Family Matters Part 5: Unity
On Sunday 5th March at our morning service,we finished our series 'Family Matters' with the topic 'Unity'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to the talk on-line, please click here.
To download the talk to listen to off line, please click here.
When we think about “church” we would hopefully want to think of a united church.
This picks up directly on the truth that church is not a building but the body of Christ. The body of followers or disciples, serving God together and being his hands and feet on Earth. Each with our own individual gifts and abilities – just like the parts of a body – and each important to the rest, each with its job of giving and serving to do – but effective if and only if we remain part of the body. If we remain united “in Jesus Christ”. You can read this in John, Chapter 15 by clicking here.
A little while after speaking to His disciples about how they could only be fruitful if, like the branches of a vine (the vine being himself), they remained connected to the vine, Jesus explained that He would be soon be leaving them.
The disciples were confused as Jesus had told them he would soon be leaving them but that he’d send the Advocate – the Holy Spirit - and in a little while they’d see Jesus again… they were confused! Well you would be! And Jesus was sorrowful for them in the here and now but also told them there’d be a time when they’d be joyful again. All very confusing!
Then Jesus clarified. He told them that God the Father loved them and sent Him to be with them. He was sent by the Father and would soon be returning to the Father. And the disciples declared their belief in Him. Jesus acknowledged this and whilst warning that they would soon be scattered (after His death on the cross) He also said that they should take heart because He has overcome the world.
Then Jesus went off to pray. But John listened in as he prayed and so here we have a record of this incredible prayer. Remember, this was Jesus’s last big prayer before dying, so it must have been about stuff that was very important to Him! In fact, His prayer was for his disciples – then and now – and more specifically it was a prayer that they would be united – united even as closely as He and His Father!
You can read the full prayer in John 17 by clicking here.
Jesus’s prayer focussed on love for His disciples and unity for His disciples – and this was His last prayer before being crucified!
Why? Because that was what was important to Him. Important to His vision of a church (not just any church but one against which hell would not stand, remember). A united church. A united body of disciples, not just a building full of attenders. A united body of disciples, following Him all the way to heaven and reaching out to bring other people along with them.
The way we do church – disciples reaching out to unchurched people and discipling them – aligns with Jesus’s teaching and example to us and His prayer for us. We should be clear about our Jesus-based vision and mission and united behind Him!
We should get fully and joyfully behind what He is doing – building His church! - and we must spread the word by inviting, welcoming, giving, serving and modelling ourselves (as best we can and through the good work of the Holy Spirit alive in us) the grace and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus stated clearly that He would build His church – and amazingly, He invites us to join in!
We can think of it like this – imagine a fantastic concert where regardless of their myriad differences everyone in the crowd is putting their heart and soul into singing the same song, as one and in complete abandonment of their differences, to the person on stage who wrote it. That’s what church should be like!
Jesus is singing an amazing, magnificent, song of creation, redemption and love, and even as He brings people into unity with Him, to take a place with Him, He invites us to join in on the song!
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. How can we each make sure we remain united with Jesus, as closely as the branches are to a vine?
2. Why do you think Jesus placed such emphasis in His prayer (John 17) upon the close relationship He desired for His disciples?
3. Jesus stated that “the world” did not know the Father and that the world hated His disciples because they do not belong to “the world”. He also prayed for protection for His disciples from “the evil one”. What do you make of all this?
4. Do you agree that Jesus, in building His church, invites His followers to join in that work?
5. If we are to be united with Jesus and each other in making disciples of all nations, what do you think you personally need to work on – as a disciple yourself, and as one called to disciple others?
6. Jesus prayed that His disciples would experience such perfect unity that the world would know He had been sent by the Father and that the Father loved them. Do you agree that our personally believing in and following Jesus should over-ride anything that might otherwise cause us not to be united?
7. Thinking of the concert analogy, are you joining in the song wholeheartedly? Is there anything in your past or present that you need to bring before God and leave with Him so that it doesn’t hold you back?