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God’s Heart for Unity
Gary Best


How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity (Psalm 133:1)

When my teenage daughter walks out the door, and I say, "Drive safely" she looks at me and says, "Absolutely, Dad." I reassure myself that I’ve really communicated. I assume she understands "Drive safely," the way I do: observe the laws, watch out for pedestrians, pay attention to the speed limit, etc. What she really understands when I say "Drive safely" is more like this: "As long as you bring the car home in one piece, then all existing land speed records are up for grabs."

When we throw around terms like "worship" and "unity" we often think we’re communicating. The problem is, we often have divergent interpretations and understandings of those terms.

    When we sing the familiar chorus

          I love you Lord
            And I lift my voice
            To worship You
            O my soul rejoice
            Take joy my King
            In what You hear
            Let it be a sweet, sweet
            Sound in Your ear

We assume that what we’re singing must be a sweet, sweet sound to His ear. After all, the band is tight, our arms are raised. The angels must be taking the night off just to listen.

But truthfully, not everything we sing and communicate, no matter how exhilarating the experience, or how enthusiastic the band, is a sweet sound in God’s ear. You can fool all of the people some of the time&ldots;but you can’t fool God any of the time.

He looks past the words, raised arms, the music, and sees the heart. Isaiah 29:13: "The Lord says: ‘These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’"

We always run the risk of letting our worship fall into that category. We have the audacity to expect that we can offer something that’s going to impress God, or catch His ear.

So when I say "true worship" or "acceptable worship" I’m working from the understanding that worship has nothing to do with any offering or sacrifices we can give to God. Worship is not God responding to our sacrifices; it is our response to His.

But what do I mean when I say "unity"? It’s an important concept for worship leaders who are called to lead people to intimate communion with God. In John chapter 17, in His prayer for the disciples, He prays that they might be one – not in some monotonous cookie-cutter fashion – but "as We are One." The Trinity has unity and diversity. One nature, yet three unique personalities. God has His heart set on this kind of unity for His church.

Using the figure of music, I think God is looking for something more like an orchestra: diversity within unity, all sorts of different kinds of instruments.

That’s much more satisfying than reproducing the same melody on the same kind of instrument over and over. Take any two instruments from a philharmonic, and they may seem incompatible. One wouldn’t normally commission a duet using a tympani and a piccolo. But all the instruments can be drawn together into an organic whole and, with a skilled conductor, perform a symphony. He wants something that mirrors the Trinity, that mirrors the kind of relationship that we’re going to have in heaven.

The true church, as the body of Christ in the world, should be one of the greatest apologetics for Christ. Regarding the death and resurrection of the Son of God, Tertullian wrote that "It is certain because it is impossible."

The Church’s Cross Purpose

Couldn’t the same be said of the church? Imagine the most complex jigsaw puzzle ever devised, with a million pieces that changed shapes right before you laid them down. That’s the church. The whole point of the church is that it’s supposed to be impossible. Thus when the world sees it, when they all see these different people coming together, under the leading, direction and empowerment of the Spirit, loving each other, fitting together, and harmonizing together, they’re supposed to say: "That is not possible. God must be among them."

How is it possible? There’s only one way: the cross of Christ.

We read in Ephesians chapter 2: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility&ldots;" (vv. 13, 14). Which barrier?

The cross miraculously dealt not only with the barrier that existed between God and ourselves, but also the dividing wall of hostility that has existed between human beings. We all arrive at the cross in the same condition. We come before the King and see the incredible debt that we owe&ldots;and it’s taken away from us. We are forgiven and cleansed. Then we turn around and meet each other. What other way is there to respond but to embrace each other as we meet at the cross.

The Lord desires more than just simply taking people throughout the world and connecting them individually with Himself so they can enjoy that communion independent with others. Some of us visualize the Christian life this way: we stand in our own little tube connected to God through which he dispenses His love to us alone. Eventually God is going to take us up through that chute to meet Him in the sky. Jesus came to the cross to unite us to the Father and by that one act to also unite us with one another. He filled us with the Spirit to unite us with the Father, baptize us, and unite us with one another so that we share in the same Spirit and become one spiritual body. The body of Christ on the cross is therefore the body in which the church is united and redeemed (Eph. 2:16).

