Holiness in an unholy world... (10)

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Donna & I were supposed to speak this morning about the “Battle of the sexes...”, but we have postponed it until next week. We want to share with you about a topic that could become a hot button issue quite quickly in our homes if we let it. That’s for next week.
Last week we looked at suffering: our suffering for doing good or bad, and the suffering that Jesus endured on our behalf.
This morning, I want to look at what God’s calling is for each of us. Let’s read 1 Peter 3:8-12
1 Peter 3:8–12 NIV
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Peter starts this section with an encouragement and exhortation, “Finally, all of you...” God’s calling isn’t optional. He calls all of us to live a life that is pleasing to him. God’s desire for us as Christians is to be sold out and completely His. God is a jealous God. What this means is that God isn’t pleased when our hearts are divided. His will is that our hearts are only His.
Philippians 2:12–16 NIV
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.
This morning, we are going to look at five essential keys to unity. In verse 8, Peter speaks of these keys. God’s desire is that His body is unified. We as part of this body need to be unified as well. Ephesians 4:11-13
Ephesians 4:11–13 NIV
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
In Matthew 12 Jesus was accused of being demon possessed after He had cast a demon out of a blind and mute man. Here is Jesus’ response.
Matthew 12:25 NIV
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
In this case, Jesus was referring to Satan’s kingdom, but it also refers to families, and I believe that we could ascertain that this would also refer to churches.

Five keys to unity

1 Peter 3:8 NIV
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

1. Be like-minded

Said another way, it can be said this way, “Be of one mind.” (Life Application)
Philippians 2:1–4 NIV
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
We can’t be pulling in opposite directions. We need to be in harmony with each other.
Maybe you were in beginner or junior band, you might have been the 2nd trumpet, or the 2nd clarinet. When you had your recital, you didn’t all have the same notes to play, but you had to watch the conductor to see when you were supposed to come in and play your notes. If you came in when you wanted to, and you didn’t come in at the right time, the performance would struggle. It could be earth shattering. I was the number clarinet.
We as Christians are called to follow the lead of our conductor, Jesus Christ. If we follow His voice and are obedient to Him, we can live in harmony together. An orchestra isn’t just about one instrument, but it’s about a symphony that works in harmony together. This brings great enjoyment to the audience. When we as Christians work like this symphony, we bring much glory and honour to the Lord.

2. Be sympathetic

Barnes notes says this, to sympathize is to “enter... into one another's feelings.”
Romans 12:15 NIV
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
When a family has a new baby, it’s can be easy to rejoice and be happy for the new mom & dad. It can also be difficult if you have been trying to have a baby, but have been riddled with one miscarriage after another.
When a tragedy takes place and a family and somebody is taken too soon, we can feel sorry for those who have lost loved ones.
I think that this is still different than those examples. This is more than just feeling sorry for somebody that is going through a hard time or to be happy for somebody. This is feeling what they feel. This is like walking in the other person’s shoes. This kind of sympathy is doing whatever is within our power to help somebody who is in need. This might include resources, money, time, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
Hebrews 4:15 says this about Jesus,
Hebrews 4:15 NIV
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
Jesus doesn’t just feel sorry for us, He empathizes with us in our time of weakness.
Hebrews 4:15 KJV 1900
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus is touched with the feelings of your infirmities. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NLT
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

3. Love one another...

Strong’s Concordance says to “Love like a brother.” As Christians we often call each other brothers or sisters because we are a part of the family of God.
There used to be a saying that blood is thicker than water. Sometimes brothers could be fighting amongst themselves, but if somebody did something to your brother, you are family first, you stick up for your brother.
I have high school and even Bible College friends that I would still consider friends, but many of them, I haven’t seen since school. Family is family. We rejoice when our family does well. We love our family no matter what.
As Christians, we are family. We are called to love each other. Romans 12:10
Romans 12:10 NIV
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
As Christians, we are called to have agape love, that’s sacrificial love for each other. Jesus said, John 15:12
John 15:12 NIV
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
We need that same love that sent Jesus to the cross to die for us.
We aren’t a social club, but I think that sometimes social clubs have that camaraderie that makes them want to be together. Sometimes we might think that we don’t have much in common with other people in the church. Maybe we just don’t have the time to get involved in other people’s lives. It’s just going to take too much time. I’ve been burned before and I’m not sure that it’s worth trying again.
Have you ever been to a church, or even at some gathering, and you just felt like an outsider. You just weren’t sure if you belonged. It seemed very cliquey. Can you imagine moving into a new town and trying to make new friends? You’re a Christian and you know that you should find a new church to attend, but when you go, you just aren’t sure if you are welcome. Someone might come up and say hi, but quickly goes off and starts visiting with somebody else that they know better, and you are left standing with that awkward feeling that you just aren’t sure if you belong. I’ve had that feeling before in different places, but I pray that people never get that feeling when they come to LifePoint Church or LeRoy Community Church. We should be the most welcoming people around. We should give people the feeling that they want to be a part of our church because we are family.
Many churches are very friendly and they would consider themselves to be friendly. There are many deep friendships within the church family, but to try to break in the circle can be hard. Let’s be careful not to let our circles of friendship become hard to belong. Many people should feel that they can belong even before they believe.

