The Cause and Cure For Disunity

SCRIPTURE: Philippians 2:1-4, NLT

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from His love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

 

INTRODUCTION

As we have pointed out previously, the Philippian church is a good church but a divided church. When Epaphroditus brings Paul the love offering from Philippi, he also brings word that they church  has a disagreement. Actually, they had two problems: [1] False Teachers and [2] two women who are in a debate about something. I’m sure Paul was glad to get the offering but he would have preferred good news about the congregation working together over an offering.

Paul appeals to their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I love the way it is stated in the CEV … Christ encourages you, and His love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Let me share with the JEV…If Christ is standing along side you; if His love is compelling you and if the Holy Spirit has given you fellowship with other believers you will have concern for others. In simple English, if you have been saved and you are full of the Holy Spirit, you are going to be concerned about others and you will have the ability to put their interest first.

Next Paul states the CAUSES of Disunity…

  1. SELFISH AMBITION: Paul said is verse 3, “Don’t be selfish.” This is the basic cause of disunity. Individual members insisting on having their way. In Baptist churches, it is not usually theological debates that divide us although theological debates to happen and one is going on in the SBC presently. Most of the time, disunity in Baptist churches are caused by individual members are factions who want their way and many of them have a rule or ruin mentality.
    • I did a revival in a church that I do not have to worry about offending because they no longer exist but this was many years ago and at that time it was a small rural church that ran less than 100 in Sunday School. I noticed during the week that everyone sat basically in the same seat every night with one deacon on the front pew to my left and one to the right. I asked the pastor what was going on and he told me. Each of the two deacons had a following and they had forced everyone to declare their loyalty. The pastor said, “We can’t agree on anything.”
    • The first church I served out of Seminary had a good man who served as deacon but he was head strong and determined to get his way. He would have meeting before the meeting, lining up all his ducks. He knew in advance who would vote for his idea and it was impossible to lead the church: whatever I said, he took the opposing view and more people followed him than myself. He was not an immoral man but he did not practice integrity. He worked behind the scene to manipulate his way. Finally, after a lot of frustration, I got the deacons to oppose him. Matter of fact, of the seven deacons, no one agreed with him on this project. He was also the church treasurer and he did it anyway. I consciously went against my will and the will of the deacons and nothing was said or done about his insubordination. Did it hurt the church? I don’t know but it hurt me and it was one of the reasons I resigned a few months later. The tail was wagging the dog and I could not do anything to correct it. One selfish member can do a lot of damage.
    • In John 8 Jesus has a confrontation with the Pharisees. They were very jealous of Jesus because He drew large crowds and was very popular with the people. This is what Jesus said to them…I am not pursuing My own fame. If I were trying to make Myself someone important, it would be a waste of time. That kind of fame is worth nothing. In is My Father who is behind Me, urging Me on and Praising Me. The One who sent Me is with Me and I always do what pleases Him.
  2. PERSONAL PRESTIGE also in verse 3, “Don’t try to impress others.” I want to share with you what William Barclay says about personal prestige. It is so good, that I will not elaborate. “It is in many ways true to say that prestige is for many people an even greater temptation than wealth. {WOW} To be admired, to be respected, to have a platform seat, to have one’s opinion sought, to be known by our name or appearance, to be listened to, to have a certain degree of fame, or even the desire to be flattered is for many the most desirable thing.”  Let me tell you a parable of two friends. These men had known each other for a long time and had shared both hard and good times but they were as different as daylight and dark. One was very humble and the other was cocky and brash. One was very intelligent and the other was convinced that he was more intelligent. The least one in intelligence would brag about what he said or did and would sometime make light of his friend in his very presence. His friend was never offended. Anytime he wanted to get his cocky friend to do what he wanted, he would began a battery of flattery and it would work every time. The man was a glutton for prestige. It was like feeding candy to a baby. The sad thing is that everyone picked up on what was going on except the man that was susceptible to flattery. His vanity betrayed him. The irony of the relationship was that the fellow who thought he was smart was being out smarted by a fellow he felt superior to in intelligence.
  3. PRIDE…also verse 3 where Paul says, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Paul uses three examples of humility in the following verses…Jesus, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Timothy was rather reserved but he had a deep concern for others and a genuine desire to please the LORD Jesus. Epaphroditus risk his life to serve Paul and to be a courier between Paul and the church. He certainly did not put his interest first. Of course, the best example of humility is Jesus who although He was God, did not reach out and grasp His divine rights. He emptied Himself, becoming a man, a poor man and a servant of men who eventually died willingly on the cross for our sins. Had Jesus at any point put His interest first, we would be lost in our sins. It takes unbelievable humility to endure the suffering He endured when you are the Son of God. I would have had to endure out of weakness but He did it through meekness. Of course, you have probably figured out by now that there is a connection: pride promotes selfishness and the desire for prestige. Pride is the root of the tree.
  4. SELF-INTEREST:  Verse 4, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Obviously the key to any long term relationship is to take an interest in the other person. Sometimes our interest is limited to what the other person can do for us. We all need more than that, we need to know that the person cares about us and the best way to show love is to take an interest in a person. Some people are so self-absorbed that they do not have the capacity to take an interest in anyone else. This literally happened a couple of years ago. A woman was checking out at a store where her granddaughter was a clerk and she went through the check out lane and never recognized her own granddaughter. She had not seen her in so long that she did not recognize her. This was the grandmothers choice. She asked that holidays not be celebrated together so it had been four years since she had seen  her child or grandchild. They live less than 8 miles a part.

