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John 17:20-23 | The Deal Breaker: Part 2 | Andrew Gutierrez

October 1, 2017 Speaker: Andrew Gutierrez Series: The Greatest Prayer Ever Revealed

Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 17:20–17:23

I’d invite you to open your Bibles to John 17. This is the part 2 of last week’s sermon, so if you weren’t here last week, you can either listen online, or I’ll cover a little bit of it this morning, but don’t leave thinking that you need to hear the first version before you hear the second. I’ve entitled this message “The Deal Breaker,” and it’s based on John 17, verses 20 through 23, so please follow along as I read. Jesus, praying to his Father, says this:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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.  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 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.

I told you last week that there are a number of things in Christianity, in church life, that are optional. And there are a number of things that are not optional. And sometimes when disunity occurs in a local church it’s because we major on the optional and minor on those things that are not optional. So this is a text about Christian unity. Jesus is praying to the Father for us that we would be unified, resembling the unity of the Father and the Son have. And that’s a pretty unified unity, the unity of the Father and the Son.

So this is Jesus’ heart for us today—Canyon Bible Church of Prescott 2017. This is his heart for us and all local churches.

Now, there are a number of things that local churches can go without. Surprisingly enough, we can go without coffee in the sanctuary. Do not leave a church, this church, any church because you’re not allowed to have coffee in the sanctuary. Maybe if you did you’d be majoring on the minors. We can go without things like that.

We can go without potlucks. I’m not suggesting we do. I’m just saying we can. I’m a sucker for that green bean casserole. I just am. We can go without things like that. We can go without our favorite ministries. We could go without small groups, formalized small groups, in this church. We could go without them because you as Christians would gather together informally to spur one another on, to study the Bible. We can go without small groups. We could. We could go without men’s ministry. We could go without women’s ministry.

Now, hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that we can go without discipleship. I’m just saying we can go without certain formal ministries. We could go without a children’s ministry. We could. And we could be a thriving local body. We could go without air conditioning. We could go without society liking us.

We could go without religious freedom. We don’t want to, but we could thrive if we did not have religious freedom in America. We could thrive. Jesus actually said I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. We could thrive. We could go without a lot of things that we like and want and even do in our church.

We could not go without discipleship. We could not go without preaching. We could not go without widow and orphan care. We could not go without biblical leadership. We could not go without sound theology.

And based on this text and many others, we could not thrive without unity in the body of Christ. Unity is not optional. To be disunified, to have a lack of unity in the local church is a deal breaker. If our goal is to make Christ known, make his gospel known, represent him on earth, and we are not unified, we will not only suffer ourselves, but he will receive less ascribed glory to him.

Jesus in John 17:20-23 is praying for the unity of the church so that the testimony of the Father and Son would be seen as credible. The Father and Son have determined to make our unity one of the things that convinces the world that heaven sent Jesus and heaven sent Jesus to demonstrate God’s love.

In verse 20 Jesus prays—we learn—for us, not just the disciples who he’s been praying for previously. He prays for us. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” So, the apostles have taken the word that heaven communicated, the word that Christ communicated here on earth, and they’ve taken it to be their own word, their own gospel message, their own message of reconciliation from the Father reconciling to a sinner through the Son.

They’ve taken that and made it their own word and pass it on to us; and now Jesus is praying for us, the ones who have believed through their (the apostles’) word. So, Jesus is praying for us in these verses. And he prays, according to verse 21, that we may all be one, that we would be unified. And last week we talked about what that unity looks like according to the New Testament.

We, as believers, we don’t need to—let me say it this way—we don’t need to work to be unified. We already are. We need to work not to mess it up. We already are unified. As soon as you become a Christian you are born again, and you are born again into a relationship with God the Father and into the church. The Holy Spirit has made us one, made us one family, made us one brotherhood.

So what does being one mean? Well, it means first that we’re united by a common source. And there are four examples of what it means to be one here, four components of what it means to be one. The first is that we’re united by a common source. We’re united by the Holy Spirit. As soon as you’re born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, as soon as you become a Christian by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are born into one body, not just born into the Son and into the Father. You’re born into one body, one group of people who are like you.

Secondly, we’re united by a common doctrine. We’re united under the doctrine that says that salvation is by faith alone. Not faith and a couple of works over here. We’re united under the doctrine that salvation is by faith alone, through Jesus Christ alone, by the grace of God alone, to the glory of God alone. We’re united under those doctrines, those common doctrines.

