In this message we learn why unity is powerful.
Alright. Hey everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. I am so glad you’re here hanging out with us this weekend. We want to give a big welcome to our Denton campus and everybody who is watching online. We’ll tell them we’re glad that you’re here. And we are glad that everyone is here. And I don’t know if you know this or not, but this year is flying by. Like, do you realize we’re already one month away from Easter? One month away. And so here’s what I want to say about Easter. Easter is one of those times of the year where people are open and receptive to the gospel of Jesus. And so what I want to encourage you is to start thinking about who are you going to invite to our Easter services? We’re going to have great Easter services at both campuses. We’re going to plenty of space for lots of people. So start praying. Start inviting a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, someone in your city. And I’m believing that a whole lot of people are going to meet Jesus for the first time in their lives this Easter. We’ve got a great service plan for you. And then after Easter you’re not going to want to miss a single weekend from Easter to Mother’s Day, because Easter is going to be amazing, Mother’s Day is going to be amazing, and in between we’re going to do our series Missional Move. And I’m going to tell you what’s next for Valley Creek Church.
So the entire month of April we’re going to talk about our vision, what God has in store for us, where He is inviting us to go next, what it’s going to look like. I know a lot of you want to know [Laughs], and that’s why you’re going to be here every week from Easter to Mother’s Day and you’re going to hear all about it. I can’t wait. Alright. If you’ve got a Bible, Psalm 133. Psalm 133, right there in the middle of your Bible, and we’re in a series called Alignment. And we’ve been talking about the power and protection of unity. And we started the first week and our big idea was this. We said reconciliation is spiritual warfare. That’s a recap or reminder for you. We said that Satan has one play and his play is to divide. He wants to divide your marriage, your family, your friends, your relationships, your teams, your work, and Jesus’ church.
And so he comes at us to divide us, to separate us, to spread us apart, and he brings offenses and hurts and wounds and all kinds of different things. And if that is his attack, then when we reconcile with one another, that is spiritual warfare and we walk in victory over him. When we refuse to be offended and we choose to forgive and we choose to work through the issues, we walk in spiritual victory. That is spiritual warfare. And then last week we talked about John 17 and we said that Jesus’ final prayer was, “Father, I pray that they may be one.” Jesus’ last prayer was for us, that we would be unified together. And we have the authority, we are empowered to answer Jesus’ prayer. And we said that Jesus’ physical body was torn, so that his spiritual body could be healed, united and brought back together. And I realized this has been a little bit of an interesting series. And really I didn’t want to do this series, to be honest with you right out of the gate. I had about two or three other series that I thought we were going to do right here, but the Lord made it really clear that this is what He wanted us to talk about. And the tidal and kind of the direction for the whole thing came out of this diagram that I’ve used for years, and it’s been really helpful to me and maybe it will be helpful to you. If you think about the typical church for a moment, most churches kind of function like this. Everybody is going in their own direction, doing their own thing, going kind of here and there and everywhere. And the reality is that whoever is the loudest, whoever has the biggest platform, whoever maybe has the budget, whoever is the most demanding call pull the entire church or organization in any direction and at any point in time. Maybe you’ve been in a church like that and you know what I’m talking about. Things seem to change and everyone is against each other and we’re all fighting for programs and, you know, bulletin space and these different kinds of things. It’s just feels like chaos. And what I would define that as it’s an incredibly ineffective.
