A Unified Spirit
Unite to Build
A Unified Spirit
Philippians 2
 
These are exciting days for our church.    Few months ago we voted in business session to allow our properties committee to gather bids and estimates for some much-needed projects. 
 
We need additional parking, educational and recreational space and a renovation of the worship area.  And soon we hope to be able to bring you some proposals on that work. 
 
But before we get to that place, there are some more important matters when it comes to a building program.  I will confess to you I am somewhat apprehensive when it comes to building projects because I have witnessed the devastation and fracturing it sometimes produces.  More than one church has felt the divisive effects of building a new building. 
 
I will also confess to you that I am extremely excited about the potential and opportunity that these projects represent.  I also have confidence in you.  Many of you were here during the merger and relocation that brought us to this property.  That experience still serves a s testimony to others of the willingness of God to bless His people when they are committed to doing it His way, and I love to tell the story to those who are interested. 
 
There is a sweet spirit in our church and we never want to take that for granted or jeopardize it in any way. 
But at the same time we don’t want to let our fear of rocking the boat keep us from doing the will and work of God.  So to that end, I’ve asked God for direction in laying some ground work for these upcoming projects. 
 
For a few months now, you may have seen the little phrase, “Unite to Build” floating around.  We are reporting some money under that title as gifts come in to the building fund.  It is a little acronym that God gave me some time ago, and I want us to spend some time over the next few weeks developing a mind-set that comes from it. 
 
At first glance, it seems fairly obvious.  “Unite to Build”.  In other words, let’s get together and build something.  But that is really not the entire though behind that phrase.  There are, in fact, five key principles found in that phrase that I want to draw to your attention.  If we will be successful in doing this project as God designs and desires, it will be be4casue of our commitment to these five principles. 
 
In fact, I want to go a step farther to say, these principles will work in any setting and really ought to be the standard for all that we do.  I have chosen, as a theme verse for the slogan Ephesians 4:3.  I hope you will become familiar and intimate with it over the next days and months and allow it to penetrate your life and soul. 
 
Now with that scriptural basis in mind, let’s think about this biblical call to UNITE:
 
 
 
First of all, there must be a “Unified Spirit”.  One of the hallmarks of the early church was that they were in “one accord”.  They knew how to get together in the work God had called them to do. 
 
Second, everything worth doing calls for the Necessary Sacrifice.  Much of the work of God in the Old Testament centered on the willingness of the people of God to give whatever it took to be successful. 
 
Third, I call us to Intentional Prayer.  I want this time in the life of our church to be a time when we not only grow physically, but that we mature and develop spiritually.  I desire to see us grow from praying general, “bless us. Lord” kind of prayers, to where we learn to go to the throne room of God with intentional, specific prayers for what we are doing.
 
The fourth principle is committing to Tithe Regardless.  No matter what commitment God leads us to make in regard to building buildings, it must never be in the place of the tithe.  Far too often, rather than growing in our giving, we just redistribute the funds. 
 
And fifth, I want us to be an Exemplary Witness to others in how we do this. For the very reasons I mentioned earlier, churches who destroy their reputation because of their conduct during building programs, I want us to come out the other side with a stronger witness to the world and God’s people of how He blesses and honors those who honor Him. 
 
 
 
 
So this morning, let’s begin by considering what it means to have a Unified Spirit. 
 
I suppose the thing I fear the most in the church is disunity.  Some of the ugliest words in the biblical vocabulary are discord and disruption and division. And I really believe one of the primary attacks that Satan launches on churches like ours who do mission work and see people saved and have a good spirit is to cause disunity. 
 
And by the way, he would just as well use a building program to do it if he can. 
 
Unity is one of the great distinguishers of the church of Jesus Christ.  In Acts chapter 4 Luke wrote these words, "The multitudes of believers were of one heart and one soul."
 
A little later in that same chapter he said, "As a result of that unity they had power and great grace was upon them all." The multitude of believers were of one heart and one soul, they had great power and great grace. Power and blessing are related to unity.
 
Now the Apostle Paul picks up that theme as he writes to the church in Phillip and notice what he says:
 
Philippians 2:1-4
 
It's my conviction that in those four verses you have the most concise and practical understanding of unity that is given in the New Testament.
 
 
This explanation flows out of the exhortation in chapter 1 verse 27 where he said I want to hear that you are standing firm in one spirit with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.
 
