Satan’s Lies, God’s Truth

Four lies Satan loves to thrust upon us, hoping we’ll take the bait

  1. Tirelessly and endlessly strive to earn God’s love, favor and acceptance
  2. Compromise your integrity in order to be accepted by others
  3. Find someone to blame and punish (either God, others or yourself) when you experience hurt or disappointment
  4. Allow any shame from your past to convince you that you can never change, essentially giving up on any hope for a better future.

Strive, compromise, blame and quit.

These are the actions and attitudes of a person who has given Satan their ear and allowed him to affect their mind.

The message of the Gospel is entirely the opposite.

For each of Satan’s lies, God offers a compelling rebuttal.

Here are four counterpoints to consider:

Rather than striving, the Gospel invites us to rest

Both Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:3-5 drive home this point: our salvation isn’t based on our efforts, but the efforts of Jesus.

His completed work means that we can now rest from any attempts to try and earn God’s favor.

Why is it that even though we know that Jesus’ work on our behalf is complete, we sometimes feel tempted to add to it?

The Gospel is about God taking our compromised, sin-stained lives and wrapping them up in the perfect righteousness of Jesus.

Through Christ, God raises us to the level of acceptability.

He never lowers His standard of holiness.

He meets us where we are, but fully transforms us based on Christ’s work on the cross.

And as we are reconciled to Him, He challenges us to live a life of integrity and holiness.

This is accomplished when we practice faith in His Word and reliance upon His Holy Spirit.

We won’t be perfect until we enter heaven. But that reality ought never cause us to become slack in pursuing the best that God has for us.

The Gospel tells us that on the cross Jesus paid the price for our sins so that God’s wrath would be fully satisfied.

The very last words of Jesus before He died were, ‘It is finished.”

In Christ, a person no longer has to worry about punishment.

Theologians have a word for the way God’s wrath was satisfied through Christ’s sacrifice: propitiation.

What it means is that Jesus’s death was enough to satisfy God’s wrath.

As a result, God no longer looks upon a believer with eyes of judgement, but rather He lavishes His love upon us.

Here’s a key thought: knowing that we are now at such peace with God can help us learn to be at peace with others.

Finally, the Gospel encourages us to move on from feelings of shame, guilt and failure in order to embrace the type of life Jesus described as being “more abundant.”

Here’s the truth: shame is a terrible motivator.

Shame makes us think, “I am what I am. I’m stuck. I’ll never change. My past will always dictate my future.”

But the Gospel message is wrapped up in the idea of “new.”

New life. New perspectives. New growth. New hope.

Satan would love for us to stay bound to the shackles of shame.

God wants to release us from our past to take hold of a possibility-filled future.

The genesis of our regeneration is found in salvation, and it is then sustained by our intentional interaction with three things: God’s Word, God’s Spirit and God’s Church.

These three components act as sunshine, water and fertilizer function in the life of a growing tree.

Here’s my parting thought:

Sometimes it seems to us that Satan has the words of life and liberation, while God only offers us restrictions and limitations.

In other words, Satan knows how to have fun and God is nothing short of a killjoy.

This is just one more of Satan’s lies.

We fall for such fabrications because Satan is very skilled at warping the truth, and we are, in our flesh, very weak.

But God doesn’t inhibit life, He enhances it. And His Gospel message serves as a testament to His desire to bless our lives with His wisdom and power.

He wants us to replace our striving with rest.

He desires to point us away from compromise and direct us to integrity.

He wants us to find peace in our spirit so we can cease from blaming and punishing.

And he hope we will give Him our shame in exchange for a hope-filled future.

As God so picturesquely declared to the prophet Joel centuries ago, He can restore the years that have been consumed by ravenous locusts.

Satan will never make you that kind of promise.

 

 

 

 

Submit and Surrender

The two words used in the title of this blog post aren’t very popular.

Why?

Because submitting makes us feel like we’re giving up power and control.

