May 24, 2018

Unity in and for the Gospel

associate pastor

associate pastor

Ken Rathburn

Each week, I meet with a group of guys whom I disciple. We update each other on prayer requests, hold each other accountable in our successes and struggles, and we study God’s Word together. We are going through a book called Multiply by Francis Chan, which is a great guide to start with in a new discipleship relationship. Check it out here.

This week, we studied what is known as the High Priestly Prayer, found in John 17. This is a prayer of Jesus just before he is arrested and eventually crucified. The focus of the prayer is nothing short of astounding, especially given the context. Jesus is not so much praying for himself as he prepares for the cross, but he is praying for us:

13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 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 ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

John 17:13-23

As we studied through this great prayer, I informed our group of my favorite word in all of the Bible: that. I know, a little weird and a little nerdy, but hang with me. The word “that” in the English translations of the Bible is often used to explain the “why” (the purpose) behind whatever comes before it. Look what this means in his prayer! Jesus’s death and resurrection, even his whole ministry, is so that we would be one. And, he wants us to be one so that from this unity people will know who Jesus is and experience God’s love. This is unity around the Gospel as a means to spread the Gospel. Our unity with Christ will be the great message, says Jesus, by which others will come to know and follow Christ.

What does this mean for all of us each and every day? It means that our Gospel-based unity must be visible to the world, not hidden from view.

It means that our Gospel-based unity must be visible to the world, not hidden from view.

We must not retreat to Christian bubbles where we withdraw from interaction with the world beyond our Jesus-united circles. Also, we must not simply have our segmented Christian time (perhaps an occasional Bible study and Sunday worship) and then live the rest of our lives in the world so as to be indiscernible from the world. This is reading your Bible at Starbucks for others to see. This is asking your server at the restaurant how you can pray for them today and then doing it before you eat. This is having coffee with the coworker you don’t really know to find out what makes them tick, and then sharing what makes you tick. This is explaining to the other parents in the bleachers why you and your child missed the game last Sunday morning.

There are many large and small ways to exhibit our Gospel-based unity to the world around us. We have to be creative and equipped to do it. At NAPC, we want to help you do this. On August 19th, when the service times move to 9:00am and 11:30am, we will start EQUIP between the worship services. Broken into EQUIP/Adults, Youth and Kids, this will be a time of training—unifying our church around the Gospel and preparing in practical ways to display that unity to others. More information on all facets of EQUIP will be coming soon. In the meantime, put it on your calendar so that you can be equipped for the glory of God and our joy!

Toward greater unity in Christ,

Pastor Ken