Sunday, June 7, 2009

UNITY.COM - Sermon


John 13:34-35 – (JESUS)
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
1 John 3: 1-24 (EPISTLE/ Letter)
John is Writing to Christians in Community during a time of HEAVY Persecution and False Teachers.
This Stress is EVEN turning Some People from the Community against one another.
They are arguing over
- Who’s Right & Who’s Wrong,
- Who’s In & Who’s Out, &
- Why the Church is being persecuted.
They have begun:
- Gossiping,
- Backbiting,
- Sowing Disunity,
- Dividing the church.
John addresses this division and points out, with Black & White lines what God’s Children should look like AT ALL TIMES – Especially in times of Testing & Struggles?
1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not understand us is that it did not understand him. 2My friends {John McCain}, now we are Children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (How many are trying to purify yourself?)
4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 Surely you know Christ Showed up to get rid of sin. There is no sin in Him 6 No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues living sinfully really even understands Him. 7 So, my dear children, don't let anyone divert you from the truth. It's the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah.8 Those who make a practice of sin are straight from the Devil, the pioneer in the practice of sin…
…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the Devil's work. 9 No one who is born of God will make a practice of sin, because God's seed is deep within him, shaping him from the inside out; he won’t practice sin, because he has been born of God. 1O Here's how you tell the difference between God's children and the Devil's children: The one who won't practice righteous ways isn't from God, nor is the one who won't love brother or sister. A simple test.
11This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous. 13Do not be surprised, my friends, if the world hates you.
14 Here’s how we know that we have passed from death to life (interesting way of talking about the change God is working in us), because we love our brothers & sisters. Anyone who does not love remains in the old, dead ways. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in Him. 16 (Key Verse) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
21Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Unity… unity is important
Teams Lose without it
Armies Crumble without it
Your body can’t operate without it (Exp- Jr. High/ 13-13/ “Vince-Moves”)
When I talk about Unity I’m NOT talking about Uniformity
When I say we need to Protect Unity in our church I’m NOT saying we all need to wear Nikes and drink the same punch
I’m NOT saying we all need to Think alike or Act alike or even Agree on every topic
That’s uniformity…that’s Boring & Cultic
Old Saying: “In an all blue world there is no color”
It’s So True!
When God created everything He formed lots of colors, shapes, sizes.
God is a God of variety
We are all shaped differently - Inside & Out.
- Personalities,
- Life experiences,
- Educations,
- Habits.
- Ideals,
- Perspectives,
- Goals for life.
We all Handle Conflict Differently, Communicate differently, and even have different Values.

That’s good!
We need to Celebrate our Differences & Diversity, NOT Critique them…
God likes variety!
He made the world that way!
He called it GOOD!
Coral Talked about this a couple moths ago!
– In Creation, God Said Everything was “GOOD!”
– Main Question of his sermon: “Is God Enough?”…God said it was all Good!
– BUT…“It is not Good that man is alone…Helpmeet”(she was hot as you can tell from this picture)
– Man NEEDS Community!
Man in Garden =Milton Called “Paradise Lost”…
Everything is “GOOD” & “Perfect.”
God says in Gen 2:15 “Tend it, Guard it, Keep it, Dress it, Clean it, Work it, Look After it, Take Care of it, Cultivate it, Bring Order from Chaos…the ongoing creation of the world…”
- God’s creation isn’t complete: There’s Still Work to do…
- Even in paradise man had a job
* Paradise takes Work to maintain
- Trimming trees
- Pruning leaves
- Pulling weeds …etc.
- Weed pulling vs. whacking:
- (Exp: Funny Story: Karl & I @ Sister Gray’s House Pulling Weeds)
- Important to dig in there…get to root of problem
- That’s what God wants to happen in our lives…
- …Digging down deep to the root of problems
- …Not just taking care of them on the surface
- …Covering them up…Hiding them

*Life from the beginning involved fixing and correcting things…Even in Paradise!