And surrendering can make us feel like we’ve failed.

Yet these two concepts are core to embracing a discipleship-driven relationship with Jesus.

Without practicing submission and embracing surrender, we won’t grow very deep in our discipleship journey.

The word submit is defined like this:

To accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another

Submitting takes place when we acknowledge Jesus knows much better how to direct our lives than we do.

Learning to submit to God’s will over our own is not only obedient, it is wise.

Proverbs 19:21 rings true: “Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.” (ESV)

As for the word surrender, it is described as meaning:

To give up, abandon, or relinquish

As we pursue Christ and absorb His Word, we begin to learn that there are some things in our life that we need to release.

Habits. Thought patterns. Vices. Idols.

These things come in many forms and fashions, but the light of God’s Word is able to identify anything that might act as an obstacle in our spiritual life.

Sometimes God takes away our sense of needing such things to survive, but other  times He will not fully remove them from our life. Instead, He we call us to the practice of daily surrender. It’s committing ourselves to the ongoing practice of embracing His will over our own.

With all this in mind, Romans 12:2 provides for the us the starting point to begin experiencing the submitted/surrendered Christian life.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

This verse reminds me that the practices of submission and surrender always begin in my mind.

As our mind is renewed with the truth, we realize that truth and lies cannot coexist.

Wanting to help his readers purify their minds and actions, James asked a series of rhetorical questions regarding the absurdity of the inter-mingling of truth and falsehood:

Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:11-12 ESV)

His point? A conflicted and cluttered mind rarely finds itself in position to surrender to the will of God.

Paul challenged the Corinthians Christians (who were well known for their lack of spiritual submission) to approach their thinking like this: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)

Paul wrote a similar exhortation to the Colossians: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 ESV)

When the thoughts of our mind are submitted and surrendered to God, then the actual follow-through of living in obedience to God becomes a much easier task.

William Booth cut to the chase when he made this declaration:

The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.

Submission and surrender. Two words that go against the grain of our pride and ego.

But they are two concepts that are integral to the growing disciple’s life.

 

Church Member…or Partner?

I am a member of a gym.

I pay them money, and they provide me with the space and equipment to exercise.

We might say I scratch their back financially, and in turn they scratch mine physically.

I’ve never been asked to help advance the cause of my gym or to stick around and clean up after a long day. And I certainly haven’t offered.

Our relationship is a bit exclusive and distanced.

That’s the essence of membership, whether it be a gym, a country club, or even a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club.

Sometimes church membership plays out in similar fashion.

As church members, we donate financially, and in return we garner activities and ministries designed to build us up spiritually.

If that’s how we view membership, then I propose we dump that terminology in favor of calling it partnership.

Partnership conveys the idea that we are all working together under the Lordship of Jesus to accomplish His will and purposes.

Partnership communicates a culture where we all play different roles, but ultimately share the same goals.

A church partner refuses to be a church spectator. Instead, they are committed to act as a functional participant

When we join a gym or a country club, we pay to have others to do work for us. In church partnership, we recognize Jesus paid for us so that we might discover the joy of working for Him.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul likened the community of Christians to that of a human body. The body has many parts (eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc), but all parts must work together. No body part is unimportant.

In a partnership environment, leaders don’t think about how they can get ahead or climb the ladder.

They exist within the body to serve, equip, guide and build up the body of Christ.

Leaders follow the example of Jesus who informed His disciples that He did not come to be served, but to serve.

Every Christian should ask this question: “If God views me as a vital part of His body, how can I best serve my church?”

One life lesson many parents try to teach their kids is to value their possessions. One of the best ways to make this happen is to have our kids invest in the things they own. It’s amazing how much better care a child will take care of something if they paid for it with their own money, or earned it by expending blood, sweat and tears.

When we invest in the life of our church, our church will become more of a treasure to us.

We can accomplish this by praying for our church.

We can accomplish this by financially giving to our church.

