United In Christ

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 1 view
Good Morning Church. What a great opportunity to see two local expressions of God’s Church come together in the name of Jesus Christ. If we haven’t met yet, my name is Pastor Dan Norman and I am the Pastor at Friendship Church in Mondovi. So if you are here from there I probably know you, but because Harvestime South met in our building for so long I see a lot of other familiar faces from friends that I know from your Saturday morning services. I miss seeing you all on Saturday mornings, it is a lonely place without you…but I am so glad to see how God has and is growing you all here in Mondovi.
So for any of you who I don’t know or you don’t know, lets see get to know each other a little better. So - by show of hands...
If you had a hot dog in your hand right now and you were standing in front of the condiment counter who would reach for the mustard? Ketchup? Who would throw the hot dog away and then go wash your hands? We will pray for you.
Raise your hand if you grew up in what you would say is a big city (city kid)? How many of us grew up in the country (country girl or boy)? How about in town, the townies?
When replacing the roll of toilet paper…how many intentionally make sure it comes over the top like a rational person? Ok, how many just don’t care? How many don’t even know how to replace the toilet paper roll at your house?
How many of us are boys or men? How many are girls or women? Notice I just offered those two…lots of educational opportunities today.
Ok, how many of you wear the Green and Gold - Green Bay Packer Fans? How many claim any other team? How many football don’t care?
How many morning only coffee drinkers out there? How many coffee all day? How many coffee tastes like dirt in water?
How many people here from Harvestime South Church? Friendship Church? How many just heard picnic and kickball and you were in?
Kid friendly ones?
So I have double motives for that audience participation exercise. It was fun to learn a little about all of us, but also it helps us to see how we are good at identifying the differences between people. We have a lot of differences just in this size of a group and the larger the group the larger the differences.
I tried to use some pretty light hearted differences, things we hopefully can laugh about and not get offended over, but we are all drastically aware that there are many differences that are heavier and more taken more personal. Differences that keep hitting our news headlines over and over again so that some have said that as a nation we are more divided than ever before. That somehow we have developed a even more keen sense of the differences between ourselves and others when it comes to things like our geographical, social, educational, racial, political, spiritual, financial, behavioral, and even generational differences.
But this morning in this place we are not just a random group of people coming together. We are gathered together today to be the Church. The Church that Jesus is still building. Because Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Mat 16:18
That is why we are here today, we are two local expression of the global Church where God’s people gather together for worship, instruction and fellowship. And the question that I believe God is leading us to consider this morning is how do we find unity in the Church when the world that we are living in right now is shouting so loudly about all our differences?
You know sometimes we can be so stuck in the struggles and challenges that we are facing right now that we forget about how Jesus has been building His Church for 2,000 years. We think that somehow we have come so far in doing this “Church” think that the people of the early Church could never relate to what we are dealing with today…but we would be wrong.
The Biblical record shows us that the early churches that the Apostle Paul planted all around the Roman Empire at the time were made up of people who were even more different than we are in those many areas previously mentioned. And that is why the Apostle Paul often spoke of the need for “oneness” of the Church and the “unity” of the Christian Church. Because it was not an assumed reality.
We are going to take a look at how Paul instructed one Church in particular this morning, the Church in a city called Ephesus. Paul spent three years ministering in the Church at Ephesus, longer than he was at any other Church he planted. But later in his life, after he was arrested and put in prison in Rome, he wrote this letter to them. That letter is the book of the Bible that we call Ephesians and in it Paul calls this Church to the kind of unity that I would argue is only possible inside of a truly Christian Church.
So if you have your Bibles, open them up with me to Ephesians 2, because we ended up here you can grab a Bible fro the chairs and it’s on page 976 those Bibles. I am going to stop and pray and then we will look into what the Holy Spirit gave Paul to teach and grow the Church that God is building.
Paul urged the Christians at Ephesus, who were very diverse just as we are in our culture, to consider 3 ways in which they are united in Christ. Since I was planning on sharing this in the park they are pretty simple and easy to remember ways. The first one is:

