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Do you know what our national motto is? You can find it on all of our currency. Our national motto is “In God We Trust.” But that hasn’t always been our motto. As a matter of fact, it didn’t become our motto until 1956. Do you know what it was before that? Here’s a hint—it’s also on all of our currency, but it’s in Latin. Our original national motto was “E Pluribus Unum.” Do you know what it means? It means “Out of many, one.” In 1776, that motto was suggested to a committee that had been formed to develop our national seal. So from America’s founding, we’ve been looking for unity. Interestingly enough, E Pluribus Unum came from the cover of a popular tabloid magazine that compiled a bunch of articles from different sources. Kind of like Drudge Report or Huffington Post does today. But just saying the names of those two websites reminds us that we’re not as unified as our founding fathers hoped we’d be. In our country today, we’re divided over politics. We’re divided over race. We’re divided over gender. We’re divided over religion. It seems as if we’re becoming more and more divided every day. When we see battles over everything from Supreme Court appointments to budgets to Twitter wars, it makes us long for a little bit of unity. But lack of unity isn’t just a problem in our country. Lack of unity is a problem in our homes too. Strife between couples. Strife between parents and kids. Strife between siblings. It’s far easier to find a home in turmoil than it is to find a peaceful, harmonious home in our world today. Many people—even some of you in here long for unity in your home. With all the disunity and strife that’s in our world and in our homes, it’s no surprise that disunity has crept into the church. But that’s really understating it, isn’t it? Disunity hasn’t just crept into the church. Disunity has invaded and taken root in many churches. So much so that many churches are known more for their fighting than they are for their gospel witness. I’m firmly convinced that many of our unchurched neighbors are actually de-churched rather than unchurched. Unchurched means that they don’t go to church because they’re just not interested. De-churched means they don’t go to church because they’ve had bad church experiences—like strife or fighting or just plain ugliness. And some of the hardest people to reach are de-churched people. Unfortunately, in our community, we’re seeing what happens to the second and third generation of de-churched people. It’s an absolute tragedy. I thank God that He has brought this church out from a period of disunity. It was a tragic time and our hearts are broken from the fallout of those who are now de-churched because of it. I thank God that He has brought us out of that and given us a wonderful time of unity and peace and growth. But we need to know how that happens. Unity doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Unity is something we pray for and trust the Lord for. But unity is also something God calls us to actively strive for. Whether we’re talking unity in our church or unity in our homes—unity doesn’t just come naturally. Unity takes effort. Our passage this morning is kind of a summary passage. Luke includes these brief summaries throughout Acts as transitions from one phase of the early church’s history to the next one. Here we have the transition from the start of the church to the stability of the church. The start of the church was marked with miracles and excitement and exponential growth. In the coming weeks, we’ll see some difficulties start to show themselves. Trials and tests are coming. They always are, aren’t they? They were coming for the church in Jerusalem. And they’re coming here. I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish we could always continue in the smooth waters we’ve been sailing on for the past 2 ½ years. But we know that’s not going to be the case. God will allow tests and trials to come our way. He’ll do it for our good and for His glory. He’ll do it to strengthen us and keep us from becoming stagnant and complacent. He’ll do it to keep us on mission. And He’ll do it to strengthen our unity. Remember this—bonds that have been forged in the fire are unbreakable. So whether we’re talking in our church or in our homes—the bonds of our unity will be strengthened when they’re tested in the fires of trials and tests. Trials and tests were coming to the church at Jerusalem. Their unity was going to be tested. So before it was, Luke summed up the reasons for their unity. The first reason for their unity was that they embodied selflessness. Look at verse 32:

ACTS 4:32

As we mentioned a few weeks ago when we looked at Luke’s last transition passage back in 2:43-47, this wasn’t some new experiment in socialism. The first church wasn’t a commune. And their actions weren’t the government’s actions. These were the people of the church willingly and selflessly coming together to meet each other’s needs. Listen to me—unity requires selflessness. There’s no escaping it. If we want to continue experiencing unity in here and even see our unity grow—each of us who have willingly covenanted together as members of this church must embody selflessness. If you want to experience unity in your marriage—each of you must embody selflessness. If you want to be of one heart and soul, you must embody selflessness. So what does that look like? It looks like Jesus. In Philippians 2:2-8, the Apostle Paul says, “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” What does it look like to embody selflessness? It looks like service. It looks like giving. It looks like seeking other people’s preferences above your own. It looks like counting other people’s needs and wants and desires are more significant than your own. It’s seeing your money, and time, and gifts, and talents, and home, and privacy, and space, and preferences, and taste, and style as not your own. It means seeing all of those things as gifts from God to be shared with each other for the edification and upbuilding of this body… and to be shared with others to bring new life to our neighbors and the nations. Is there risk involved? Of course there is—because we’re dealing with sinful people in a sin-scarred world. Selflessness requires vulnerability. When you empty yourself, you open yourself up to the possibility of being taken advantage of. After all—look what happened to Jesus when He emptied Himself. We crucified Him. But the crucifixion led to His exaltation. Philippians 2:9-11 goes on to say, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus told us that the last will be first. Do you believe Him? Because that’s the only way we’ll ever have lasting unity in here. And that’s the only way you’ll have lasting unity in your home. True unity requires selflessness. It also requires grace. Look at verse 33:

ACTS 4:33

If you were here last week, you’ll notice that this is the same verse we looked at then. If you weren’t here, you can go back and listen to it on the website or on iTunes. But last week we zoomed in on the testimony of the resurrection. This morning I want us to zoom back out and see this verse in its context of unity. The first church was unified because they embodied selflessness. And they were unified because they had experienced grace. Do you know what that means? It means they were saved. The apostles could all testify to personally seeing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. But each of the members of the church could testify to personally experiencing the death and burial of their old nature and the new life they had in Christ. Can you do that? Can you testify to having new life in Christ? Have you been born again? Have you testified about your new life by demonstrating it in the waters of the baptistry? Have you been saved and baptized? If we’re going to have lasting unity in this church, our membership must be truly saved. We must share one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Our unity isn’t based on how friendly people are to you. Our unity isn’t based on common tastes or preferences. Our unity isn’t based on liking the same style of music or kind of preaching. Our unity isn’t based on a love for this facility or our activities or our events or our fellowship. The foundation of our unity is the grace that we share. As church members, each of us have acknowledged our sin. Each of us have confessed that there is nothing we could possibly do to pay for our sin. Each of us have understood that Jesus paid for our sin on the cross at Calvary. Each of us have understood that Jesus rose again on the third day to give us new life in Him. Each of us have understood that His Spirit lives in us to give us daily victory over sin and to grow us in Christ-likeness and seal us until the final day of redemption. Each member of this church has professed that we have turned from our sin and turned to Jesus in faith believing He is who He said He is and He did what He said He did. In other words—each member of this church has testified to the fact that you are saved. You testified to it in words and you testified to it in the waters of the baptistry. That means that each of us who call ourselves members of Parkview Baptist Church have experienced unfathomable, unexplainable, completely undeserved grace. And because we’ve experienced that kind of grace, we can extend that kind of grace. Has someone hurt you? Have they broken your trust? Have they disappointed you? Have they done something you don’t like? Guess what—I’m sure you’ve done those things too—and worse. I know I have. And Jesus extended grace to you and to me. How can we do any less? True unity at home requires grace. True unity in the church requires grace. As you have experienced grace, so you must show grace. The first church was unified because of the selflessness they embodied and the grace they experienced. They were also unified because of the trust they extended. Look at verses 34-35:

ACTS 4:34-35

There are a couple of things that strike me about what was happening here. First was the selflessness of the people in the church. Make no mistake about it, there were people in that church who were in real need. Many times professing Jesus in that culture meant that you’d lose your job. You might lose your home. You might lose your family. So some folks in the church were really hurting. These weren’t people who wouldn’t work. These were people who couldn’t work and didn’t have any family to take care of them. And there weren’t any government programs or community food banks to fall back on. The only place they had to turn was the best place they could have turned—the church. And we can see how beautifully and selflessly the church came together to help each other. Like I said—this wasn’t socialism or communism. This was the church coming together to do whatever it took to meet each other’s needs. That’s the first thing that strikes me about what was happening there. But I think the second thing is what amazes me even more. I’m amazed at how much trust they showed in their leadership. True unity in the church requires that kind of trust. Look at what happened here. The selfless givers were selling stuff and doing all they could to raise money and support to help out those in need in the church. But what did they do with all the proceeds? Did they designate their money only to the people and programs they liked? Did they try and leverage their giving to get the things done that they wanted? Did they haggle and bicker over how each penny was spent? No! What does verse 35 say they did? They laid the proceeds at the apostles’ feed and trusted them to distribute it. That’s real trust, isn’t it? Now listen to me—we do a really good job of having complete transparency and accountability of our finances at this church. I don’t see who gives what and I don’t touch the money unless I get a check for an expense that’s been approved by the church through the regular budgeting process. We have processes and checks and balances and everything is completely transparent. As long as I’m pastor here, that’ll never change. But the fact remains—true unity requires trust. We must trust each other. And we must trust our leadership. Let me put it like this—we must trust each other to do the work of the ministry. That means sometimes we need to extend trust where it hasn’t been earned yet. Show trust by bringing others along in the jobs you’ve been doing for a while. Trust them enough to recruit them and train them and bring them along. We must trust each other to do the work of the ministry. And y’all need to trust me to equip you for the work of the ministry. This sounds weird, but maybe you need to lay your talents and gifts and abilities at our feet so we can distribute it well. In other words, don’t wait to be asked or begged. If we’re going to experience true unity, you’re going to need to step up and selflessly serve wherever you’re needed.

Like I said, I thank God for the unity He’s giving us. He’s been gracious in sheltering us from tests and trials these past few years. But He’s going to grow us. And in order to grow us, He’s going to allow tests and trials. We need to decide now if we’re going to be unified through them. If we are, then we’ll do it by embodying selflessness. We’ll show grace because of the grace we’ve experienced. And we’ll extend trust to each other and to our leadership.

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