To God Be The Glory
For the last six weeks my sermons have been directed towards thinking about our identity as the Church of God. We are a part of the “Universal Church of God” the ekklesia, God’s “called out one’s.” We belong to Him. His design is that our identity is forged out of His likeness, and he is conforming in us the likeness of his Son Jesus Christ. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Rom 8:29-30
As Christians we are given the greatest of gifts, none are more important than the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18) You ask, reconciliation a gift? Yes, for we are the standard bearers, whether we want to be or not, of the forgiveness, mercy, and grace of God. Paul says in the same chapter to the Corinthians, “it is as if God is making His appeal through us.” The first step, if Christians are to be faithful ministers of reconciliation, is to repent of our own failures to practice this consistently.
No matter where you travel across our great country, churches, big and small, do not, internally, practice this extraordinary gift well. We struggle don’t we? We have trouble loving those in our own church who have offended or slighted us by those who have a different idea, usually about some program in the church, or some personal preference one holds. We forget that the church belongs to God and we are its stewards, both the “human” church and its real property. In my faith journey I often have seen more bickering in the church than in the secular world.
Reconciliation within the church requires a surrender of pride and the willingness to put God’s interest over our own interests. Peacemaking within the church should be our highest priority, because it is the right of passage thru the Cross of Jesus. We have to pass through the forgiveness that is in the Cross in order to carry the message of reconciliation to the world, and then actually live it out with each other. There is no other way to Salvation, but through the narrow gate of the forgiveness we find in the Cross. If our personal preferences eclipse that message in practice, we suffer, and the world grows a little darker.
On the other side, if we use biblical principles to guide us through our struggles we find that these truths work. The result is that we glorify God even in the midst of our struggle exercising the law of love, forgiveness and mercy.
Our sole priority above all else is to glorify our Father in heaven. We must ask does bickering and fighting glorify Him? Does disunity glorify Him? Is the body of Christ divided, Paul asked? There is a resounding NO!
Jesus said: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom 15:5-6
I have mediated differences between believers for over two decades and found that whenever biblical principles are applied, they succeed, reconciliation occurs, God is glorified, the Church unifies, and the world grows a little brighter.
John Paul II, on Ash Wednesday of the millennium year called the Catholic Church to a day of collective repentance. Against the advice of many, John Paul acknowledged the violence, abuses of power, material corruption, anti-Semitism, and other abuses practiced by the churches son’s and daughter’s. This historical precedent was only possible for a faith that recognizes the world for its injustices and inhumanity’s. It took God’s grace to be that honest. Has any other religion ever, ever, called for such an exercise?
In honestly facing our own weaknesses, we acknowledge that as Christians we fail to live up to the teaching of the one who gives us life. Through repentance, we are saying we want to do better with God’s help.
The place to begin as the repentant people of God is implement these truths in our congregations, but we have the clearest of biblical command to be one mind and one heart, to bear one another’s burdens, to be reconciled with one another, to be one body with one faith one baptism, Ephesians 4:1-6.
Divisions are dangerous and destructive in the body of Christ. Remember Paul’s warning to the Corinthians about communion, “I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.” 1 Corinthians 11:18. Then Paul says that whoever eats in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. I shudder that thought, Paul was saying one should never receive Communion until one has examined their conscience and asked to be forgiven for unresolved issues with other believers.
This is the only thing that was on Jesus’s heart the night before he was crucified when he prayed for all who would believe, “may they be also in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21. In the midst of his passion and suffering knowing that he was going to the cross the next morning, these were his very last prayers to the father.
In the light of the Scriptures, may we be resolved to pursue the unity of our faith that is in Christ Jesus. Above all else may we personally as Christ’s disciple and collective as God’s church pledge ourselves to this one priority…to God be the glory, forever and ever! Amen