Like, you’re unable to really do anything because everyone is kind of resisting. You’re bouncing into each other so on and so forth. Well, for the last five years at Valley Creek Church what we have been doing is we’ve been working on alignment. Getting everyone to go in the same direction together. If we can all move forward towards one vision with guardrails that protect us and keep us safe, we’d become incredibly unified. And if you’ve been here with us for the last five years or however long you’ve been here, you’ve learned that we haven’t changed from week to week or month to month. We’ve just gotten deeper and deeper and deeper. We’ve become even more consistent with what we believe. We’ve gone even faster in the direction that we were going. It’s like a channel or a river, and the more we go the more it gets rooted in. And I would call this an unstoppable force. Once you all start going together in the same direction you literally become an unstoppable force, so much so that if someone tries to go upstream or upriver, they literally get bowled over and get pulled into the flow, and they keep going. Like, remember, I grew up on the Niagara River that goes over Niagara Falls. You cannot go upstream of the Niagara River. We all agree with that? It is impossible. Well, that’s part of the beauty and the power of unity. You get everybody going in the same direction and it almost becomes impossible to divide and go after your own thing. Why? Because we all have this one vision that we’re pursuing. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Another translation says, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” In other words, vision is a revelation from God that constrains you. Vision is a revelation that God has given you that constrains you. When you know where you’re going, all of a sudden you have guardrails that keep you safe. You don’t drift to the left or to the right because you know exactly where we’re going. And then you become an unstoppable force. Now, that makes sense to us when we think about it in the church context, but I want you to think about this for a moment. Think about this in your relationships.
How often have the relationships in your life felt like this? I mean, this is when we go into each other and we have those collision moments. Boom! And a relationship implodes because we’ve just smashed into each other. Or how many times do you feel like your ship is passing in the night, disconnected. One is going one way, one is going the other way. We want to be connected. We want to be close, but we’re not. We’re just kind of passing in the night. Or sometimes you feel like it’s tug of war, like one person is pulling one way and the other person is pulling the exact opposite way, maybe in your marriage or in your work teams or in your family. And it feels like this constant tension. It’s exhausting and it’s incredibly ineffective. What would define this is Judges 17:6. It says, “In those days, there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” When there is no king, everyone will do what is right in their own eyes. When Jesus is not king, everyone will go in their own direction and do their own thing. And it becomes painful and ineffective. But when Jesus is a king and there is a king, we don’t do what’s right in our eyes. We do what’s right in his eyes. We have a vision that constrains us. And because we’re people of the kingdom, the four things that constrain us to move forward together are these four big words — honor, submission, forgiveness, and love. These are the four things in the kingdom of God that will constrain you. This is the only way you will ever be able to be unified with anyone in your life. It’s these four guardrails, these values, these pieces of culture, because they’re the things that will keep you going in the same direction, because time to time you’re going to bump into each other. Like for example, honor. If you want to be unified, you have to have honor. And what a lot of will say is, “Well, I don’t want to honor that person because they don’t deserve honor.” Okay, time out. You don’t honor someone because they deserve it. You honor someone because you are honorable.
You don’t honor someone because they deserve it. Who cares about that? That’s not the point. The point is you are honorable. You are a person of honor because you’re a person of the kingdom. Jesus didn’t honor Pilate because Pilate deserved honor. Jesus honored Pilate because Jesus was honorable. So this is the kingdom, so I will honor you. Okay? Honor, then submission. We talked about it last week. Sub-mission, means to come under someone else’s mission and lift them up, see them succeed. That’s how you find unity. Then forgiveness. You need forgiveness to keep going in the same direction [Laughs], because you know these will bump into each other from time to time. And you’re going to have to work through that forgiveness. And what a lot of us say is we say things like this. “I’m really good at forgiving. Yeah, yeah. Like, I’m done. I forgave that person. I moved on.” But we don’t really biblically forgive. Remember, biblical forgiveness is when you cancel the debt and credit the account. Jesus didn’t just forgive your sin. He gave you a full share of his inheritance. He canceled your debt and he credited your account. Biblical forgiveness is when you cancel the offense, but you also bless and honor and encourage them. You credit their account in some way. And then love. Love chooses to meet the highest need of the other person. And if you’re going to be unified in any way, shape and form, these are the four guardrails that will keep you going in the same direction. Because the opposite of those create this. And the opposite of those are preferences. They are selfishness. They are offenses. And they are fear. And when you take those four things and you put them in this context and they start bouncing into each other, that’s what ends up getting created. And chaos emerges, which is incredibly ineffective, versus these four things which constrain us and help us become an unstoppable force. Are you with me on that?