We can accomplish this by practically serving within our church.

Here’s the bottom line truth: God did not give us local churches to become like country clubs or gyms where membership means we have privileges and perks.

He placed us in churches to serve, care for others, pray for its leaders, to learn, to give and to share.

That’s the calling of partnership.

Fostered or Adopted?

You may have heard this familiar refrain: “God said it, I believe it, and that’s that!”

That may sound good on a bumper sticker, but I find that in my dealings with people, the majority find believing some of God’s words to be a challenge.

Not that they doubt the work of the cross, or the reality of God, or even the inerrancy of His Word.

Not the “doctrinal statement” kind of stuff, where we confidently affirm the deity of Christ, the reality of His resurrection or the trinity.

No, I’m thinking about the declarations God makes about the nature of our relationship with Him.

See, the Bible makes some pretty bold claims about what God thinks about us that some find hard to fathom.

Like when God tells us that, in Christ, we are adopted into His family.

Truth be told, many live their Christian lives as if God hasn’t adopted them, but is only fostering them.

Yet, the Bible is clear with the adoption concept:

Ephesians 1:5 – “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…”

1 John 3:1 – “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

These are just two of the numerous verses that affirm that every believer attains the status of full-fledged family member in God’s kingdom. (Other passages to consider include Galatians 4:5-7, Romans 8:14-19 and Galatians 3:26.)

The results of our adoption are staggering. The status of our relationship with God is transformed in a variety of ways:

  • We are deeply loved
  • We are completely forgiven
  • We are fully pleasing
  • We are totally accepted
  • We are complete in Christ

Now look back at that list. Do your really believe these statements to be true?

Too often we question God’s love and His forgiveness.

We can’t imagine that God is really pleased with us as His child.

For many of us, we spend much more time wavering and wondering and worrying than believing what God has declared to be true.

Here’s the fact we are to stand upon: through Christ God has made us acceptable and adoptable.

He has completely brought us into the fold of His kindred.

We have a permanent place at His table.

And, once there, we need not worry about losing our place.

Our concern instead should be thinking about how to foster and enhance our relationship with Him.

A great passage of Scripture to remind us of what it looks like to be a member of God’s family is found in Romans 5. Give it a read and think about how in affirms our standing as adopted, not just fostered children of God:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5 ESV)

Peace. Access. Rejoicing. Hope. Love. And no Shame.

That’s what family looks like!

Gracefully Handling Differences of Opinion

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.

Romans 14:5

By God’s design, everyone has different feelings about a variety of subjects.

Food. Music. Politics. Sports teams. Weather. Spiritual stuff.

Darrell Royal, a college football coach was once quoted as saying, “Opinions are like noses. Everyone’s got one.

So with so many points of view, how do we get along with one another?

Because, if you haven’t noticed, disagreements can often lead to division.

It happened to Paul and Barnabas when they couldn’t agree on the missionary readiness of John Mark.

Differences arise because of personality type, our upbringing, things we’ve learned, as well as our experiences.

From the outset, I think its important to affirm the beauty of our differences. As much as we may think we want it, living in a world where everyone thought just like us would be extremely boring.

We also should identify ways not to handle differences of opinion.

Arguing usually doesn’t do a good job of swaying someone over to our side. In fact, arguing will likely cause someone to dig their heels in deeper.

Laying a guilt trip on a people isn’t a great strategy either. I’m reminded that the way God leads people to repentance (a change of heart and mind) is through kindness, not condemnation. (Romans 2:4)

With those thoughts in mind, what are some handles for better handling differences of opinion?

Here are three things to consider:

Don’t make a big deal over issues of little consequence.

Jesus once denounced the Pharisees for “straining a gnat but swallowing a camel.”

What He meant was that they spent so much time obsessing over the trivial they couldn’t give proper attention to things that really mattered.

Trivial debates deserve minimal time and emotional energy.

