Hallelujah! Peace to you all. May God bless May God bless all who attend the Sabbath service. Our topic is “Be Like-Minded and of One Heart.” Everyone knows that to work in unity in the church is very important. Let’s take another look at this topic again in the Bible.
If we had a chance to visit the aftermath of the areas affected by the great Taiwan earthquake on September 21, 2001 several years ago, we would have witnessed a touching sight. People of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds dined and worked together with one heart, despite prior conflicts or religious differences. They all recognized the importance to work together in order to mend the broken spirits and the broken buildings there. We also held special church services for these disaster area victims, with hymnal and testimony sharing. It was indeed moving to see so many coming to face their troubles together. We could not but felt a great sense of bonding from the united rescue efforts of such a diverse group of people. As a result of unity, the devastated earthquake areas of Taiwan were speedily rebuilt.
Using teamwork to complete a job is a very satisfying experience. If everyone has team spirit, then we can reap fruitful results no matter what the task may be. However, if differences of opinions cause dissension, then it will be very difficult for a group to accomplish any goals. A dysfunctional group cannot make any significant progress. Under such conditions, an individual working alone may even be better than working in a group. This principle is especially true in the kingdom of God, the church. For we have an invisible enemy that we cannot see that is constantly working to destroy our unity. Therefore, we need to be ever vigilant to the threats of disunity.
Let’s study Philippians to see what it says about the issues of unity. The Letter of Philippians is a joyful letter about victorious Christian living. Paul established the church in Philippi, the first church ever established in Europe. This church supported Paul in every aspect of his ministry through financial contributions. They were indeed a model church. Paul starts out the letter of Philippians by recounting his joy in the spirit whenever he remembers how the church in Philippi has always been partners with him from the beginning. Philippians 1:3-5. 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
But later on, disunity arose within the church and such conditions were reported to Paul. So Paul wrote this letter of Philippians to address these concerns. Let’s see what Paul tried to address when Phil 2:1-3 continues: 1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Paul said that when we have experienced the encouragement and comfort from God’s love and from being united with Christ, then naturally we should also seek to become like-minded with one another. He exhorted the members to agree with one another out of the same love, becoming one in spirit and purpose. Paul revealed problems of disunity at the Philippi Church by pointing out in Phil 2:23, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition of vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Paul also said in Phil 3:15, “15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” We should become more mature in our thinking. Sometimes when we think differently from others, we should reflect whether our ideas may not be correct at all or may even be unrighteous in the sight of the Lord. But if our motives are in fact pure, then God will abide with us. This passage emphasizes that we have to become mature in our way of thinking in order to become perfect.
In Phil 4:2, Paul further cried, “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” Paul pointed out that though Euodia and Syntyche were fervent sisters, gifted in serving the Lord, yet they did not agree with one another. They were not like-minded and their differences caused them not to work together any longer. Their disagreements disrupted the entire church. In addressing this issue, Paul was very careful with his words; for he did not reveal the problem until he developed the theme progressively until chapter 4, where he finally revealed the problems in detail. Whereupon, Paul pointed out that these two fervent sisters must learn to agree with one another in the Lord for the sake of the unity of the church.
Let’s consider why people become angry over simple matters. One may keep insisting his own way and the other keeps insisting her own way. Since each is speaking and thinking only from his or her own point of view, there can be no meeting of minds. Conflict ensues. Without doubt, they are both zealous. Each claims to love God and to be making sacrifices for God. Yet each person’s actions disrupt the church peace, causing chaos. This kind of servitude is problematic because they are unable to be like-minded for the sake of honoring Christ.
Let’s consider that when Jesus was nailed to the cross, He did not sin. Instead, He suffered in silence and bore all our sorrows, sins, and diseases. What about us? What is going through our minds when we are in conflicts with others? Do we have a hangup about “losing face” in front of others if our proposals are not accepted? Or do we continue to fight for our ideas?
We need to have the concept that if an idea truly originates from God’s will, God is the one who will make it happen. We need to trust God in faith that God will eventually touch the heart of others so they will have the same perspectives. Then we will see the miracle of God changing what previously was disregarded to now, what is being accepted.