So here’s the question I want to ask you. In your family, friends, teams, work and this church, do you relationships look more like this or this? In those areas in your life, are they more like this or like this? Does your marriage have a vision and guardrails or you’re just kind of functioning like this? Does your work teams have vision and guardrails and you’re just kind of functioning like this? In your relationships in this church, do you get the vision and the guardrails, or you’re just kind of functioning like this? In these areas in your life, which box is more consistent with the reality of your life? You see, there’s a really interesting story in First Samuel 19 that talks about Saul. Saul is this really evil guy. He is the king, right? His mission in life is to kill David, because God has anointed David to be the future king of Israel. And so he is chasing David everywhere he goes, and he finds out one day where David is. And so he sends some of his soldiers to go and get David and either kill him or bring him back. But it says, “David was hanging out with a company of prophets.” And these prophets had a vision and guardrails and they were so unified, they were an unstoppable force flowing together, that when Saul’s men show up to get David and kill him or bring him back to Saul, they are swept up by the power of the unity of the prophets. And instead of being able to divide and get David, they get swept it. And it says, “They start prophesying with the prophets.” And when it’s all said and done they kind of snap out of it, realize how crazy it was, and go back and tell Saul. Well, he is peeved.
And so he sends another group of men, and they go to the same thing, to the prophets to get David to kill him or bring him back. But the unity of the prophets is so strong that they can’t divide. And they get swept up and they start prophesying. It is so crazy, they snap out it, they go back, and they tell Saul. He is mad. He sends a third group of guys. They go to the prophets. They get swept up by the unity of the prophets. They start prophesying. They go back and tell Saul what happened. Finally Saul thinks, “I’m going to go and handle this myself.” And so he comes and shows up to kill David, but the unity of the prophets was so strong that Saul who is there to kill David gets swept up by the unity of the prophets, starts prophesying himself. And when it’s all said and done he turns around and he heads back home. That is the power of unity. Unity creates culture and it will sweep up everyone who tries to go upstream. It’s almost impossible to go upstream when people are truly united together. And if you’re sitting in this room and you’re a leader of something, which I believe every person sitting in this room, you are a leader — we will talk more about that throughout the rest of the year. It’s going to be awesome. Can’t wait to blow your bubble of some of you that think you’re not. But if you’re sitting here and you say, “Yeah. No, I’m definitely a leader in my family, with friends, with a team, with work, with church, whatever it may be.” Okay, if you’re sitting here and you’re a leader, it is your responsibility to clarify the vision and the guardrails for the thing that you lead. It is impossible for people to align in unity if you don’t define the vision and the values, the guardrails, the cultural statements. There are a whole lot of good people in these things that are perceived as divisive for no other reason than because no one has defined the vision and the values for them. And so they’re running, and they’re running because they’re trying to move forward. But they’re perceived as divisive. Why? Because the leader has never said, “This is the vision. These are the values. This is the direction we’re going.” Clarity is a gift you give to the people you lead. So if you’re a leader, you have to define this. And if you’re a follower, you have to have the courage if it’s not defined to say, “Hey, I want to be aligned. So can you please tell me what the vision and the values are, so I can align and get in motion to move in the right direction? I don’t want to be rebellious or divisive. I want to be aligned. So please tell me what is the vision and the values or the guardrails, the cultural reinforcement statements that we’re trying to stay within. Does that make sense to you?
