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John 17 Unity of believers

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John 17:20-26

20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,

21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:

23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.

26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

1)    Isn’t it encouraging that when Jesus prayed this prayer on the night before he died on the cross he was thinking not about the suffering that he was going to be going through but instead he was thinking about his disciples.  This includes the disciples who were with him at the time and all those who were going to become his disciples in the future.  20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, All those who have excepted him as LORD and SAVIOUR and follow him each day.  So let us look at what Jesus is praying for US; for YOU and ME 21 that all of them may be one, 

2)    This week is the week when different Christian churches throughout the world are praying for Christianity unity.  We may look around and say that the church is anything but unified.  There are many different denominations e.g. Anglican, Roman Catholic, Uniting, Baptist, Assembly of God, Christian Outreach Centre and so on.  I think the fact that we have a special week set aside to pray for unity implies that there isn’t unity and we do want unity.  Or to quote Jesus, that all of them may be one,  What does it mean ‘to be one’?

3)    I think it is important to realise that the unity that Jesus is talking about covers a number of areas.

a)    The first is the one that we have with Jesus.  This oneness is only possible when we come into a personal relationship with Jesus when we accept him as a LORD and our SAVIOUR. 

i)       At that point we are one with Jesus, one with the Father and one with the Holy Spirit.  This is what Jesus means when he says, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  This is not something we achieve it is something that we are right now, the moment we accept Jesus. 

ii)     The way this oneness is anchored in us is by spending time with our LORD.  Spending time in reading his word, spending time in prayer, spending time in worship, spending time in seeking his direction in our life.  This oneness means that we live our lives under the constant desire to glorify our LORD and Saviour.  Doing the things that Jesus would do.

b)    The second area is that because EVER BELIEVER is one with God so it follows that EVER BELIEVER SHOULD BE ONE WITH ANOTHER.  This is something that we do have to work at because this is one area that we fall down a lot in. And it this disunity that has been a scandal of the church through out the centries. And it is this area that I want to concentrate on this morning.

4)    Through out the centuries there have been divisions in the Church.  Paul rebukes the church in Corinthians for the divisions  1Corinthians 1:10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.  It doesn’t make it right that there are divisions and probably the reason why there are divisions is that the church is made up of imperfect people.  I don’t mean like you and me – I mean other imperfect Christians!!  No you know what I mean.

5)    Whilst there may be divisions the sad fact is that these divisions over the centuries have not just been polite disagreements these divisions have lead Christians to fight against other Christians, to kill them and to declare that they are not real Christians because they disagree with their point of view. 

a)    I don’t think that Jesus intended for us to try and destroy other Christians because they had a different opinion.

i)       In fact all the Christian wars were not fought over religion they were fought over land, power and wealth.  People used religion as a justification for their own greed by declaring that Jesus was on their side.  I do not think that Jesus every told any of his disciples to go out and kill his enemies in fact we see the reverse where Jesus rebuked James and John for wanting to call down fire from heaven to consume a village that had rejected Jesus. Luke 9:55-56 55 But Jesus turned and scolded them. [And Jesus said, “You don’t know what kind of spirit you belong to. 56 The Son of Man did not come to destroy the souls of people but to save them.”]

b)    Jesus calls us to forgive our enemies and not to destroy them.  Whilst there are not many Christians today who would say that we should kill others who disagree with them there is still divisions in the Christian church. However these divisions are diminishing.  I do not think that Jesus’ prayer that that all of them may be one is implies that there should only be one Christian denomination throughout the world.  Unity does not mean uniformity.  Someone once described unity as two chickens having their legs tied together and hung over a clothes line.  They may be united but it won’t work.  So what does it mean then to be “one”?

6)    When I was growing up as a child there was real animosity between the denominations.  Thee was name calling, there were bigotry and there prejudice. I can remember I was not allowed to go into a protestant a church even for a wedding.  I am glad to say that those days are well and truly over.

7)    I believe that the call to be one is coming closer today.  Whilst there are different areas where there is varying degrees of cooperation I think that there is a desire among the vast majority of Christians to have closer ties with each other.  Again I do not believe that it means all of us joining together as a mega denomination.  But there is a loving bond of fellowship developing.  In Caboolture I have seen the best working together that I have experienced in over 27 years of full time ministry. 

a)    I meet with other pastors every Wednesday morning for breakfast. We sometimes have prayer together, or sharing difficulties we might be facing, or joys or exchanging ideas etc.

b)    The Morayfield Makeover was a great example of the different fellowships working together and it was a great witness to the community of the love of Jesus at work.

c)     I know that I could call on any of the ministers who I meet with on a regular basis for assistance, or just to have a cup of coffee.

8)    Some would argue that if we have such a good working relationship why not join together as one church - well I think we are one church.  We are God’s people we might worship in different ways we might dress in different ways we might have slightly different understandings of parts of the bible.  But there is a commonality of the basic Christian beliefs that is summed up in the creed. 

9)    Personally I think that if we all worshiped the same way it would detract from Jesus and his offer to follow him. 

a)    The diversity of the styles of worship shows that everyone is welcome in the kingdom of God. 

i)       Whether you like hymns written hundreds of years ago or you like modern songs that were only written yesterday. Whether you like a service with an organ or with drums.  Whether you like to have candles and all the trimmings or you like to have a simple lection and no liturgy.

ii)     The diversity means that we can all be catered for because we are all different.

10) It is important to have unity not uniformity.

11) True unity must begin with the knowledge that we are already one with Jesus, wit the Father and with the Holy Spirit and it is only as we recognise this can the unity with other believers.

12) True unity in Christ is the desire to not just tolerate our differences but to celebrate our differences and to learn from one another as we seek to serve one another.

13) True unity means that we can welcome one another to worship Jesus in our different ways.

14) True unity means that recognise that we are brother sand sisters in Jesus regardless of our differences.

15) True unity means that we look for ways to encourage and support each other and not to try and criticise and pull down one another.

16) True unity means that we look for ways to work with each other in serving the community and reaching out into the community.

17) True unity means that we celebrate when we see others growing.

18) True unity means that we recognise that there is but one church with Jesus Christ as the head.  There is only one body of Christ and we are all members of that body.  We need each other to ensure that we can fulfil the command of Jesus to go out into the world to preach the gospel of Jesus and to make disciples.

19) “Mutuality of the faith is to be honoured in the Christian community at large. No one segment of the church of Jesus Christ has exclusive rights or claim to the faith. Faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ is the cement that holds true believers of all traditions together in Christian fellowship.” Hayford

20) I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

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