Unto The Lord
Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
Never lay stress on the technical side of Christianity, but always on the fundamental fact that we are Christ’s, and that all we do is unto him. We live “unto the Lord” and we die “unto the Lord.” We must never see to persuade those who differ from us merely to think and act as we do. Our one aim must to be to lead them closer to him. For we are not working for outward correctness, or conformity to certain good things, but for a closer relationship to God himself. Has a brother views that differ strongly from mine? Let it be my first concern that both he and I are doing what we do as unto the Lord. Where that is our goal, notwithstanding outward divergences, all is well between us. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is the central point of Christianity. If, in truth, he is your Lord and he is my Lord, then he himself will adjust the other things.
The key to Christian unity is not that we can seek a compromise between our differing views but that each party makes the conscious choice to “live unto the Lord.” This is not some ecumenical movement driven by human effort, but when each believer chooses to seek Christ first, make His example theirs, follow His instructions and commands, and holds the Scriptures as inspired and without error to set doctrine, then and only then can we walk it true unity. In this we must recognize that there will be times that how they are lived out may be affected by our culture or environment, but they are matters of conscious in which the Scriptures are silent. But in those things of which Scripture speaks there can be no variations.
The push for unity among the church often casts aside the teachings of Jesus or the Scriptures and substitute in their place human reason and preferences. This is nothing different than what occurred in the days of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
For example, while we might differ on methods of baptism- whether once backward, thrice forward, or sprinkling- we are unified in the truth that baptism is to be part of the Christian experience. Our obedience in baptism is not so that we can satisfy an outward conformity to church patterns but so that inwardly we are endeavoring to follow in the pattern that Christ Himself set.
Another example is our approach of witnessing. Multiple methods are used and various approaches may be effective. Often one group will criticize another and accuse them of using improper methods. Rather than engaging in such futile arguments, each party must ask themselves whether their preferred method is actually effective in bring people to Christ or whether it’s just a comfortable, familiar activity that uses a lot of resource without results. We can differ on methods, but we must unite around the principle that the mission of the church is to bring people to Christ.
I think that perhaps most if not all of us are aware of the controversy concerning music preferences. One group may insist that it remain traditional while another may insist it be contemporary. Both sides can point to the other and subjectively accuse them of missing the mark. But the point of unity revolves not around preferences but around effectiveness. We should have no issue uniting around the point of whether the music results in helping people enter into the presence of God with praise and worship, for it is nothing more than a vehicle to be used to transport our spirits from our world of distraction to the throne of God. For each person the genre might be different but whatever genre we choose must be effective at bridging the gap between humans and Christ.
We need not take the time to address outward dress or appearance. For some there is a conflict in such matters as whether we dress formal or casual, things like length of hair- male and female-, and such. But when Christ truly captures our hearts, we won’t make those choices because we desire to please Him. If my goal and your goal is to please Him, then somewhere along the way our paths will merge.
John in his little letter of 1 John reminds us that “now we(all who have been born again) are the children of God…and when He appears, we shall be like Him.”
In heaven , there will be no sects, denominations, or fellowships. We won’t be given our little special corner to occupy. But the fact is in heaven we will be as one because throughout our lives on earth we have allowed the Holy Spirit to conform us into the image of Christ.
James is clear about the source of conflict among believers:
“What leads to [the unending] quarrels and conflicts among you? Do they not come from your [hedonistic] desires that wage war in your [bodily] members [fighting for control over you]? You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your lust goes unfulfilled; so you murder. You are envious and cannot obtain [the object of your envy]; so you fight and battle. You do not have because you do not ask [it of Go
d]. You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires. You adulteresses [disloyal sinners—flirting with the world and breaking your vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend [that is, loving the things of the world] is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
I leave you with a piece of wisdom I received years ago. Pick your battles and do so with a serious question: “Will this matter in eternity?” When we ask this question seriously and with a spirit of humility before Christ, the important issues- those made so by the Scriptures become points of unity among true believers. When we choose to let Scripture set our values, we can agree. When we allow other sources to influence our values, we will always be in conflict for darkness and light will never agree. Jesus was clear when He said that we ought not get so busy with the splinters that we miss the beam. We cannot afford as the people of God to allow insignificant temporary things(such as the color of the carpet) to divide us. Neither can we sacrifice biblical values in order to walk together. May the Holy Spirit grant us discernment and wisdom to walk together in unity.
Dr. John Thompson