I mean, remember, alignment isn’t natural and unity is not normal. Unity is not a passive posture. It’s an active pursuit. And we said last week that unity is not when you and I agree together. It’s what Adam and Eve did about the fruit and that didn’t work out all that well. Unity is when you and I agree with God. And I want to take it one statement further. Unity is when we agree with God and advance together. That’s unity. Unity is when we agree with God and advance together. Unity is not we agree and now we sit down and just don’t do anything about it. No, unity is we agree with God and we’re now advancing towards the vision that He has given us, constrained by the guardrails or the values of which are keeping us in flow and moving in the right direction. This is the difference between a stagnant pond and a raging river. A stagnant pond does not shape the landscape. A raging river does. And it is an unstoppable force that shapes the landscape or the culture of the world around it. I mean, listen to this verse. First Corinthians 1:10 — “I appeal to you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another, so that there may be no divisions among you, so that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” He says unify. And so if you’re unified in these areas and your life looks more like this, then why don’t you just take one next step in this direction? And what I want to say to you is that at the end of the day you will always struggle with long-term healthy relationships if you do not do these things. In fact, it will be impossible for you to have long-term healthy relationships without honor, submission, forgiveness and love. Are you with me so far?
Now look at Psalm 133, because this shows you the power of unity. I love this passage. I mean, it just captures it. Psalm 133, Verse 1 — “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” How good and pleasant it is when marriages live together in unity. How good and pleasant it is when families live together in unity. How good and pleasant it is when teams live together in unity. How good and pleasant it is when workplace environments live together in unity. How good and pleasant it is when Jesus’ church lives in unity. “It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion, for there the Lord bestows his blessings, even life for evermore.” So catch it. He says how good and pleasant — unity is good and it’s pleasant. It will bring life to your life. And he tells us — there’s four things in this passage that he tells us that unity gives us. First thing is this. He says it’s like oil running down Aaron’s head, down his beard. Do you know what oil represents in the Bible? It represents anointing. Whenever the oil of God is used on people it represents anointing, a supernatural empowerment. So there is anointing found in unity. He then says it’s like the dew on Mount Hermon on Mount Zion — which think of dew when you wake up in the morning. It’s upon everything as far as you can see. So it’s like a blanket of covering, a blanket of protection. Unity is not only an anointing. It’s a protection. He says, “For there the Lord bestows his blessings evermore.” There’s blessings in unity. And then even life for evermore — unity is a foretaste, a shadow of what heaven will be like. So unity — in one passage he tells us unity gives us anointing, protection, blessing and a taste of heaven. There is a unique power reserved for those who will overcome preferences and offenses. Anointing is found in unity.
It’s in unity where we can transform the city, impact nations, and literally bring the atmosphere of heaven to this earth. And if you think about what it says — I just want to focus on anointing. It says it’s like the oil poured on Aaron’s head. Do you know how they would anoint people? You would literally get down on your hands and knees. You would put your hands up. You would bow your head in humility and submission, and they would pour the oil on you. Which what he is telling us is that unity is only possible with honor and humility. And when you bow down like this, that unity poured, that oil pour is on you and it says it flows from Aaron’s head to his beard to his collar to his robes. Four times it says it. Why? Because when you choose to humble yourself to be unified, your unity flows to the people around you and literally sweeps them up, so they become unified as well. And so what I would say to you is that don’t forfeit your anointing for a preference or an offense. Don’t sit there and say, “Hey, you know what? This preference, this offense is a really big deal to me.” No, it’s not because the anointing of God is better than that preference or that offense. I promise you it is. Don’t forfeit the supernatural empowerment of God for something silly. Like, the color of the carpet.
Or you didn’t smile at me. Or I don’t like that I can’t bring my coffee into the worship center [Laughs], which I think you can in Denton, but I’m not sure. So now we’re offended at you, Denton. Come on. Don’t forfeit your anointing for that kind of stuff. I mean, let me give you three thoughts about the power of unity. Is this making sense to you? I’m pulling this whole series together. Three thoughts on the power of unity and why it becomes an unstoppable force. First thing is this. We are better together. We talked about this last week, that we’re all made in the image and likeness of God. And yet none of us contains the full reflection of the image and likeness of God. I mean, just turn and look at the person sitting next to you. Just look at him for a second. Normally I do this and then make a joke about them. I promise I won’t. Look at how different they are. Every person sitting in this room is so different. Yet we’re all made in the image and likeness of God. Why? Because none of us is able to reflect and reveal the full nature of the Godhead, the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It’s only when we come together. We have different gifts and passions and talents and abilities and personalities and traits. We’re different parts of the body. If all you ever saw was a hand, you would never know what the body looks like. We’re different facets of a diamond, and every facet that’s there radiates and reflects a little bit more light, radiates and reflects a different facet of who God is. Which means we need extroverts and introverts. We need creators and painters. We need artists and builders. We need healers and restorers. We need thinkers and doers and administrators and organizers. We need people with mercy and kindness and servitude. We need you. I hate to break it to most of you sitting in this room. You’re not okay without us. [Laughs] You’re like, “I’m actually better without all you ‘all.” No you ‘all you’re not.