1. As Christians, we are united by our pasts (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Listen to how he puts it:
Ephesians 2:1–3 (ESV)
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, This is a description of everyone of us before Jesus! following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Can you hear the unifying language here? He starts by talking about how “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,...” but then he circles right back to say “among whom we all once lived...”.
We are “all” in this together. We were all, at one point, aiming everything in our life at nothing more than carrying out the selfish desires of our mind and out body. You see what is missing there right? We are all made up of “Mind, Body and Spirit” but we were spiritually dead. Our minds were active. Our body was awake. But we were all spiritually dead.
And like a three legged stool with only two legs we were hopelessly broken. We were all this broken, distorted versions of what we were designed to be and so everyone of us was heading for the burn pile…you got one of those on your property, then you know what I mean. It is typically full of stuff that had that worked for somethings in some ways but now they are broken and useless…because we can’t fix them.
That was our shared fate, everyone of us, except for the intervention described the next two glorious words. Don’t miss them or undervalue them because up against this backdrop of our unified past of being “by nature children of wrath” we have these beautiful words...
Ephesians 2:4 (ESV)
4 But God,...
So this is who we were, this is what we were…but God...God did something. Out of his nature and character He intevened to fix what was broken in our nature and character.
Ephesians 2:4–7 (ESV)
4 But God, ....being rich in mercy, (that is who He is) because of the great love with which he loved us, (that is why He did it) 5 even when we (a unified “we”) were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—(let that wash over you Church) 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
This is great stuff Church! We so quickly race through passages like this at such great loss. God out of His nature and character shows his love and grace to us and so He did something. He met us all in the same place - in our trespasses and sins - and he did something - gave us the gift of saving grace. This is our second memorable point...

1. As Christians, we are united by our pasts - we were all lost with out God’s intervention, however

2. As Christians, we are (also) united by our salvation (Ephesians 2:10-18)

And it is into the context of our hopelessness with out God’s intervention that we read these next familiar verses...
Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
In our mother’s womb, we were all first created, but then in our sin we were corrupted. We were all born sinners by nature and we all have affirmed this by our choices to sin. In this ...there is no distinction Scripture says 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:22-23 says.
This is an important reminder, because some of us may feel that our story contains a better or worse record of sin the other people who are sitting around us today. Either because of the family we grew up in or the choices that we made, we see our sin as somehow darker and more sinful than others. But here is the truth, when it comes to reaching the perfect holiness of God - none of us have anything to boast about.
We have all horribly missed the mark. We have all violated our creator’s design in us to the degree that our only hope of having a life anything close to God’s good desire for us is if He made the only way to be saved. It doesn’t matter how far much you feel like you have sinned compared to others - we all have only one hope of salvation. We are all united in that. If we are not trusting in Jesus Christ alone then we are still spiritually dead, like a three legged stool on only two legs. a way. But when we are made alive in Christ, we have a new lease on God’s design working in us and through us. For starting in verse 10 we read:
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
The fact that you are sitting here means that you were created once, but when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are born again, regenerated, created again... in Christ Jesus. Elsewhere Paul says that we are “new creations in Christ”. And now that this has happened, that God’s gift of salvation has been applied to us, we have “good works” to be after. Things that God had prepared for us long ago and now we can finally get after them - but not if we allow our past differences to get in the way.
This is where Paul brings us next, it was a problem for the Church in Ephesus and it can be a problem for us…if we let it. So he says:
Ephesians 2:11-13 (ESV)
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Paul has laid his finger directly on one of the most significant difference that separated the people in the Church in Ephesus. This was not a light hearted difference. It wasn’t about coffee or toilet paper rolls. This was a serious dividing wall that had to be tore down.
The ritual of circumcision was something that God gave to his chosen people Isreal to help separate them from the surrounding nations who served other gods. In addition, God gave the Israelites His law to obey and the covenants of promises to hope in. This would have included the covenant promise of the Messiah, the Christ. So for all those people in the Church who were from other nations, who grew up learning from their parents to serve other false gods, they would not have known of these things, let alone have lived by them.
Some of our stories are something like this. It was not a Jew/Gentile differences but we may not have grown up in a home that talked about the hope found in the good news of Jesus. We may not have had parents who brought us to Church or Sunday School. We may not have heard that Jesus loved us or had a Bible in our home growing up. This would be different than those of us who grew up in Christian homes that had all that from an early age.
But even though we may have come out of different experiences, Christians are unified in their past - in how we were all lost - and in our salvation - in how our only hope is Jesus!
The story of how we each came to Christ may look different, but in this passage Paul is reminding us, as he did these Gentiles that ... in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. But this is not just a message for those who were far off. Paul continues to say:
Ephesians 2:14–18 (ESV)
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Paul is not about to just speak to the Gentile here, because the Jews were just as much in need of a Savior, they were just close enough to know to look for one. And we should never forget that the same Law that separated Gentile and Jew, in things like circumcision, also separated men and God. The Jews had the law, but they were not able to obey it. And so through Christ we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

