So, what causes these roadblocks to unity in the Church that we spoke of in Part 1?
The god We Want
One cause is the perceptions that we bring with us into the Church based on our individual perspectives. Our own unique socioeconomic, cultural, spiritual, and familial backgrounds create our own personal image of the god we want. The problem is that not everybody wants the same god. The BIGGER problem is that the god we want is not the God who is.
This leads me once again to the universal problem of pride, the mother of all sin. Pride manifests itself in many ways, none of them healthy.
Pride makes us cling tightly to our personal freedom, which keeps us from fully surrendering to God, His Truth, and His authority. Many people want Jesus to be their savior, but not their Lord. The Christian life is great until it costs you something. This is where many part company with the Truth to worship the god they want instead.
Unfortunately, many churches, and indeed entire denominations, have gone this route. By engaging culture rather than engaging Christ, they have CONformed to the pattern of this world rather than allow themselves to be TRANSformed by the Word of God.
Do not be conformed to this world—this age, fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs. But be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind—by its new ideals and its new attitude—so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. (Romans 12:2 AMPC)
There are always going to be discussions and disagreements within the Church. Because no one can truly know the mind of God, it makes sense that no church or individual Christian is going to “get it right” all the time.
However, I feel quite confident in boldly stating that if it becomes necessary to alter the Word of God, ignore parts of it, write some new parts of your own or intentionally take some of it out of context to push your own personal or social agenda, then you’re not getting it right.
This isn’t being judgmental; it’s just common sense.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14 KJV)
Unfortunately, as long as churches are made up of people, there will be division. The best we can do as individual Christians is to make sure we aren’t contributing to it. Here are some practical steps that can help us achieve that goal.
The Surrender Solution
- SURRENDER TO GOD. There is no salvation without repentance, and there is no repentance without surrender. If your pride is preventing you from letting go of your past, then the only future you have will be one that looks just like your past (at best). You can not learn what God’s will for your life is until you have cast aside YOUR will for your life.
- SURRENDER YOUR POSITION. Be OK with not being first. If you’ve done step #1 above, you’re already not first anyway. Take that same attitude toward the people around you. Serve without having to be in charge. Let go of ambition and concentrate on lifting others up rather than stepping on them to get ahead.
- SURRENDER YOUR MOTIVES. Seek to see rather than to be seen. Seek to be influenced rather than to influence. In this way, you will actually become a better influence.
- SURRENDER TO TRUTH. To seek unity in the Church, we must first seek Truth, for without Truth, there can be no unity. No two Christians share a common past, but all share a common destiny. Find the common ground by looking forward.
- SURRENDER TO THE WORD. John begins his gospel by reminding us that the Word of God is equal with God and continues by telling us that Jesus was the Word made flesh. If doctrinal differences are the chief source of division in the church, I would have to say that they are also the most avoidable.
Either the Bible is the Word of God, or it isn’t. If it is, then it is the ultimate written authority.
To claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ without adhering completely to the Bible is a spiritual impossibility. If the Word of God does not have the final say in your life, you are putting your will and wisdom above that of God. Whenever creation tries to put itself above the Creator, the only thing that gets created is another pointless religion.
Doers of the Word
Believing the Bible means believing all of it. This is a tall order, to be sure, but we must always approach the Word with obedience as our objective rather than interpretation. This is why James wrote,
“. . .obey the message; be doers of the Word, and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth]. (James 1:22 AMPC)
Being a doer of the Word places engaging Christ as a priority over engaging culture.
While it is important for the Church to accept and welcome non-Christians in a spirit of grace wherever they are in life, many churches and denominations have gone astray by attempting to blend into culture in the name of “relevance.” In doing so, they have sacrificed Truth at the altar of tolerance.
But churches don’t need to become “relevant” by having the hippest music, the flashiest multi-media system, the best coffee or even the “openest minds.”
The Church will always be relevant to those who seek the Truth simply because Truth is eternal and universal. Everyone knows instinctively that they need a solid rock on which to stand.
God gave us a written account of this Truth so that those who seek it may find it. As long as the Church esteems this Truth, without trying to improve upon it, unity will follow.
(Come back next week to find out how the world reacts when we do this. Click on the Free Newsletter link at the top of the page to make sure you don’t miss it!)