You need us and we need you. First Corinthians 12 — “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit. Different kinds of service, but the same Lord. Different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” In other words, there is one God and a whole bunch of different ones of us made in that image and likeness, and it’s only together where we radiate and reflect the fullness of who God is to this world. You’re not okay without us and we’re not okay without you. I mean, did you ever walk into this place and watch some of our musicians and just think, “Man, that’s amazing.” Did you ever go in the café and watch somebody with a gift of hospitality create a welcoming environment that makes people feel like home. You think, “That’s incredible.” Did you ever watch someone with a gift of organization or administration create systems around here, so that thousands of people can come in and out of these doors in an organized and a healthy functioning way? Did you ever see someone who is literally praying, healing over someone, or counseling them or comforting them? You think that’s amazing. What is that? That’s different facets of the image and likeness of God all working together under one roof. And a musician to an organizer is about as different as you’re going to get.
One is not better than the other. And we’d be weak and crippled without all of it. And so when you sit on the sidelines and don’t engage, well we get crippled without you. I mean, you have to understand. A corporate anointing is far superior to an individual anointing. Everyone, if you’re a follower of Jesus in this room, you have an individual anointing. Supernatural empowerment by the Holy Spirit to do things for God. But a corporate anointing where we’re all brought together, we bring those anointing and submit them to one another through honor, submission, forgiveness and love to a common vision, it becomes an unstoppable force. I mean, one of the things that I love the most about Valley Creek Church, and this is totally true and you can take it to the bank — our church is not built on the gifts of a few. It’s built on the sacrifices of many. It’s probably one of the greatest things of our church. Like, no one in the city knows who I am, and that’s amazing.
Because it’s not about me. It’s not about gifts of a few people that are on the platform or the charisma of a few people or the talents of a few people. Who cares? It’s about the sacrifices of many. We don’t have an individual anointing that makes this thing work. We have a corporate anointing that makes this thing an unstoppable force. Our vision is so big, no one can carry it by themselves. I mean, just think of the disciples. A bunch of regular, ordinary, nobodies and yet together they become an unstoppable force that turned the world upside down. [Laughs] Wow. How do fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, uneducated ordinary people turn the world upside down? That is the power of unity, and that’s what Jesus specializes in. He specializes in taking individuals and turning them into families. He specializes in taking broken individuals and turning them into a beautiful community with a vision and values that become an unstoppable force. I mean, if all the teams that I have played on in my life, whether it was lacrosse or work in ministry teams, the best teams I’ve ever been on did not have the most talent. They had the most unity. I’ve been on teams with massive talent and it looks like this, because everyone makes it about themselves, so it’s ineffective and you do nothing. I may even have been on teams where there was like no talent [Laughs] — but man, we were united and we became an unstoppable force and won whatever we were trying to win. It’s true. Talent is overrated. Unity is underrated. The world says it’s all about talent. The kingdom of God says it’s all about unity. And unity allows ordinary people to do extraordinary things. So maybe with the people in your life maybe you need to stop saying, “We’re incompatible.” And maybe you need to start saying, “We’re complementary.” And our problem is that we just haven’t had a clear vision and we haven’t had values to keep us moving in the right direction. It’s not that we’re incompatible. It’s that we haven’t clarified this and chosen to submit ourselves to it. Okay? We’re better together. Second thing is this. Two can do what one cannot. If you’ve ever played cards, you learn really quickly that a pair of Two’s can beat an Ace every single time. As I’ve tried to teach my kids how to play cards, it’s been really funny to watch them as they get their kids and they’re holding in their hand and they’re like, “Oh dad, I’m going to win this one.” You are? Why? “Because I have the best card in the whole deck, dad. I’m totally going to win.”