Remember that the one you differ with is loved (and if a believer, accepted) by God

John 3:16. Tells us God sent his Son to the world because of love.

Wherever we are on our journey with Jesus, we are fully accepted by Him.

Too often, when involved in a strong difference of opinion, we fall to the temptation of questioning someone’s salvation.

Paul wrote to the Romans who were debating over the issue of eating meat or vegetables (caused by the question of whether or not to eat meat sacrificed to idols) this sage advice:

“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.” (Romans 14:1 NLT)

Here’s another thing to consider:

In matters of disagreement, always pursue a win-win outcome.

Some people look at disagreements and debate as a form of sport.

The goal is to crush your opponent so as to claim victory.

Yet, we can often be right with our facts but deadly wrong in our heart.

If our attitude isn’t for the best toward our brother, we can actually be guilty of a bigger wrong.

Going back to the food debate of Romans 14, Paul offered this crucial counsel:

For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. (Romans 14:15 NASB)

At the end of the day, there are some things we believe in as Christians that cannot be moved. The trinity. The deity of Christ. The resurrection.

No amount of debate should move these pillars from their placement.

But there are A LOT of issues that leave room for discussion and disagreement.

On these matters, we ought to be careful of not being so dogmatic that we endanger our relationships.

H.L. Mencken was a magazine editor in the early 20th century. After an issue of his magazine went out, it was common for his office to be flooded with letters from people who disagreed with what had been written in the magazine.

When people wanted to argue with him, he would simply respond, “You may be right!”

He didn’t say they were right. He simply offered the opinion the might be.

He was amazed how this response often led people to lighten up their attacks.

Some things are hills worthy of dying upon.

But many opinions are like minnows in the vast ocean of faith.

When dealing with minnows, take great care to not treat them like a whale.

In essentials, unity.

In non-essentials, liberty. 

In all things, charity.

Augustine

 

Happy Birthday, A-Dog!

He’s 24 now.

A working man who loves to pour his heart into his job.

He’s a teaser. Because I sometimes wear glasses, he calls me “blindness.”

And he never met a TV western that he didn’t like.

Give him a handful of Cheez-its and you may have made a friend for life.

aaron seahawks

He really doesn’t have a sense about the value of money or material things. A few days ago Sara asked him what kind of presents he wanted for his birthday and he replied back with a shrug, “Hugs?”

What he does know about is the value of a human being.

Ask anybody at Union Gospel Mission who’s see him cut through any type of prejudice or stereotype to make a program resident feel welcome and loved.

aaron vbs

July 9 marks Aaron’s 24th birthday, but I’ve only known him for 23 1/2 years.

When I first met him he scared me.

Imagine that. He was only six months old.

Now he just entertains me. And sometimes amazes me.

Thanks for filling our home with your own brand of insight and humor.

May this birthday bring more joy to your already joy-filled spirit.

And thanks for allowing much of that joy to spill out onto the lives of others.

 

 

 

 

Detox

One of the unfortunate outgrowths of experiencing pain and injustice (whether it be emotional, physical or spiritual) is the possibility of becoming a toxic person.

Because we’ve been hurt, we sometimes take on the characteristics of a porcupine.

Often this is because our sense of justice has been challenged and upended.

I believe the two main reasons for adopting such a prickly persona include:

  • We are trying to protect ourselves from future pain
  • Our sense of justice tells us that someone must be punished

Perhaps you’ve encountered a person who conveys a critical, cranky spirit.

In the book The Search for Significance, author Robert McGee posed this question. “Have you ever wondered how a critical, judgmental person lives with themselves? The answer is: not very well.”

McGee refers to the lifestyle of criticism and judgment as “The Blame Game.”

In the blame game, the goal of the toxic person is to always find someone to punish.

The scope of toxic blaming can take us in three different directions.

Sometimes we blame ourselves.

Because of a past failure, we never let ourselves of the hook. We decide that our punishment must go on and on. We call ourselves names or tell self-deprecating jokes.

