Tuesday, December 6, 2011
By Parmenas Shirima, Tanzania
“And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which believe on Me through their word; That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” John 17:19-21.
Christ prayed for us as His followers. We may know from His words what He wanted us to achieve in our Christian experience. He wants Christians to be one, in perfect unity, even as He is one with the Father. This is a deep and serious lesson that we need to study and implement.
Motivating factors which produce unity
In Amos 3:3, we are given one of the factors which work for unity. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Since the unity or oneness that is mentioned here is a lasting one–which means for time present and for eternity–we need to think deeply about the unity referred to the Saviour’s prayer. These essential factors are brotherly love, the same spirit, and harmonious actions or deeds to be manifested at home and in church fellowship.
Love. “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love.” John 15:9. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” Ephesians 5:1, 2. In these statements, we see the role of love as a motivating factor for unity. Read the following verse as well: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for
God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” 1 John 4:7-11.
The same spirit: “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” Ephesians
4:3, 4. The Spirit referred to here is the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost. God’s people must be actuated by the same spirit, even the Spirit of God. No true unity exists where people are led
by different spirits. In such a situation, there will always be a conflict of spirits. This also explains why we sometimes have quarrels and misunderstandings at home and in the church. Let us examine the spirits. Consider these statements again: “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” 1 Corinthians 14:32; 2:12, 13; 6:17; 14:15.
Harmonious actions or deeds. Following is an illustration of how unity is achieved: “Years ago, when the company of believers in the soon coming of Christ was very small, the Sabbathkeepers at Topsham, Maine, met for worship in the large kitchen in the home of Brother Stockbridge Howland. One Sabbath morning Brother Howland was absent. We were surprised at this, because he was always so punctual. Soon he came in, his face aglow, shining with the glory of God. ‘Brethren,’ he said, ‘I have found it. I have found that we can pursue a course of action regarding which the guarantee of God’s word is: “Ye shall never fall.” I am going to tell you about it.’
“He then told us that he had noticed that one brother, a poor fisherman, had been feeling that he was not as highly respected as he ought to be and that Brother Howland and others thought themselves above him. This was not true, but it seemed true to him; and for several weeks he had not attended the meetings. So Brother Howland went to his house and knelt before him, saying: ‘My brother, forgive me. What is it that I have done?’ The man took him by the arm and tried to raise him to his feet. ‘No,’ said Brother Howland, ‘what have you against me?’ ‘I have
nothing against you.’ ‘But you must have,’ said Brother Howland, ‘because once we could speak to one another, but now you do not speak to me at all, and I want to know what is the matter.’
“‘Get up, Brother Howland,’ he said. ‘No,’ said Brother Howland, ‘I will not.’ ‘Then I must get down,’ he said, and he fell on his knees, and confessed how childish he had been and how many evil surmisings he had cherished. ‘And now,’ he said, ‘I will put them all away.’
“As Brother Howland told this story, his face shone with the glory of the Lord. Just as he had finished, the fisherman and his family came in, and we had an excellent meeting.
“Suppose that some of us should follow the course pursued by Brother Howland. If when our brethren surmise evil, we would go to them, saying, ‘Forgive me if I have done anything to harm you,’ we might break the spell of Satan and set our brethren free from their temptations. Do not let anything interpose between you and your brethren. If there is anything that you can do by sacrifice to clear away the rubbish of suspicion, do it. God wants us to love one another as brethren. He wants us to be pitiful and courteous. He wants us to educate ourselves to believe that
our brethren love us, and to believe that Christ loves us. Love begets love.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 191-193.
In unity there is strength
“Strive earnestly for unity. Pray for it, work for it. It will bring spiritual health, elevation of thought, nobility of character, heavenly-mindedness, enabling you to overcome selfishness and evil surmisings, and to be more than conquerors through Him that loved you and gave Himself for you. Crucify self; esteem others better than yourselves. Thus you will be brought into oneness with
Christ. Before the heavenly universe, and before the church and the world, you will bear unmistakable evidence that you are God’s sons and daughters. God will be glorified in the example that you set.
“The world needs to see worked out before it the miracle that binds the hearts of God’s people together in Christian love. It needs to see the Lord’s people sitting together in heavenly places in Christ. Will you not give in your lives an evidence of what the truth of God can do for those who love and serve Him? God knows what you can be. He knows what divine grace can do for you if you will be partakers of the divine nature.” –Testimoniesfor the Church, vol. 9, p. 188.