And then you get to the point where they play their cards and they put down an Ace, and they’re like, “See, I won.” And I put down two Two’s and they’re like, “Yeah, I totally won.” No, you didn’t win. I actually won. “No dad, I won. I have the best card in the whole deck, the Ace. It’s sitting right here and you have the worst card. You have a Two.” Yes, but I have two of them. And two Two’s beats an Ace, a King, a Queen, or a Joker every single time. Two people united together beats the strongest foe every single time. One can put a thousand to flight. Two can put 10,000 to flight. Where two or three are gathered Jesus says, “There I am also.” Whatever two or three of you agree on in prayer, I will answer that for you. Ecclesiastes 4 — we read it a few weeks ago — “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? The one may be overpowered. Two can defend themselves. A chord of three strands is not easily broken.” I mean, if you read the Bible, you will be fascinated. God almost never sends people to do things by themselves. He almost always sends them in pairs. Adam and Eve, first pair. They were an unstoppable force, so long as they continued to pursue the vision in agreement with God, advancing together. Then you take Noah. You think Noah built the Ark. Noah didn’t build the Ark by himself. He built it with his family. And then you take Moses. You think Moses set the Israelites free. Actually, it was Moses, Aaron and Joshua, the three of them together were the unstoppable force. And then you say, David — well, it was David. No, it was David and the mighty men. That’s what it says over and over again. Then you say, “It’s Paul who changed.” No, it’s Paul and Timothy and Silas. Then you say it was Jesus who went to the cross. Just so you know, Jesus didn’t go to the cross by himself. The Holy Spirit was with him the whole time.
God sends us in pairs because He knows the power of it. I mean, in Luke Chapter 10 — Luke 9 and 10 are probably my favorite two chapters right now about the disciples. In Luke 10 it says, “After this, the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” So catch this. It’s Luke Chapter 10. Jesus is about to send out the 72. This is not the 12. So this is not like the staff people. This is like the 72. This is like the next ring of people who are there and they’re a part, but they’re not like on the inner circle. And Jesus is about to send them out to heal the sick, cast our demons, give sight to the blind, raise the dead, and preach the kingdom. [Laughs] And they’ve only been hanging with Jesus for five chapters and they’re not even on staff. And so he knows they’re going to be totally overwhelmed. He knows they feel unqualified. He knows they feel like they’re going to be ineffective. He knows they’re going to face persecution and resistance and fear, and there’s going to be issues. So what does he do? He sends them in pairs, because he gets the power of unity. So he sends the 72 out in pairs. And in Luke 10:17 they come back and they say, “Jesus” — it says, “The 72 returned with joy.” “Jesus, even the demon submitted to us in your name.” A whole bunch of pairs come back with joy, surprised, like shocked. “Jesus, even the demon submitted to us in your name.” In other words, a whole bunch of two’s just went out and defeated the king of darkness. Because two two’s defeats the king of darkness every single time. So maybe stop playing in one-two against the king of darkness. Choose to reconcile, so you can play two two’s against the king of darkness. Because you realize, no kid can divide a marriage that’s unified. No one person can divide a friendship that’s unified. No rouge employee can divide a team that’s unified.
