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Thursday, September 10, 2009

John 17

One of the things I like most about our church, the Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church, is our increasing diversity and pervasive unity. In the past couple of years God has brought to us a wonderful, beautiful cross-section of His human creation. Our church is made up of African Americans, Latinos, Koreans, Caribbeans, Caucasians, young, old, middle-aged, long-time Christians, new believers, and seekers. Although diversity of people often means a diversity of preferences, traditions, and convictions, we are becoming one big, happy, and united family under the most important characteristic that defines us- our common love for Christ!

This is so important because our Christian unity, according to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-23, is the most influential tool we have to communicate the unity between the Father and the Son, the divinity of Christ. We can hand out all the tracts in the world. We could go door to door all day and everyday telling people how much God loves them. But if we at SWC cannot love each other, despite our differences, nothing we tell people about Christ’s love is going to make that much difference. The good news is we are becoming, more and more, a family who loves each other and seeks to share that love with those who have yet to come into the family to experience the Father’s love.

Jesus’ prayer reveals his deep desire for our unity in the church. But let me ask a couple of questions which I hope you will respond to:
· How is unity developed in the life of a local church?
· What is the difference between unity and conformity?
· Why is unity in the church so closely related to our witness in the world?


Anonymous said...

Jesus instructs his followers to be "one" even as he and the Father are one. But we live in "enemy occupied territory" as C.S. Lewis put it, and unity is a very illusive commodity, especially in a world promoting self. I think unity requires selflessness, compassion, single-mindedness, (i.e.,focused on the same goal--or prize as Paul would say), humility and flexibility. Unity might be saying "yes" if not cheerfully, at least willingly, while conformity may be saying "yes" reluctantly or resentfully. The late artist Keith Green titled his autobiography "No Compromise"--yet, ultimately,compromise often is the only alternative in discordant situations. Because the church is expected to live up to a higher standard, the world watches closely, looking for any cracks or flaws in its structure. As the song goes . . . "What you are, speaks so loud, that the world can't hear what you say . . ." I'm tremendously enjoying this journey through John--your insights, Lenny, and those of other followers of Jesus.

Maria Cicala said...

More and more I see SWC being a church that has unity. I think its great too Lenny with all the diversity. I've been to churches that did like you said gave out tracts, knocked on doors,but I feel what's more important is to be a living tract so people can see how you live for Christ. I find that to be very true at SWC so many real people living for Christ that are open and honest, even though they might struggle as everyone does still they follow Christ.

Roberta said...

One of the cool things about my job is that I get to listen to people's stories. I am impressed by the fact that we are more alike than we are different. We may respond to life in unique ways, but our needs and struggles are the same. We all want acceptance, love, security, safety. We want to matter, etc. etc. Remembering that helps to create an environment of unity. I am comforted in knowing that fact as I seek God and relate to others.

David Dion said...

Amongst the deepest and most intimate of any conversational opportunity we have as humans this is an extraordinary chapter in John. With few occasions do we as mere mortals have unsurpassed privilege to listen to the heartfelt conversations between each member of the Triune God speaking openly with each other. I am instantly struck and overwhelmed with Christ's love for His church as He does not poor ANY angst out for himself, but rather intimate intercession for His apostle's, His immediate disciplines and His long term disciples (i.e., US)! Oh the love of God toward usward pummels me with profound appreciation for such a salvation: so undeserved, so unwarranted “for such as 'worm' as I!” Simultaneously, I am reminded of one of my other favorite passages in the Old Testament where another occasion I see each member of the Godhead at work in Covenant in Gen. 15:12 to 17 but specifically 17 where God Himself declares, He will be as the split carcasses if He denies His covenant with Abraham in each member of the Godhead! Hebrews 10:27 thru 31 precisely depicts a future appointment for each of us for treatment of his precious blood shed for us! Fear (reverential awe used in ASB) should govern our every thought, motive, action and intent least we treat with disservice, this Most Precious of Gift's: His Son's life for mine! To that end and with such a all encompassing underpinning for each regenerated soul to the most wonderful superseding grander/glorious “UNITY” to the Godhead, through Jesus propitiatory death, resurrection, ascension and now intervention/advocacy, let our life’s total essence (psueche in the greek means our spirit) be truly His, and my life, now dead to me, alive to Him (Gal. 2:16-21)! My life must now compel me to Live for and to ONLY Him. That “Unity” must be sacrosanct to all other relationships or endeavors! To the degree that we as mortals recognize our use to God is corollary to our own comfort gotten and gleaned through sacrifice and suffering in relationship to Him (2 Cor.4.), now draws us and qualifies us to comfort others. How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation (Heb. 2:3)? How shall they hear if none be sent (1 Cor 15)? Unregenerate man has nothing in common with the redeemed, as we, as a New Creature in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:7) have unlimited, unrestrained, “infinite” (Eph. 1) resources against those, who in a perpetual state of rebellion, are truly at war with and apposed to God. I regard the only true act of coming together is to communion with God in complete and total Adoration of Him in full zest of ALL THAT WE ARE. I believe we ‘American believer’s’ have exchanged ‘community experience’ for true worship! We rather interrupt that adoration by choosing to advance self interest, preoccupations, agendas and temporal/temporary needs instead of surrender to Him. We (as a body of believers) need to move to a John 17 experience instead of going to God (and His people) for ‘my’ needs to be met.