Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13)
Our “blessed hope” of waiting for Christ’s glorious appearing is one of the great bonds of union given to God’s church throughout the ages. When “ he shall come to be glorified in his saints” (2 Thessalonians 1:10), the unity of the body of Christ will be seen in its divine glory. It will be the meeting place and the triumph of divine love: Jesus receiving His own and presenting them to the Father, our meeting Him and worshipping, in speechless love, that blessed face; our meeting each other in the ecstasy of God’s own love.
Waiting for His coming means waiting for the glorious coming manifestation of the unity of the body, while we seek here to maintain that unity in humility and love. Those who love most are the most ready for His coming. Love to each other is the life and beauty of His bride, the church.
Beloved child of God, if you want to learn how to properly wait for His Son from heaven, live even now waiting on God in heaven. Remember how Jesus lived ever waiting on God. He could do nothing of Himself. It was God who perfected His Son through suffering and then exalted Him. It is God alone who can give you the deep spiritual life of one who is really waiting for His Son: wait on God for it. Waiting for Christ Himself is something God must work in you every day by His Holy Spirit. Therefore, as you wait on God, look to Him for grace to wait for His Son from heaven in the Spirit which is from heaven. And, as you wait for His Son, wait on God continually to reveal Christ in you.
The revelation of Christ in us, as it is given to them who wait upon God, is the true preparation for the full revelation of Christ in glory.
There is much conversation concerning the need for unity especially among the church but the reality is that unity is far too often a rare thing especially in our western culture of individualism. We somehow feel that life should be about what satisfies our own desires and we bring those preferences with us into the church.
When I speak of unity, I am not suggesting that in order to have unity we must agree on everything. I realize that this is often our definition of unity. We do not find even among the disciples of Christ or in the New Testament Church this kind of unity but we do find unity. The unity we find is not a unity of preference but a unity of purpose. Much of our conflict centers around the “how” instead of the “what.” We become focused, for example on how do we do “church” meaning such things as how we gather, how we worship, how we practice our faith, and so forth. And in the engagement of the “how” we miss the unity of the “what.”
When we gather, what is our purpose for gathering? Are we gathering socially or spiritually? I ask this during the pandemic especially since our former “how” of gathering is currently unavailable. If there are some human, formal, required means of gathering and those means are inflexible then we will no doubt find conflict rather than unity. But if the “what”, the gathering to worship God, to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him, to experience the intangible presence of God becomes our focus then unity is seen. It is when we insist there is only one way to worship, that being our norm, that the spirit of unity is broken and the seed of conflict is sown.
It is obvious that the Twelve did not agree about everything but they did agree that Christ was Lord and Savior so they all followed Him, sat with Him, worked with Him, and received His teaching. When you consider that each of the Twelve came from different lifestyles we have to wonder what created such unity among such diversity.
We know, for example that Matthew was a tax collector, working for the Roman government. We know that Judas and Simon were Zealots, working to overthrow the Roman government. We know there were two sets of brothers, Peter and Andrew, James and John. No different that other families, I’m sure that sibling rivalry was present. There was Nathaniel the dreamer and I’m sure that the hard – working fishermen and he had conflict about work ethics.
We read that there was conflict between the Hebrew and Greek widows leading to the creation of the deacons. And we read there was conflict surrounding the expectations for the Gentile believers.
In John 17 Jesus prayed a prayer.