“I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10.
“Union is strength; division is weakness. When those who believe present truth are united, they exert a telling influence. Satan well understands this. Never was he more determined than now to make of none effect the truth of God by causing bitterness and dissension among the Lord’s people.” – Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 236.
Dedicated and determined revival through prayer
“By prayer and confession of sin we must clear the King’s highway. As we do this, the power of the Spirit will come to us. We need the Pentecostal energy. This will come, for the Lord has promised to send His Spirit as the all-conquering power.
“Perilous times are before us. Everyone who has a knowledge of the truth should awake and place himself, body, soul, and spirit, under the discipline of God. The enemy is on our track. We must be wide awake, on our guard against him. We must put on the whole armor of God. We must follow the directions given through the spirit of prophecy. We must love and obey the truth for this time.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 297, 298.
“Christ is one with the Father, but Christ and God are two distinct personages. Read the prayer of Christ in the seventeenth chapter of John, and you will find this point clearly brought out. How earnestly the Saviour prayed that His disciples might be one with Him as He is one with the Father. But the unity that is to exist between Christ and His followers does not destroy the personality of either. They are to be one with Him as He is one with the Father.” –Review and Herald, June 1, 1905.
“The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. In mind, in purpose, in character, they are one, but not in person. By partaking of the Spirit of God, conforming to the law of God, man becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ brings His disciples into a living union with Himself and with the Father. Through the working of the Holy Spirit upon the human mind, man is made complete in Christ Jesus. Unity with Christ establishes a bond of unity with one another. This unity is the most convincing proof to the world of the majesty and virtue of Christ, and of His power to take away sin (Manuscript 111, 1903). – Sons and Daughters of God, p. 286.
A united front in the family
“And He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” Matthew 19:4-6.
“Unity, love, and peace. Let fathers and mothers make a solemn promise to God, whom they profess to love and obey, that by His grace they will not disagree between themselves, but will in their own life and temper manifest the spirit that they wish their children to cherish.
“Parents should be careful not to allow the spirit of dissension to creep into the home; for this is one of Satan’s agents to make his impression on the character. If parents will strive for unity in the home by inculcating the principles that governed the life of Christ, dissension will be driven out, and unity and love will abide there. Parents and children will partake of the gift of the Holy Spirit….
“The secret of family unity. The cause of division and discord in families and in the church is separation from Christ. To come near to Christ is to come near to one another. The secret of true unity in the church and in the family is not diplomacy, not management, not a superhuman effort to overcome difficulties– though there will be much of this to do–but union with Christ.
“Picture a large circle, from the edge of which are many lines all running to the center. The nearer these lines approach the center, the nearer they are to one another. “Thus it is in the Christian life. The closer we come to Christ, the nearer we shall be to one another. God is glorified as His people unite in harmonious action….
“Unitedly and prayerfully the father and mother should bear the grave responsibility of guiding their children aright. “Parents are to work together as a unit. There must be no division. But many
parents work at cross-purposes, and thus the It sometimes happens that, of the mother and father, one is too indulgent and the other too severe. This difference works against good results in the formation of the characters of their children. No harsh force is to be exercised in carrying out reforms, but at the same time no weak indulgence must be shown. The mother is not to seek to blind the eyes of the father to the faults of the children, neither is she to influence them to do those things which the father has forbidden them to do. Not one seed of doubt should the mother plant in her children’s minds in regard to the wisdom of the father’s management. She should not, by her course of action, counteract the work of the father.” –The Adventist Home, pp. 178,
Union with Christ and brotherly
love in the church. “It is the purpose of God that His children shall blend in unity. Do they not expect to live together in the same heaven? Is Christ divided against Himself? Will He give His people success before they sweep away the rubbish of evil surmising and discord, before the laborers, with unity of purpose, devote heart and mind and strength to the work so holy in God’s sight? Union brings strength; disunion, weakness. United with one another, working together in harmony for the salvation of men, we shall indeed be ‘laborers together with God.’ Those who refuse to work in harmony greatly dishonor God. The enemy of souls delights to see them working at cross purposes with one another. Such ones need to cultivate brotherly love and enderness of heart. If they could draw aside the curtain veiling the future and see the result of their disunion they would surely be led to repent.
