March 8, 2016

Deepening Comm-unity

Last night in our small group we talked about community as believers in the Body of Christ. I did not notice until this morning that unity is part of that word, even though unity was a major point of our discussion. We began by reading what God says about unity and its source . . .

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 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 . . .  (Philippians 2:1–5)

Unity in the church is not about being of the same nationality, skin color, gender, employment, location, interests and preferences, or anything else but having Jesus Christ in our lives and thinking with His mind and heart, not our own. Even though those other things can bring us together (or divide us), unity comes when we drop our own ambitions and pride, putting the needs and interests of others before our own. This is what Jesus did, and if I belong to Him, then my life should reflect that.

Paul’s life did just that. He is clear about the reason for it:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

We talked about the need to consider ourselves dead with Christ and alive with Christ, but also considered the importance of transparency. Chambers says that the first thing we must relinquish is all pretence. Jesus isn’t looking for our goodness, not even our honesty. He wants me to present to Him my sin so He can take that away and give something in exchange. It could be called the “great exchange” because it is totally amazing . . .

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

This great exchange begins the process of a sinner becoming like Jesus. Without it, we have no righteousness. But as soon as salvation by grace through faith happens, Christians are given the righteousness of Jesus Christ in exchange for our sin. When I was reborn and made righteous in Christ, I was glad to let Him take my sin. Yet the process of relinquishing continues. It is important in my growth into His likeness.

This giving up of sin is foundational to Christian unity. It means that I must yield my rights to myself, to all that I possess, my loves, desires, all of who I am, what I do, to the One who is Lord of my life.

Chambers also goes deeper. He says that when I really see myself as the Lord sees me, I am shocked by my propensity to drift back into the sins of my old nature (that is supposed to be crucified with Him). Yet even worse is seeing the horrendous pride in my heart that resists Jesus and the truth that He lays before me. When I see me as He sees me, I feel despairing shame and deep conviction. Herein is the war. Will I yield to Him in this . . . or in that? Or will I resist what He requires of me?

What does this have to do with unity? Everything! If a believer in the Body of Christ resists what God requires, then that person is at odds with Christ, but also at odds with others — whether they are yielded or also resisting the Lord.

This is not a static issue either. Sometimes it is others who are out of sorts with Jesus, and sometimes it is me. Either way, it messes with our oneness.

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