We do not need to use our own stubborn way to insist our own approach. Obstinance disrupts us from becoming like-minded with others in the Lord. Many issues require us to be still and to ponder quietly. If we are not careful, our actions may be the result of our fleshly zeal and not the perfect will of God.
Workers of God must especially be concerned about maintaining unity. Satan can use those who are weak. Satan can also use those who are zealous. When we lose our patience and burst in temper, we can be easily used by Satan. In the past, we have seen cases of very gifted workers who can even heal the sick, cast out demons, or preach mighty sermons, only to succumb to issues of disunity and thereby disrupting the church. If we’re not careful, Satan will also use us to cause disunity. Therefore, when we serve in the presence of God, we must pay special attention to our own actions. When others remind us, we need to thank them.
Judas was also very zealous in the beginning. But he was not careful when following the Lord. He injected his own opinions and worldly thinking into the holy work and eventually lost his apostleship. We must always remind ourselves that the spiritual realm is very great and so is the realm of the Bible. It is very dangerous if we think we know everything; when in fact, there are many things we don’t know. Therefore, it is very important that we keep in unity with others to avoid going our own way.
Paul exhorted them to be “like-minded in the Lord.” In Phil 4:3, Paul said that those co-workers who have contended at his side for the cause of the gospel will have their names recorded in the Book of Life. This Book of Life is no ordinary record book. Revelations 21:27 states: 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. The Book of Life belongs to that Lamb who died and resurrected, that is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. We who are like-minded will have our names be recorded in the Book of Life, to be saved eternally.
So as servants of God, we must learn to be like-minded in the house of God. Unless we learn this lesson, we can never yield our own will and learn to serve God humbly. If we cannot yield, we cannot stand in the church of God and serve with one heart. We will continue to insist on our own opinions and confuse others.
Why do you think that God only inspires you and not the others? When you encounter resistance, consider to take the course of silence to avoid any conflicts. Surrender all your problems to Lord Jesus in prayer. Converse more with the Lord in prayer, rather than trying to force your way with others. Once we touch the heart of God, God will touch others to have the same heart with us.
Before we can serve God, He will train us to learn to be submissive. When we are misunderstood, we may become argumentative and defensive. But if we are serving for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ, then we should overlook these temporary misunderstandings. We can entrust everything to God. Others will someday understand, and may even treat us with more respect and admiration. We know that God watches everything that happens and He knows what we are going through.
If we can learn how to entrust all matters to God, then we will spend more time in prayer. We will learn patience and humility. This slower approach to resolving conflict is not an easy course to take, but it is the divine gentle will of God. If we try to use our carnal way of arguing and fighting, we will embroil ourselves further in dissensions, causing God to depart from us. Many saints in Scripture have learned that the only way to resolutions is through prayer.
Let’s consider more deeply the reasons to be like-minded in Christ. Please refer to 1 Cor 3:8-9: 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. What is Apollos? What is Paul? Paul asked these questions and concluded that we are all nothing. Neither is the one who plants and the one who waters, because all were given the gifts by the Lord. Only God is able to make things grow, so God should take all the glory. We only need to know that one day God will reward each of us according to our own labor.
Verse 9 says we are to work as God’s fellow workers. If God is not willing to bless our work, no matter how hard we work, all our efforts will be made in vain. Only if God is willing will the work of our hands be fruitful through His abidance.
1 Cor 3:9 also mentions two points. Firstly, we are considered “God’s field.” So we must work with God. If God does not use us, then we will only become dust and live no longer. If God uses us to serve him, then we will have more time to live. So if we are healthy, capable, and intelligent, we need to serve God more. Are we going to wait until the end before we think about giving ourselves to serve God?
Recently I went with some elders, deacons, and older ones to do some visitation work. Some are 60 years old, others are 70 years or older. Yet their spirit of servitude is really wonderful. The elders demonstrate their faith through actions, not words. They accompany preachers often on visitations. If everyone can be like-minded as these elders are in serving the Lord,, then two will have the strength of two, ten will have the power of ten, and one hundred will have the power of one hundred. Because we recognize that we are God’s field, if God is not work on this land, then we can do nothing.