“The world is looking with gratification at the disunion amongst Christians. Infidelity is well pleased. God calls for a change among His people. Union with Christ and with one another is our nly safety in these last days. Let us not make it possible for Satan to point to our church members, saying: ‘Behold how these people, standing under the banner of Christ, hate one another.
We have nothing to fear from them while they spend more strength fighting one another than in warfare with my forces.’ “After the descent of the Holy Spirit the disciples went forth to proclaim risen Saviour, their one desire the salvation of souls. They rejoiced in the sweetness of the communion with saints. They were tender, thoughtful, self-denying, willing to make any sacrifice for the truth’s sake. In their daily association with one another they revealed the love that Christ had commanded them to reveal. By unselfish words and deeds they strove to kindle this love in other hearts.
“The believers were ever to cherish the love that filled the hearts of the apostles after the descent of the Holy Spirit. They were to go forward in willing obedience to the new commandment: ‘As I have loved you, that ye also love one another.’ John 13:34. So closely were they to be united to Christ that they would be enabled to fulfill His requirements. The power of a Saviour who ould justify them by His righteousness was to be magnified.
“But the early Christians began to look for defects in one another. Dwelling upon mistakes, giving place to unkind criticism, they lost sight of the Saviour and of the great love He had revealed for sinners. They became more strict in regard to outward ceremonies, more particular about the theory of the faith, more severe in their criticisms. In their zeal to condemn others they forgot their own errors. They forgot the lesson of brotherly love that Christ had taught. And, saddest of all, they were unconscious of their loss. They did not realize that happiness and joy were going out of their lives, and that soon they would walk in darkness, having shut the love of God out of their hearts.
“The apostle John realized that brotherly love was waning in the church, and he dwelt particularly upon this point. Up to the day of his death he urged upon believers the constant exercise of love for one another. His letters to the churches are filled with this thought. ‘Beloved, let us love one another,’ he writes; ‘for love is of God…. God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, hat we might live through Him…. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.’ 1 John 4:7-11.
“In the church of God today brotherly love is greatly lacking. Many of those who profess to love the Saviour neglect to love those who are united with them in Christian fellowship. We are of the same faith, members of one family, all children of the same heavenly Father, with the same blessed hope of immortality. How close and tender should be the tie that binds us together. The
people of the world are watching us to see if our faith is exerting a sanctifying influence upon our hearts. They are quick to discern every defect in our lives, every inconsistency in our actions. Let us give them no occasion to reproach our faith.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 240-242.
Harmony and union are our strongest witness
“It is not the opposition of the world that endangers us the most; it is the evil cherished in the hearts of professed believers that works our most grievous disaster and most retards the progress of God’s cause. There is no surer way of weakening our spirituality than by being envious, suspicious of one another, full of faultfinding and evil surmising. ‘This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.’ James 3:15-18.
“Harmony and union existing among men of varied dispositions is the strongest witness that can be borne that God has sent His Son into the world to save sinners. It is our privilege to bear this witness. But, in order to do this, we must place ourselves under Christ’s command. Our characters must be molded in harmony with His character, our wills must be surrendered to His will. Then we shall work together without a thought of collision.
“Little differences dwelt upon lead to actions that destroy Christian fellowship. Let us not allow the enemy thus to gain the advantage over us. Let us keep drawing nearer to God and to one another. Then we shall be as trees of righteousness, planted by the Lord, and watered by the river of life. And how fruitful we shall be! Did not Christ say: ‘Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit’? John 15:8….
“When Christ’s prayer is fully believed, when its instruction is brought into the daily life of God’s people, unity of action will be seen in our ranks. Brother will be bound to brother by the golden bonds of the love of Christ. The Spirit of God alone can bring about this oneness. He who sanctified Himself can sanctify His disciples. United with Him, they will be united with one another
in the most holy faith. When we strive for this unity as God desires us to strive for it, it will come to us….
“It is not a great number of institutions, large buildings, and outward display that God requires, but the harmonious action of a peculiar people, a people chosen by God and precious, united with one another, their life hid with Christ in God. Every man is to stand in his lot and place, exerting a right influence in thought, word, and deed. When all God’s workers do this, and not till then, His work will be a complete, symmetrical whole….
