â€œI canâ€™t stand Pat Robertson.â€ â€œKenneth Copeland makes me ill.â€ â€œI just love Joyce Meyer.â€ â€œJoel Osteen and Rick Warren are false prophets.â€ â€œJohn McArthur is legalistic and full of himself.â€ â€œCreflo Dollar is only after the dollar.â€ â€œT.D. Jakes is the man!â€ And so onâ€¦
Do you see a pattern here? The Body of Christ is no different now than it was 2,000 years ago when the Apostle Paul penned the following words:
â€œBut I urge and entreat you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in perfect harmony and full agreement in what you say, and that there be no dissensions or factions or divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your common understanding and in your opinions and judgments. For it has been made clear to me, my brethren, by those of Chloeâ€™s household, that there are contentions and wrangling and factions among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you [either] says, â€˜I belong to Pau.â€™, or â€˜I belong to Apollosâ€™, or â€˜I belong to Cephas (Peter)â€™, or â€˜I belong to Christâ€™. Is Christ (the Messiah) divided into parts? Was Paul crucified on behalf of you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?â€ (1 Corinthians 1:10-13 AMP emphasis added).
We all have our favorites, donâ€™t we? One Christian is sold on what one teacher says, and another Christian is decidedly in favor of another teacher. As a good friend of mine says about TV preachers, â€œIf you want a different Jesus, wait 30 minutes.â€
Here is the question that arises: How is the Church of Jesus Christ ever going to get together if we constantly have factions among us, as in the church at Corinth referred to above? Is this fullness of the stature of Christ? Pu-leeze! The maturity level of any one of us, including the churches we attend, can be assessed by how much division we experience. Note Paulâ€™s reference again:
â€œFor you are still [unspiritual, having the nature] of the flesh [under the control of ordinary impulses]. For as long as [there are] envying and jealousy and wrangling and factions among you, are you not unspiritual and of the flesh, behaving yourselves after a human standard and like mere (unchanged) men? For when one says, â€˜I belong to Paulâ€™, and another, â€˜I belong to Apollosâ€™, are you not [proving yourselves] ordinary (unchanged) men? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Ministering servants [not heads of parties] through whom you believed, even as the Lord appointed to each his taskâ€ (1 Corinthians. 3:3-5 AMP emphasis added).
I donâ€™t want to go on record here as advocating that we accept everything we hear from any of the preachers on TV or radio â€“ or from the pulpit we stare at each Sunday. But what do we gain by taking sides with anyone? Or criticizing what we find unattractive about any of those who preach the gospel to us (Iâ€™m in line to repent for my tongue. Want to join me?)? The question we have to ask ourselves is unless the teacher is preaching outright heresy, perhaps we should pray before speaking negatively about them?
Of course we need great discernment and wisdom about to whom we should listen. One thing is certain: If we are true to the Scripture, we will â€œâ€¦worship [God] in spirit and in truthâ€ (John 4:24 KJV). Our tastes and preferences will differ, but the balance between the Word and Spirit is a must! Some parts of the Body deemphasize the work of the Holy Spirit â€“ His gifts, His power â€“ while the others tend to overdo their spiritual inclinations to the extent that the Word of God becomes less important than someoneâ€™s opinion or feelings. Jesus rightly divided this when He said:
â€œYou have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think youâ€™ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you arenâ€™t willing to receive from me the life you say you wantâ€ (John 5:39-40 MSG).
We need to get a great hold on the Word, too!
â€œFor the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heartâ€ (Hebrews 4:12 KJV).
Jesus admonished His disciples that those who preach the gospel should be left alone:
â€œâ€˜Teacher,â€™ said John, â€˜we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of usâ€™. â€˜Do not stop himâ€™, Jesus said. â€˜For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their rewardâ€™â€ (Matthew. 9:38-41 NIV emphasis added).
Paul echoed Jesusâ€™ words:
â€œTo be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, others out of good will. These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimedâ€ (Phil. 1:15-18 HCSB).