Then God made Eve…
Did you know the term “Husband” is also Botanical term? – Means “Gardener”

The idea of relationship involves:
- Helping one another to grow fruitful,
- Maturing
- Plucking weeds out of our lives,
- Watering,
- Nurturing.

We believe this should be a mutual role for Each Person in the Relationship
Helping each other become better people.
Because, let’s face it…we are not perfect
(Explain Rock Tumbler/ Relationships…All Relationships…friendships, romances…etc.)

The Bible also calls Christ our Husbandman?
John 15:1,2
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman [GARDENER]. Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

He “Purges” us
This Is ‘Maturity’ Language …
Abiding In Christ and Growing to Produce Fruit

*But Westernized Christianity has often Misunderstood Maturity
Spiritual maturity is not some “Individual” growing up in a Bubble, just taking Spiritual Vitamins … (“Read your Bible, pray everyday and you’ll grow, grow, grow”)
…Context of Maturity is Community
…Lives rubbing up against lives (FRICTION)

According to Ephesians 4, God gave us to one another to “Perfect” one another
- Counsel one another
- Provoke each other to good works
- Speak into one another’s lives

EXP: Guy who is ‘Christian’ but doesn’t go to church because they’re full of hypocrites…
– Who are you kidding?
– He’s Running Away
– He’s avoiding conflict because he doesn’t like the mess and doesn’t want to deal with it
– (But that’s how you grow!!!….It’s how you help others grow!!!)
– Your missing out on what your Calling is… [Like Karl Pointed Out…]
– “God was in Christ RECONCILING the World…and has Given US the ministry…”
– Reconciling relationships,
– Fixing things that are broken,
– Maintaining the garden.
– You can’t escape conflict.

Anytime there is relationship,
- Friendships,
- Marriages,
- Communities
- Etc..
Conflict is essential…

We identify with Conflict Intrinsically…it’s IN us
Every writer knows this
You can’t market a Movie, Novel, or TV show without the Element known as conflict…
It Won’t Sell!
People won’t buy it!
In Fact the More Conflict there is, the more it appeals to us!

(* And if you’re not careful your mind will wonder off to last week’s episode because we’re SO drawn to it…
We IDENTIFY with Conflict)
There was even Conflict in Paradise…
In fact, if you view the Bible as ONE Giant Narrative, “The Garden of Eden Story” is the Conflict!
Mankind was given a choice… God’s way/ His way
When we choose for Self instead of preferring God & Others it multiplies conflict

Conflict is everywhere!

Scripture points out that without conflict in our lives we would not grow
It’s in the Conflict of Choosing:
- Others over SELF, choosing
- Humility over Pride
- Mercy over Bitterness
- Faith over Fear
- Trust over Anxiety
- …that we grow.
That’s how maturity happens
The Bible Points Out over & over it’s
- Trials and Temptations,
- Situations in which we are Conflicted,
- Those are our Testing Grounds…
- That’s Where Character is Formed
- That’s Where Growth Happens…
- -Conflict-

But if we are Honest today, We Don’t Like that or want to Deal with it.
We have our own ideas of what Christian Community and Church should be like
We want to experience Paradise on Earth, without putting the Work in…
Without dealing with the weeds
There’s no:
- Paradise without Pain
- Ecstasy without Agony
- Testimony without Tests
- Significance without Struggle
- Community without Conflict

That Doesn’t Exist…
Paradise Takes Work
Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“He who admires his Dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter…”

If we aren’t careful, We build such high Expectations that we reject anything else!

In Other Words…
We love the idea of community when it involves Fun…
Go to movies together…
Let’s have church in a Nightclub…

But what about when reality sets in?
What about when:
- Relationships become strained,
- Finances bring stress
- Friendships are broken,
- When the reality that we are all fallen human beings, AND…
- We are in Desperate Need of a Savior SETS IN?
- When we realize nobody’s perfect!

