United or Divided

 

What do you think Godís ideal plan is for us? Is it to be united or divided? Well, the answer to this question can be found in many places. One example is found in.

 

Psalm 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!

 

God has always wanted his people to be united and to be of the same mind when it comes to worshiping him. Just as Paul states in,

 

Philippians 1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

 

You see God wants ever single Christian to be united in the faith of the gospel. God has always been very serious when it comes to obeying his commands and not straying from the truth. For example in the OT notice what he tells Joshua.

 

Joshua 1:6 "Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.7 "Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.8 "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

God didnít want the children of Israel inventing their own commands and he didnít want them to follow only part of his word. As we see from our text we are not to turn to the right or to the left, instead we are to simply keep his commandments. We are told exactly how we are to accomplish this goal. Notice he says that we are to meditate upon on his commands day and night. This is just plain ole common sense. The more we think about and study Godís word, the easier it will be for you and I to know what is we are suppose to do. It will keep you from turning to right or to the left. Now this same principle is taught in the NT.

 

In fact Paul was continually emphasizing the need to hold fast to sound doctrine.

 

2 Timothy 1:13Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

 

Then in chapter 2 Paul tells Timothy.

 

2 Timothy 2:1You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

 

Paul wanted to make sure that only the truth would be taught and that it would be passed down through the generations. I believe there is a great need for people today to understand that we must live our lives and worship God according to his truth. He set forth a pattern for us in the NT that we are follow and the first century Christian understood the necessity of following God authority even if it meant death. For example, when Peter and John were arrested for speaking in the name of Christ the opposing Jews tried to make them be quite by threatening them but notice their response.

 

Acts 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.20 "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."

 

This is what you call being dedicated to the truth no matter what the cost. There have been many Christians who have lost there life because they were willing to die for the truth and so surely we can see that there is a great need for us to handle the word of God with care and do our best to worship God in spirit and in truth. Again Paul emphasizes the need for us as Christians not to turn to the left or to the right from Godís word in,

 

Galatians 1:6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

In these verses we see that Paul really wants to drive his point home because he repeat himself so that his listener will understand that this is an important statement. These Christians had started moving away from unity with God and each other and started heading toward division because they were getting farther and farther away from Godís Word. Paul wants them to understand that the only truth that there is, is what came by God through these inspired men and that if anyone else comes along teaching a new truth that is adding or taking away from Godís word then they shouldnít listen to them and those speaking this falsehood would be accursed and that the same thing he wants us to understand today. Paul also emphasizes that we are not here to please mankind instead we are here to please God by obeying his Word. This is why Paul tells us not to think beyond that which is written in 1Cor. 4:6.

 

You see the only way that we can have the kind of unity that God wants us to have is by being unified according to his perfect will. We cannot comprise Godís Word so that we can hold hands with those who want to add or take away from Godís Word. If we unite ourselves with those who are not worshiping God in spirit in truth, then we are uniting ourselves in error and God will not be pleased.

We need to realize that humans have always had a problem with obeying Godís word and have continually done things there own way from the time of Adam until this very day. Lets look at a just a few examples. We might as well start with Adam and Eve. We all know the story. God only had one restriction for them. All they had to do was to avoid eating from the tree of knowledge, but could they love God enough to respect his authority. No, they could not and they both ate of this forbidden tree. From this point on we read over and over again how mankinds choose to break their unity with God by doing things there own way.

 

We really see this disobedience occur continuously in the book of Judges. From our recent lessons in the OT on Sunday nights we have learned how King Saul started out a humble servant of the Lord and then how he changed and began to do things his way instead of Godís way and because of his actions the spirit of God left him. There are many more examples from the OT on how the children of Israel divided themselves from each other and from God by trying to worship and do things in there own way and we certainly know that this was not pleasing to God.

 

As we move into the NT time we know that there were many division among the Jews as we talked about these groups in detail in our Wednesday night Bible class. Just to name a few there were Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes and Herodians all having there different way of thinking. To use a modern day term, many of these denominations had made up there own man made traditions and they tried to make others adhere to them. But on many occasion Jesus would correct these different groups on what that the Law of Moses actually said. For example notice the incident in,

 

Matthew 15:1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying,2 "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread."3 He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?4 "For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.'5 "But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" -- ††6 'then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.7 "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "

 

Here we see Jesus dealing with these 2 different religious groups who are trying to force their man made doctrines know as the traditions of the elders. These were oral traditions that were passed down from generation to generation and Jesus wants them to understand that man made traditions are not binding, however the Word of God is and this is why we see Jesus telling them about written law of honoring there mother and there father. He was showing them how the traditions of men had made to the point to where they allowed their tradition to override the word of God. Jesus tells the very plainly that when people start worshiping God by man made traditions they are worshiping God in vain.

 

This is exactly what many have done today in the religious world. There are thousands of denominations today who have chosen to divide themselves based upon their way of doing things. Many of them have added or taking away from Godís Word and they do many things to try and please themselves and others instead of pleasing God. If you donít believe me just do a little a digging. Pick up your phone and call some of these denominations in our area and ask them how they conduct their worship service and you will find out that there are many things that they do that are not authorized in Godís word.