So that is the CAUSE…What is the CURE? [we find the answer in verse 1-2]

  1. RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST. Dr. Billy Graham once said the greatest harvest is in the church. He believes that 60% of church members are lost. Why? Because they show no fruit of repentance. Repentance is a life time process. I began my journey of repentance at age 9 and I have been repenting every since. I go to the altar almost every Sunday. When I am preaching, I am looking at cold hard faces. I have to be honest, I see no contrition on their face. I see stubborn determination but no contrition. They will not follow. They have no inclination to follow. They have the nature of a goat not a sheep. It took me a long time to come around but I agree with Dr. Graham, I believe a lot of church members need to repent initially. They do not have a relationship with Christ: they have religion but it is not the same as a relationship.
  2. AGREE WITH ONE ANOTHER. I do not know what Euodia [Fragrance] and Syntyche [Fortunate] were fussing about but I can almost guarantee that if they would sit down together and hear each other out, they would find a solution. Much of our problem comes from misunderstanding. Differences just pop up. We don’t have to work to create differences of opinion but solutions have to be worked out. I am a big believer in talking things out. If you can resolve differences and come to an agreement it is much better than beginning with an entire group disenfranchised. I am not defend the ethics of trouble makers. Once a church declares its will, people should move on or move out but that is not how it works. Divisive people stir the stink. They are subtle, they pick their spots but they do not allow the fire of discontent to go out. We can say what we want but they spell trouble. They have a rule or ruin mentality and they will sabotage everything you do. Some of this could be avoided if we would take the time to talk to each other.
  3. LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Love is kind of a fix all. If we could get everyone loving each others, things would work themselves out. Again, the problem is our differences but love enables us to love those that are different and those that we disagree with.
  4. WORK TOGETHER with one mind and purpose. I used to do things backwards, I tried to get people to follow me because I was the leader but that doesn’t work. I have learned that the SHEEP will follow you if you follow the SHEPHERD. No rule applies to GOATS. Goats are like the 800 pound gorilla, they do what they please and dare you not to like it. Goats worship at the altar of self-will. You will not instruct them, you will not lead them and you will not get them to work together. The best shot we have at unity is to find the will of Christ and do it. The only way to get Christians on the same page is to get them in line with Christ’s purpose. When we have one mind to do His will, we have unity. When we have unity, we have dynamic power.
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