* If we try to hold on to our Dreams of Christian Community, they often turn into nightmares

We have to be people who learn to love “inspite of…”

My dad gave me great advice when I became a pastor:
“See Everything, Overlook A Great Deal, Correct A Little”

I am SO Flawed, but How does Christ see me?
He sees me through the window of the Cross
He ALWAYS looks for the good
He looks @ Me & Sees an:
- Over-comer
- Righteous Man
- Good Person
- Someone who’s forgiven
THIS is how we all must CHOOSE to see one another…Through the Cross

*But We Don’t Naturally Gravitate to that do we?
This is the conflict the Beloved Disciple John addresses as he writes this Epistle to a community of believers.
He gives them a simple answer: Choose Love

{EXP: Love is a choice / NOT Emotion – That way with any relationship}

Look @ the Portion we read:
- He Talks about God’s great love for us
- How it is to infiltrate every aspect of our lives
- Then He Points out that Conflict has been there from the Beginning
- He uses the example of Cain & Abel
- He points out that anyone who doesn’t love [AGAPE- Unconditional/ Forgiving/ Patient/ Selfless Love (Cor 11)] those in his community is guilty of Cain’s Sin
Then he gives us his Thesis in verse 16
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
(Point out Parallel - Gospel of John 3:16 – Action / Reaction)
Then in verse 18:
“Dear children, let us NOT Love with Words or Tongue but with Actions and in Truth.”

John is calling us to Action, not words or feelings…
Let’s not just say we love one another let’s SHOW it

Anything worth having is worth working for & fighting for…
NOT some Sense of nationalism:
“If someone talked bad about My Church I’ll defend Anchor Gaslamp”
But 90% of the time that means defending it from within…
Worst enemy is inside (raise hand… “me”)
Refusing to:
- Gossip,
- Choose sides,
- Break confidence…
- Trying to Prove we are right & They’re wrong
Showing Love not Pride…
Giving your life for your Brother & Sister
Going the way of the Cross
Jesus Said, “They will know you’re my disciples because you have love for one another”

(1 John…loving one another…)

We love each other as Christ loved us

What does that mean?
We lay down our lives for one another.
When we want to be First, we become Last,
When we want to be Greatest, we become Least,
When we want Revenge, we Turn the other cheek,
When we feel taken advantage of, we walk an extra mile…
When we feel Unloved, Hated and Mistreated, we Love in return…
(We Are never judged by Other’s Actions…only our Actions/ Reactions)
We CHOOSE NOT to Gossip, Slander, Divide, Mislead, Hurt, or Reciprocate Pain
We Always CHOOSE to Build, Exhort, Unite, Assist, Heal, and Love.

John admonishes us to keep loving patiently, knowing the mess might never get cleaner!

We Love because we have been loved… and are still loved!
We Forgive because we have been forgiven… and are still forgiven.
We Treat others how we would want to be treated
(Exp: “How Most of us Drive” example – “SPEED UP!” – later someone tailgates you & you say “What’s His Hurry!!!” Road Hog!)

We are all hypocrites!
We want to get Mercy but we want to give Judgment!
We want God to forgive us of everything we’ve done wrong, but we want God to punish those who have hurt us!

God Relates to that emotion of wanting things made right.
We’ve all done wrong against God
He requires judgment to Preserve His Holiness & Righteousness.
BUT He Also is a God of Love & Mercy & wants all to come to Him
(How do we Reconcile these 2 sides of God? – Love & Judgment)
See that’s the Beautiful thing about the cross!
At the Cross God’s holiness is preserved…
His righteous feelings (that we have sinned against Him & wounded Him) are vindicated, But His loving Mercy is also distributed
The cross is this central place where God’s Wrath against sin is poured out on one man, but God’s Mercy is given to all!
It’s the Place Where God’s Judgment meets God’s Mercy,
Where his Wrath Meets His Love
* And the Result: LIFE
That love becomes life…
“God's love is not simply a thing to be admired.
It is, rather, the power that transfers those who have faith from Death to Life,
From the realm of Hatred to Love.