1. As Christians, we are united by our pasts

2. As Christians, we are united by our salvation

3. As Christians, we are united by our purpose (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Ephesians 2:19–22 (ESV)
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
So these three designations, strangers, aliens and citizens were common terms used to describe differences between people in ancient Roman Cities like Ephesus. A “Stranger” was a complete foreigner with no rights or privileges under Roman law. “Aliens” on the other hand were afforded some common privileges, like neighbors, but nothing like the third designation. To be a “Citizen” was to have full protections and rights in the Roman Empire.
This third category is what Paul is saying that Christians are. Some of us where “strangers” far from even know about God. Others of us may have lived in an environment that accepted certain ideas about God, morality and such - but still we did not really know Him. But when we become a Christian, we all are united together as “Citizens” in the Kingdom of God with all the rights and privileges that go along with that citizenship.
This is what we are really celebrating here today with joining our two churches together. We typically meet in two different places at two different times with many different people and that is a lot of different... but as fellow citizens and members of the household of God we have the most important things in common. Because these things are...
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Throughout the Old Testament the dwelling place of God was the Temple. First the Tabernacle, a tent version, but when God’s people were finally established in God’s place being governed by God’s Law, God’s presence dwelt in the Temple. Eventually, after generations of rebellion against God, He withdrew his presence from the Temple so that it was just a symbol by the time Jesus walked into it. But now, even that symbol has been reborn into a new image.
Hebrews 9:11–12 (ESV) says
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
The Old Testament sacrificial system that was performed in the Temple was just a place holder for what was to come. A Temple not built by human hands, but one built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets who were aligned with the cornerstone of Jesus Christ. The cornerstone was the first stone laid and then every other stone was measured and aligned according to the cornerstone. This is how the people of God are built up into the Church, the dwelling place for God, by living according to the good news of Jesus Christ. The Good News of the Gospel.
The Apostle Peter said it like this:
1 Peter 2:4–5 (ESV)
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
As Christians, this is our shared purpose. To let God’s Spirit indwell and work through us to bring honor and glory to God as we pursue everything that he has designed us for.
In closing, I submit to you again these verses...
Ephesians 2:8–10 (ESV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
1. As Christians, we are united by our pasts - in that we were all hopelessly lost without God’s gift of grace
2. ... we are (also) united by our salvation - we have been saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and
3.... we are united by our purpose - we are new creations in Christ, so now we can TOGETHER get after what God has always had planned for us to do in his world.
Let me invite the worship team up and we are going to do a special song that connects with this message and also transitions us well to the next part of our service where we share in one of the most unifying experiences of the Christian Church.
Let’s pray.
God So Loved.
Let me close with some questions for you to grapple with about what could happen in our Churches if we were truly unified:
“What would your church look like if all the human barriers that people place between them were overcome by the love of Jesus?
What would your community leaders say about such a group of people?
Who would belong who does not belong now?
What would your church’s reputation have in town if it truly were ‘one in Christ’ where there were no ‘foreigners and aliens,’ only ‘fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household’ in Christ Jesus?”
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more