Sometimes we blame others

If our pain came at the hands of someone else, we decide that the best way to handle it is by becoming a condemning, harsh, sarcastic, negative person.

Sometimes we blame God

It doesn’t take long to look into the Bible and see the Blame Game rear its ugly head. Consider Adam’s words found in Genesis 3:

“The woman whom YOU gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

The truth is ever since Adam we’ve been perfecting the practice of blaming.

It’s a sad reality of life that pain often begets pain.

Think about it: how many abusers will often reveal that they were abused in the past?

But here’s the deal: to be stuck in a pattern of blaming is a dead end.

A life that is characterized by accusations, bitterness, fear and the desire to punish (whether it be God, others or ourselves) isn’t much of a life at all.

The reality is that toxicity flows both ways. It injures the people around us while at the same time eats away at our soul.

No wonder the Bible says in Ephesians 4:31-32

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

It makes sense that if we have been hurt we will feel a strong desire to either recoil or lash out.

But if we never learn to forgive and let some things go, we will eventually drown in our own noxious stew. And, we will likely inflict a good measure of pain on others, many of whom are innocent of the punishment we feel compelled to mete out.

Jerry Bridges writes:

One of the most difficult defilements of the spirit to deal with is the critical spirit. A critical spirit has its root in pride. A critical spirit has its root in pride. Because of the plank of pride in our own eye we are not capable of dealing with the speck of need in someone else. We are often like the Pharisees who, completely unconscious of their own need prayed “God, I thank you I am not like other men.” We are quick to see – and speak of – the faults of others, but slow to see our own needs. How sweetly we relish the opportunity to speak critically of someone else, even when we are unsure of the facts. How sweetly we relish the opportunity to speak harshly and critically to someone else. In doing this, we forget that “a man who stirs us dissension among brothers” by criticizing one to another is one of the six things the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:16-19).

It is a fact of life that we will sometimes get hurt. (Perhaps this is the most important thing we need to digest.)

If we are a person consumed with pride and possess a harsh spirit, we might be tempted to take out our frustrations on others. In other words, to go into porcupine mode.

See, in the Blame Game, our mind tells us for every infraction or violation we experience someone has to pay. Someone needs to be punished. Someone needs to hurt because we hurt.

Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t treat us like that?

Instead, God offers grace, pours out mercy and extends forgiveness.

He meets us where we are and through Christ seeks to bring peace where there has been pain and suffering.

 

 

 

Redirection

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

Most of us seem driven by a sense of schedule.

We wake up in the morning and consult our calendars.

We make plans.

We have agendas.

Which isn’t a bad thing. Without a plan we would likely end up accomplishing little.

As they say, if you don’t aim for something, you’ll rarely hit anything.

But, in the midst of our planning, may we always be open and available to God and His holy interruptions.

Those times when God says, “I know you have a plan today, but so do I.”

Sometimes we’re so focused on fulfilling our schedule that we resist God’s promptings for some redirection.

In the book of Acts, Paul and his associates were making plans to spread the Gospel.

They had quite a few regions in their sights, as Acts 16:6-8 describes:

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. (ESV)

As Paul and his troupe attempted to move forward, they encountered resistance.

Then, God spoke into the plans of these missionaries:

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10 ESV)

One way or another, God kept Paul and his co-laborers from going to Phrygia, Galatian and Bythynia.

Some Bible commentators believe the reason Paul was thwarted from going to these places was because severe illness.

Paul had plans as revealed by the itinerary described in verses 6-8.

But God had a different plan. He wanted them to go to Macedonia.

And, thankfully, Paul was obedient to God’s redirection.

The bottom line is this: God’s plans trump our plans.

In Paul’s case, God kept backing him. This needed to take place so God could move Paul forward in the direction He wanted Him to go.

We might even say that God was forcing Paul’s hand.

But sometimes God’s redirection is much more subtle.

In these cases, God won’t block our path, but rather just add something to it.