“The Lord calls for men of genuine faith and sound minds, men who recognize the distinction between the true and the false. Each one should be on his guard, studying and practicing the lessons given in the seventeenth chapter of John, and preserving a living faith in the truth for this time. We need that selfcontrol which will enable us to bring our habits into harmony with the prayer of Christ….
“The heart of the Saviour is set upon His followers’ fulfilling God’s purpose in Him, even though they are scattered the world over. But God cannot make them one in Christ unless they are willing to give up their own way for His way.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 242, 243, 183, 239, 243.
“If Christians were to act in concert, moving forward as one, under the direction of one Power, for the accomplishment of one purpose, they would move the world.” – Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 221.
However, “We are to unify, but not on a platform of error.” –(Special Testimonies, Series B, No 2, p. 47) Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 259.
“My attention was then turned to the company I had seen, who were mightily shaken. I was shown those whom I had before seen weeping and praying in agony of spirit. The company of guardian angels around them had been doubled, and they were clothed with an armor from their head to their feet. They moved in exact order, like a company of soldiers.” –Early Writings, p. 271.
Self-centeredness, a hindrance to unity in the church
“In the establishment of institutions in new fields it is often necessary to place responsibilities upon persons not fully acquainted with the details of the work. These persons labor at great disadvantage, and, unless they and their fellow workers have an unselfish interest in the Lord’s institution, there will result a condition of things that will hinder its prosperity.
“Many feel that the line of work they are doing belongs solely to them and that no one else should make any suggestions in regard to it. These very ones may be ignorant as to the best methods of conducting the work; yet, if one ventures to offer them advice, they are offended and become more determined to follow their independent judgment. Again, some of the workers are not willing to help or instruct their fellow workmen. Others who are inexperienced do not wish their ignorance to be known. They make mistakes, at a cost of much time and material, because they are too proud to ask counsel.
“The cause of the trouble it is not difficult to determine. The workers have been independent threads, when they should have regarded themselves as threads that must be woven together to help form the pattern.
“These things grieve the Holy Spirit. God desires us to learn of one another. Unsanctified independence places us where He cannot work with us. With such a state of things Satan is well pleased….
“Every worker will be tested as to whether he is laboring for the advancement of the Lord’s institution, or to serve his own interests….
“The sin that is most nearly hopeless and incurable is pride of opinion, self-conceit. This stands in the way of all growth. When a man has defects of character, yet fails of realizing this; when he is so imbued with self-sufficiency that he cannot see his fault, how can he be cleansed? ‘They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.’ Matthew 9:12. How can one improve when he thinks his ways perfect?…
“None but a wholehearted Christian can be a true gentleman.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, pp. 197-200.
Let us pray earnestly for true unity
Since we are too victimized by the problem of selfishness, we need to look to Jesus by faith for help in this regard. He knows our situation, for He said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5.
During this special week of prayer, let us unitedly set our minds to plead for unity in our homes as well as in the church. Since this is the will of God, we have the assurance that He will answer our request. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6, 7.
“There are few who rightly appreciate or improve the precious privilege of prayer. We should go to Jesus and tell Him all our needs. We may bring Him our little cares and perplexities as well as our greater troubles. Whatever arises to disturb or distress us, we should take it to the Lord in prayer. When we feel that we need the presence of Christ at every step, Satan will have little pportunity to intrude his temptations. It is his studied effort to keep us away from our best and most sympathizing friend. We should make no one our confidant but Jesus. We can safely commune with Him of all that is in our hearts.
“Brethren and sisters, when you assemble for social worship, believe that Jesus meets with you; believe that He is willing to bless you. Turn the eye away from self; look unto Jesus, talk of His matchless love. By beholding Him you will become changed into His likeness. When you pray, be brief, come right to the point. Do not preach the Lord a sermon in your long prayers. Ask for he bread of life as a hungry child asks bread of his earthly father. God will bestow upon us every needed blessing if we ask Him in simplicity and faith.…
“Prayer is the most holy exercise of the soul. It should be sincere, humble, earnest– the desires of a renewed heart breathed in the presence of a holy God. When the suppliant feels that he is in the divine presence, self will be forgotten. He will have no desire to display human talent; he will not seek to please the ear of men, but to obtain the blessing which the soul craves.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 200, 201. Amen.