We are going through a time right now of tremendous unity and blessing in this church everyone has been working together and praying together and giving of themselves and giving of their resources in order to accomplish great things for God and God has just been pouring out his blessing on us and what a what a great time this has.
Been these last few months just receiving such blessings from God I want to share a few things with you this morning in way of introduction that are examples of.
Unity that we’ve been enjoying as a church this is a card from Ray and Shelley Harrison and their family and I’m not going to read all of it to you it’ll be on the bulletin board out there she wrote it to you and so you know it would be appropriate for it to be placed back there so you can read the rest of it but I’m going to read just a little snippet from it but Ray and Shelley have have had quite a.
Time for several years Shelley has been through to neck surgeries and has not had the desired results from those and suffers from migraines and all kinds of issues and.
And has had trouble getting disability and Ray was injured and was off work for a while and then was in between.
Jobs and having a hard time and and during all of that this church stood beside them.
And and and helped them and pray for them and several of you were were very generous toward them and helped them through some real difficult times and and and Shelley says in this this is like maybe a seventh of what’s.
Just going to read one paragraph she says this church.
Has shown what true unconditional love and come fashion truly our god truly is the heart of our church and so there’s a lot more there but all that to say that’s what unity looks like you know that that we share with one another when when one.
Of us suffers we all suffer with them you know and and we try to gather around them and and lift them up and and help them and and so that’s just one example of the kind of of unity that we’ve been enjoying in this church another.
One last last week we had the PI option and and I don’t I don’t.
Think Steve had the exact figures I think he was off a little bit trying to steal my thunder and so I’m gonna set the record straight but uh we had our PI auction and you know in in so many churches you have the old people you have the middle-aged people you have the teenagers and young adults and then you have the children and and they’re all broken up they’re all segmented you know and and there are rifts between the younger generation.
And the older generation and the old folks crab about the young folks and what they do and the noise they make and the things they break.
And all of that kind of stuff and we just don’t have that in this church and what we have is we have old people who love the young people and young.
People who love the old people in return and a mutual.
Love and care and support that is very rare in churches and very rare in churches so we have a pie option to help send kids and youth to camp and the the auction itself last week brought in by the time it was all said.
And done because there was more that came in after the fact but that auction and itself brought in 800 $12.
50 that’s tremendous all the people who baked all the pies and.
I’m seeing all these pies and I’m hearing well I’m making this many pies and that many.
Pies and I was thinking to myself I was thinking there are only so many of us who can bid on these pies you know and not to worry I mean the generosity the support that that.
Is the adults and and you know the senior adults all the way down through coming together baking.
Pies buying pies you know paying 80 bucks for a cake or a hundred for a pie or whatever that is a tremendous act of love and unity and support of our children and our youth.
Michelle has continued to take orders and and threw her and her baking people from this church and people outside are like well I want to pie you know all they see what God’s doing.
Here and God’s blessing and people are saying well I want to buy one of those pipes how much are they Oh forty bucks you know okay I’ll give you 50 you know and just that kind of things been going on so another five.
Hundred and twenty dollars came in for a total of thirteen hundred thirty two dollars and fifty cents yeah great what a what a united effort and God blessed it.
And then you know on top of that we have kids selling candy bars you know we who we get pies that we’re selling we got candy bars that we’re selling we they got people bringing in Easter candy and it’s all about sweet goodies here at new beginnings and it’s why the pastor is on a diet and some of the rest of you will be joining me shortly.
I have a feeling but the the Pioneer clubs are selling candy bars to go to the Ark Encounter which.
If you’re not aware what that is it’s actually in Kentucky isn’t it yeah I cross over and go down into Kentucky and it is a scale replica of the Ark and and divided up to show how it’s possible for all of the animals to live in there and they have.
All the food and water and everything for.
Them and just a tremendous thing and so our Pioneer Club kids are going to go see that and and that’s got to be something that’s going to leave a lasting impression on their minds and.
On their hearts and so they’re selling candy bars and and you know what you guys did.
You guys said well here’s $400 go buy candy bars and bring them back and sell them to me and I’ll I’ll pay you some more in God’s economy that makes sense in God’s economy that makes sense because God blesses generosity and God blesses.
Unity and and again you know what a show of support and love and unity for our youth and our children to.
Have that kind of response from our people and no one’s grumbling but those daggone kids they’re selling now they want to sell candy bars you know no one’s complaining every is being generous and kind.
And supportive and and the kids have got to feel that love and support you know what a tremendous blessing and then and we love it when babies.
