SPIRIT OF UNITY 3/11/2018

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Spirit of Unity

A Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).


Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:1-32


Objective: to learn the importance of listening to God and to each other. –


Introduction: If the Bible were simply a tale, its Jewish authors would certainly have written a different account of themselves. Scripture does speak of Israel’s unity in events, like crossing the Red Sea, the battle of Jericho, and rebuilding the temple. But it also shares many accounts of division and Israel's rebellion against her leaders.

During the Exodus, Moses’ own sister and brother rebelled against him. Then Korah led two hundred fifty well-respected leaders in a rebellion. Then Israel refused to follow Moses, Joshua, and Caleb into the Promised Land. After forty years of Israel's wandering in the wilderness, God himself led the people through the period of the judges, but the book of Judges ends with the sad words “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25).

 Israel's last judge was Samuel. In his time, Israel demanded a king. God told Samuel that the people hadn't rejected him but God as their leader (1 Samuel 8:7). Saul was Israel's first king, then David, then Solomon. When Solomon's son, Rehoboam, became king, the people asked him to lighten the burden his father had placed on them. Rehoboam ignored the wisdom of his elders and did not listen to the people. As a result, the nation of Israel split in two — united no more.

Rehoboam’s unwillingness to listen destroyed lsrael’s unity. We find that same theme running throughout Jesus’ sermons: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15; 13:9; 13:43). “Therefore l speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. . . . But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear” (13:13, 16). “He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8:47). “My sheep hear my voice, and l know them, and they follow me" (10:27).

Listening and following are core ingredients in unity. Proverbs 3:5, 6 instructs us to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding. lf we acknowledge Him in all we do, He will direct our paths. Romans 8:14 tells us that those led by the Spirit are the children of God. First Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 tell us that God, in His wisdom, gives each of us pieces of the puzzle. None of us has the whole picture; we need each other. His Spirit leads us into His truth as we listen to each other and work together as one body.

Satan's strategy is to divide and conquer. He seeks those in God's flock who create disharmony so he can keep the church from being an effective light to the world. That's what Satan did to Israel. The Jews even ended up rejecting the leadership of the Son of God because they wouldn't listen.

The church needs leaders who are good followers, who lead by example lf we don't follow, we teach those who follow us not to follow either, leading to disunity. True, we shouldn't follow blindly, but one extreme doesn’t justify the opposite of not following our leaders. We each have the personal responsibility to listen to God's leading, be of one mind, and value others (Philippians 2:1-4). That's His Spirit of unity in us.


Questions for Study and Discussion


1 Name a Bible story as a good example of righteous unity and of unrighteous disunity. How important is unity to you? Why? 20 


2 What do Ephesians 4:1-3 and Philippians 2:1-4 commend for Christians? What specific practices are mentioned that can cultivate healthy unity?


3 ls listening to each other and listening to God related? What does Jesus say about listening, and how does it inform unity in the church? –


4 How important is the _role of leadership in church unity, and why? What kind of leader thwarts division and fosters unity?


5 Summarize in your own words how 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 teach the importance of unity in the church. 

 

Conclusion: God speaks to us through His Word, His Spirit, our thoughts, our circumstances, our conversations, and our relationships with others, inside and outside the church. If we are surrendered to His will, we will hear His voice and follow Him, together. His Spirit is always the Spirit of unity.


 Apply This Week Make a list of the ways that you, in word and deed, contribute to unity in your local church. Do the same for the ways that you might have contributed to disunity. Pray for unity in your church.


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