“When Jesus had spoken these things, He raised His eyes to heaven [in prayer] and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, so that Your Son may glorify You. 2 Just as You have given Him power and authority over all mankind, [now glorify Him] so that He may give eternal life to all whom You have given Him [to be His—permanently and forever]. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true [supreme and sovereign] God, and [in the same manner know] Jesus [as the] Christ whom You have sent. 4 I have glorified You [down here] on the earth by completing the work that You gave Me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory and majesty that I had with You before the world existed. 6 “I have manifested Your name [and revealed Your very self, Your real self] to the people whom You have given Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept and obeyed Your word. 7 Now [at last] they know [with confident assurance] that all You have given Me is from You [it is really and truly Yours]. 8 For the words which You gave Me I have given them; and they received and accepted them and truly understood [with confident assurance] that I came from You [from Your presence], and they believed [without any doubt] that You sent Me. 9 I pray for them; I do not pray for the world, but for those You have given Me, because they belong to You; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and [all things that are] Yours are Mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 I am no longer in the world; yet they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, so that they may be one just as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and protected them, and not one of them was lost except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to You; and I say these things [while I am still] in the world so that they may experience My joy made full and complete and perfect within them [filling their hearts with My delight]. 14 I have given to them Your word [the message You gave Me]; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world and do not belong to the world, just as I am not of the world and do not belong to it. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but that You keep them and protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth [set them apart for Your purposes, make them holy]; Your word is truth. 18 Just as You commissioned and sent Me into the world, I also have commissioned and sent them (believers) into the world. 19 For their sake I sanctify Myself [to do Your will], so that they also may be sanctified [set apart, dedicated, made holy] in [Your] truth. 20 “I do not pray for these alone [it is not for their sake only that I make this request], but also for [all] those who [will ever] believe and trust in Me through their message, 21 that they all may be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe [without any doubt] that You sent Me. 22 I have given to them the glory and honor which You have given Me, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected and completed into one, so that the world may know [without any doubt] that You sent Me, and [that You] have loved them, just as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given to Me [as Your gift to Me], may be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, because You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 “O just and righteous Father, although the world has not known You and has never acknowledged You [and the revelation of Your mercy], yet I have always known You; and these [believers] know [without any doubt] that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them [overwhelming their heart], and I [may be] in them.”
This unity that Christ prayed for became evident in the New Testament Church and was the secret of its success even in those times when it operated far beyond its understanding and customs.
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place, and suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were being distributed [among them], and they rested on each one of them [as each person received the Holy Spirit]. And they were all filled [that is, diffused throughout their being] with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (different languages), as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out [clearly and appropriately].
After Peter and John were released, they returned to their own [people] and reported everything that the chief priests and elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “O Sovereign Lord [having complete power and authority], it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything that is in them, And when they had prayed, the place where they were meeting together was shaken [a sign of God’s presence]; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness and courage. Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one [of them] claimed that anything belonging to him was [exclusively] his own, but everything was common property and for the use of all. And with great ability and power the apostles were continuously testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace [God’s remarkable lovingkindness and favor and goodwill] rested richly upon them all.
We have watched the nation and the world over the years becoming more and more divided. We have seen the increase of conflict, hatred, violence and the like and we ask ourselves can there ever be any resolution and even a small glimpse of unity in this broken world. The answer to that question is yes, a conditional yes. This is where the church must come into the equation for until there is unity in the church, there can be no unity in the world.
While we might not agree on the practice of religion, if I might use that word, we must agree on the principles of the Christian faith. Whatever kind of music we use, for example, it must have as its focus the worship and exaltation of Christ. Whether we have formal or informal styles of worship services they must be designed to connect us to God and with each other. We must hold our position as the redeemed children of God above all other identities and and our identity as believers must affect our views, politics and lifestyles. We must unify around the Word of God, letting it chart our course, give us direction and wisdom, and providing our mission. We cannot afford to turn aside from the Christ-given purpose of the church; that of sharing the good news of salvation to each and all. This message of grace must be available to all including those of different races, cultures and social lifestyles without exception. I can tell you from my own experiences that whenever Christians gather to truly worship, who we are and where we come from ceases to be important. As I have worshipped here in the USA with believers of other races, denominations, or cultures, I have found that Christ-centered worship breaks all barriers. I had the privilege to worship at Radio City Music Hall with 3200 pastors from around the world and in that atmosphere, brother and sister in its full way was the most important identification. What incredible unity we felt in that place. I’ve worshipped in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, England, Germany and Dominican Republic with believers who spoke and sang in languages and songs that I did not know and the presence of God overcame even language barriers. I remember in Kenya one Sunday morning being in the church with the believers singing Amazing Grace in three languages at the same time. What I’ve learned over the years is that I can walk in agreement with any believer whose purpose is to exalt Christ and make Him known to a lost and dying world. Do I have my personal preferences? O yes! Can I set them aside so I can join in and worship in a different way with my fellow believers? O yes! Why can I do that? Because my love for God and His church is more important to me than my personal preferences.
O that His church may come together and get so caught up in worshipping Him that all our fleshly desires fade into oblivion and our focus on Him unifies our hearts together as one people of God.
I know we will never agree on everything but I think we must decide how important these things are in the light of eternity. With tongue in cheek, I say that when Christ comes, the color of the carpet in the sanctuary or whether we sing contemporary or traditional songs, or whether we are formal or informal won’t matter. All that will matter and all that will qualify us for the meeting in the air is whether we truly know Christ as our Savior. Nothing else will be important. If that will be so then then it is so now.
Dr. John Thompson