No person in a church can divide a church that’s unified. It’s a little bit of that like, “I’ll go if you go.” You know, like you’re afraid, you feel insecure, and you’re worried, but if someone goes with you, it’s amazing how courage builds up. And do you remember when you were a kid and your mom would say, “If everybody would jump off a bridge, would you?” Do you remember that? You realize the answer is yes. It’s actually yes. Your mom was always wrong. Because that’s the power of unity. You’re like, “Mom, it’s the river. I can’t help it.” You know, and you go over. That’s how it works. It’s the power of unity. For good or for bad. I mean, listen to this. Genesis 11 — here’s what God says about the power of this thing. Genesis 11, Verse 1 — “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech to unify. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and they settled there. They said to each other, “Let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone and tar from water. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heaven, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” They have a vision and unique guardrails that they’ve all agreed upon. They are now in unity. “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that men were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” This is what God says about the power of unity. For good or for bad. In this case it was bad. But for good or for bad, when man is united with a vision and agreed upon values they become an unstoppable force. God says, “Nothing will be impossible for you when you’re unified.” What could you do in your marriage if you’re unified? What could you do in your friendships if you’re unified? What could you do with your teams or at work if you’re unified?
What could we do if we choose to pursue unity together? Nothing will be impossible for us. And the last thing is this. Unity is the birthplace of power. It’s fascinating. In Acts Chapter 1 you’ve got to picture it. The resurrected Jesus has just gone. The disciples are there and here’s what it says. “All these” — the disciples — “with one mind and one purpose” — totally unified — “will continually devoting themselves to prayer.” Now just think about this. This would be the moment they should scatter. Jesus is gone. He has gone back to heaven and they’re kind of confused. Like, “I should go back to fishing for my life or whatever it is.” But they stay. You only know you’re unified when things are hard. It’s really easy to say we’re unified when you’re getting exactly what you want, but the moment that someone drifts into you and, boom, there’s a little bit of tension or there are some things that have to be worked through, that’s when you know you’re unified. And if you think about the disciples, think of what they would have to work through to stay here. In Acts Chapter 1 — like they say, think of the offenses. They would have had to gotten over Peter’s denial of Jesus to a servant girl. They would have had to gotten over Thomas’ constant doubt about who Jesus was and whether or not he was alive. They would have had to gotten over John and James’ anger problem, for wanting to call down fire from heaven onto the Samaritan village. And if you want to call fire down from heaven on an entire village, I’m pretty sure that you’re pretty grumpy to be around the rest of the time.
They would have had to have gotten over their argument on the road when they were arguing over who was going to be the greatest. They would have had to have gotten over John and James’ mom. She sounds stellar too. You know where they got it from, because she asked Jesus if they could sit on the right and left hand side of him in heaven. Right? [Laughs] Things, you know, pass on. And they would have had to have gotten over their disappointment and frustration with Thaddeus and Bartholomew feeling like, “Dude, you never carry your load.” “We don’t even know who you are. You haven’t helped us.” But they got through it and they were unified together in Acts Chapter 1.
And so in Acts Chapter 2 the Holy Spirit is poured out for the first time. They are anointed with this corporate anointing. They preach the gospel, 3000 people get saved, and they become an unstoppable force that turns the world upside down. Unity released the power. We sit there and talk about the Holy Spirit being poured out in Acts Chapter 2. It’s because of Acts 1:14, because they’re unified. I mean, we say all the time we want the power of the first century church. Okay. Let’s get it. Right here, Acts 2. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. [Laughs] You know what that says? They were unified, and so they saw the power of heaven. They were devoted to the fellowship, devoted to unity through honor, submission, forgiveness and love. And that unity released the power of heaven. Unity always precedes power. Maybe the reason we don’t see miracles in the modern day church is because we refuse to align with one another. It is unity that releases the power of heaven to this earth. We are the conduit. And if we will choose to align ourselves in unity, God releases His power and it is released like a flowing river. It’s an unstoppable force that literally carves and cuts away at the landscape. It changes the face of the world around us. And so the question I would ask you is this. In your marriage are you releasing the power of heaven? In your friendships, in your teams, in your work, in this church are you releasing the power of heaven? If you want power, don’t pursue power. Pursue unity, because unity precedes power. And so we should refuse to tolerate division for no other reason than because we are desperate to see the power of heaven come to this earth.
