Dwight Fletcher | Better Together - Part 1
Jamaica's current crime situation makes a very compelling case for us to be unified as a people. The conflicts at the heart of the issue are largely a result of people not knowing that we are better together than we are apart. The Church was designed to be the prime example of this unity.
Win Arn, a church consultant, surveyed members of nearly a thousand overseas churches asking the question: "Why does the Church exist?" Of the members surveyed, 89 per cent said, "The Church's purpose is to take care of my needs and my family's needs." Only 11 per cent responded that, "The purpose of the Church is to win the world for Jesus Christ" or to search and rescue the lost. It is this purpose that should keep us unified, motivated, and moving forward.
The early Church knew that this was why it existed. Jesus had enlisted His followers not to a life of leisure, but to a life of service. Jesus came and told His disciples, "I have been given all authority in Heaven and on Earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20 NLT.
Today, we are still called to reach the lost, so what can we learn from the Church in Acts 4 on how to do this? What was their secret?
They were united
"All the believers were one in heart and mind ..." Acts 4:32a. Not just the apostles or leaders, but all the believers were unified. We know that they were united because of the things they did for each other ... "No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had." Acts 4:32b. In other words: They were United in love. They shared the same spiritual Father - God Almighty - their lives and their possessions with one another. So they gave priority to meeting the physical and practical needs that were evident in the community.
Chuck Swindoll wrote, "Churches need to be less like national shrines and more like bars ... less like untouchable cathedrals and more like well-used hospitals ... places where you can take your mask off and let your hair down." The Scriptures say: "By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35 NIV
They were united in purpose with Christ. These men and women were partners in reaching the world for Christ. They linked arms not just for their convenience and comfort, but to reach out to those not yet linked up with them. We are in the life-saving business, because without Jesus:
People are trapped by the enemy
"Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil's trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants." 2 Timothy 2:25-26 NLT. Without our intervention and God's intervention, persons are trapped in a life of sin by Satan. But we can bring them a message of freedom.
People are under the control of Satan
God says to Paul the Apostle, "I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God's people..." Acts 26:18 NLT. Persons without Jesus are living in darkness. I escaped being under the control of Satan with the help of someone who knew Jesus Christ. This is why attempts at unity get so much opposition from the enemy.
When the New Testament Church united, they experienced the power of God. "With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus..." Acts 4:33 NIV. They were better together because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Shared purpose brings unity and unity brings power.
The early disciples had a laser-like focus on their purpose because of unity and the corresponding result was power - the dynamite of God. If we want God to impact our nation, we must go after and work towards unity.
Next week, we will look at how, during the time of the early Church, the power of unity changed their community and the world.