Kingdom Unity

Speaker: Ps. Darin Browne

Psalms 133 (ESV)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Unity. We talk about it, we claim we have it, but the reality is that most towns and cities in Australia have scores of churches, none of whom work together and many of whom are suspicious and jealous of one another.

One leader of a funding organisation related the story that three different Bible translating ministries came him, asking for funding to translate the Bible into the same language, for the same people group. They were all doing the same thing, independently, and doubling up. Each organisation informed him that they were on track to translate the Bible into every language on earth by the year 2150, working independently. They recognised this as wasteful and wrong, and got together to share information and work as a team, and they now believe they can accomplish the same goal by 2033. They saved 117 years because they recognised themselves as one people, in unity.

Mark Twain used to say he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did, so he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, Anglican, and Pentecostal; soon there was not a living thing left. A sad observation indeed!

THERE IS POWER IN UNITY

Both God and the enemy both recognise the power of unity, for good or evil. God said…

Genesis 11:6 (ESV)
And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

So, God confused their speech, caused disunity, and thwarted their evil plans. The Nazis and communists are examples of people joining in unity for evil. On the other hand, we, as believers, can join together in unity for good, and the devil knows this and that is why he always attacks unity. He can’t take our salvation, but he knows disunity blunt our effectiveness for the gospel.

WHAT IS UNITY?

Unity is not uniformity. It’s not being exactly the same. Unity is being different, still having your own unique flavour and style, but joining together on what we can and must agree on. It is not agreeing together, it is agreeing to disagree agreeably.

Two cats tied together by their tails and thrown over a clothesline have union, but they definitely do not have unity. Unity is different instruments playing their own part, but together creating a symphony. It’s different parts of the body forming a whole person.

So, what is unity, and what does it really mean for us in the 21st century church?

1. UNITY MEANS BEING FREE FROM TOXIC COMPARISON

Humans are suckers for comparisons. We usually compare ourselves and our church with other groups that we are closest to but let me tell you that comparisons are almost always sinful and counterproductive. We look at another, bigger, more successful church and think, “There’s no way we can compete.” Then we look at a smaller or poorer church and think, we are doing much better than them. Either way, we either experience either pride or insecurity, and nobody wins except the devil.

We see another church come into our area, and our default position is to be threatened. There’s no way we can compete with that. But we are not called to compete, we are called to complete! If another church grows, why don’t we see this not as a threat but as a win for the Kingdom, and hence a win for everybody? Mark Twain said, “Comparison is the death of joy.” Jesus said…

Matthew 12:25 (ESV)
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”

If we can break free from this toxic rivalry and comparison, we can become each other’s biggest fans. We could become the first to trumpet the success of other churches and I think the world would sit up and take notice, because this Spirit is contrary to the earthly rivalry we see in business and politics.

Sadly, we are treating each other not as brothers and sister but as competitors. When we undermine each other, we are undermining all of us. Instead of a partisan, Church mentality, it is time we had a Kingdom mentality! A unity mentality.

A circular firing range is always a bad idea! Too often this defines what we are doing as a church. When someone asks, how is Ignite different to other churches, I think our answer should be, here’s what the churches in this community are doing together. Jesus prayed in His high-priestly prayer…

John 17:20-21 (ESV)
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

His last recorded prayer time in earth…and Jesus prayed for unity. We need to be one. We have seen it in glimpses, but this must become the norm.

Unity doesn’t mean we think less of ourselves, but we think of ourselves less.

2. UNITY MEANS REJECTING THE IDEA THAT WE LIVE IN A WORLD OF SCARCITY

If we believe that we live in a world of scarcity, every time we see someone else gain, we think, that’s less for us. In business, people think, I will beat you, because there is not enough pie for all of us. It’s the old song, “What about me, I don’t have enough, and I want my share?”

There’s not enough reputation, people, money to go around, so we need to fight for our share of a limited pie, even at the expense of others. As pastor here at Ignite, I categorically reject that world view. Instead, I believe that God’s world is a world of unlimited potential, that God created not a fixed pie but an ever expanding, lavish and (in God’s economy), unlimited pie for all.

Ephesians 3:20 (ESV)
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

In this world view, if other churches get more, it doesn’t mean less for us, it means more for all of us! More for the Kingdom, more coming to Christ. We are on the same team! When one wins, we all win! I can think of several people right now who have come to Christ here, but for various reasons have decided to leave and attend another church. As long as they continue growing in Christ, we should rejoice in that!

When I read the stories of Jesus, I just believe that five loaves and two fishes is always going to be enough when Jesus is involved.

Matthew 14:20 (ESV)
And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.

So, if we must compete, let’s compete by out giving one another. Let’s compete by how we can all make the pie bigger. People impacting the world for Jesus right now are those who don’t envy and don’t act from scarcity, they simply serve the Lord where they are and trust Him for any increase.

3. UNITY MEANS OUR PRIMARY LOYALTY IS TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD

It is good that we have different churches, different flavours of worship, but behind our logo needs to be the phrase, “All to Jesus I Surrender.” Our highest allegiance is to the Kingdom. We are Kingdom people, not Ignite people, not an organisation people.

Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Can we reject this limited view of scarcity and partisan loyalty and dream big together, for our whole community?