Now let me just go ahead and say, I realize this has been a really interesting series. And what I think is important for you to understand is that every week when I’m preparing I’m not trying to prepare a sermon. I’m trying to prepare a people. I’m not trying to put together a 30. [Laughs] You’re like, “Be honest, it’s more like 40.” Okay, fine. Forty-minute sermon. It’s not about being relevant and funny and engaging. I’m trying to prepare you to be who God made you to be. And so a part of what my job is, is to pay attention and call attention to that which God is doing. And here’s what you need to understand in this series. This series — I’ve been here five years — this series hands down has been the absolute hardest series I’ve ever preached in five years, hands down. There’s not even a close second. And I was shocked by that, because like I told you I thought we were going to do a couple of other things and that I really felt like the Lord was inviting us to talk about this. And overall we’re a healthy church. Like, we’re unified, we’re moving in the same direction. We have a great future. We’ve got a great present. I mean, there’s amazing things. So when the Lord said do this, I thought, “Okay, this is good. It’s just kind of reinforcing what we already believe and where we’re going.” And then it’s the hardest series I’ve ever done. You say, “What does that mean?” Well man, the spiritual warfare in my own life is off the charts. The personal attacks spiritually, the resistance, the weight, the burden for you. I’ve prayed for you more in this series than I have in any other series we’ve ever had. And I’ve had to sit there and ask myself why. Is this paying attention and calling attention? But why? Because the truth is that every person sitting in this room has at least one offense sitting in their heart. And Satan understands this a whole lot more than we do.
And as long as he can keep us like this, he knows this is the result. So he doesn’t care if you come to church as long as you’re doing this. No king doing what is right in your own eyes. He doesn’t care. Okay? Because now you’re in agreement with him. You become ineffective and we can’t change the world. He knows the moment we align we become an unstoppable force that he himself cannot go upriver of. As Christians we should be the least offended people on the face of the earth. And when you have an offended heart you are not currently free. And so what Jesus has done in this series is, he has exposed, so he could heal and restore. Satan exposes you to shame you. Jesus exposes you to heal you. You will pull some layers back in your heart and say — you realize like, “This is happening and I want to bring it to the surface, so I can heal it.” Because an offended heart is not free. And Jesus came to set you free. That’s why there’s been so many distractions in services. That’s why there’s been so much uncomfortability. I mean, I just watch you sit there in your chair like the whole service, I mean, all three weeks. Like why? Because something is being exposed in us and it’s an invitation to be healed. And the reason we struggle aligning or unifying with each other is because at the end of the day we’re really not aligned and unified with Jesus. We’ve been unable to release our offenses towards others, because we’ve been unable to fully receive the forgiveness of Jesus for us. But this is the year of breakthrough. So we said in the beginning that this is the year of breakthrough. And so there’s going to be breakthrough in unity and in alignment, in marriages, in families, in homes, in relationships, in teams, in jobs, in this church. And there’s going to be breakthrough in some areas of your heart that have been in bondage, that God wants to set you free.
So our worship team is coming back out for a moment. And as they come, here’s what I want you to do. I just want you to listen to these verses for a moment. Ephesians Chapter 2, Verse 11 — “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are gentiles by birth and called uncircumcised by those who call themselves the circumcision, Jews and gentiles” — we are the gentiles. Verse 12 — “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel, and foreigners to the covenant of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now, in Christ Jesus, you, who once were far away, have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” You. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two, one; and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace. And in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace, to you who are far away, and peace to those who are near, for through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone that holds us together. In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling, in which God lives by His spirit.” What unites us together is far superior than what could ever divide us.
And until you choose to receive the full forgiveness of Jesus for you, it will almost be impossible to forgive those in your life. Until you can, with arms open and hearts surrendered, receive the peace that Jesus offers, how can you be at peace with anyone else? And so I want you to just stay seated for a moment and listen to them sing this song over you. And I want to encourage you to receive the fullness of what Jesus offers for you, so that you can step into the power and protection of unity with others.