Cry in church and we’re like boy whose grandkid is that she sure is a cutie you know because we love our children and our grandchildren and our church kids but what a what a tremendous united effort to bless our kids and to bless their ministries and then we have our Easter outreach that’s coming up and everybody has been praying for this Easter outreach God who who do.
You want me to invite this year God how can I help out god.
Bless this outreach this year we’ve been praying everyone’s been donating candy I didn’t even get a chance to donate any I went back there and all the little eggs were taken off of the.
Thing and so you know I feel kind of hurt and slighted but I’ll get over it.
And but everyone has been giving and praying and we’re all coming together.
On the 31st and we’re going to clean God’s house and get ready to receive our guests that we’ve been inviting and everyone.
Has has just been working together praying together were united in prayer were united in proclaiming God’s gospel were united in love and unity and if there’s one thing that devil hates it’s a United Church if there’s one thing the devil hates it’s a.
United Church and do you know why because there is nothing he can do to defeat us unless unless we allow him to pit us against each other and destroy our.
Unity I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be the guy that the devil uses to shipwreck the unity of God’s church the devil is going to try every trick in the book to try and divide us because he knows.
That a house divided against itself cannot stand so we we need to prepare ourselves this is not the first time that we’ve been in a season of unity and blessing but it will be the first time that we’ve ever preserved the unity and pressed forward and saw what God wanted to do.
In this church fulfilled this will be the.
First time we’ve been we’ve been.
Here before I’ve preached messages like this before but there’s been there’s been someone who let the devil use them to destroy unity.
Heartbreaking absolutely heartbreaking and it happens all over the world and churches all over the world let’s not let it happen here let’s.
Not let it happen here let’s let’s put forth the effort that it takes to preserve the unity that God has given us and let’s be a church that the devil hates amen that’s the title of my message this morning being a church the devil hates that’s the kind of church I want to be let’s pray Lord Jesus we just thank you for the unity of the spirit.
That we’re experiencing in this church Lord we pray that you would speak to our hearts Lord that you would show us how how to preserve this unity that you’ve given us Lord make us wise to the schemes of the devil that we would.
See them for what they are that we would not be the one who falls into that trap that we would not be the.
One the devil uses Lord but.
That we would continue to come together that we would continue to be united in love United in prayer United in the proclamation and the gospel that.
We would continue to see your blessing poured out on this congregation and that we would continue to see incredible things that you have in store for us and we ask it all in Jesus.
Name Amen the devil hates us because of our unity in Christ.
In Ephesians chapter 4 and that’s going to be our text.
Today Fijians chapter 4 if you want to turn there will be kind of bouncing around through chapter 4 Ephesians chapter 4 is all about unity and beginning with with verse 1 Paul says as a prisoner for the Lord then I urge you to live a life.
Worthy of the calling you have received be completely humble and gentle be patient bearing with one another in love make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace there is one body one spirit just as you were all called to one hope when you were called one Lord one faith one baptism one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all last Saturday the Bourdon I went down to the Columbus.
Area for some leadership training and John Wooten who is our network superintendent was sharing with us at the conclusion of the day and one of the things.
That he said that really stood out to me is he said that there is greater f nic and racial diversity in our Ohio Assemblies of.
God churches than there is in the state of Ohio do you.
Understand what I’m saying the the.
State of Ohio has a certain percentage of the different ethnicities and races and all of that this.
Some Blees of God churches in Ohio have a greater percentage because we don’t have any racial issues we don’t have any any cultural differences that divide us because of the unity of the Spirit through.
The bond of peace the the bond of peace the the the bun that brought peace between the Jew and the Gentile in the New Testament was the.
Gospel of Christ okay and that same gospel is bringing unity across all cultures all races we don’t have the issues that our society has in God’s church.
In the Assemblies of God in Ohio God is doing a marvelous work of uniting us for what we believe is an.
Unprecedented move of God in Ohio and I’m excited about that God has provided a basis for unity among all true believers one body one spirit.
One hope one Lord one faith one baptism one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all I’ve preached in a number of different churches.
Of all different denominations.
And in every one of those churches that I’ve preached and I’ve found that unity of the Spirit with at least some of the folks in those churches because God has provided a basis for unity among us I’ve preached in Mexico and Jamaica and every situation every place that.
I’ve been everywhere that I’ve preached I’ve experienced the unity of the Spirit with my brothers and my sisters in Christ how much greater should that sense of unity be in our own church body where we share the same doctrines the.
Worked gather and fellowship together and worship together how much greater should that sense of unity be here in this church family the devil hates unity because it produces growth I’ve often explained to you.