The thought here is very similar to our theme verse in Ephesians 4
 
Verses 1
 
In other words, he says act like a Christian, act like a believer. How does a believer act?
 
Verses 2-3
 
A Christian acts this way toward his fellow Christian, humbly, gently, patiently, forbearingly and lovingly and does everything he can to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. That's how a Christian is to act.
 
The reason is given in verse 4.
 
Because of all that inherent supernatural oneness, the church is to maintain its oneness as the outworking of its very calling. We are called to unity and our unity is based upon a great profound theological unity within the very trinity itself.
 
But what is unity? What does it look like? How are we to view it? What is its nature? What is its essence? How is it defined?
 
There are four statements in verse 2 that define the marks of spiritual unity.
They are very rich, they are somewhat overlapping and yet they have each of them a distinctiveness which can be noted as we examine this great verse.
 
The first mark is
 
1. Being of One Mind
 
Now simply put, that means we are to think the same way.  God expects His people to think the same way.  And by the way, 10 of the 23 occurrences of this verb are in Philippians so obviously it's a major issue here. So one of the keys to spiritual unity is thinking alike.
 
Now that seems fairly simple and easy to understand, but I’m not so sure it’s as apparent as it may seem.  Paul is not talking about doctrine.  That’s not what is at issue here. 
 
This is not just cold hard facts.  Chances are, most oall of us could sign the same doctrinal confession regarding the key doctrines of the faith, but that doesn't mean we think alike. This is something beyond that.
 
What he's really talking about here is attitude. Having the same attitude or the same mindset.
 
In fact, you will notice that’s exactly what he says in verse 5.   He repeats it in chapter 3:15, and then in verse 19 he uses it in regard to the lost who have their attitude controlled by the world. 
 
So he uses this concept of mind and attitude interchangeably and that is a proper understanding of the term.
We're not here talking about the same facts or even the same belief system.  We're talking about the same attitude or thinking pattern or approach to life and that is the mind or attitude of Christ. 
 
Why is that so important?  Here’s why:  Humans cannot manufacture unity.  It can't happen on a human level, it will happen only on a divine level.
 
That means we will never think alike until we have understood the spiritual realities that make for that. And we will never know and do whole-heartedly and unanimously the will of God until we think alike. You have conflict when people don't think alike.
 
The Spirit of God is not saying, "Get your doctrine together," that's not the issue. Philippians didn't have any doctrinal problems, there's not even an allusion to one in this entire epistle. He isn't saying get your ethical standard worked out. They didn't have any problem with that. There is no glaring sin in that church to which he directs any verse.
 
The problem was attitude. And that is the thing that is so elusive. They could identify heresy when they heard it, and they knew what sin looked like when it was committed.  But even though they agreed on doctrine and sin, they didn’t have the mind or attitude of Christ. 
 
So how do we develop that?  Well, let me show you.  Let’s just take the term Paul uses here and follow how it's used and see if we can't build a little theology of thinking here that will help us know what it means to think the same way.
 
Let's turn to the book of Romans, and see some usages of this word that will help us understand it. 
 
Romans 8:4
 
That's really the end of a sentence but it introduces a contrast between flesh and Spirit.
 
Then notice verse 5
 
Same word we saw in Philippians 2.
 
Now you have two possibilities. You can either think with the Spirit or you can think with the flesh. If we are to think the same, then we must all think in harmony with the Holy Spirit.
 
So the first principle is that if we are to be of the same mind we must think as the Spirit thinks.  We must think spiritually.  We move above our own desires and agendas and thinking. 
 
And we need to realize that the conflict is between the Spirit and the flesh.  That means the conflict is never between the Spirit and the Spirit. Understand what that means? 
 
You will never find two people thinking with the mind of the Spirit in conflict. If there is conflict, somebody is thinking in the mind of the Spirit, or no one is, and someone else is thinking in the flesh. And so he says if we are according to the Spirit, then we think the things of the Spirit. So if we're to have the same mind we must be thinking on the things of the Spirit of God.
 
See how important that is when you get to thinking about carpet colors and building designs.  There is all kinds of potential for conflict because it is easy for us to substitute our desires and our thinking in the place of being led by the Spirit. 
 
So first of all, to develop unity, we must think the Spirit’s thoughts.   
 