When Ignite moved to downtown, someone asked me if we were going to change our focus to outreach to street people and the homeless. I sought God, and strongly felt that, even though we live with and reach out to the street folk at times, our focus as a church was not to change. The Shack does such a great job, we should support them rather than competing with them. Why run a food bank when Suncoast Care does a great job? Why not do what God has given us a vision to do, and support others to do what God has called them to do?

Matthew 5:9 (ESV)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Listen to how the message conveys this verse…

Matthew 5:9 (MSG)
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

THE WORLD IS LOOKING FOR UNITY

We live in a divided world, especially since the debacle of COVID, but one good aspect of this is that the world is searching vainly for unity, and we as the body of Christ can show them a living example of that. We know the secret, that we are better together, and we should become each other’s biggest fans. Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things but look what they can do when they stick together!

A W Tozer said, “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same pitchfork 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.”

What we focus on determines what we become, and if we choose to focus not on our church, not on our tribe, but on Christ and His Kingdom come, the by-product is unity, true unity, history changing unity.

We started with the great passage on unity, Psalm 133. Let’s dissect it and learn about unity.

Psalms 133:1 (ESV)
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

This is not because there is an absence of hostility, although that is peaceful and nice. Christians are often bad at unity, because we feel we have a God given right to complain about everything. I used to have a lot of these kinds of people in church, and thankfully they have mostly moved on to bless some other church with their spiritual gift of criticism and complaining.

As I said, unity is not simply the absence of conflict. That’s peace, and it’s good. But unity is love and acceptance and pulling together, even if you don’t agree with something. You may not see eye to eye, but you can walk hand in hand, and when we do this there is a spiritual power generated. That’s why the devil uses everyone he can to try and break up unity. He knows that unity makes us unbelievably strong together, in Christ.

Psalms 133:2 (ESV)
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!

Here is some context. Aaron was the original high priest and was anointed for this task. Not with a tiny bit of expensive oil, but with tons of it, running down his collar, out to the end of his robes. This illustrates that, when we are in unity, the blessings flow not just on the head of the church, the pastor, but across the face and neck and beard, board, leaders, across the entire church, even out to the hem of his garments. Even people loosely associated with the church will feel the blessing. It flows everywhere.

Mt. Hermon was the highest point in Israel, and it is snowcapped summer and winter. It gets over 60 inches of rain. When the snow melts, it feeds the headwaters of the Jordan river, which fills Lake Galilee and provides water for the entire nation. Again, the image is one of abundance, overflow, provision, not scarcity.

Psalms 133:3 (ESV)
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

If we want to see people saved, our community impacted, unity is the key.

HOW CAN WE PROMOTE UNITY?

Unity brings blessing, but the devil wants to block this amazing, incredible power in our lives, in our church and in the church across the nation. We must no compromise God’s standards, but we can and will achieve much more together. So, what can we do to promote this superpower of unity?

1. SEE THE POSITIVES, NOT THE NEGATIVES

This includes not complaining. It is so easy to see the negatives but let me tell you that every time you criticise something in church you are destroying unity. It’s not ok to be judgemental and critical. If something upsets you, either talk to the person directly and sort it, or keep it to yourself, but don’t gossip your critique.

Let me be totally clear; we must love people more than we love our pet doctrines. I’m not talking about compromising core beliefs, but about seeing beyond our personal preferences with Kingdom eyes.

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Same applies to other churches. Don’t be quick to criticise, just celebrate their triumphs and realise that when one church wins, the Kingdom wins, and that’s all of us!

Life Church is building a huge, multimillion dollar church at Forest Glen, seen from the motorway. We should rejoice in the exposure the Kingdom of God will have. Let’s bless them because we all win when the Kingdom wins!

2. LOVE THE DIFFERENCES IN OTHERS

We get irritable when others don’t agree with us. Don’t just put up with the differences, we need to learn to love and even celebrate the differences in each other, because the reality is that none of us have everything right. Paul wrote…

Romans 12:4-5 (ESV)
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

So, let’s stop criticising others and start enjoying the different flavours and style we bring to the table. We will have stronger unity, and you might just like other people after all! I love that here at Ignite we have people from reformed backgrounds, Anglicans, Pentecostal, Baptist, and we have all found a home together at Ignite. We have different opinions on different doctrines, etc. But we can choose to love the differences and not get pedantic about them. We join together on the things we all agree on, like salvation by faith, community, and so on.

3. STICK TOGETHER

A father was teaching his rebellious son the power of unity. He gave him one a small stick and asks him to snap it. The son did so with a rebellious smirk on his face. The father handed him two sticks together and asked him to snap them which he did easily. Then it was three, four, five and six sticks and by this time the boy was straining to snap the sticks. Finally with seven sticks he had to admit defeat. Then the father cautioned his sons that “A house divided cannot stand.” You can be defeated one on one but if you stand together your united strength will cause your enemies to be defeated.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV)
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are better together, stronger together, and we don’t need to be jealous or critical of others. This church stands as a Beacon for Christ in our community, downtown Nambour, but no one church can win the entire town to Christ. We have to work together, hence this week of prayer. We are one church, one family, we are going to be together forever. So, let’s start right here, right now, to live and work in true unity.

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