And at that moment, if we are spiritually attuned, we will sense that God is calling us to break away from our own plans in order to execute His.

Perhaps as a way for us to ready ourselves each day for God’s redirection, we should pray something like this prayer before we consult our calendars:

God, as I carry out my plans today, remind me that you too have plans

Plans that supersede mine.

May I have a sensitivity to the Spirit that makes it clear and obvious when you are redirecting me.

Help me not view your call as an annoying interruption, but as a blessed opportunity.

At the end of the day, may I look back and be confident that your will was done, not just mine.

 

 

 

Freedom: Handle with Care

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

On July 4th America celebrates it’s freedom.

A freedom that was fought for with blood, sweat and tears.

The people of America decided to fight for their freedom rather than remain under British rule, which was becoming more and more oppressive.

The thing about freedom is that once you have it, it can easily be lost.

Why?

Because freedom offers us the opportunity to succeed as well as the possibility to fail.

In fact, we can actually employ our freedom to reintroduce ourselves to subjection.

Possessing freedom does not mean we are guaranteed freedom.

We must make a strong effort into wisely using our it.

Freedom doesn’t mean we ought to do anything we want.

Freedom means we have the opportunity to do what we should.

Freedom isn’t the pursuit of total independence, because humanity is also interdependent.

This is why Paul wrote in Galatians 5:13:

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

The truth is that some people say they love freedom, but they don’t seem to know how to handle it.

Voltaire once said: “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”

Sometimes this is because we’ve lived without freedom for too long.

In these cases, freedom looks scary, because with freedom is the chance that we might fail.

Dwight Eisenhower said:

If you want total security, go to prison. There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking… is freedom

As we celebrate our freedom as a nation, may we remember that freedom is not guaranteed. We must use our freedom wisely and responsibly, lest it slip through our fingers.

 

 

God’s Passion for Unity

“Believers are never told to become one; we already are one and are expected to act like it.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

To God, unity among His people is of utmost value and importance.

Not uniformity, but unity.

Uniformity is the idea that Christians all look alike, think alike and sound alike.

Uniformity is like having 50 violinists and calling it an orchestra.

Unity is the collection of various people employing their unique gifts to further the kingdom of God.

When we unite under God’s purposes, we produce a symphony that pleases God greatly.

How important is unity?

THE PSALMIST EXTOLLED UNITY

Consider the colorful and descriptive language used to remind us how much God loves it when His people work together:

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. ~ Psalm 133 (ESV)

JESUS PRAYED FOR UNITY

Knowing He had little time left on the earth, Jesus prayed over his disciples. Of all the things He could have prayed for them, He chose two. One was that they would know the truth. The other was that they would experience unity. Here’s how he said it according to John 17:20-23

“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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (ESV)

THE EPISTLES PLEAD FOR UNITY

The importance of unity spreads from the Old Testament, through the Gospels and into the New Testament letters. Here are a pair of examples of how Paul and Peter implored Jesus’ followers to embrace and practice unity as a high value.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. ~ Ephesians 4:1-6 (ESV)

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. ~ 1 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV)

A word of caution, though. The preservation of unity is not meant to be pursued at all costs.

Mark Dever wrote: “Correct division should be preferred over corrupt unity.”

As much as we can, we are to unify around those things that glorify God, build up believers and expand the kingdom.

One last thought about unity: once we gain it, we have to fight to maintain it.

Partially because unity doesn’t always come naturally to us.

But primarily because dividing the people of God is one of Satan’s primary preoccupations.

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

“Satan always hates Christian fellowship; it is his policy to keep Christians apart. Anything which can divide saints from one another he delights in. He attaches far more importance to godly intercourse than we do. Since union is strength, he does his best to promote separation.”

When it comes to unity, are you contributing to the bond of the body of Christ? Are you part of helping Jesus’ prayer come to fruition? Are you committing to protecting the unity of God’s people?