Third, we’re united by a common affection. Believers are united into loving one another. When you go into a home where love does not permeate, you immediately recognize that that family is not all that they could be, nor are they all that they should be. We’re united by a common affection.

When we bring new members up front, when we welcome new members to our body who have said this is our church home, this is part of our local body, you’re part of me, I’m part of you, we’re uniting together, and we’re saying when we stand up and commit to help them in their Christian growth, we’re in essence saying we will love you even when it’s hard. We are together in this. We are one. We’re united by a common affection.

Fourthly, we’re united by a common aim, and we learn that aim in John 17. We’re united by the common aim to represent Christ here in the world, to represent him specifically by getting his gospel out, getting his gospel message out and living like him. He’s physically in heaven. We are the ones he’s left to be salt and light.

So we’re saying that this church exists to make Christ known beyond our walls. And that’s what every local church should exist to do. We gather together to be strengthened and equipped and edified and loved and cared for so that we can be ready and go out and make Christ known beyond these walls. We’re united by a common aim, a common goal.

Now, I told you last week that Jesus prays in these four verses, he prays about the essential—he shows us why unity is so essential, why disunity is a deal breaker. And he gives us three critical reasons why we must be unified as Christians. We went through the first two last week.

1.  We Must Be United So That the World Will Believe that the Father Sent the Son

The first was this, we must be united so the world will believe that the Father sent the Son (v. 21). He says:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you [and then here’s the purpose, here’s the reason], [so] that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  

So, Jesus wants us to be unified so that the world believes that the Father sent the Son. And we said last week that Jesus wants people to understand that the Father sent him to give eternal life. Jesus links people’s believing this message to our unity. So Jesus—you’ve realized this if you’ve been with us through John or if you’ve studied the book on your own—Jesus is constantly telling people he’s come from the Father. He’s the one sent from heaven.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He’s the only one that heaven sent, and he’s the only one that can bring a sinner into a right relationship with God the Father. So the amazing thing, as we said before, isn’t that God only makes one way for salvation, and how could he do that? Why would he not allow multiple ways of salvation? The amazing thing is that he made one way. He doesn’t owe us one way, but he made one way. And it’s through his Son.

So Jesus comes and wants that message to be believed. I’ve come from heaven. And he even, earlier in John 17, tells the Father that the disciples should be commended for their belief that he was sent from heaven. So this is something that heaven wants known, that Jesus Christ has been sent from heaven to be the savior of people from all over the world.

And he says, apparently, that when we are not unified, people start to doubt that. Disunity among believers causes people to question whether he is really that great and whether he is seriously the savior of the world. So you’re telling me that I need to repent of my sins and believe in Jesus Christ as the only one sent from heaven? But you bicker and whine to me all the time about the people in your church, and I’m supposed to believe that your God is a savior? I’m not buying it. Jesus wants us unified so that the world will believe that the Father sent the Son.

2.  We Must Be Unified Because We’ve Been Given the Power to Be So

Secondly, as we went through last week, verse 22, we must be unified because we’ve been given the power to be so. We’ve been given the power to be so. Verse 22: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” And I told you last week, when you hear glory in this context, think of divine ability. The divine ability, Jesus speaking to the Father, that you’ve given me I’ve given to them so that they may be one even as we are one.

So Jesus not only prays for our unity, but he gives us the power to be unified, to maintain that unity. So to be lacking in unity is not just to be selfish and to pursue our own desires, but it’s also to lie about the power that we’ve been given. Don’t ever say I can’t forgive that person. Don’t ever say that. When you say that, you’re saying God is not powerful enough to work in me to forgive that person.

Why do we need to be unified? He’s given us the power to be so. And he prays to his Father that we would be so.

3.  We Must Be Unified So That the World Knows That God Love Us

Third, and for today, we must be unified so that the world knows that God loves us. We must be unified so that the world knows that God loves us. We must be completely one, one completely, so that the world will know that God loves us through Jesus Christ.

Verse 23 Jesus says this: “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one [or completely one], so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” So, notice at the beginning of verse 23 Jesus says this. He talks about all the ways that there’s unity, and he says this: “I in them.” How is Jesus in us? Well, we learned earlier in John 14 and John 16 that Jesus will be in us through his Spirit. The literal life of Jesus is in every believer by his Holy Spirit.

