.  Jesus taught us to pray that “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  What is that but a prayer for the pattern of heaven to be done in my life.  This is a pattern of life and peace.

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”  Genesis 15:1

May  you hear God’s voice today above all others.

Is That You God?

I Have A Question

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.”
John 10:27 NLT

I think Jesus speaks to us today.   The main way He speaks is through His word.  I do think that the Holy Spirit also speaks directly to our minds.

  • Prompting…
  • Convicting…
  • Teaching…
  • Reminding…

His Voice Is Truth

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth…”
John 14:16-17a NLT

The first way that I can test a thought in my head is to see if it is true.  Is that a true thought?  Does it line up with the truth of scripture?

Allow me to illustrate from my life.  Many years ago I was working in Southern California.  I had a flight from Los Angeles to my home in Sacramento scheduled for late afternoon.  As I was finishing my appointments I got on the highway and realized that I was probably not going to make it to the airport in time.  I really wanted to go home that evening so I prayed about how fast I should drive.  As I prayed about it a thought popped into my head.  It wasn’t an audible voice but it said something like this.

“Of course God wants you to catch that flight tonight.  God wants you to get home to your wife who misses you very much.  Of course you don’t want to make a practice of driving like a maniac but in this case, go ahead and do it.”

Is that God’s voice, my own thoughts or perhaps thoughts that smell like smoke?  Let’s apply the truth test.  Is it true?  You ask, “Is what true?”  Is it true that God would say to a man who was late to a flight that it is ok to break several laws and put lives in danger in an attempt to catch a flight that he it late for because he was to stupid to plan his day better?

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” Romans 13:1 NLT

If the Holy Spirit was speaking to my mind He would not tell me to do something that violates His written word.  God says that government is a good thing.  Ever seen a country that has no government?  Try Somalia.  Warlords rule and people suffer greatly because there is no government.  Government only works when people submit to government.  Even government that you don’t agree with.

You think the speed limit is too low?  Fine, you can have your opinion.  You can call your representative and say so.  What you cannot do, in my view, as a Christian is to say I’m just not going to submit to that law.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 HCSB

Is that line of thinking that says it is ok for me to speed true? No… clearly it fails the truth test.  The Holy Spirit never speaks lies to my mind.  What were those thoughts?  Probably my own foolishness speaking.  I had to learn to organize my life so that I could make my flights without driving like a maniac.

That was a pretty easy case.  There are many, much harder ones.  Will we struggle to figure out if that is the voice of the Holy Spirit in this life?  Yes… we will struggle.  If you are not struggling to determine where those voices come from then you are in a dangerous place.  You become vulnerable when you are gullible.

Jesus Prayed for Us

“I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one.”
John 17:20-22

Jesus prayed for you and I.  Right here in John 17 he is looking down the corridor of time to the day when a couple billion Christ followers are walking on the earth and his prayer for us is that we may be one.  Of all the things that he could have prayed for he prayed that we would be one?

What about praying for things like

  • Power
  • Miraculous signs and wonders
  • Riches and prosperity
  • Victory in battle

This list could go on and on.  There are so many things that seem so much more tangible.  I’m not even sure I understand the power of being one.  What exactly did Jesus mean that we would be one as He and the Father are one?

Total Trust

“All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.” Luke 10:22

The first thing I notice about the unity between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is that there is total trust between them.  Jesus said “All things have been entrusted to me by My Father.”  All things?  The keys to the car?  The bank account?  Is there anything that the Father does not trust Jesus with?  No.  The answer is clearly no.  Can you imagine a group of Christ followers that are so unified that they have total and complete trust in one another?

Perhaps the most amazing part of the trust that the Father placed in Jesus’ hands was the mission to reveal the Father to mankind.  No one knows the Father except those to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.  Throughout the Old Testament we read over and over of God’s desire to be known.

“I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. And they will know that I am Yahweh their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, so that I might dwell among them. I am Yahweh their God.” Exodus 29:45-46

This is just on example of many.  The Father  wants mankind to know Him and yet he trusts Jesus completely to be the gatekeeper.  Nobody comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).  It takes an incredible trust to put your hopes and dreams in the hands of another.  There are few people that I know that I have that kind of trust in.  Could it be that Jesus prayed that we would reach the point as the body of Christ where we would trust each other with our greatest desires, ministries, hopes and dreams?

Not My Will But Yours be Done

“Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me–nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

The second thing I notice is that Jesus is ready to lay down his life to do the Father’s will.  How many people in the body of Christ do you have that kind of relationship with?  Not my will, but yours be done.  There are very few people that I trust that much.  I tend to think that my will is better than yours.  To have a people that are so unified under the leadership of the Holy Spirit that they would reach the point of laying down their will would be an incredible thing.  What would it take to have a church like that?  So much of the frustration that goes on in churches comes from the clash of wills.  Everybody wants what they want.  You can’t possibly please everybody.  When we are following the desires of our flesh and our wills clash it is a very ugly thing.  We end up with dissensions, factions and the like.

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Mark 3:25

Jesus said that if we are divided against ourselves we cannot stand.  Satan surely knows this and works to sow division in the church. Our divisions provide Satan an opportunity to wreak havoc on the flock.  Soon angry words are exchanged and  little ones, babes in Christ, are devoured by the enemy.  It takes a great deal of trust to have the kind of unity that says not my will, but yours be done.  I want to have that kind of community.

Love One Another

“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands” John 3:35
“This is what I command you: Love one another.” John 15:17

Next time you are at church ask yourself “Do we really love each other?”  I don’t mean simply that you are nice to each other, I mean that  you have the kind of love that the Father has for the Son.  The kind of love that gives all things into the other’s hands?  If you know and love even a few people like that in your lifetime, you are very blessed.  Is it really possible to have hundreds of people who love each other like that?  Jesus prayed for this very thing.

“Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.” John 16:15
“Now the large group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common.” Acts 4:32

Those crazy believers in the book of Acts.  They were of one heart and mind. I think they had the kind of unity Jesus wanted all believers to experience.  How crazy would it be if a group of people today loved each other and trusted each other to the point where even our possessions were not our own?  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that.  I don’t know if it would work or not but I really wonder.  Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father were one.  They had this kind of relationship.  The early church had that kind of relationship.  What would happen if a group of believers today was so loving and so bold and so free from the things of this world that they said “What’s mine is yours.”  Wow! I really can’t imagine it.  I’ve never seen it, but I wonder if it could happen today.

So the World Will Believe

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Jesus prayed for unity so that the world would believe that the Father sent Him.  When the world sees a group of Christ followers that are so in love with each other and so unified they can’t help but wonder what is going on.  Love is how they will know that we are Christ followers.  It won’t be our buildings, our events, our programs, our websites, our music… All of those things can be done by any group of people with or without the power of the Holy Spirit.  To bring a group of people to unity in Christ is going to take incredible, transforming power and that can only be done by the Holy Spirit.

“Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love–the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15

Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit there is no way that we can have this kind of love.  To have a church that is one as the Father and Christ are one we are going to have to work through a lot of junk.  There will have to be a lot of forgiveness and a lot of love to boot.  I want to pastor a group of people like this.  I want to belong to a group of people who are ready to lay down their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ and for each other.  If we succeed in this people will say that we are crazy.  Yes, maybe by their standard but I think that this is exactly what Jesus prayed for.