How how God has given every one of us talents and abilities and and resources that he expects us to use for his glory and for the good of others and my responsibility as a pastor is found in in verses 12 and 13 my responsibility is to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ.
May be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature attaining to the whole.
Measure of the fullness of Christ that’s that’s my job description I’m to prepare you to minister to each other and as each of us does our part look what happens here we’ll be strengthened and build up as individuals and as a body we’ll share a common knowledge and experience with Christ because we’re all.
Growing together in him as we serve Him together and worship Him together and seek Him together in prayer we’ll mature and become like him a reflection of Christ in.
All his fullness and verse 14 points out that our spiritual growth and maturity will prevent us from being vulnerable to the philosophies of this world and to false teachings in the church and false religions and so forth instead verse 15.
And 16 say speaking the truth in love we will in all things grow up into him who is the head that is Christ from him the whole body joined.
And held together by every supporting ligament grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work unity produces growth as we grow and mature.
Spiritually we’ll be able to evangelize and and to disciple more effectively and will not.
Only continue to grow spiritually but will begin to grow numerically as well but what happens if we fail to put forth that effort to maintain the unity that God has given us what happens.
If we allow that unity to erode we’re no longer able to minister to to certain individuals there have been.
Times as a pastor where I’ve wanted to minister to somebody but I couldn’t because they’re upset with me something has happened something has come between us something has offended them and.
I know that they’re going through a time and that they’re hurting but they won’t receive anything from me because.
We don’t have that unity something has come between us and they don’t they can’t receive anything from me and all my efforts to try and minister to them they find fault with they.
Between the lines that aren’t there and so it’s impossible to minister to them and and sometimes maybe you’ve been that that person who man I just can’t receive anything from so-and-so because this happened and that happened and and so maybe.
You’re the one that that you’re unable to receive from certain people because that unity has been broken down and something has come between you and now you you just can’t receive anything from them have you ever.
Heard anyone say you know I just don’t get fed here anymore that’s spiritual jargon for I’m miffed and nobody can minister to me I’m upset I’m offended no one can minister to me because.
I’ve got a wall built up between me and them and no foods getting through the wall tear down the wall you know tear down the wall if we start tearing each other down instead of building.
Each other up that won’t be long before the spiritual health of the entire bodies at stake and God won’t bless a church like that God’s not going to bring new people into a church only for them to be poisoned and today spiritually God’s not going to bless a church like that unity is essential for spiritual growth and numerical growth but it takes effort for us to maintain that unity that’s why the divorce rates so high even.
Among Christians when to get married they become one flesh what does that symbolize unity a unique oneness that symbolized by sexual union but it’s a it’s a unique oneness in all of life together but it takes.
Commitment it takes hard work to to protect that unity and if you don’t put forth that effort you can’t make that marriage work and you can’t hold that marriage together and if that’s true in that close and that intimate of a relationship how much more true is it of our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ where we we don’t have as much invested in those relationships and it’s much easier for.
Us to not put forth the effort to protect that unity verse three says.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace the problem is too often we make every effort to get our way.
Or we make every effort to win that argument and whenever winning is more important to you than maintaining that relationship something’s wrong in your heart something is wrong in your heart we need to pray we need to re-evaluate our priorities it takes a lot of effort to maintain the unity of the spirit more often than not these efforts revolve around verse 29 and many of you know this is one of my favorite verses a scripture it.
Says do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen are the things that are coming out.
Of your mouth beneficial to those who are listening are you ministering to their needs by the things that you share with them or.
Are you weighing them down are you a stumbling block to them are you leading them into unwholesome talk that brings about division.
And destruction you know some people complain just for the sake of conversation it’s like you know well I can’t think of.
Anything to say so I’ll just complain you ever work with.
Anybody like that you know you go to work I worked in secular employment for 12 years before I entered the ministry and I can remember working in factories and you come in and I’d like to know who picked out that color you know what I’d like to know what they were thinking you know management management couldn’t do anything to make anybody happy ever any place that I.
Ever worked you know it’s like no matter what decision management made boy those people are idiots you know they ought.
To listen to me I got good ideas yeah no matter what management tries to do to benefit the employee you always have those.
People that you know I I don’t have anything else to say so I’m just going to complain they complain about.
The weather they complain about their job they complain about management they complain about their church they complain about their past you know they just complained because their this want to talk I want to I want to talk I don’t.
Have anything to talk about I’ll just complain about something anybody know somebody like that hopefully it’s not you but you know someone there are folks like that.