Friday, February 21, 2014

Unity! One of Christ's Commandments by Teresa Beem

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is 
For brothers to dwell together in unity! 
Psalms 133: 1

Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. ....I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even 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 sent Me.

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 
John 17: 11-23

I was raised in a church that preached that in the last days a false Christian ecumenical movement would arise and deceive many. Yet this same idea permeates several other fundamentalist churches who have prophecies of a one-world government led by the antichrist. If you do a search you will find many blog posts warn against “Yoking with Satan in Jesus‘ name” or “Ushering in the One World Religion!” 

These churches are very suspicious of other churches in the ecumenical movement. They wonder, “Are these Christians searching for power over us to deceive us?” They feel God would not want them to be united in any way with those who seems theologically incorrect to them. Some Christians don’t even want to try for unity because they think it impossible.

Yet, over and over the New Testament is clear that Christ wants unity, perfect unity among His followers. Your heart can feel the ache in Christ’s heart as He prayed for the unity of His disciples in the above text in John 17. Unity was strong upon his heart as he prayed in Gethsemane.

...”that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them.”

Christ warned against divisions when He said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” Matt. 12: 25 

If we look at the Apostle’s writings we will find that often they wrote against those who would cause divisions in God’s household. 

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. Romans 16: 17

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." Has Christ been divided ? I Cor. 1: 10-13

Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. I Cor. 10: 16, 17

The works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality...hatreds, strife... dissensions, factions...about which I tell you in advance-as I told you before-that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5: 19-21

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body... But now there are many members, but one body.... so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. I Corinthians 12: 7-27 portions

Did we not walk with the same spirit? Did we not in the same steps?... For I fear lest perhaps, when I come, I shall not find you such as...animosities, factions, detractions, whisperings, swellings, seditions, be among you.  2 Cor. 12: 18-20

Scripture is very plain about disunity. It is not of God. In fact the goal of Christian love is unity. 

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Rom. 12: 4, 5 

Be of the same mind toward one another ;  Rom. 12:16

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall... so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.... for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2: 14-22

Ephesians 4: 2 with all humility... being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. ... And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Eph. 4: 2-6, 11-16

[Note that in this text we find that it is in the unity of the body under God’s chosen leaders that we keep from falling prey to theological deception.]

In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. Jude 1: 17-19

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient... to avoid quarreling...avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile. As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3: 1, 2, 9-11

Oh dear. What do we do now with the idea of a false ecumenical movement? It has been proven that God doesn’t want divisions among His Body and we are all to be unified, so how do we get to that without being pulled into a last day false unity? How can we identify a true Christ-approved unity from a false?

False Ecumenicism

If I were judging whether a ecumenical movement was false, I would watch to see if Christ is the focus and foundation. Are they preaching obedience to Christ and Him crucified or is it more about obedience to a charismatic or prophetic leader? Maybe they shun obedience to anyone, going to the other extreme and focusing on radical freedom and individualism rather than preaching to submit to God’s appointed leaders.

Maybe the ecumenical group’s goals would be more political than focused on Christ. Perhaps personal wealth and prosperity seemed to be more important than sacrifice and unselfishness towards others, especially the poor. Maybe they would say that there is no absolute truth, or if there is, there is no way of finding it. They would ignore scripture or create a new radically changed version of scripture. I might take another look at their authenticity if the movement was opposed to Christian history and tradition, bending to cultural standards and loosening morals. It would set low standards so that no one would be uncomfortable or worse yet, hypocrites. They would gain adherents from excessively emotional entertainment. And I would greatly worry about an ecumenical movement that tried and make Jesus “cool” and “hip.” If they teach love means total acceptance of what everyone wants to do and think and above all we must not judge what sin is? I would walk to the nearest exit. These things would send up red flags. 

True Ecumenicism

What would a true ecumenical movement look like? It would focus on Christ and the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven. It would glorify God and rejoice in obedience to His will. It would teach fear of the Lord rather than fear of man. Its faith would bring us to humble repentance and its grace powerfully guide us in the journey of becoming holy. They would recognize scriptural authorities of Apostles and bishops as well as the infallibility of God’s Holy Word. They would search for truth outside of their own opinions and theological desires and uphold the values that historic Christianity.

The unity would encourage sacrifice for others. And that unity would bring us into the understanding that our enemies are not humans but the demonic powers of darkness. This unity would carry each others burdens, cry when others cry and rejoice when others rejoice. They wouldn’t be afraid of questions and be open to criticism. The people united in Christ wouldn’t be perfect and many will fail to keep the movement’s goals. Yet it would give the troubled soul peace and would exhort the indifferent soul out of its lukewarmness. If they teach love means total acceptance of the person but not of his sins, where love is patient, kind, hopes all things, endures all things? I would run immediately to sign up.

If You Were Taught To Demonize All Ecumenical Movements

Be careful not to quickly judge any ecumenical movement as false. Christ warned us that to attribute the devil to the doings of the Holy Spirit is blasphemy. 

While keeping your eyes open, not for hypocrites but for foundational red flags in the ecumenical movement’s goals, take a step of faith towards those who claim they are Christians. Listen to them with ears of love and with a heart of openness. Unity will take courage, faith and patience. We must diligently pray for these, for the Word of God records:

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Col. 3: 14, 15

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