So he’s saying, “I in them.” So Father, I’m praying to you that they would be unified. I am in them and you are in me. So we know earlier from John that Jesus is the representation of who God is. He is the exact image of who God is according to Colossians 1 and Hebrews. Jesus is the representation of God. He’s the manifestation of God. God is in the Son. So he’s saying, Father, I am in them, you are in me. Tease that out a little further—the Father and the Son are in us, so we must be unified like they’re unified.

To be a Christian that holds grudges and pursues disunity and causes disunity is to lie about who’s in you: the Father and the Son. “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me.” We saw that earlier in verse 21. And that the world may know that you love them—love the believers. The world needs to know that the Father loves us believers even as he’s loved the Son.

Listen to Ephesians 4:1-6, talking about this indwelling of God and unity.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord,

This is Paul speaking to the church in Ephesus.

urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness,

This is how we are supposed to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. We just sung great truths about the gospel. Now it’s time for us to walk in way that adorns that gospel. So here’s what Paul says:

with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager [eager] to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

Now listen to this:

one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The Father dwells in us according to Ephesians 4. The Son dwells in us according to John 14. The Spirit dwells in us according to John 14 and 16. The Trinity indwells us, and the Trinity is one, so we are expected to be eager to be one. Do you think your unbelieving friends think of churches as eager to be unified? I think that many of them do not.

Why is this such a big deal to Jesus that he would be praying about this at the end of his prayer, right before he would be arrested, tried, executed? Why is he thinking about this stuff? Because clearly it’s important to him that his followers would actually love each other, be forbearing with one another, come under sound teaching with one another, be led by the Spirit, be eager to reconcile quickly. This is a big deal to our Lord.

Jesus came to bring people back to the Father. Now those people, his disciples, us, you and I, say that we’ve experienced a love unlike any other love in the world. Isn’t that the essence of what we’re saying to other people? We’ve experienced a love that’s unlike any other love, a forgiving love, a patient love, a love where the Son sacrificed himself for our salvation when we didn’t deserve it.

Our message is that we’ve experienced a love that none of us deserves, and it’s unlike any other love, and you can experience the same love. That’s our message in a sense. And then we preach that message and in the next breath become selfish and gossipy (I don’t know if that’s a word but I’ve made it one) and factious right after we’ve preached about the love of God for us. So because of this, the world questions whether this love that we’ve received is really powerful, is really a real thing.

If you followed around a family for a month who you knew had conflict, you got to see in their home, you got to see when they went on vacation, you got to see when they … everything. You got to see everything. And you saw children, teenagers, adult children bickering, fighting, saying horrible words, failing to forgive one another, failing to pursue peace. They actually pursue being right and arguing.

If you witness that for a month, you might question how good of a father the father was. You would see that and you would think, can’t this guy do something about that? Now, if you were watching that for a month and he was making an effort, you would be like, well, the guy’s trying. But if you observe that for a month and the guy just kind of sat back and didn’t really care, you’d question whether that man knew what it meant to love someone. You’d question whether that man knew what it meant to be at peace with people because he evidently can’t communicate that to his children.

Do you see why the world questions the Father’s love when we fight all the time? Is his love really that strong, really that powerful? Is his Holy Spirit really that strong to really change your life? You’ve said your life has changed. You look just like me. You look just like the people who engage in office politics at my office. You look the same.

No wonder the world questions the Father’s love. Our heavenly Father loves us, and he loves his Son. We learn from this verse that he loves us like he loves his Son, which is a staggering thought. He’s made peace, and he’s brought us together with Christ, and he’s brought us together with each other. When we are not united, the world not only thinks little of our love, they think little of his love. And that’s the worst part.

Leonard Ravenhill wrote this: “You never have to advertise a fire. Everyone comes running when there is a fire. Likewise, if your church is on fire, you will not have to advertise it. The community will already know it.”

Can we just agree that this is a horrible reality? Who is there who will be jealous enough for God’s glory to humble themselves, lay aside their agenda, confess their sin, and seek peace? Who is there who will be so jealous for God’s glory that they would humble themselves and not get their way? Revival will not happen in America, will not happen in Yavapai County, will not happen in Prescott if we just keep holding to our party positions in the church. Will not.

John 13:35, Jesus told his disciples earlier in the night these words: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Do you see how Jesus in a sense puts his and the Father’s credibility on the line based on how we live? That’s a tall task. Jesus, you’re saying that your credibility in a sense depends on us. That’s too much. We can’t do that.

