You were made for this: My part in fulfilling Christ’s vision
God has given you a life vision and a purpose. But you can’t fulfill that vision until you clearly see it. In this series, we look at the transforming power of vision by describing the consequences of an unclear vision and revealing the antidote to fear in pursuing the future God has planned for you.
Something To Talk About:
Unity is the soul of God’s fellowship, the church. God doesn’t want you to merely tolerate other Christians; He wants you to be united with them. In this message, we look at four ways you can be an agent of unity in the church.
- Be realistic in my expectations: All of us had unrealistic expectations when we got married. All of us bring unrealistic expectations to church. To expect any church to always do everything right, and to minister perfectly to everyone all the time: that’s fantasy. In the first place, the church is filled with sinners. When you discover that what God intends real fellowship to be, it’s easy to get discouraged by the gap between the ideal and the real. You read all these books about the ideal church and then you go live in the real church, you just get cynical. But even with all its faults, and all its failures and all its mistakes and all its sin, Jesus passionately loves His church. He wants us to do the same. If we’re going to be Christ-like, we must passionately love the church in spite of its imperfection. We need to learn to love people at every stage of their growth, and we need to learn to love our church as a whole in every stage of growth. God tells us this in Ephesians 4:2, “Be patient with each other, making allowances for each other’s faults because of your love.” People want to be where love is. If you have a church that genuinely loves people, genuinely loves each other, you’d have to lock the door to keep people out. People come to church because their lives are changed by love.
- Focus on what we share, not on our differences: Have you ever wished a parent, child, spouse, co-worker, or friend saw life the way you did? Or maybe, you hoped they understood an issue from your point of view. Sometimes, our differences cause conflict. But can you imagine if God made us all the same? How boring would that be? We are individuals with unique tastes, and this is a blessing from the Lord. He didn’t make a bunch of robots without preference or free will. Our skills, talents, and abilities are gifts from our heavenly Father. We were meant to be different, and we are called to live unified. God doesn’t want us to ignore what makes us special or to try to be like everyone else. Instead, He tells us to embrace our differences, to bear with one another when we’re annoyed, and to work toward peace. God doesn’t want us to ignore what makes us special or to try to be like everyone else. We must remember that it was God who chose to give us different personalities, backgrounds, races, and preferences, so we should value and enjoy those differences, not merely tolerate them. God wants unity, not uniformity. But for unity’s sake, we must never let differences divide us. We must stay focused on what matters most — learning to love each other as Christ has loved us.
- Offer encouragement instead of criticism: Loving others includes encouraging one another. In Romans 12:7-8, Paul lists encouragement among the gifts of grace. When people accomplish a common objective together, all are encouraged. The gift of encouragement is important in our lives. Encouragement is a gift in the home, the workplace, the church—wherever we find ourselves. We can come alongside others and be there for one another. We can listen, comfort, console, affirm. It’s a way of living out the command to love one another. Offer encouragement instead of criticism. When you’re talking to people, offer encouragement instead of criticism. We all need more encouragement, less criticism. Because the Bible says it. Proverbs 16:21 says this, “The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive.”
- Realize I must continually work at unity: We need to realize that unity is not something that just happens, it’s not accidental. If we are going to be close to other people, if we are going to be in harmony with other people, if we are going to be unified in a small group, or unified in our church, we have to work at it. Now, the Bible says that — Ephesians 4:3 says this: “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Now, that phrase, “Make every effort,” means it’s going to take some work. Unity just doesn’t happen, in your family, in your marriage, in a relationship, in our church. Unity happens only when you’re intentional about it and you say, “I’m going to make it happen. We’re going to make every effort to build unity.”
- What does Ephesians 4:4-6 tell us about what all believers share?
- What qualities do we need in order to replace negative words and actions with positive ones? (See 2 Timothy 2:23-24.) What steps can you take to avoid being influenced by the world, knowing how difficult it is to avoid quarrels?
- What positive things can we focus on to foster unity and avoid divisiveness in our relationships?
- What does Ephesians 4:2 encourage us to do when tempted to be critical of others? Share a time when you judged a person and then found out later what they were going through. How did that change your perspective?
- Is unity conformity? How can our church welcome and unite people from diverse backgrounds? How can you contribute personally to these efforts?
- What are some proactive steps members can take to bolster church unity? How can you contribute to the unity of the church?
- The attitudes of humility, gentleness, and patience are required for unity in the church. Which do you struggle with most? What passages of scripture are important to you in your pursuit of a Christ-honoring attitude?
- What does a mature church look like – how would you recognize one?
- What do you think? How did this message challenge, change, or affirm your thinking?
- What will you do? How will you or your group put into practice what you’ve learned today?
Take one thing home with you:
We are all unique. We are all distinct. We are all different. Yet, God desires for us to live in unity. Does this seem easy to you? In today’s culture, there are people who don’t like other people for any number of reasons. Jesus says to His followers, to the Church, “I want you to be different. I want you to love one another, just as I have loved you.” You are different. You are all unique in the body of Christ but love one another. Then, when others look at you, they will see God.
Take a look at your life. Ask God to help you be a force for unity amidst the diversity of Christ’s church.