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Arresting Developments in Unity

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Arresting Developments in Unity

Acts 21:1-36        December 17, 2000


Scripture Reading: Isaiah 42:1-9




          Going home for Christmas is a theme secured deep in our hearts at this time of year.

          It is a time that seems rightly set aside by God when we take that time to reconnect with friends and family.

          Many of you, like ourselves, send out Christmas cards and enclose a letter that summarizes what has been going on in your lives and gives glory to God for his continuing grace to us in Christ.

          We have already received many such cards and letters from our friends and family across the nation.

It is fitting that our national time of Thanksgiving is closely followed by our remembrance of the Christ-child and of each other in him.

          I remember when I was younger that going to Grandma's house at Christmas was the big event of the year.

          The family gathered around the tree and exchanged presents, drank coffee, ate cookies and nuts, played games, and talked for many hours.

          The sense of mutual appreciation and togetherness was astounding.

          Now the kids come to our house and I hope they will have the same memories.

          We are planning to get our grandchildren from Iowa for the week just after Christmas this year.

          When I was in the Navy it was so commonplace for everyone to go home for Christmas that I often wondered what would happen in case of a national emergency at that time.

          The ships and bases were so depleted of manpower that they were like ghost towns.

          I just read in the Tribune about the mass exodus of sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base to head home for the holidays.

          That certainly brought back memories.

          It was on one such trip back in 1968 that I headed to the Chicago area from my station in Cuba to come and ask Joan to marry me.

          After I met her relatives, we rode the train to Sioux City, Iowa, to meet my relatives.

          Yes, Christmas is a beautiful time of reconnecting.

          And, appropriately, it is the birth of Christ that makes it all possible.

          I know that there are many that may not be able to be home for Christmas because of circumstances or conflicts, or perhaps there just aren't many people left in your family.

          We have those tragedies in our family too.

          I don't want to paint an unrealistically rosy picture.

          But that is one reason why God gave us a Christian family in the church.

          We need to reconnect with one another in celebration of the birth of Christ and all that he means to us.

          Indeed, he is more than life itself.

          What would any of the rest of this mean without him?

          We are going to adjourn our service here in a little while this morning and go to Porretta's Banquet Hall for our annual Christmas celebration banquet where we will celebrate the gift of the Christ-child and the unity that God brought us through his birth into the world and into our hearts, a unity with him and with each other.

          Realistically, understanding that unity is a journey with a destination.

          Paul's address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus in Acts 20 marked the end of his third missionary journey, and from that point on he heads resolutely for Jerusalem under the inspiration of the Spirit in Acts 21, our passage for this morning (page 1730 in the pew Bible).

          Essentially, this is now a missionary journey as much for Paul himself as for any other reason.

          The Spirit has compelled him (20:22) to go no matter what lies ahead for him.

          He will eventually go on another missionary journey under far different circumstances to Rome.

          But for now he wants to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost.

          Originally he had wanted to get there before Passover but was delayed by the threats of the Jews in Greece.

          Now he wants to arrive by Pentecost to express his unity toward the church and toward his people as well as to receive expressions of unity for whatever lies ahead for him.

          Pentecost is the Jewish celebration of the first fruits of the wheat harvest that comes seven weeks after Passover.

          It is also the birth of the Church of Christ with the coming of the Holy Spirit.

          Presumably, Paul would be celebrating both.

          We should never forget that Paul was every bit as much a Jew as he was a Christian.

          He was a completed Jew – one who accepted and served the Messiah for whom the Jewish nation had waited so long.

          But he still felt free to practice his Jewishness as long as it didn't interfere with his Christianity.

          Today we have many Christians in many cultures that serve Christ and are still able to identify where they can with their native cultures.

          We can discover several principles of Christian unity along the way of Paul's journey to Jerusalem and even after he arrives.

          Indeed, the principle of Christian unity must be one of the reasons he has felt compelled to go to Jerusalem since he was bringing the offering to the Jerusalem church from Macedonia and Asia along with the representatives of the churches there.

          And we will discover the ultimate destination of our Christian unity.

          We will discover what it means to become like Christ.

Big Question:

          What principles of unity can we discover in becoming like Christ?


I.       Cycle One – Toward Jerusalem

          A.      Narrative (vv. 1-16)

          B.      Implication

We must seek him in the unity of fellowship wherever we can.       

          C.      Illustration

          Finding Christian fellowship in my trips to: Alaska, Philippines, New Orleans, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Charleston, chaplains, Navigators.

          MRN "Not Alone"

Dan Hough's example of "the Lord's will be done."

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two – At Jerusalem


          A.      Narrative (vv. 17-26)

          B.      Implication

We must promote him in the unity of solidarity whenever we can.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three – In the Temple

          A.      Narrative (vv. 27-36)

          B.      Implication


We must honor him in the unity of identification however we can.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application


Big Answer:

          What principles of unity can we discover in becoming like Christ?


We must seek him in the unity of fellowship wherever we can.       

We must promote him in the unity of solidarity whenever we can.

          We must honor him in the unity of identification however we can.

Timeless Truth:

Being one with Christ is an arresting development.

It will take you away into the center of his will.  

How will we know that our lives are becoming like Christ?

It is when we can affirm with certainty, "The Lord's will be done."

How well have you submitted to the Lord's will lately?

Have you allowed the Christ-child in your heart to mature into the King over your soul?

Can you say with Paul, "I am compelled to follow wherever he'll go?"

There is no better, more productive, or ultimately safe and joyful place to be than in the center of the Lord's will.

Being in the center of his will is when you have agreed to let him have full control as your King, as you follow his leadership into the fullness of his glory.

"For ourselves, for others, for him,"

It's all just one in the same

When we put him first

And for his purpose thirst

Delivered from substance of shame.

It will give us cause

For which we take pause

(The blind, the sick, and the lame),

To consider the source

Of that powerful force

The world won't trouble to name.

He will change your life

In spite of great strife

And you'll never be open to blame,

Though they take you away

In his will you will lay

And bring to his presence great fame.

                   His love in your heart

                   A great fire will start

                   An eternal unending flame,

                   That will sear your soul

                   With your name on the roll

                   Up yonder, that nothing can maim.

Closing Hymn: # 460 All the Way My Savior Leads Me

                         # 471 The Way of the Cross Leads Home

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