Of course, we can. That’s why he puts himself in us. That’s why he puts his Spirit in us. So then, actually, we can do that. We can be credible witnesses. We can make his love known and believed. We can tell people that Christ is the only one sent from heaven, and he will change your life, and people would actually believe that because they’ve seen that in us.

We can say that he’s patient because they see his patience in us. We can say that he is love because they see us loving other people even when they offend us or wrong us. We can say that because he’s in us. Or is he?

This is one of those sermons—I don’t think I have ever wanted to preach a sermon to another place. I focus on who the Lord’s given me. But this is one where I think it’s important to us to hear before the conflict comes. I think this is a pretty unified body. Now, we’re not perfect at all. Not even close. But I think our unity is a great example. I do. But that doesn’t mean tomorrow it will be.

And we know because we hear and get reports of churches who are not experiencing unity right now; and I think, like I said last week, a lot of times we think, oh, well, that church is going through this because this happened and that happened. And the poor people who aren’t being shepherded—and that’s true. And these ministries have ended. That’s too bad. And this and that.

But who is looking up to heaven and saying poor God? He does not deserve this. His reputation does not deserve this. We say poor him and her and them and us, but who says poor God? He doesn’t deserve his name to be dragged through the mud like this.

I’ve asked the ushers to do something rather uncommon. They are going to pass out a document because I want you to have it in front of you while I walk through it. This is a document based on 1 Peter 3, so please turn there if you will. 1 Peter 3. 1 Peter 3:8-12. I don’t know who’s teaching this in women’s ministry coming up in the next couple of weeks, but sorry. I’m preaching your sermon ahead of you, so.…

1 Peter 3:8-12, and if you don’t have it yet, you can still follow along. Here are our options: to be unified or to lack unity. Another way of saying that is, here are our options as a church: to be at war with each other or to be at peace with each other. Those are our options. There are only two—in conflict—to be at peace or at war.

1 Peter 3:8-12 will highlight the right response, and on here I’ve given you also the optional unrighteous response. So, you can choose which one you want to follow. This is kind of a “choose-your-own-adventure” thing. And the credibility of God, the testimony of God is at stake.

If you’ve been here for the last two and a half years in our church’s life, you hear us talking a lot about conflict resolution. It’s because we think, by and large—by and large, not everywhere, by and large—the church today, the universal church does conflict resolution so poorly. We fight like the world instead of looking to 1 Corinthians 13, Colossians 3, Philippians 4, and a number of other places. And 1 Peter 3.

So here’s what 1 Peter 3:8-12 says, and I’ll just read it first:

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For

“Whoever desires to love life
  and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
  and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
  let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
  and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

And the evil spoken of in this passage is the evil of disunity. So, I’ve given you the righteous responses. Whenever you’re in conflict, whenever you’re in conflict with another brother or sister, here are the righteous responses on the left, and here are the unrighteous responses on the right.

The first: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind.” You see this a number of places in the New Testament. Remember Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4? Paul tells them, Paul tells his associates in Philippi, he says, see to it that these ladies are of the same mind. The way you think about one another is the beginning of conflict resolution.

How do you become of the same mind with someone you disagree with? You go back to what is true of both of you. We’ve both been saved. We’ve both been brought into the family of God. We both love the gospel. We both love Jesus Christ, the Son. We both have been indwelt by the Spirit. That’s what you think about. Have unity of mind.

But now if you want to be unrighteous and you want to hurt the testimony of this church and the testimony of the God that you say you love, do the opposite. Think and speak often about what separates you. Think and speak often about what separates you. And isn’t that what we’re tempted to do in conflict? People know the person we’re against by their position that we disagree with. People don’t know the person we’re against by hearing us talk about all the ways that we are of one family together.

Secondly, have sympathy. The person you are in conflict with, you are supposed to have sympathy toward. Or you can go with the unrighteous response. Care less about them than you once did. I thought you and Jim were best friends. Yeah, but he ran his mouth a little too much. Don’t you go to the same church? Aren’t you both Christians? Yeah, but he shouldn’t have said what he said. Well, didn’t you like really care about his family and serve them in a number of ways? Yeah, but remember I told you, he said the things he said.

You can go that route and look like the rest of the world and demonstrate that you might not actually have the spirit of God inside of you. Or you can have sympathy. Think about the person you might be in conflict with now. When was the last time you thought about them with sympathy?

