Hello everybody, and welcome in to day #8 of Shelter in place for those of us in Central California. I should have marked a week yesterday, but hours sort of bleed into days now, and days bleed into weeks. Things are surreal here, but Heaven is NOT shook. The King is on His Throne and Jesus is at the right hand of the Father ever living to intercede for His people. Let us be praying to Him for repentance, forgiveness, and healing of our land as we face this plague - He is FAITHFUL!
Today's readings include Exodus 38, Proverbs 14, John 17, and Philippians 1. John 17 is our focus passage today, as we look at the longest prayer of Jesus recorded in the entire Bible. I'm not going to make you wait very long to see what Jesus prayed THREE times for when praying to His Father for Christians that would come after His ascension - let's read the passage, and find out!
20 “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. 21 May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. 22 I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.
Did you catch it? Three times He prayed that His followers would be ONE - not just any type of oneness either. Review those verses - Jesus was praying that His future followers - US! - would have the same oneness with each other, as Jesus and the Father have. In other words, COMPLETELY ONE! This is an incredible prayer, and, I think a tremendous tragedy that Christians do not take this call to unity more seriously. Far too often, Christians are ready to separate from each other for various doctrinal, personal injury, or personal belief issues. The net result of this is incredible division in the church - tens of thousands of denominations - and an incredible confusion of our message of the Gospel to the World. As Jesus notes, when Christians are in unity with each other - experiencing the oneness that is shared by the Holy Trinity - then the world BELIEVES that the Father sent Jesus. I don't think it is a leap in logic at all to affirm the converse of that statement - that the people of the world have no idea what to believe when Christians are not in unity. 35 years ago, the comedian Emo Philips wrote a joke that was voted as the funniest joke in religion. I actually think it is more sad, than funny, but I will read it to you (without endorsing Emo, because I am unfamiliar with most of his comedy) because I find the joke very insightful:
Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!" He said, "Nobody loves me." I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"He said, "Yes." I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too! What franchise?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!" Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over.
I believe that many outside of Christianity view the church in this sort of way - there are so many splinters in christendom that they either laugh, or dismiss us, or don't know who to turn to for big questions and help during a crisis. Our disunity disrupts our message, and that is sad, and a deadly danger to the church. I have seen deep, deep Christian brothers and sisters separate over issues that don't involve major sin, or compromise, or even a disagreement over major doctrines, but over far more minor and disputed issues. Every time I see it, it grieves me, because that is NOT at all what Jesus prayed for in His people, and I'm not always sure how we can justify separation from other believers over such things when Jesus clearly seems to be praying for the opposite.
It's not just the Church (big 'C' I am very blessed to experience remarkable unity in the last two churches I've served in, really the last three) I'm concerned about either. Consider this striking teaching of Jesus in the context of what is going on right now in the United States of America (or the United Kingdom...or your country, if it is very divided):
25 Knowing their thoughts, he told them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?
I very rarely discuss politics on this podcast, and just as rarely discuss it in a church setting. Not because I believe the Constitution silences preachers - that is NOT at all what Thomas Jefferson intended with separation of Church and State (please read what HE actually wrote about it), but because I find politics to be deeply divisive, and I honestly try to avoid that which is divisive in the Body of Christ. But if you will suffer the tiniest bit of political commentary, I'm going to give it now: The United States - and many countries around the world - are facing the gravest crisis we've seen since World War 2. (I suppose if the Cuban Missile Crisis had led to Nuclear war, we could include that in the discussion too!) Consider what Jesus said in light of the U.S. Our country is the most divided and polarized that it has ever been in my lifetime. It is sickening, and it is alarming, and before you start pointing fingers, allow me to say that there is NOBODY out there right now in all of the political arenas that can pick up stones and throw them.
EVERY politician I am aware of - at least on the national level - seems to be fueling the fires of division and attack, rather than seeking to bring about the kind of unity that is required to save the nation. There may be some exceptions, I just don't know them. Jesus says that a house divided cannot and will not be able to stand. Divided kingdoms are headed for DESTRUCTION. I'm not pointing fingers at our president, or our previous president, or your prime minister, or what have you. There are massive amounts of blame out there, and it seems like millions of Americans on both sides of the aisle (and even libertarians and non-partisans in the middle) seem to delight in attacking, criticizing, snarling, snarking, arguing, judging and prognosticating doom.
I worry more about what this toxic atmosphere will do to our countries than I worry what Covid19 will do to us. We CANNOT stand against this threat divided and hating each other. Some of you are massive partisans - meaning you root with all of your heart for your party and will all of your heart against the other party. The problem is - the other party - no matter which one it is - represents almost half of Americans. You can't hate them and despise them without risking the destruction of the whole enterprise. Imagine that your words - spoken or written - are like bullets, and you are on a floating raft on the ocean. Every time you let loose a vehement attack, a hateful insult, or an angry criticism, you fire a bullet. Maybe that bullet strikes its target, and somebody on board the boat is wounded, or worse. Maybe that bullet lodges into the raft itself, and the whole thing that is keeping you afloat is threatened. Our liferaft can't take bullet after bullet. How do I know this?? Because Jesus said a kingdom divided against itself WILL BE DESTROYED, and I believe Him.
So - lay down your guns. I'm not saying you have to agree with the other side. I'm not saying you have to call evil good, or anything like that. I am saying this:
14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
That passage, and Jesus' house divided speech don't just apply to the church. They apply to marriages, friendships, small groups, large groups, workplaces, and yes, countries and cities and governments. Our greatest danger in the good old U.S.A. right now is not Covid19 - as bad as it is! Our greatest danger is that we seem to be expressing far more hate for our neighbor than love for our neighbor. Let's close with these anointed Words of God that, hopefully, might be sufficient to point us in a better direction:
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
2nd Corinthians 13:11
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.
1 Corinthians 1:10
8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:8=9
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Christ would have all his people joined in communion with himself, and with his Father; and when that is the case, then will men know that Christ came into the world for a definite purpose: “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
C. H. Spurgeon, “‘I Will;’ Yet, ‘Not as I Will,’” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 40 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1894), 419.
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