4. Be compassionate

To be compassionate means to have tender hearts.

To have tender hearts means to be conscious of others’ needs but includes a drive to alleviate the need in some way. Believers ought to be deeply touched and moved by the hurts, pain, needs, and joys of fellow believers and then act to help them. They should be affectionate and sensitive, quick to give emotional support.

As a boy, I grew up with the attitude that I needed to be tough. Boys shouldn’t cry. I don’t think that I learned this at home, but I probably learned some of this behavior on the school bus or on the play ground. Tears were associated with weakness. I would hear some kids getting taunted with words like, “Don’t be a cry baby”, I probably could have been accused, and been guilty of saying those words.
By buying into the belief that you need to be tough, we can fall into the trap where we become jaded and calloused. We can hide our emotions. Brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to encourage you as well as myself to never lose that heart of compassion, even if it is for somebody that has hurt us.
In Genesis 45, we have the story of Joseph. I talked a little about Joseph’s suffering last week. At this point, he was second in command in the land of Egypt. He was powerful. His brothers had come for food. Ten of the eleven were the ones that had mistreated him. It was within his power to hurt them. He could have thrown them in prison, made slaves of them, or even killed them, but he had compassion on them. He helped them in their time of need.
They came to Egyot for foodin the middle of a seven years famine. Joseph told them that it was God that sent him to Egypt on their behalf. After their father Jacob died, they were afraid that Joseph might take his revenge on them, but this is what he said in Genesis 50:20
Genesis 50:20 NIV
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Sometimes the hurt and the hardships that we have gone through happen so that God accomplish great things in us and that many lives can be saved.
Let’s be compassionate people that care for others and show mercy to those who don’t necessarily deserve it. Let’s carry one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Ephesians 4:32–5:2 ESV
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

5. Be humble

To have humble minds means having an honest estimate of oneself before God.

1 Peter 5:5–7 ESV
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
You are a child of the Most High God. Humility doesn’t diminish who you are. It doesn’t diminish our abilities, but it doesn’t raise us up above others.
It makes us content with who we are. 1 Timothy 6:6
1 Timothy 6:6 NIV
But godliness with contentment is great gain.
Life isn’t a competition. God hasn’t called us to win at all cost. Now there is healthy competition. As an example, let’s say that you are playing a game, it’s not fun to play with somebody who doesn’t care. I used to play lots of board games when I was young. It might have been fun to beat somebody in 4 moves in Chess, but it gets old fast if there is no competition.
It’s true that we live in a competitive world: a dog eat dog world. I ask the question, “When is enough enough?” One time I was told a joke about a farmer that wasn’t greedy. He just wanted to own the land that was next to his.
As Christians, there is nothing wrong with doing well in business, but we should not be cut throat. We are called to be honest and upright in our dealings. We are to work at everything we do with all our might, but when is enough, enough?
1 Timothy 6:6–10 NIV
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Let’s be rich towards God. Love one another. Walk in truth and integrity. Bless those who curse us.
1 Corinthians 6 asks us the question if it is not better to be wronged than to need to be right. It’s a normal and natural feeling to need to be right, but let’s follow Jesus’ example in how He lived,
Philippians 2:8 NIV
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
There was nobody who was ever as right as Jesus, and yet He paid the ultimate price for us. He became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God.
In closing, let’s recap the 5 keys to being one in Christ. 1 Peter 3:8
1 Peter 3:8 ESV
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
God has called each and every one of us to this. May He equip us for doing His will.
Let’s pray.
Hebrews 13:20-21
Hebrews 13:20–21 NIV
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
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