Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast : Ep 45
Jesus prayed in John 17: 23 that believers in Jesus would be “perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent Me.” My question for this podcast is How are we doing at living in unity with fellow believers, and what can we do about it?
This is Lee Whitman with Restoring the Foundations.
Today’s verse is Genesis 11:6, “And the Lord said, ‘Behold they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they have started to do, and now nothing which they plan to do will be impossible for them.”
Unity is a very powerful thing, especially when the body of Christ walks in unity with one another. But as we look at the condition of the church of Jesus Christ today, we are not walking in unity with one another. Today’s verse is taken from the story of the tower of Babel. Verses 6-7 describe what is possible when people are in complete unity. The verse says “nothing which they plan to do will be impossible for them.”
I am taking much of this podcast from a message given by Mark Rampulla pastor of Southview Church in Spring Hill, Tennessee. As you will see, the point of this message is not about the division of languages at the tower of Babel, but at the potential of what can happen if believers can walk in unity. We will also look at some of the conditions that keep us from walking in unity. I will say right up front that this was a very challenging message on the one hand, but it also presented much hope at what is possible when we can come together. I am writing this podcast on the National Day of Prayer when believers from every denomination take time out to pray for our nation. This day is as close as we come to being in unity before we separate and go back to our own “towers”.
I was struck with verse 6 that said that when a people group can come together and speak the same language and work together, then nothing will be impossible for them. Because this power of their unity was being motivated by their pride, God had to frustrate their efforts by confusing their language. I don’t want to focus on that, but to focus on the potential of what would be possible if we, the Church of Jesus Christ could come together in unity and speak the same language. I am not even talking about speaking the same physical language, but more about us being in unity speaking the same heart and spirit language.
I believe the enemy knows the incredible power of the church coming together in unity and that is why he has attacked our unity at every level. He has been very effective at getting us, the church, to divide ourselves over any number of issues that in the light of eternity, mean very little. I know I will get some push back on some of what I am saying, but we have separated ourselves from our brothers in Christ over some very minor and non-essential issues. What version of the bible you use, do you raise hands in worship or not, do you sing hymns or only worship songs, gifts of the spirit or not, and I even heard of a church that split over the color of the carpet. One of the separations that I know breaks the heart of God is division over race.
The reality is we are very divided. Here in the Nashville area there are over 1000 churches. If you are unhappy at one church, find another, or start your own. How can we the church walk in unity when there are all of these things dividing us. Mark Rampulla has some wonderful suggestions for how we can be united in the midst of all our separation.
The first hurdle to cross toward unity is the question of Notoriety vs. Namelessness. Looking at the story of the Tower of Babel, it was pride that built the tower, and it was their pride that caused God to have to stop the tower from being finished. The reason for building the tower was pride, “let us make a name for ourselves.” One thing that hinders unity is people or churches who have to have their name recognized. In 2018 Michael W. Smith rented the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville (the home of the Nashville Predators hockey team) and held a worship and prayer night called Surrounded. 18,000 people from all over the city of Nashville filled this hockey arena with worship of Jesus. Michael had invited several well known pastors and leaders from the city to lead different prayer times. The thing I loved about how that was handled was that not one of the pastors was introduced by name. These nameless people simply led in prayer and sat down. It was a night about Jesus and the city of Nashville came together in unity around Him.
God is very fond of using nameless people. There are so many stories in the Bible where a nameless person was used by God. For unity to happen people and churches must be willing to do what God is asking them to do without the need for recognition. We gathered last night for a national day of prayer event in a public park in Mt. Juliet Tennessee. It was wonderful because everyone who led out in prayer talked to The Church of Wilson County. We were from many different local congregations, but last night we were gathered as one body, The Body of Christ. It was marvelous.
