This writing is a follow-up to the last article I wrote titled, Sectarianism Is Sin which deals with the need of deeper unity within the churches in America. One reader asked, “Do you have any specific advice for pastors to achieve this besides praying? And advice for church members?”
If Christianity is all about knowing and loving God in a deep and personal way, and allowing His Spirit to teach, convict and guide our lives according to His vast wisdom and knowledge, why is it that believers and many groups of believers have such a wide range of biblical interpretations and look as if we disagree, even dislike one another to a watching world?
If it is really all about knowing Him personally and about having our Lord direct our lives by the power and wisdom of His Holy Spirit, why is there arguing in churches and such differing opinions and points of view between churches?
One thing the Lord has helped me realize over the years is that when the people are purposely praying together and for one another, they tend to be most agreeable with one another. Hebrews 11:6 KJV says; “But without faith it’s impossible to believe God, for he that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
When the New Testament interpreters approached this section of Scripture they were a tad perplexed because the word “seek” at the close of the last sentence was used twice in its original writing. It literally translated to say, “He is a rewarder of those who seek seek Him.” We could well say that God is a rewarder of those who pursue Him greatly!
However, it must be said that true unity does not simply come to Christians who will agree with one another; rather unity occurs when all are in agreement with God. You recall that the disciples and other followers of Jesus spent their days and nights in prayer together while in the upper room. When Pentecost came it was said of these Christ followers that “They were all in one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1), unity!
While a pastor in the city of Tehachapi, California during the years from 1988 through 1999, I watched God move most of the denominational churches into a unity they had never before enjoyed. This unity was brought about through intentional prayer together by the pastors at the beginning then spreading amongst the varied church members as well. Because of this mighty work of God experienced, I cannot rule prayer out as being vital to unifying Christians. Prayer is high on the list of things needful, but I do have more to share from the Scripture on the path to oneness Jesus desired for us.
The evil one, Satan, hates God and you can be certain that he hates all that have the image of God on them; especially the redeemed image! The devils plan to weaken the effectiveness of God’s Church is to cause true believers, good Christians of all denominations, who ought to be unified in the glorious Gospel, to be in disagreement over interpretations and actions regarding Scriptures as a side to the Gospel, to divide, through bitterness and jealousy, and ultimately to destroy their witness and credibility before the world.
What ought we to do to tear down the strategy of the evil one against God’s Church? First of all, I believe when believers understand that they are being duped and used of Satan the commanded acts of confession and repentance is the response God will honor. The immediate and ongoing biblical concept of “dying to self” is a major step toward unity amongst other believers and their churches. The notion of “dying to self” is found all through the New Testament. Jesus repeatedly spoke of disciples denying themselves, taking up their cross and following Him, as the first and necessary requirement of true discipleship.
In the Christian life, dying to self is never to be thought of as something optional. Dying to self is part of being born again; a one-time event and a lifelong process. It is the authenticity of the new birth; a notable fruit of a new life in Christ. No one can come to Christ unless he is willing to crucify his old self/life with Christ, and willingly begin to live anew in obedience to Him.
Jesus made it apparent that anyone that would follow Him must first deny themselves, giving up their lives, spiritually, symbolically, and yes, even physically, if necessary. He even went so far as to say that those who are not willing to surrender their lives to and for Him cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:27).
Christian—Pastors, you must die to self daily; deny yourself and follow only Him. Jesus emphasized the path of a life such as this in John 15:5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.”
The LORD is our inexhaustible treasure!
We must abide in Him and His Word abides in us. Beloved, we must get over ourselves, we are not all that! Humble yourself. Be filled with and walk in the Spirit. Allow the fruit of the Spirit to be seen as the controlling power over your life. Do not grieve the Spirit. Submit to God and draw near to Him. Do not depend on man’s interpretation of God’s Word—seek the Author for truth of the Word. One can examine theology 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 50 years and still miss out on a deep, personal, intimate relationship with God through the LORD Jesus Christ! Some Christians, including some Christian pastors, have not yet concluded and submitted to this truth: God is God and you are not!
When you study GOD’s Word, give GOD, by the Holy Spirit, first chance at your understanding. And be aware of this: the Holy Spirit only gives one interpretation of His written Word. I have often asked myself, why would the LORD Jesus in His priestly prayer ask the Father to unify, make His Church One, then create/cause/allow the diverse argumentative denominations we have in today’s “Christian” movement?
Let Him talk to you direct, rather than through someone else. Then if need be, read what others have to say about the passage; but always listen first to what the Spirit says about the Word.
Your Heavenly Father is all that you will ever need and more. Strength and wisdom is His to share with those who will ask in submission.
Stop robbing from God—tithes and offerings. This speaks to the giving and then to the use of those monies. We are accountable to the giving, receiving, and the using of said gifts to God.
Stop allowing societal norms, including politics, to dictate who we are in Christ. Stand on the Word—together in unity!
Lastly, love God above all else, with all the inner strength you have, then depend on the Holy Spirit to empower you to love God in difficult and dangerous situations—and also love your neighbor as you love yourself. Who is your neighbor? Beloved, that is anyone—friend or foe—who is not you! This even means you must love the many different Christian, God loving churches around the world or down the street.
Understand this, our spiritual safety rests on spiritual unity. Be at peace with God and enjoy the unique relationships between believers! Be a peacemaker! Pray On!