Move over to Romans 12:3
 
Now stop at that point. Second thing, we're to think as God thinks.
 
What does that mean?  I think, primarily, he means objectively as opposed to subjectively.  We have discord at all different levels of relationships because, first of all, we're not thinking the things of the mind of the Spirit. And secondly, we're not thinking as God thinks.  In other words, we are not thinking objectively. It's not sound judgment, it's subjective.
 
We've got our own agenda. We've got our own priorities. We've got our own little enterprise. We've got our own little turf. We've got our own personal ambition. We've got our own little fortress to maintain and defend. We've got our own pride that compels us to whatever ends its evil longings pursue. And so we have not objectivity, we are the victims of our subjectivity.
 
Paul says, "Think on the things of the Spirit and think with sound judgment, with God as the source." Have not only the mind of the Spirit, if you will, but have the mind of God.
 
Then look at Romans chapter 15:5
 
Now we have Christ in the picture. We think the things of the Spirit. We think the things of God which give sound judgment. And we think the things of Christ. Pretty simple, isn't it?
 
You see, what we have to do is be lifted out of ourselves. Let me say it again.
 
You know what I’ve discovered?  Very seldom is there conflict in a church over doctrine or moral principle or heresy. 
 
Almost without exception, conflict is a result of sinful attitude. It is the collision of the mind of the Spirit and of God and of Christ with the mind of the flesh, always. We are to have the mind of Christ.
 
There are no conflicts in the trinity. God is not in conflict with Christ and Christ is not in conflict with God and Christ is not in conflict with the Spirit and the Spirit is not in conflict with Christ. They have one will and one design. And we have to see conflict for what it is. It is an attitude problem. It is a failure to think on a divine level. It is a rushing in to the process with your own agenda. It is quick to speak, slow to think and slower to pray and slower to meditate and slower to search the mind of God. And it is compelled by the flesh which longs for what it has established as its priority agenda. See it for what it is.
 
So the first mark of unity is “Be of the same mind.”
 
Here’s the second one, and it flows out of the first:
 
2.  Being of One Love
 
What does it mean to maintain the same love? It means to love everybody the same. Now that tells me right off the bat he’s not talking about emotional love. 
 
Obviously, that is an impossibility. 
 
Rather, the New Testament definition of love is mutual sacrificial service.
 
Romans 12:10
 
To “be devoted” means to meet one another's needs,
 
First John 3 says that if you look on your friend and he has needs and you close up your compassion to him, it's questionable whether the love of God even dwells in you. James echoes that same thought.  Love acts in behalf of someone else's need. God so loved the world that He gave what man so desperately needed. This is an element of unity. Loving everyone the same.
 
Now let me make it as clear as I can. When you think the things of the Spirit, when you have the sound spiritual objective judgment of God, when you think with the mind of Christ, when you think spiritually and maturely, you will maintain the same love because Christ and the Spirit will be loving through you and love for one another will be the outflow.
 
Once again it comes back to attitude. I would venture to say that when there is a collision of attitudes it rises out of a failure to maintain love. And conflict comes, again, not because of doctrinal problems and not because of ethical problems, because of attitudinal problems and the collision very often comes because someone has a grudge against someone else.
 
Is that no true.  When you think of the conflicts and disagreements that you may be having right now, are they not because somebody feels in their heart something other than love for someone else?
 
It may be bitterness, envy, jealousy, personal ambition or even hostility or hatred.  But ultimately it is that loveless attitude that gives birth to the conflicts that we have. 
 
So if I will develop unity, I must be of the same mind, I must maintain the same love,
 
Third mark:  We will be of
 
3.  One Spirit (accord)
 
We have an interesting word arrangement her in that this phrase is used only here in the entire New Testament. 
 
And it seems to be a phrase that Paul made up, maybe to follow the theme of his thoughts. 
 
It means “one-souled”.  He said back in verse 27 that I want you to have one Spirit, now he says I want you to be one-souled. What does that mean?
 
It means to be deeply connected in the harmony of the soul. He’s talking about passion and desire and ambition.   
See how it works?  If we all have the same passion, same desire, same ambition we're going to be united in Spirit. But you let one person get a desire and a passion and an ambition for the Spirit of God to control the work of God and somebody else has got a passion and a desire and an ambition to be in charge and get their way and you will have a collision.
 