Reconciliation

Worship leaders, God desires to put His desire for unity and reconciliation on a horizontal plane into our hearts. Yes, we’re caught His heart for reconciliation, so that people might experience intimacy with Him.

But He wants to reveal to us the heart for reconciliation of all of His people so that the bewildering variety of musical instruments might be reclaimed, restored, rebuilt, united and given a beautiful score where together they can worship and play.

In the third chapter of Ephesians we read that God, after He reclaims all these different instruments and unites them together, will display them – not only to the world, but to the entire universe. All will hear that reclaimed orchestra as a witness of the marvelous intention of His heart, and a tangible invitation to a relationship with the Father, together with all those who are reclaimed and restored.

Do we dare say, "God, will You give me Your heart for unity? Would You reveal that part of Your love that wants to restore the whole world to Yourself?" If we do, the walls will come down. Nine times out of ten, the walls will come down on your head.

Jesus first broke down the walls of hostility with His own death. As we see what He died for released and acted out, it will kill us. But when you begin praying, "Father, tear down the walls that exist within the church!" where’s He going to start? He’s going to start with the walls that are around you and me. We usually see those walls as everybody else’s fault. Wouldn’t church unity be easy if everybody recognized how right we are? Unity would be no problem if everyone did it our way.

But the only way those walls come down is if we’re willing to take the loss. If we’re willing to say, "Lord, I don’t care if I’m right or wrong. By Your grace, Lord, I’ll lay down all my anxieties, insecurities, and unforgiveness. I’ll die to all that Lord&ldots;but I must see those walls that are dividing the church come down." If we resist what God is now revealing to us about His desire for unity, we do so at tremendous cost. Over time, if we say no to true unity, we say no to true worship. It’s the death sentence of our intimacy with God.

When we discover that God loves us, we think, "Isn’t that wonderful! I’ll take all of that!" At first we don’t even know that God loves anyone else in the whole world. Then we find out that He has some other people that He cares about. But we convince ourselves, not as much as me. I’m His favorite.

Eventually the Lord shows you that it’s not only people that you like that He likes. Then you’re scandalized: God will love anybody! Of course that’s very good news. Then He begins to show you that He loves and forgives those whom you don’t understand. He pours out His Spirit even on those groups that just do everything the wrong way. He even loves those who have wounded you.

As we respond: "Lord, what You do with them is Your business. But don’t try to bring any of Your love for them through me." But there we have a big problem. Love isn’t a substance that God keeps in a pouch. God is love. He never stops loving, because that’s who, and what He is.

In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace which He has freely given to us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Eph. 1:4b-8).

[Jesus said] "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matt. 10:8b)

So when we sing the prayer to the Lord: "More love, more power, more of You in my life" but excuse ourselves somehow from loving what God loves (the whole church) we’re asking God in effect to divide Himself.

This is clearly impossible if we push away His love for our brothers, or for our enemies. But in doing so, we’re pushing away from Him. We may try to proceed with business as usual. Maybe pump up the volume a little bit. Sing an extra verse. Try to recreate the magic. When we resist God’s invitation to be channels of His love, we’ve pushed away the love of God.

For a season we may be able to get away with unforgiveness, and acts of disunity. But once He shows us the love He has for the whole church, we cannot resist it without resisting the very Presence of God. Nothing smells more putrid than worship activity after the Presence of God has departed.

It doesn’t matter how high we raise our hands, or how fervent our "sacrifice," or how aggressively we praise. Like 1 Corinthians 13 says, all the worship activity in the world without love is simply a clanging cymbal. The Lord is searching for worship leaders who will lead the way in interceding and groaning for this unity.

Copyright ©1996 Vineyard Music Group All Rights Reserved.

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