Living United

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The most amazing thing that Jesus did was die for me. I didn’t deserve it. But He did it. That alone and forever deserves my praise.

The second most amazing thing that Jesus did was pray for me. In the Gospel of John, while Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room before His arrest, Jesus tells His disciples that He is the way, the truth, and the life. He tells them that He is the vine and that all who abide in Him will be grafted into Him and bear good fruit. He tells them that the greatest love causes one to lay down his life for his friends and that they are His friends. He tells them that because they are His friends and that they abide in Him, the world will hate them because it hated Him. He tells them that the Holy Spirit will come when He has left them, and their sorrow will turn to joy. He tells them to take heart because He has overcome the world. This is like the greatest pep talk of all time. And after He gives this pep talk, He turns to prayer to the Father for all of His disciples, including you and me. We know this because Jesus says in John 17:20, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” Because Christ’s followers were obedient to His command to make disciples of all nations, the good news of Jesus’s death and resurrection has been passed on through the centuries until it fell on our own ears and stirred our hearts to repentance and belief. We believe because of the word of the apostles, and so Christ’s high priestly prayer is for us today. Amazing!

In His prayer, Christ asks God the Father for several things, but what sticks out to me the most is His request for us, the members of His church, to be one. He states His desire for our unity four times (vv. 11, 21, 22, 23). And the result of that unity is that the world will know that God sent Him, that the world will know the gospel is true. When I think about all of the diversity in the world and that Christ’s church is meant to be made up of people who are just as diverse, this unity seems almost impossible. In America alone we are easily divided over issues of political candidates, race, the environment, gun rights, and more. How many more differences exist between us and people of different nationalities with even more different views on the world? And yet still, we are called to unity with all of those who call on Christ as Lord and Savior. In spite of all our differences, we have the most precious and most important thing in common—we have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus and have been raised to new life with Him, not by our own works but according to His great mercy. And that’s all it takes to set aside every difference and to love one another as the Father and the Son loved one another (John 17:21). We are meant to show the same sacrificial, kind, patient, and merciful love to one another that Christ showed to us, and the reputation of Christ’s name and work are at stake if we don’t.

In the words of Francis Schaeffer, “How should we then live?” Here are some points of application I’ve gleaned from God’s word:

  • Seek to understand before you seek to be heard or to be right. We can be quick to assume we know best and that we’re right, but if we speak too quickly, we can prove ourselves foolish and act hurtfully toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. I think of this often in light of several political issues in our country today. There’s a lot of justifying and a lot of yelling and a lot of not listening. Let’s heed the many warnings of Proverbs:

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)

Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18:12)

  • Weigh every word before you say it. And evaluate your words by God’s standard. Piece of cake, right? If only I could remember this for myself. Holy Spirit, help me.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

  • We have many freedoms in this country for which we can be thankful. One of those freedoms is the right to free speech. But just because we get to say whatever we think and feel, doesn’t mean we should. And just because we enjoy many good things in this country, doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. We’ve been called to give up our freedoms when necessary for the sake of our better, perfect home—the kingdom of God. The banner of heaven is the greatest under which we could ever serve.

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. (1 Cor. 9:12b)

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matt. 13:44)
 

Where actions for the sake of God’s kingdom seem impossible, He is able (Matt. 19:26). We have the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead living within us to empower us to live as He has called us to live (Romans 8:11). Where we fail, there is opportunity for repentance and forgiveness (1 John 1:9). And when we humble ourselves and live in obedient service before our God, His name is glorified (1 Peter 4:10-11). May this be the greatest desire of our hearts!

Bible Study Tip

The first two stages of Bible study we’ve looked at over the last several weeks are “Comprehension” and “Interpretation”. The third stage is “Application”. Once you have dug deep into the details of the passage, followed cross-references, and looked at external resources to help answer questions and enrich your understanding, start thinking about how the passage in question applies to your knowledge of God as Father, Christ as Savior, and you as a sinner saved by grace. You can do this by answering this three-part question: What does this passage teach us about God? About you (or your sin)? And about Christ, the gospel, and/or who you are in Christ?

Recommended Books

Links in this section are Amazon Affiliate links to books we find helpful

United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity
by Trillia Newbell

On the Last Day every tongue and tribe will be represented in the glorious chorus praising God with one voice. Yet today our churches remain segregated. Can we reflect the beauty of the last day this day? United will inspire, challenge, and encourage readers to pursue the joys of diversity through stories of the author’s own journey and a theology of diversity lived out. It’s time to capture a glimpse of God’s magnificent creativity. In the pages of United, Trillia Newbell reveals the deeply moving, transforming power of knowing—really knowing—someone who is equal yet unique. As we learn to identify in Christ rather than in our commonalities, we begin to experience the depth and power of gospel unity. Newbell is also the author of the children’s book God’s Very Good Idea (Tales That Tell the Truth), which aims to teach children how to “enjoy being delightfully different yet all part of God’s family.”

His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God
Edited by Kristie Anyabwile

This inspiring collection of devotions is by a diverse group of women of color—African-Americans, Hispanic, Caribbean, and Asian women. Contributors include Kristie Anyabwile, Jackie Hill-Perry, Trillia Newbell, Elicia Horton, Christina Edmondson, Blair Linne, and more.

It is a faithful exposition of Psalm 119 and incorporates each contributors cultural expression both within the teaching and as they bring the word of God to bear on their lives. Readers will be thrilled and encouraged by hearing God speak through his word as it is expounded by these faithful women teachers, and they will long for more.

Recommended Media

Relational Wisdom 360 (RW360) was founded by Ken Sande, who is also the founder of Peacemaker Ministries. According to their website, “Relational wisdom, in essence, is the desire and ability to obey Jesus’ timeless command, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … and love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matt. 22:37-39). In modern terms, relational wisdom may be defined as your ability to discern emotions, interests and abilities in yourself and others, to interpret this information in the light of God’s Word, and to use these insights to manage your responses and relationships successfully.” RW360 offers a wide variety of resources (training courses, books, blogs, free downloads, etc.) to help individuals, churches, and organizations become better peacemakers and thus better examples of the gospel. They even have curriculums to teach children how to become better peacemakers. You can download their free RW360 app on your smartphone to gain immediate access to hundreds of articles, videos, and FAQs for applying peacemaking principles to your life and relationships.

For the Kids

Corlette Sande is the wife of Ken Sande, founder of Peacemaker Ministries and RW360 (see Recommended Media above). Corlette is Ken’s partner in ministry and the creator of the Young Peacemaker curriculum. If you’re like most families, your children may have experienced difficulty getting along at times due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Corlette Sande’s material can be helpful in teaching children how to solve disputes and strive to be peacemakers. She also wrote a very helpful article for The Gospel Coalition, “Help! My Kids Won’t Stop Fighting”.

Question 10:
What does God require in the fourth and fifth commandments?

Answer:
Fourth, that on the Sabbath day we spend time in worship of God. Fifth, that we love and honor our father and our mother.

“Peacemakers are people who breathe grace. Inspired by the gospel, they draw continually on the goodness and power of Jesus Christ, and then they bring his love, mercy, forgiveness, strength and wisdom to the conflicts of daily life.”

 

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'”

– Revelation 7:9-10

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