About Me


Master in Ministry (Otago) Bachelor in Applied Theology (Carey) Diploma in Mission (Carey) Pastoring Eastside Baptist since 2002

Be united to one another

June 4, 2018

Be united to one another

Last week we started looking at the ‘one another’ statements of the New Testament as part of our focus on spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. 

Last week we looked at the ‘Love one another’ verses which made up a third of those statements. Today we look at the second third of the “one another” commands and these deal with the church getting along, in other word Unity among believers.

Former US President Jimmy Carter, a Southern Baptist, addressed a Baptist convention: Among the unsaved people on earth, what is the prevailing image of Christians today? It’s not the dedicated and inspired work of our missionaries. It’s not the great preaching of Billy Graham or others who inspire people. It’s the image of divisions among brothers and sisters in Christ as we struggle for authority or argue about the interpretation of individual verses in the Holy Scriptures.[1]

We tell people that the Church is a family, and if our mission is to be effective, we need more occasions when it can be seen to be one.

In a human family, do we walk out of it because some uncle or aunt does or says something we do not like, and do we leave and disavow our familial links and start a new family elsewhere?  And worse still, do we bad mouth and attempt to wipe our family off the face of the earth?  Clearly not, we are linked to our family by blood, whether we like it or not.

Yet that is what happens in the church family. Divisions, splinter groups, just like Jimmy Carter identifies. 

Yet we too are linked by blood: - the blood of Jesus.

Romans 11:17 NLT

But some of these branches from Abraham's tree--some of the people of Israel--have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God's special olive tree.

NIV refers to us sharing in the nourishing sap from the olive root

Romans 8:17 says that we are children of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ

Ephesians 1:5 says God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

If that is not reason enough to be unified in the body of Christ, maybe Paul’s call to us to be united will suffice:

 

 

 

1 Corinthians 1:10

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Jesus considered unity to be most important. In his last major prayer before his trial, crucifixion and resurrection, he prayed first for his disciples

John 17:11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father protect them by the power o] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

And for us who follow those initial disciples

John 17:20 “…. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.

Jesus knew that the devil relishes division and disharmony, after all he came to kill and destroy.  Any disunity within the family of God is the work of the devil.

Let me pick out some ideas about this unity.

First, Christianity is not a solo sport. You can’t play tennis by yourself, or soccer or rugby. Same with Christianity. It is not a solo sport.

 

The trend in these modern times is that our faith is a personal thing between me and God and I do not have to associate with, hang out with, rub shoulders with or even tolerate my brothers and sisters in Christ yet Hebrews 10:25 is very clear:

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

George MacDonald wrote: There can be no unity, no delight in love, no harmony, no good in being, where there is but one. Two at least are needed for oneness. And the greater the number of individuals, the greater, the lovelier, the richer, the diviner is the possible unity[2]

There are no Lone Ranger Christians, we cannot be Rambo and take on the world singlehandedly.

In fact, whereas biblical unity can be created by self-less ness it can be destroyed by selfishness.[3]

There was a song in the 70s by the group Brotherhood of Man, which sums this up.

For united we stand, divided we fall, And if our backs should ever be against the wall, We'll be together, together, you and I

Togetherness is the key to surviving.

This week I watched an episode of a documentary on penguins.  There was a wonderful time lapse film of Emperor penguin males huddling together into a large tightly packed clump of thousands of birds, so they could keep body heat and withstand the driving sub-zero winds and ice and snow and eternal darkness of the Antarctic winter. [show clip]

That should be a picture of unity for us. Huddle together for warmth and support against the storm.

Secondly unity starts in the Heart; it is not a façade; it is not (in this case) fake it till you make it.

It is the inner working of our hearts which creates the outward work of unity.

This inward attitude of unity expresses itself in the outward signs:

Mark 9:50 says Be at peace with one another

John 6:43 says Don’t grumble among one another

That grumbling would also include gossip and putting each other down.

James 5:16 says Confess sins to one another

You can’t do that last one unless God has done a work of breaking down your barrier of self-containment and let unity take its place.

The hidden life forces that hold a community together are emotional, not rational beliefs or agreements in doctrine, theology or concepts.[4]

In other words, heart not head.

If your service is rendered from a servant heart, it will bring unity to the Body.[5]

The fruit of this changed heart attitude is unity within the body of Christ.

The third point is that Unity builds up the family

Tommy Tenney identifies that When strife, division and discord disrupt and usurp the peace of God, his bride (the church) is weakened. The child (the new convert) is often destroyed in the process.  Every time men strive against each other in the midst of the congregation, they risk aborting the seed of God and weakening the Bride of Christ. This is a serious offence against the Almighty.[6]

Think on these verses that identify appropriate behaviours:

4. Accept one another (Ro 15:7)

8. Gently, patiently tolerate one another (Ep 4:2)

9. Be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to one another (Ep 4:32)

10. Bear with and forgive one another (Co 3:13)

11. Seek good for one another, and don’t repay evil for evil (1 Th 5:15)

There is a change of focus when we think more highly of others than of ourselves.  When it is not all about me and me alone, then we are free to think of others.