Or even worse, let two people get a desire and passion to get their way and leave God out completely, and you’ve got a train wreck. 
 
When somebody has a desire and a passion and a heart-felt hunger to see Jesus Christ's church united and somebody else wants the whole world to know that they've been offended you have collision.
 
And, man, they're going to spread that everywhere they can. And you ask them what the offense was and they probably couldn't even tell you but it will destroy the unity of the church with a bunch of junk that isn’t even important. 
 
On the other hand, let those who are involved be of the same mind, maintaining the same love and united in Spirit, then there will be a driving passion for the glory of the Lord and the exaltation of Christ. 
 
God being honored and Christ being exalted is always accompanied by a desire and passion for unity in the church. 
 
And anytime someone is driven by some other agenda than bringing glory to God and exalting Christ, there will always be disunity and conflict. 
 
 
We need to be of One Mind, One Love, One Spirit and fourthly,
 
4.  One Purpose (mind)
 
Have you ever asked what's my purpose? What do I hope to accomplish in this?  What am I after?  People in conflict all have their own purpose. You get a whole lot of people together having all different purposes, you've got a lot of problems and a lot of conflicts. 
 
This, by the way, is almost a repeat of the first one.  He first says, be like-minded.  Now he says, be of one mind. 
 
Literally it means minding one thing.  We actually went in a full circle. Be of the same mind so that you are exercising the same love in the same spirit while you are minding one thing. We're all together and we've got our focus together and we're all working with the same intent and same focus which is the glory of God. 
 
Really, Paul is saying the same thing in four ways so that it is buried deeply in our minds and hearts.
 
Unity is evidenced in a group of people who think alike. What do you mean they think alike? They all like the same furniture? No. They all have the same hobbies? No. They all are controlled by a deep knowledge of the Word of Christ, and because they walk in the Spirit, they maintain the same spiritual attitude. There can't be any collision there.
 
Secondly, unity is evidenced in a group of people when they love each other equally.
When they don't have grudges and they're not angry at someone because of something that they think was an offense against them.
 
Unity is evidenced in a group of people who feel the same passion in their heart for the same holy principles, for the same holy goals, for the same divine ends.
 
And they are driven and compelled from the inside to accomplish things that are utterly unrelated to themselves. These are the marks of unity.
 
Now, the question that comes to my heart is, as we begin this journey together, am I willing to commit to that?  Will I make it my ambition to have a unified spirit? 
 
You see, that’s worth committing to whether we ever build a building or not.  These are the marks of the people of God. 
 
This past week, we said goodbye to a great American when Neil Armstrong died.  I was 7 years old on July 26, 1969 when he became the first human to ever set foot on the moon.  He set his left foot on the surface of the moon and made that famous statement:  “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
 
After returning to earth, Armstrong led a relatively quiet life, refusing to sign autographs because they were selling for so much and even suing his barber because he sold a lock of Armstrong’s hair without his permission.
 
I was sent an article this week commenting on his life, and I want to share an excerpt from it:
 
“As the first human to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong bore a heavy load.  One shudders to think what the pressure on him would be like now in our celebritized age.  Armstrong was the right man for a larger-than-life experience.  He was the consummate professional engineer, a self-described geek who always said his achievement was the product of many mind sand strong wills.  He was instinctively self-effacing as his recollections nearby show.  If he receded from public view after Apollo 11, it was to minimize any chance that history’s focus would shift away from NASA’s achievement on that mission.”
 
Even though Armstrong was the public face for the Apollo 11’s success, he knew the real story lay in the willingness of all the ones who worked together on a project that was much bigger than any one of them. 
 
In fact, I think we could safely say they shared one mind, one love, one spirit and one purpose.  In stark contrast to that all around us dwells a culture that has created a selfish, egotistical, materialistic people who can think only of their own things.
 
And the spillover of this is literally devastating the churches. We are hostile. We are angry. We have had so much of this "do your own thing" philosophy embedded so deeply into us that we know very little of what it is to seek oneness and to give ourselves away for one another. It's very difficult to stay separated from that. And the threat that it is to the church is frightening.
 
 
I can only pray that somehow God will find in us a different Spirit, and I call upon you to join me in that prayer. 
 
The psalmist knew what he was talking about when he penned the 133rd, verse 1:
 
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
 
Let's bow together in prayer.
 

 

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