Next, have brotherly love. You know, the thing about a family, you’re in it for the long haul. A family is something that’s long-lasting, not temporary. Cars, clothes, houses—temporary. Family—in it for the long haul. So when you are in a conflict with someone, think of them as, they are my brother; they are my sister.

Or you can view your relationship as optional. I’ll just go and get other brothers and sisters. I’ll separate myself. So, you can do that if you don’t care about the glory of God.

Four, have a tender heart. By the way, these words on the left, which are the words in 1 Peter 3, there’s a softness here. I think a lot of times when we think about unity and being jealous for the glory of God even, when we think about being jealous for the glory of God, we, for some reason, equate that with being mean to people. If you are jealous for the glory of God, you will be tender with people. You’ll be soft with people. You’ll treat people better than they deserve in the moment.

And we know what that looks like because that’s how God is dealing with us today, right now. It’s the way he always deals with us. He gives us better than we deserve. 1 Peter 3—softness comes out of these characteristics. Have a tender heart.

Or be harder on them to teach them a lesson. Frown at them. Don’t smile when they walk in the room so that they know they have done something wrong. Go that route if you don’t care about the glory of God.

Or when you look at them, ask the Lord, give me the ability to see them from a tender heart. Jerusalem, largely, in the time of Christ rejected the Messiah, and Messiah looked over them and wept.

Five, have a humble mind. Think more of their faults and sins than your own if you would rather go the fleshly way. Think a lot about all the ways they have been wrong, and think very little about your wrongdoing.

To do the left-hand column, by the way, is hard, but it’s not impossible. The flesh wars against us still, but when you say you’re a Christian, what you’re saying is, yes, I’ve got a flesh still, but I’ve got a new heart, a new heart that beats. I’ve got new desires, new longings, new loves. So, in a sense it might be hard, but you’re also able to do it. You’ve got power to do the left side.

Six, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling.” Or you can choose the opposite. If they sin, then you can sin. They started it. That’s humorous right now, but I fear it’s all too real Monday through Saturday. If they sin, then you can sin because they started it.

You know, when children are fighting and you’re not in the room, but then you kind of turn the corner and you see them fighting and they don’t see you, a lot of times once they do recognize you, they start to make their case. The only reason I gouged out his eye is because he took this or she took that. And they start making their cases.

You know, I don’t think there are many mothers and fathers who are watching what’s going on and saying, you know what, I’m just looking for someone to side with. I want to take someone’s side so bad. That’s not what our Father does in your conflict. But a lot of times in conflict we say things like, well, they did what they did to me, but it’s me and the Lord. Well, it’s also them and the Lord. He cares about them just as much as he cares about you because I read somewhere (Ephesians 4) that God is in all.

Romans 14—there’s conflict in the body, and one of the things that Paul wants them to know is that God is in everyone. So God doesn’t sit here going, who am I going to side with? Who’s more right? He’s saying who will be the one that demonstrates my Son’s life and brings peace to this relationship? He wants peace, not to pick your winning team.

Seven, bless the other person. Or you can desire painful discipline due to their mistakes and sins.

Eight, keep your mouth from speaking evil and deceit. Or you can believe that negative speech is okay in this situation. Hey, I’m aloud to gossip because they were really mean. We never say that, but we live that a lot. I understand that.

Nine, he talks about turning here. Repent. Turn from evil and do good. Talk to the Lord. Tell him where you’ve been wrong even as you’ve been wronged. Lord, the way they wronged me, I responded wrongly. I didn’t respond like your Son. I responded like me and my flesh, but I haven’t responded like your Son. Turn from evil and do good. Or hold your ground. After all, you’re right. You know, there’s a wrong way to be right.

Ten, seek peace. Seek peace. Blessed are the peacemakers. Jesus himself came to bring peace. There’s a reason peace is one of the themes of Christmas because God was sending his Son to make peace with a sinful world. That’s amazing. And so he calls us as believers in a hostile world to seek peace with one another.

Now remember, by the way, the context of 1 Peter. The church is being persecuted from the persecution of Nero. This is one of the first and greatest persecutions of the church, this new church who was first launched in Acts 2 at Pentecost, is now being persecuted and people are dying for their faith.

And Peter has to write this to the church. It’s as if Peter can be saying, listen, they’re already treating you like enemies, the world is, why are you treating each other like enemies? Remember the real fight you’re in. You’re a family. They hate you. Why are you fighting? That’s the context of 1 Peter.