 

We live in society where we have all kind of choices we can make. We go eat any where we want, we choose what kind of car we wantand the list goes on and on. Since we have this kind of mentality in our society we have made this way of thinking apply to worshiping God. All you have to do to see this is by an newspaper and you will see ads that say worship at a church of your choice. You see there are many people today that are not looking for the truth instead they are looking for a place that they can come together and socialize and be entertained. All you have to do is look as some of these Mega churches that have thousands of people attending them and you will see that they will have big bands and famous signers coming and performing. You will see them encouraging the people to get up and shout and dance where they are standing. I had man tell me one time that he was shopping for churches and then preceded to tell me the crazy the better he like them. You see, he wanting to be entertained and wasnít really all that concerned about what God wants.

 

Friends people like this man who are going to church to be entertained are doing so for themselves and have truly missed the whole purpose of coming together. When we come together to form the body of Christ we do not come to entertain ourselves we come to worship God and to be pleasing to him. Those who do otherwise are not in unity with God and if they are not in unity with God then we cannot be in unity with them. This is why we should not be in full open fellowship with those who call themselves a denomination or with a religious group that doesnít follow the NT pattern. Now I am not saying that we shouldnít talk to them or try to reach them and show them what the Bible teaches. I am saying that we shouldnít be sharing pulpits with them at our workshops, lectureships or swapping pulpits with on the Lords day. Does it make since for eldership who is suppose to be watching out for its flock and making sure that is feed the truth to allow a false teacher to speak to flock? Even if they donít speak a single word about their man made belief just there mere presence and knowing who they are and what they represent can influence the flock making some to start thinking that what they stand for is ok. So we should be very careful of who we allow to preach to our people and who join ourselves with in open fellowship.

 

I have also found it interesting how many of the denominations that we have today donít even call themselves by a name that brings glory to God. Instead they name themselves after a man or act such as baptism. This shows us just how divided denominations are. For instance when someone asks person what is your faith. Some will say, Iím a Methodist, Iím a Mormon, Iím a Baptist or I am a Lutheran. These kind of responses have division written all over them. You see whenever are united with God according to his word, when someone ask us what are faith is our response should simply be I am Christian, nothing more or nothing less and when it comes to giving a designation for a church it should be one that gives God glory after all according to Acts 20:7 Jesus purchased the church with own blood. The church belongs to him.

 

There are several names given in the NT for designating a church. There is the church of ††Christ, the church of God, assembly of God, Church of the first born. As you can see all of these names would be glory to God.

 

Now some might say Cougan donít you know that may be offending those who are in the denominations and since we live in society were we are to be politically correct donít you think its unwise to speak on such matters? Well, I promise that I am not trying to offend anyone I am just trying my best to preach the truth and preaching the truth sometimes involves pointing out that denominations are a division and this goes against God commands of being united in the faith.

 

Did you know that Jesus had to deal with a similar question from his disciples? I want you notice the question they asked him right after he had told those scribes and Pharisees that were worshiping God in vain.

 

Matthew 15:12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?"13 But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.14 "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."

 

You see Jesus didnít not apologize for teaching the truth nor did he try to talk around the truth because he understood better than anyone, that Gods way is the only way and that mans way is like a blind man leading the blind who will end up in the ditch. We donít do our friends and loved ones in denominations any favors by being politically correct or by walking on eggshells when it comes to Godís truth because ignoring the problem isnít gong to change Godís truth. We are told to be shining lights and to be ready to teach others about Godís truth and that is what we must learn to do. We may be the only person that has a chance of planting a seed of truth with our friends or loved ones. We need to realize that if we never throw the seed out there it will never have a chance to grow. So donít ever be afraid of speaking the truth.

 

Now the finally point I want to make about being united or divided is the fact that religious division is explicitly forbidden by the Word of God. In Paulís letter to Corinthians he was dealing with the problems of division. Notice what he says in,

 

1 Corinthians 1:10:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.12 Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ."13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

 

Paul was a man who expressed his concern for the churches over and over again. In fact we learn from Acts 20 that he even shed tears over his concerns for the church at Ephesus that they remain true to God. Here in our immediate text we see that the Corinthians had started calling themselves after mere men. This is why we see Paul pleading with all his being that they not be divided or call themselves after men because there was only one man that died for them and that man was Jesus. It is not possible to have spiritual unity without him and so Paul forbids division in these scriptures. If a person cannot see the clarity of Paul statement here on forbidding denominations, it only because they donít want to see it.

 

When allow ourselves to be divided in different religious groups, worshiping in different ways, and calling ourselves by different names all we are doing is causing confusion and we all know that God is not author of confusion. So, it is imperative as Christians today that we donít accept denomationalism because God doesnít want his people to be divided. If you donít get anything else out of this lesson I want you to understand this one point from our lesson. The only way that we can truly be united with God and with each other is by allowing Godís word and his word only to be our guide. If we add or take away from his authority we will not be in unity with him. This also means that we should not be in open fellowship spiritually with those who choose to divide themselves from Godís pattern of worship. Again, so I am not misunderstood I am not talking about ceasing from reaching out to them but we should not be sharing our pulpits with them or doing things that imply that we agree with additions or subtractions from Godís Word.

 

From this lesson we have seen with clarity that God wants his people to be united and not divided. I want to close this lesson out by reading part of Jesus prayer to the father for us to be united.

 

John 17:14 "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.15 "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.16 "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.17 "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.18 "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.19 "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.20 " I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;21 "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.22 "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:23 "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.24 "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.25 "O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.26 "And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."