Team Unity: One

This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled “Team Unity” where we’re learning that God’s desire for the church is that we be united, working together as one.

However, this unity is not achieved through conformity where we all look, think, and act alike, but rather, this unity is achieved through diversity.

As we each fulfill our unique purpose in the body of Christ, Jesus is revealed more clearly to the world around us.

So far, we profiled Tabitha and Barnabas. We learned that through simple acts of service, as well as personal tragedy, that God used Tabitha to transform an entire city. We were challenged to take a look at our own lives and ask ourselves what we can do to represent Christ to the world ourselves. We learned that through simple encouragement, Paul, an enemy set out to destroy the church, was brought into the church and even promoted to be an apostle.

This week, instead of profiling another member of the church, God is bringing us back to a foundational truth that kept the churches throughout the book of Acts working together in unity and what should keep us moving forward together in unity as well. We find this truth here:

Romans 11:35-36
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from HIM and through HIM and for HIM are all things.
To HIM be the glory forever! Amen.

All that we are, all that there ever has been, all that there is now, and all that there ever will be belongs to God. When we worship God, we’re only giving back to Him what He has already given us. When we give financially to God, we’re only giving back to Him a portion of what He has already given us. When we raise our children to love and serve God, we’re only being good stewards of those young lives that He has entrusted to us for such a short period of time. When we serve others, we’re only doing it with the strength and resources which He has given us in the first place.

From Him, through Him, and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever!

This truth simplifies our lives tremendously and helps to relieve us of the many worries and stresses that we bring onto ourselves. This truth is what we find evident in the lives of the members of the early church. They worked together as one because there was only one thing that mattered to each of them. That one thing was Jesus; knowing Him and making Him known to the world around them. They knew that everything else was worthless in comparison to Jesus.

When we accept the salvation that Jesus freely offers us, we’re simply acknowledging and confessing this truth in our lives. Our lives are not our own, they belong to Jesus! At the end of our lives, we’ll stand face to face with our Creator. On that day, the lives that we chose to live will be judged. Who we chose to be will be compared to who we were created to be.

A simple fact will be revealed. Did we live our lives to bring Jesus honor and glory, or did we live our lives to honor and glorify ourselves? Which God did we truly choose to worship?

When we live to bring honor and glory to Jesus, we need not worry. We know that God is forever faithful and trustworthy. Whenever we are living for Him, He will certainly provide everything that we need. However, when we misuse our lives and what He has entrusted to us, then we should absolutely worry!

Paul wrote it this way to the church in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 6:12-20
12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

The early church understood this basic and foundational truth. This truth motivated them to live as one. They had one heart, one mind, one purpose, one goal. Their singular desire was to honor Jesus with their lives. They lived lives of selfless abandonment. They chose to lay down everything all for the One – the only One who matters – Jesus.

In the home of Mary and Martha, Martha came to Jesus all upset and worried because her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping her with all of the busyness of life. Mary, instead, was simply sitting and resting at the feet of Jesus, learning from Him. When Martha came to Jesus complaining about her behavior, Jesus told Martha this:

Luke 10:41-42
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

We worry about so many things in life. We fill our calendars with so many things in life. However, do we ever bother to set aside time for Jesus? Do we prioritize our time spent with Him? While we’re out doing all of the things that keep us so busy – work, sports, chores, exercising, hunting, fishing, etc, do we look for ways to honor Jesus through them? Do we look for ways to seek and save the lost through them? Do we have that clarity of focus and urgency of mission in life the way that the early church did?

I believe that if we had this clarity and urgency of knowing Jesus and making Him known, that the community around us would look far different than it does now; far better!

Now, we’re well aware of the results that occurred through the members of those first churches. Many new churches were planted, entire cities were saved, the sick were healed, those bound were set free, those broken were restored, those who had need were provided for, and daily, people were being saved.

I love focusing on the good things that resulted as they all chose to live as one for Jesus. However, we can’t neglect the cost at which these awesome things came to be. In honesty, it wasn’t always easy and scripture clearly reveals this fact. They faced many hardships and opposition everywhere that they went.

Jesus warned them, and us, of this fact:

Matthew 10:16-33
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

Despite the miraculous signs and wonders that the Holy Spirit performed through the humility and unity of the early church, these words of Jesus rang true. Wherever the good news about Jesus is lived out and spoken, there will be lives transformed, however there will also be opposition.

The early church was no exception to this warning. At the very beginning, they were thrown in jail by their own Jewish leaders and commanded them to no longer speak the name of Jesus all because a man who was lame for over forty years was healed. They prayed together following their release:

Acts 4:29-32
29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind.

As time went on, members of the church were imprisoned, forced to pay unfair taxes, stoned to death, flogged, scourged, beaten, poisoned, tortured, their homes and land stolen, beheaded, impaled and used as human tiki torches, fed to lions and other wild animals, crucified, their Bibles stolen and burned, their church buildings and homes burned, stabbed to death, boiled in oil, and worse. In the documented accounts of these deaths, nearly all of these people who were persecuted because of their simple faith in Jesus considered it a great honor and privilege to suffer for His name’s sake. They knew just how temporary these lives are and just how glorious eternity in Heaven will be. Laying down their lives was a joy. Take Paul’s testimony, as an example:

2 Corinthians 11:23-33
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

2 Corinthians 12:6-10
6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul delighted in all these things because it was through those things that Jesus was shown strong. He wrote to Timothy regarding these things:

2 Timothy 3:10-12
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted

Today, Christians are not exempt from this persecution and neither should we be. If we are truly living for Jesus, we should expect persecution because He said that we would experience it. Let me say that a different way. If we are not experiencing persecution because of Jesus, are we really living for Him?

In the end, only One matters and that is Jesus. The greatest thing that we could have done with our lives is to live for Him and to lead people to Him. If we make Him known to those around us, He will acknowledge us on the day of our judgment. If we hide Him away before those around us now, He’ll do no less to us when we stand face-to-face.

The early church, Team Unity, was united by this clarity of focus and urgency of mission – to seek and save the lost. This morning, Jesus is challenging us to learn from their way of life and to be challenged to do the same ourselves. No sacrifice that we could ever make could outweigh the value of what Jesus has given us and what He already paid to make it possible!

Romans 11:35-36
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from HIM and through HIM and for HIM are all things.
To HIM be the glory forever! Amen.