(John talks about this: Verse 14 – “…we know we have passed from death to life”)
From death to life, NOT life to death
This is the Christian view of life
Everything goes from death to life,
From old to new
The Cross is a place of Death to Self & Resurrection into a New Life
Calvin And Luther Referred to it as Christ’s Throne…the Highest peak of His Ministry

The Cross is the center of our salvation…
When we “Take up our Crosses” (as Christ pointed out):
- We learn to Absorb Judgment and give Love,
- We learn to Withhold Wrath and give Mercy,
- We learn to NOT spread Negativity or be Reactive,
- Instead we Choose to be Positive and Proactive,

We learn to Die to the Old ways and Live in New ways

(*This is The Awesome Part!)

The cross enables us to:
- Mend relationships,
- Forgive those who have hurt us,
- Love inspite of differences,
- Be gracious to those who rub us the wrong way.

* The Cross enables True Christian Community.
Without it we just have a regular group of friends who happen to be Christian,
BUT with the cross we live alongside one another with a Loving “Gospel Intentionality.”

In Other Words…
When we see situations that we used to see as huge struggles…
Where we Used to see Drama,
We NOW see Opportunities for sharing the good news with one another,
We begin to see Chances for Transformation & Reconciliation
Opportunities for Growth and Strength and Mercy and Grace and Humility and Love.
This is our calling: Reconciliation

When someone in our community Wounds another, we Don’t Choose Sides,
We Repair with Patience & Love.
When Pain strikes in our community we Heal.
When Needs arise, we Give.
When Failure happens, we Restore
When Wars break out, we make Peace.

This is how we truly live and spread the Gospel.
- TRUE Evangelism
- Picture of Heaven to a dying and longing world.
- The life of every True Disciple.

* We Actively Seek Opportunities for Redemption and Creative Love.
* We Look for Chances for Reconciliation & Unity

You can’t say Community without the word Unity.
(-) = Community (I know It’s Cheesy…lol)
We stop being a Community when we lose Unity
We Cease being a Christian Community when we:
- Cease stomping out drama,
- Covering for one another,
- Forgiving,
- Loving & Moving on.

If Christ ever moves out of the center…
If we put ourselves in the center…
- Our desires,
- Carnality,
- Selfishness,
- Then we cease to be a Christian Community

But If we let Christ be the Glue in our Relationships & the Center of our lives…
That’s when we begin to experience True Life…. Life more abundantly

The Heart of Christian Community is the Cross
It’s Soul is Christ and His Unconditional Love that led to His Selfless Sacrifice
That is the Good News of God,
-The Gospel-

Our Community is and always must be a picture of that…

Let’s Pray this prayer together:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

-Then Really Pray-

What are the enemies of Unity and Community?
How do we combat them?
What allies build Christian Community?
How do we reinforce them?

Scriptures for discussion:


- Proverbs 13:10
Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other's counsel.
- Proverbs 29:22
Angry people stir up a lot of discord; the intemperate stir up trouble.
- Rom 16:17-18
My friends, I beg you to watch out for anyone who causes trouble and divides the church by refusing to do what all of you were taught. Stay away from them! They want to serve themselves and not Christ the Lord. Their flattery and fancy talk fool people who don't know any better.


4 Stages: Roots, Conflict, Effects, Resolution
*Need to learn how to handle conflict at all 4 stages

4 ways of Handling:
• Aggression
• Ignorance
• Calm/ Open-Minded
• Short-Term Solution
You tend to use aggression when you are trying to resolve problems. This does not solve the problem; in fact it makes it worse. You could end up hurting people and getting hurt yourself.
- Ignorance is Bliss
You tend to ignore the situation when you are dealing with problems this means you are not sorting out the issues and trying to find out why the conflict started and so the conflict is always there at the back of your mind and gets you angry when you think about it.
-Calm/ open-minded
You try to resolve problems calmly and this will help you to resolve the conflict and find out what started the conflict. This means that you have better relationships with the people you know
You only look for short-term solutions meaning you only partially resolve conflicts; this could get you into more problems later and means you are not dealing with the problem fully.

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