How Good and How Pleasant

This is a summary of the message I was asked to bring at the National Day of Prayer service on May 3, 2018.

 

The theme for this year’s National Day of Prayer is UNITY and I think that it is very appropriate that we address this topic.  If you have a television, radio, or social media account, you likely realize that we live in a very fractured society. We are divided along lines of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, income, political affiliation, and any other way that we can be divided.  Civil discourse has given way to name-calling. The sharing of diverse ideas and thoughts has given way to slander and bullying. Disagreement has become labeled as hatred. And our political leaders pretend to call for unity in America while promoting ideologies that are intended to divide people into convenient groups.  Given all this, we are being asked today to pray for unity in our nation. I think that in doing that, we are likely putting the cart before the horse. If we want to be united, and we are praying for God to unite us, we are going to have to put into action the instructions that He has already given us. Chapter 4 of Ephesians gives some practical instruction in unity.

 

WALK WORTHY OF THE CALLING (Ephesians 4:1-2) Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love.  In order to walk with humility, we must submit to God and to others. Note how Paul demonstrates his humility in the first verse by referring to himself as the “prisoner for the Lord.” Prisoners are not held in very high esteem.  But Paul was demonstrating the character of Jesus, who “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death–even to death on a cross. (Phil. 2:8, HCSB).

 

Submission to God is vital, but if we are truly to submit to Him, He requires us to submit to others.  “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2:8, HCSB).  Putting others before yourself necessarily requires treating them decently, or as Paul puts it, with gentleness and patience.  These characteristics are listed, along with love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, faith, and self-control. These are the evidence of the Holy Spirit in you, and are opposed to the works of the flesh, which include strife, factions, and bursts of anger (Gal. 5:16-26).”  Remember that insulting people is not an expression of gentleness and patience with them.

 

KEEPING THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT (Ephesians 4:4-5):  “There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope at your calling–one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”  It is horrendous to think that the body of Christ in America is so desperately divided. There is only one Christ, and He only has One Body, and we must not let ourselves demonstrate animosity and unforgiveness to other members of the body.  We must be humble, gentle, and kind in our dealings with each other, or we will never be so in our dealings with the unsaved, who desperately need us to speak truth into their lives.

 

REMEMBER THAT ONE GOD AND FATHER IS ABOVE ALL:  (Ephesians 4:6) One God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.  Remember that as the Creator of the universe and all it contains, God has authority over all.  We MUST submit to His authority in all things, especially those that we don’t want to do. Even Christ submits to the authority of the Father.  How much more must we submit. God has called each of us to the body with unique gifts, talents, and callings for His glory. He works through us and in us.

 

SO WHAT?  It is essential, if we are going to pray for unity, and mean it, that we humble ourselves, submit to God and to others, be patient with others, be gentle with others, particularly within the body of Christ.  We must preserve the unity within the body before we will have any effect on the unity of our nation. So, by all means, pray for unity, but then, follow the Lord’s instructions and BE UNIFIED. Then we will see as Psalm 133:1 reminds us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”


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