January 21, 2011 by Dwight Bernier
I had the opportunity to speak to pastors & ministry leaders who work in downtown Montreal at a Christian unity breakfast this morning. Since it is the week of Christian unity, I thought that I would share briefly what I shared this morning.
What is Christian unity? It has to be so much more than getting together for a breakfast or an event! But the term itself usually suggests some sort of compromise in doctrine, or gives the sense of an extremely soft gospel. But the term is just the opposite! Christian unity is rallying around what makes us Christian – Jesus!
In fact, the only reason we can be the church & have unity is because of Jesus. In Acts 2, we see that as the hearts of 3,000 people were opened to salvation, they were in unity around Jesus!
Unity seems to be a pretty big deal to Jesus as well. We see that in John 17.20-23 where Jesus prays for the disciples (and us) to be perfectly one as the Father & Son are one. Jesus knew that this was only going to be possible because of the power that was going to come in the Holy Spirit.
But if we’re called to be in unity, what is it that keeps us from actually working with others in unity in Christ? Do we really believe that we are made one body? I understand the whole doctrinal distinctives piece of things, as well as the tradition – but have we elevated our denomination, theology, church, tradition over the gospel?
Edmund Clowney writes that “the church is Christ’s. We cannot exclude those whom He welcomes, or welcome those whom He excludes.” Tim Keller adds to this point in saying that “catholicity-denying sectarianism results in unnecessary division. If two churches differ in their belief and practices of baptism and the Lord’s supper, then two different churches they will have to be – but that shouldn’t mean they cannot work together in all sorts of other ways. To stay apart or refuse to cooperate because true believers are members of the “wrong” denomination is to fail to welcome those whom Christ Himself has welcomed.”
If our calling is true unity in Christ, then what must we corporately repent of? Is it pride in our system, tradition, theology, philosophy of ministry, individualistic nature? What is it that has driven us to be working on our own kingdom in Jesus’ name rather than being a part of the body?
Let’s go back to Jesus’ high priestly prayer to hear why Jesus wants His people to be in unity. In John 17.21, Jesus says that the world will believe that the Father sent the Son by how the believers are in unity. In verse 23, Jesus goes on to say that the world will know that they are loved by the Father by how the believers are in unity. Amazing! This is an incredible hermeneutic for the gospel to be understood – through the community of Jesus. Furthermore, in John 13.34, 35, Jesus tells His disciples that the world will know that they are His disciples by how they love one another. So, our love & unity are important factors in people understanding who God is and what He’s done!
But we can’t do this unity thing unless it’s by the power of the gospel! We need a big Jesus and a big gospel to be able to have this desire of working in unity for the glory of Jesus!
As the church of Jesus who desperately need Him, in a city that desperately needs Him, may we, by the power of the Spirit, repent of our “own kingdom-ness” and be in unity around Jesus and His glorious gospel.
This city needs Jesus & His Kingdom – not your kingdom.
May we devote ourselves (as they did in Acts 2), by the power of the Spirit, to praying together for the glory and fame of Jesus in our hearts, our local churches, and in our city!