And lastly, Unity is not sameness

Larry Osborne in discussing unity wrote: Genuine and biblical unity is found in the midst of real and passionate differences that we set aside in recognition that the differences we have are nowhere as important as the King we serve.[7]

Romans 12:6 and 15:5 say Be of the same mind with one another

But we are not talking here uniformity. Unity is not the total absence of conflict. That might be uniformity. Unity is agreeing with your adversary while you are walking together.[8]

And there are behaviours that are recommended by Scripture:

 7. Don’t challenge or envy one another (Ga 5:26)

12. Don’t complain against one another (Ja 4:11, 5:9)

5. Wait for one another before beginning the Eucharist (1 Co 11:33)

6. Don’t bite, devour, and consume one another (Ga 5:15)

[I love that version: bite devour, consume!!! – My mind works overtime on that picture)

The NIV translation is 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

We need to think of what binds us together and not what separates us. Because if the body is separated, then so are we.

Instead of searching out terms and phrases [and doctrines and practices] to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree. (Charles Simeon) [9]

Think of an orchestra: every instrument doing something different, making a different sound but the result of all that is a beautiful sound.

True unity is simply people working together in harmony. In the field of music, harmony does not mean unison. We are not all singing the same note, but we are all singing the same song.[10]

We need to realise that we all are different, with different strengths and passions. Part of unity means we can accept that some people within our church community may desire to function differently from others. We must defend the right to be unique, with differing tasks. But diversity must find its expression without contention and strife.[11]

Let’s pray:

Lord, forgive us for accepting divisions. Heal your church, O God. Bring us into Christ centred unity, so the world will believe in your power. In Jesus ‘name, Amen[12]



[1] Jimmy Carter at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration, reported by Baptist Press

[2] George MacDonald Your Life in Christ, 68

[3] Tommy Tenney God’s Dream Team 112

[4] Israel Galindo The Hidden Lives of Congregations: discerning church dynamics 28

[5] Tenney 69

[6] Tenney 96

[7] Larry Osborne “Understanding Unity”

[8] Tenney 57

[9] Warren Wiersbe 50 People Every Christian Should Know 50

[10] Tenney 120 

[11] Francis Frangipane House United 159

[12] Frangipane 162


 

Love One Another

May 27, 2018

Love One Another

I want to discuss over the next few weeks a 2-word concept that runs throughout the New Testament.  It is such an important concept that it is used 100 times in 94 verses in the NT; 47 times as instructions to Christians. 

The word can be grouped into 4 categories:  30% are related to love 30% are related to unity, 15% are related to humility and a 4th category picking up the ones which don’t fit the other categories[1]

“One another” is the concept. In English it ...


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Unclean No More - self denial 3

May 20, 2018

Unclean No More (Self Denial 3)

This week’s theme for Prayer and Self-Denial focuses on an army of new believers that God is calling to himself, and the need for us to be open minded in the way that God can use and change us, as we move forward in his plan.

Today’s Scripture relates to the expanding Kingdom of God in Acts 10

Acts 10

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment.  He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; ...


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Spiritual Transformation: on the road to Damascus (Self Denial 2)

May 13, 2018

Spiritual Transformation: on the road to Damascus

Self-denial 2 2018

Today is the second of our 3-week series of Prayer and Self-Denial to raise money and awareness of the missionaries gone from NZ to South and South East Asia under TRANZSEND.

[video clip]

The theme this week is that of a new perspective. I want us to look at the ways our thoughts and attitudes change as we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Acts 9

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threa...


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Self denial 1

May 6, 2018

A Powerful Presence -  AWAITING THE SPIRIT

 [Video clip]

In this first in the series for Prayer and Self Denial, we are talking today about waiting in hope upon the Holy Spirit.

As I was preparing this message, I had a revelation that often we wait for something, but in the Bible it also speaks of wait on.  Wait on is different to wait for.  To wait on means being attentive to the object of our attention, like a waiter attending the needs of a table in a restaurant.

Both of these (wait...


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Modern day unlikely heroes

May 6, 2018

Modern day Unlikely heroes

We have spoken about a few of the unlikely heroes of the Bible but even though we see them as men and women with issues just like us, we tend to think of them as somehow better or greater or more godly than us because they are recorded in the Bible, so tonight I want to talk about real people who lived in more recent times.

I am not even going to speak about people who lived a long time ago, I am not going to talk about the saints of old, but of more recent peop...


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Unlikely hero - Israel

April 29, 2018

Unlikely Heroes - Israel

When we are thinking of unlikely heroes, we have restricted ourselves to individuals but there are unlikely heroes in the Bible that are bigger than just individuals.

The biggest is the nation of Israel.

Israel’s story starts at the time that Abram was called to leave his home and head off to start a new life.  Abram and his family and his flocks and herds left their life east of the Euphrates River (in what is now Iran) and headed west to lands already populat...


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Unlikely hero Gideon

April 15, 2018

Unlikely Heroes of the Bible

I want to run a short series on unlikely heroes of the Bible.

 I do not know anyone whom we could earmark as destined for high honours or special mention, and yet God uses all of us. In some ways we are all unlikely heroes for our faith.

We all have gifts and abilities that God can use to achieve his purposes in the Kingdom of God but we are all unlikely candidates for such a role

For me, one of the most unlikely biblical heroes who stands out was Gideon. ...


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Easter Sunday 2018

April 3, 2018

Looking for the living amongst the dead

 

Luke 24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men s...


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Good Friday 2018

April 3, 2018

Reconciliation

Voice 1

Reconciliation in our own strength normally fails.

Let me explain by looking at a few recent attempts at manmade reconciliation

Perhaps the most famous reconciliation in recent years is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up in post-apartheid South Africa as an attempt at reconciling white and black South African and avoiding the bloodshed of other African nations which moved from white control.

Yet in 1999 a member of the commission warned that if the g...


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