Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Blessing of Unity

We live in Taiwan, so recently my wife and I stayed up late to watch the inauguration of the forty-fifth president of the United States of America.  The United States is the most divided it has been since the Civil War.  It has been growing more polarized for the last eight years. 

President Trump has vowed to “Make America Great Again,” but in order to do that he will have to unify America again.  President Lincoln, who stepped into the White House during that first time of great division, quoted the Bible, “A house divided against itself cannot stand…”  He went on to say:

“I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing or all the other” – Abraham Lincoln

I believe that that the greatness of a nation is rooted in the unity of its people.  I believe that this is also true of the local church.  We make the greatest impact, when we are of one accord.  That’s what I want to post about today:

Acts 2:1-4 (NKJV)
2:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Do You Want Something to Happen?

I usually use this scripture to preach about the Holy Spirit, but I want to look at it in a different light this week.  In fact, I want to focus on one phrase, “with one accord in one place…”  It isn’t just that they were filled with the Holy Spirit, but my purpose is to show you that movement in the church comes from unity of thought and unity of action.  Things happen when we’re together:  Not just in one place but in a spiritual and mental sense, as well.

The disciples about one hundred twenty of them are together in one place.  They’ve gathered; they’re there together.  Everyone is in their place.  Well, at least no one who is completely in agreement with what they’re doing is missing.  It may not be every disciple that was made at that time, but it was those that were of one accord.

These are the ones who’ve caught “the vision” of the early church; the vision of the apostles; the vision of Christ.  They believe in the same thing, but in addition to that, there is camaraderie between them.  They’re not fragmented – They don’t have personal agendas, separate from each other.  They aren’t in cliques – They are of one accord spiritually, mentally, and physically.  They’re united.

It’s when they’re like this that there’s movement in the church.  This is when things begin to take off in the early church.  They’re not all doing different things; they’re together, working toward the same goal, and caring about each other.  It’s when they are in this condition that the Holy Spirit drops into that congregation and revival breaks out.  They’re empowered as a body, not as individuals.

Do you want to see something happen in your church?  Be of one accord.  When we are in one accord that’s when things happen.

Acts 2:46-47 (NKJV)
2:46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Look at what “one accord” means:

“Breaking bread from house to house” – They spend time together outside of the temple – As a group.  It’s not fragmented: “I’m going with this one person, only!”  “I don’t want to do what the others are doing, so I’m going off by myself.”  Some of them were willing to put aside what they wanted in order to stay with the group. 

“Ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” – They were happy just to be together – They had fun together.  It wasn’t complicated.

“What’s your relationship with that person?”
“It’s complicated…” 

They weren’t looking at each other with mixed emotions. 

“I like this person today, yesterday, not so much.”
“I don’t like what they said, so I’m mad at them.”

It was simple; they accepted each other’s offenses. 

You know, there’s going to be offenses.  People can be irritating.  People will say things you don’t want to hear, but which may be good for you to hear.  People may say something to the pastor so that he can help you but you see it as getting you into trouble.  That’s inwardly-focused thinking:  It’s all about me.  Instead of outwardly focused thinking: It’s all about others.  Some of you are guilty of that – That isn’t holiness. 

The problem with not being of one accord is that the Holy Spirit cannot drop into an unholy place.  When they were of one accord, the Holy Spirit fell.  When they were together, enjoying each other, caring for each other, that’s when the early church exploded into revival.

We need the Holy Spirit.  Look at what Pastor Harold Warner has said when writing on Twitter of the Holy Spirit:

God’s enabling gift to us today: the “indwelling, convicting, sight-giving, desire-producing, strength-affording presence of the Spirit” – Pastor Harold Warner

That’s the gift of the Holy Spirit, look at what we receive:  That Spirit is the Spirit that produces fruit:  Presence of God, conviction, vision, desire and strength.  That’s the power that makes something happen.  It doesn’t come from us alone, it comes from being of one accord, so the Spirit can fall.  Our power is in our unity.

Getting Back to Relationship

I want to look at relationships for a moment, because relationships within the church indicate unity.  Relationships demonstrate a kind of holiness.  Look at this scripture:

Matthew 5:23-24 (NKJV)
5:23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

This scripture shows us how important relationships are to God.  That word brother is talking about, “your brother from another mother,”  not necessarily your blood brother, but your brother and sister in Christ.

You’ve come before God with an offering, a gift for God and you think of some issue between you and someone in the church.  There’s anger, there’s some division; you are not of one accord.  There’s distance growing between you, then:

Leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.  First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Don’t give that offering until you have come back together with that person that you have an issue with, then come and give the offering.  Do you know what that says?  It says that if you’re not right with your brothers and sisters in Christ, then you’re not right with God.

In Romans 12, Paul shows us what the relationship should be like:

Romans 12:10 (NKJV)
12:10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

“Be affectionate with one another”; care for each other.  Let each other know how much you care about each other.

Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love one for another.”  Can people see that in your relationships, or do they see squabbling, backbiting and distance?  Do they see God’s love in your relationships, or do they see the same thing they see outside of the church?

“Giving preference to one another” – Have each other’s back.  Stand together.  Hang out with each other.  Wouldn’t you rather be around the people of God?  Is it better to be around people who are opposed to what God is trying to do in your life?  Your sinner friends don’t care whether you remained saved or not.  It’s the brothers and sisters that care about that.

Our relationships are important because they show the world what Jesus can do to change people.  People are naturally self-centered; naturally concerned for their own welfare. 

“I’ve got to get what’s mine, first.”

You don’t have to drive in Taiwan too long to see that.  Nobody can wait for anyone else – I’m first.  If you don’t believe me try crossing the street in front of a taxi.  It’s human nature to think that whatever “important” thing you’re doing, it’s more important than everyone else’s.

Sinners are blown away by people who put others first.  Jesus put all of mankind’s needs before His own.  The Bible says, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”  He put our need for salvation before His own life, can’t we just put other people’s needs first, sometimes.  Here’s a truth of life for you, “It’s not always all about you.”

The Blessing of a United Front

Being together, being of one accord, being united is a blessing.  God can use a church that’s united in their vision.  I want to go back to my illustration for a moment.

During the civil war, when the nation was divided there was only turmoil and destruction.  America was being destroyed, millions died, families were torn apart.  Men fought against their own brothers in that war.

Land and livelihoods were stolen and destroyed.  America had lost its greatness.  After the war, after a time of unification, huge things were accomplished:  Huge engineering feats like the Transcontinental Railroad.  There was increased westward expansion – The taming of the west.  There was growth, and economic prosperity.  America came to be viewed as the land of opportunity.  Millions of people emigrated from their homelands because of the promise America held.  That’s the blessing of unity.

If our church is unified, if we’re of one accord, the Bible promises that we will see that same blessing:

Acts 2:47 (NKJV)
2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Do you want to see things happen in your church:  Miracles, financial breakthrough, revival?  That’s the blessing of unity.  The Holy Spirit can fall in a place where the people are of one accord.  When we’re together that’s when things can happen:

John 20:19 (NKJV)
20:19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."

They’re together, in the same place, for the same reason and Jesus, the risen Jesus, the glorified Jesus walks in and says, “Peace be with you.”

That word peace is interesting in this case.  The Greek word translated as peace comes from a root that means “to join,” as in put together.  Peace comes from being together.  It can also be translated as prosperity – not financial but by being joined together we prosper in the things of God.  I believe that means revival, miracles, financial breakthrough, and growth:  The blessing of unity.  Do you want to see things happen in your church?  Be of one accord.

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