Seek peace. Or seek being seen as right above all else. Talk to more friends who know you and the other person to try to get the friends on your side to think little of the other person.

Eleven, by the way, don’t just seek peace. As you’re heart goes from a wicked response to a righteous response, it starts to move and maybe you say, still in the wicked response phase, okay, Lord, I want there to be peace. And a lot of times we say, amen, and expect but they’ve got to admit they’re wrong. No, no, no. Seek peace and pursue it. So far as depends on you be at peace with all men.

It means you should see yourself as the initiator of peace. Why would I ever do that? Because that’s what your God did for you. Not only seek peace but pursue it. Or the opposite response. Don’t cave in. This is weakness and whatever you do, don’t believe that Christ reconciled himself to people while they were sinners. You’ve got to disbelieve a lot of the Bible to live in the right-side column.

And then verse 12, he’s told us what to do, and he tells us that God is watching and looking to reward. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” So how do you view that wrongly? The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous. Or you can know that being right is more important to God than you being righteous.

So, we excuse all kinds of sin—slander, gossip, anger. We excuse all sorts of sins because we’re right, and we think that God is with us because we’re right at the end of the day. No, no, no. His eyes are looking to the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. What he’s saying is, if there’s a righteous person who humbles himself and admits they’re wrong and pursues peace, seeks peace, wants to have empathy, wants to reconcile this relationship, that’s the one the Lord’s listening to when they pray.

Or the one that stands their ground. They’re right. They’re not going to be patient. It doesn’t matter if they gossip because the other person’s wrong. That person—evidently his ears aren’t as willing to hear their prayers. So, if you want to respond in an unrighteous way, don’t think that any attitude of yours will ever diminish God’s eagerness to answer your prayers. But 1 Peter 3:12 says something else.

Finally, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Now, if you want to respond in a fleshly way, don’t believe stuff like this. After all, God never warns his church, right? You see the parentheses. Note the heavy sarcasm.

Listen, when a church is not unified, and they think, you know what, it’s no big deal. God needs us. They are so wrong. God does not need this church. He does not need Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He does not need Calvary Chapel. He does not need First Baptist. He does not need First Presbyterian. He does not need any church.

He desires his churches to be faithful; and, yes, he does love his churches. But he is not impressed by them. Read Revelation 2 and 3. The church at Ephesus that had Paul’s fingerprints on it, the Lord himself rebukes and says, I will take away your lampstand, which is their church. I will take away your standing as a church. The Lord doesn’t need us. He loves us, and he uses us, and he calls us to be his representatives.

I wonder if we would dare pray that if we became more known for being a church full of disunity than unity, I wonder if we’d ever pray, Lord, end our church so that your name isn’t dragged through the mud. I don’t know. But doesn’t he deserve a unified church? Does he not? He’s been so good to us. Even as we have sinned against him. How can we not be so good to each other even when sinned against?

That’s everyone in this room, myself included. I know this is heavy, but I think it’s something we need to hear. I think it’s something we need to hear if we want the name of Christ to be known and for people to love who he actually is and how great he is.

A lot of times we hear things like this on a Sunday morning and they make so much sense right now. But then just 48 hours from now when something happens at Bible study or with another believer, we’re so tempted to throw 1 Peter 3 out and to operate from the flesh and to keep operating from the flesh and make excuses for why we operate from the flesh. And to not really care about which unbelievers hear us and know us as operating in the flesh. It doesn’t matter because we’re right and they’re wrong.

My earnest prayer is that we would take to heart 1 Peter 3. We’d humble ourselves. That we’d be known for our love and forgiveness of one another and for our longsuffering with one another. We’re a family after all. But if you choose to go out these doors and to reject 1 Peter 3 and to say, well, I’m not going to forgive because what they did was so bad, or I’m not going to follow 1 Peter 3 for these reasons.

I guess you can do that, but I’d have one request. Please don’t tell anyone you’re a Christian. Christ is worthy to be seen as beautiful and lovely and unifying because he is. Let’s leave that testimony. His ascribed glory is at stake. Let’s pray.

Father, unify us together. We know that if you do, it will mean painful conversations and difficulty and humility. Give us the spirit, Holy Spirit power, to obey 1 Peter 3. Lord, give us the ability to see things through the lens of your glory rather than our own wants and preferences. Stamp on our hearts your glory. Convince us about the importance of you being glorified. Let us see everything, all the decisions we make, through that lens. Your glory. Your glory alone. We pray this in your Son’s name. Amen.

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