The next hurdle to unity is the question of Our Works vs. His Power. I personally believe that RTF is the best healing and freedom ministry in the world. Yet RTF has been a part of a group of healing ministries that are all focused on bringing healing to the body of Christ. It is called Transformation Alliance. You would recognize the names of the different ministries involved if I told you. We come together to support one another in the mission of bringing healing and freedom to the church of Jesus Christ. Do we all agree on the methods used to bring that healing? No. But we agree to put our differences of style and methods aside because each ministry wants to further the Kingdom of God by healing His bride. We know that on a worldly level we are in competition with each other, but on a Kingdom level we are all trying to bring Heaven to Earth to heal the wounded body of Christ.
Churches often have a hard time coming together in unity because we are looking at things through a competitive lens. We believe that for us to succeed we need to promote our church or ministry. We are being limited by our power and ability to accomplish things. When we can let go of promoting “our thing” and instead promote the Kingdom of God, we release God’s power to do through us what we could not do on our own. When we promote the Kingdom of God the water level rises and all ships on the water rise at the same time.
Another hurdle is wanting Uniformity vs. Unity. This is a huge problem for us. We wrongly believe that for us to walk in unity with others, they need to believe exactly the same way we believe. In the process, we get hung up on things that in the light of eternity really don’t matter. Now I know that I may get in trouble with some here as I talk about this issue. I am ok with that because this is an important issue.
Can we partner with people who may not agree with everything we believe? Can we be in unity with people who worship differently than we do, or pray differently, or believe differently about the gifts of the spirit? The answer according to Mark Rampulla is Yes! By unifying on four things:
1. Unify on the Gospel. Unify with people over Jesus. We can unify with those who believe that Jesus is the son of God, that He died for our sins and rose again from the dead, and salvation comes by receiving Him as your Savior. This is essential for all believers. In order to unify around the Gospel, we will need to let go of some of the other beliefs we have that only come after someone enters into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
2. Unify on a Purpose. We can unify with those who are spreading the Gospel of Jesus to the world. We need to be careful here because we often experience division with others because of their method of spreading the Gospel. Some do it through preaching, some through serving. As long as the Gospel of Jesus is going forth in integrity to the Bible, does it really matter how it is being done?
3. Unify against a common enemy. We can team up with believers of all styles because we all have a common enemy. People are not the enemy. Government is not the enemy. Satan and his kingdom is the enemy. This is another place where caution needs to be expressed, because we come against the enemy with very different methods. Unity says to unify on the fact that we have the same enemy even though we might have different styles of fighting the enemy.
4. Unify with a heavenly Kingdom mandate instead of a political agenda. When we connect the gospel to a political agenda, we have cheapened the gospel. Jesus did not die on the cross for a political agenda. Division comes when we try to make the gospel line up with our political party. God is not a republican or a democrat. He is not black or white or Asian or Latin. He is not baptist, pentecostal, CMA, Assembly of God, or Missionary Baptist. God’s goal is to bring the Kingdom of God to earth and we can unify with others over that mandate.
The fourth hurdle to unity is wanting Our Plan vs. His Command. We have made Jesus commands into options. We are willing to follow His commands when they match up with our plans or desires. We are commanded to love one another yet Sunday morning is the most divided day of the week. We work with those who are not like us every day yet when it comes to church we only want to associate with people like us. Heaven is going to be filled with people from every tribe and nation. If you are accustomed to going to church with only people of your race, get ready because heaven will not be like that. There are going to be people of all races living together in complete harmony. What if we started that harmony while we are still on this side of heaven? Then we will be living out the verse in John 13:34-35, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples; if you have love for one another.”
We took an RTF Tour in Israel in April. The tour was wonderful but what I enjoyed even more were the people. It was a wonderfully diverse group. There were people from all over the United States, from different church backgrounds. The group was mixed racially as well. You know what, it was a slice of heaven. We walked for ten days in complete unity through some difficult situations. We were able to walk in unity because we lived out Pastor Rampulla’s message.
Psalms 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, For brothers to live together in unity!” Then vs 3, “For the Lord commanded the blessing, life forever.”
I am challenged by this message and I want to challenge you also. God is calling us, The Church, to walk in unity so that nothing we ask will be impossible for us.