Unity brings power!
The truth is there is no sense of community among most churches. We operate separately from one another for the most part while hanging on to our precious independent way of living. Is it any wonder we have so little power? The universal church of Jesus Christ is made up of 43,000 denominations, each clinging to its particular code of belief. Add 35,500 nondenominational churches to that mix, each with its own code of belief as well. If we ever got together in one movement, weâ€™d change the world in a hurry!
Itâ€™s rather absurd that the laws of the land are continually changing to infringe upon Christian beliefs. Nevertheless, they are. For example, 1.7 percent of the population, which identifies itself as homosexual, changed the laws for everyone. Money and influence speak very loudly! But the Church, those who really know Jesus Christ as Lord, cannot come together as ONE to combat the darkness that is upon us?
Big problem: the Kingdom vs. the Church
One of the saddest considerations is how many people in the Body of Christ exalt their church above the Kingdom of God! Talking church, not Jesus, to people is one of the most self-centered things we can do. Jesus said to pray that the Kingdom would come. Later? No, now. Further, He said the Kingdom is in us! The message from His lips was to â€œ…seek first the kingdom of God…â€ (Matthew 6:33 paraphrased). How clear can this be? The church is wonderful in most cases, but putting church ideology above the Word of God and Spirit-led living wonâ€™t change this society. You donâ€™t agree? Take a look around at the mess weâ€™re in.
What brings unity?
First, Jesus prayed for it.
â€œMy prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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 meâ€ (John 17:20-21 NIV).
Historically, when sin ruled over society, revival brought change. Today, we are yet to see any kind of modern day revival change society at large. As a matter of fact, things are getting worse and worse as society seems bent on self-destruction through drugs, unfaithfulness and rebellion against and defiance of the Word of God. With few exceptions, we are fulfilling the Scripture that speaks loudly in our day:
â€œWoe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and prudent and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are mighty heroes at drinking wine and men of strength in mixing alcoholic drinks! Who justify and acquit the guilty for a bribe, but take away the rights of the innocent and righteous from them! Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as the dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root shall be like rottenness and their blossom shall go up like fine dustâ€”because they have rejected and cast away the law and the teaching of the Lord of hosts and have not believed but have treated scornfully and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israelâ€ (Isaiah 5:20-24 AMP emphasis added).
The first century church experienced persecution that brought them together. To honor the Lord, they relished the idea of experiencing persecution for His glory. Many either died or cruelly suffered at the hands of their tormentors, yet the church came out on top, and 2,000 years later we are here! Can the American church, as we know it, survive the secularization of society and its blatant sinfulness and arrogance? Well, not the church as we know it, but there is always a remnant of believers who will. The United States isnâ€™t the kingdom of God! It has been a bastion for the Gospel; however, in recent years weâ€™ve found ourselves on the timid side, losing ground under the law and in the courts, and we have seen our Lord Jesus openly disregarded in the media while â€œother godsâ€ are accepted as an â€œalternativeâ€. The last time the church rallied was 9/11. People flooded into churches nationwide, patriotism flourished, and praying touched heaven. Will it take another 9/11, or worse, to awaken whatâ€™s left of godliness in America? Nothing else seems to have the spiritual megaphone to reach us.
The Bible is infinitely clear about unity. Psalm 133 shows how it works. When the Body comes together as it should, the anointing shows from the Head, Jesus (see Colossians 1:18) and pours down upon the Body in blessing, which is COMMANDED by the Lord:
â€œBehold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment poured on the head, that ran down on the beard, even the beard of Aaron [the first high priest], that came down upon the collar and skirts of his garments [consecrating the whole body]. It is like the dew of [lofty] Mount Hermon and the dew that comes on the hills of Zion; for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, even life forevermore [upon the high and the lowly]â€ (Psalm 13 AMP).
Joseph Beckham is the author of Deeper Water for Thirsty Souls http://amzn.com/1493781286