As we prepare to launch home groups this fall, we’re also going to begin a new message series this morning.
We’ll start off at the beginning. After Jesus died and rose again, He gave an awesome gift to all of those who believed in Him; about 120 at the time. This was the gift of the Holy Spirit. With the giving of this gift, what we know as church came into existence in a powerful and wonderful way!
Throughout the book of Acts, we learn about the acts of the Holy Spirit as He moved in and through the members of the church. The Holy Spirit brought together people from completely different cultures, backgrounds, social and economic statuses, nations, languages, and abilities. He brought them together in unity and created a team of individuals that grew and grew and changed the world forever and ever. In fact, we are sitting here this morning because of that team!
We know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same way that the Holy Spirit moved in and through the various people who made up the church two thousand years ago is the same way that He desires to move in and through us today.
Daily, people accepted Christ’s salvation. People were miraculously healed, set free from their bondage, trained up to live according to the word of God, transformed, given new life, worshiped, and lived together as a community all because of the hope that the church gave. These miraculous works occurred through common and ordinary people like you and I.
This new message series is entitled, “Team Unity”. In this series, we’re going to profile some of these members of the early church. You might think of this team as individual superheros that make up teams such as the Justice League, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, or The Avengers or as individual athletes who make up your favorite team such as the Steelers, Pirates, or the Penguins. Either way you choose to relate to this team, we’re going to learn about a few of these members and what made them such a critical part of this powerhouse team, the church.
To start out, however, we’re first going to focus on the key ingredient to making any team a great team – the same key ingredient that made the church such a powerful and effective force. That key ingredient? Unity!
1 How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
Now, we are well aware of how pleasant it is when people live together in unity. Most of us know this because we’ve experienced the contrast of living with people whenever there is constant chaos and division. However, we lose a bit of the fullness of what David wrote because his use of poetic similes liken unity to objects that we’re unaware of. In our culture, we don’t pour oil on people’s heads and watch it run down their beard and onto their robe collars. Also, most of us, if not all of us, have never seen the dew of Mount Hermon nor Mount Zion.
To help us with this, I stumbled into this youtube video of Aaron and his priest buddies with this precious oil running down their beards and the great joy that it represented. You’ll see them dancing before the Lord in worship, playing with the children of Israel, constructing items for the temple as directed by the Lord, and carrying out their many various priestly tasks.
Well, sort of…
* Video *
Yeah, not exactly historically accurate, but we’ll take David’s word that it was it was good and pleasant as Aaron was anointed. It’s so true, though, that life is pleasant when God’s people live together in unity! It is actually in that place of unity where God’s blessing and eternal life are found. Unity is so much desired that David wrote this song about it and Jesus actually prayed for you and I to have it:
20b “I pray for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
We also read that when Paul was in jail, there was only one bond that he wrote and pleaded for – and it wasn’t for a bail bond!
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
The bond that Paul pleaded that we have is the gorilla glue that holds us together in unity, working together as one, known as peace.
Going way, way back, God saw that when mankind chose to work together in unity, that nothing was impossible for them!
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
God revealed this powerful truth about us. If we work together as one people, nothing that we plan will be impossible for us! Now, we come up with some real bonehead ideas, so it was for our own good that God gave us different languages and had us spread throughout the earth. Otherwise, they would have stayed together in that one city full of skyscraper towers and ended up dying from being overpopulated and from overworking that ground.
However, imagine how powerful of an impact we can have if we would work together in unity, as one, in cooperation with God to fulfill His plans and His purposes. We would be an unstoppable and undeniable force!
Of course, Satan already knows this, which is why he and his angels also work in unity to keep us divided and distracted leveraging the temptations and desires of our flesh…
Unity, as sweet and desirable as it is, is something that we often misunderstand, however. This misunderstanding is often what keeps us divided when we should be united! Within the church, unity doesn’t come from each of us individually trying to think, look, and act like each other. Unity is not the same as conformity, which is what the church often tries to do.
In the past, the church as tried to force everyone into this cookie cutter pattern of what a Christian looks like, thinks like, and acts like. This is actually far from God’s plan for us as we’ll learn from scripture! Yes, we are all to conform into the likeness of Christ. However, that verse of scripture doesn’t at all say what we might think that it does. By ourselves, we can never reveal who Jesus was and what He was like. We can only represent Christ in His fullness within the context of community – the church! This was God’s design and purpose, His idea!
Unity within the church is achieved when each of us keep in step with the Holy Spirit; fulfilling the purpose for which we were uniquely created. Unity is actually achieved through our diversity!
The church is called to be the physical presence of Jesus Christ until He returns. That’s why Jesus said that everything He had been doing, that those who believe in Him will be doing (John 14:12). In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul further clarified and expounded on this unity through diversity when he gave the analogy of how each of us are a part of the body of Christ.
Our physical body works together in perfect unity when each individual part does what it was uniquely created to do as directed by our brains. Christ is the head of the church and as we each fulfill our diverse purpose at His direction, we work together in unity to represent Christ to the world. Unity is achieved by embracing our diversity!
What none of us can do on our own, we CAN do together! We’re better together because we were made to need each other! It’s only when we each fulfill our unique, individual purpose; working closely together with other believers in the community of the church, that Jesus is revealed to the world more fully and clearly.
The awesome way in which we are all brought together, the one thing that we all have in common, is the Holy Spirit. That is why until Jesus sent the gift of the Holy Spirit, the church did not exist. Just like the nerves through which the brain communicates with the other parts of the body, the Holy Spirit communicates with each of us to reveal what Jesus desires us to be and to do.
As we launch home groups, we’re being brought together in unity by a common atmosphere and goal with each group as well as the curriculum which the Holy Spirit lead us to choose. Even with all of these being held in common, each group will still have its own unique personality, strengths, and talents purposed by God.
Just as a crew of superheros or a sports team, each individual has unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, so is the church. The team is defined not by one individual’s talents, but rather, defined by how well all of the individuals work together to compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Just like superheros or sports teams, the church has a common goal of stopping the enemy and achieving victory.
We each have unique talents, strengths, and weaknesses. However, it’s only when each of us individually cooperate with God and fulfill our purpose that we overcome the work of Satan and his angels, and are also able to overcome the weaknesses of our flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit and support of one another. It’s not something that any of us can do on our own – we need each other and each of us are an incredibly valuable part of what God desires to do here!
As we continue throughout this series and launch home groups, my hope is that you relate to some of these team unity members that we see in the early church and are inspired to fulfill your purpose on this team. Together, with Christ and each other, all things are possible for us!
People will be saved, healed, and set free! People will find new life, hope, and a renewed purpose as we spur one another on toward good works and live our lives according to the word of God! You are needed, appreciated, and incredibly valuable in the church; the body of Christ!