On the second point of 1 Corinthians 3:9, we are also the “house of God.” Our faith and our spiritual life are just like individual bricks, being stacked brick by brick into a house of God. Once united, we become the powerhouse of God. God will abide in this house and be with us. This is how our spiritual work should stack up, step by step.
When our church first started, our first generation of believers worked to establish the church. The next generation carried out their building work and expanded to more churches. As we saw how each generation developed our church, we see the fruits of diligence and unity. The generation that fails to care about the church will have no unity and our church will no longer thrive and prosper.
How can we serve God with one heart? Let us look at the third point in Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We become the “workmanship of God” when we spend time to serve the Lord in the house of God. But if instead we choose to serve our time in the world, instead of attending church services or genuinely working for God, we no longer share in the unity of God. Then sadly, God’s workmanship will be lost in the world.
God called James as the “workmanship of God.” So how did God mold James? God directed the path that James should take and James followed. Today, if we obey God’s will to fulfill the work He arranged for us to do based on what He originally crafted us to be, we will enjoy success. We should not forget that He has been working on us since the day we were born. Today, how have you used what He has given you? How you choose to be used will show whether you are like-minded with Christ. No matter what our own ideas may be, we must choose the way that is in accordance with the Bible to be in unity with God’s will for us. We should be especially careful not to insist on our individual will.
We have seen the above three mentioned points of working together in unity. These are the manifestations of serving the Lord with one heart. These are also important principles and motivations for service in the Lord. We need to become the co-workers of the Lord, serving together with one heart. If we can achieve this level of unity in spirit, then we will surely experience His grace and miracles abiding in our work.
We should remember not to cease working for God when we are no longer in “positions” of title in the church. We should continue to attend, serve, and worship in the house of God. Hebrews exhorts members not to stop meeting together. During that time, the membership was being persecuted but the leaders encouraged them not to give up but persevere in meeting together.
We don’t suffer from any persecutions in our time, yet many have ceased to meet together for worship. Perhaps we find watching TV, drinking, or sleeping more enjoyable. Why is it that a church will continue meeting together even under persecution? How did they overcome their obstacles? In this way, we can reflect how we too can overcome our barriers to attending services. If we can open our spiritual eyes and view the spiritual world more clearly, then we can set our minds on things above. With this mindset, we can then accomplish more for God. Then when we rest with our faces facing heaven, we can rest in peace. If God is in your heart, you will have this mindset.
For some people, learning to love God is easy, but rather learning to love others is a challenge. Some people may respect those who are rich and possess worldly status, while disregarding others who are in lowly positions. We may be willing to work with God, but not willing to work with others. We need to be careful of such type of attitudes.
God does not require His work to be done through the high and mighty or the rich and wealthy. He will also be able to accomplish His wonderful works through the poor and lowly, and those who have a contrite heart.. The book of Luke reiterates a concept that the poor in heart is more blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. What manner of person can receive the gospel of Jesus Christ? Only those who are poor in heart, those who are poor in living—those are the humble, those who have gone through troubles, and those who are needy. Therefore, blessed those that are poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! Has Jesus misspoken? No, He all manners of lifestyles and how it will impact our spiritual lives. So we must strive to become one with all sorts of people at church. Otherwise, without unity, we will have problems at church.
Without this type of understanding, the members cannot be like-minded and the church will suffer from disunity. Do you think you are the only ones fervent in heart? No, everyone is fervent in their own way. We must have this understanding to think of others better than ourselves. But once you start emphasizing that you am the only one that loves the Lord, and you are the only one that God abides with, then you would have lost sight of those around us. We must open our eyes to see the beauty of the others around us. Aren’t we their fellow works too? We need to be careful to draw closer to be others in order to serve together for the church to grow and advance forward. Only when we truly work with others with one heart, will we then see God’s wonderful miracles abiding with us.
How can we work together in unity? Here are three points:
1. In what matters should we be in unity? Eph 4:13 says “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.” Here it points out that for a church to grow healthily, they must be united in faith and knowledge of truth. No matter what we preach, we must adhere to the truth and word of God, the Bible. So we must be of one mind in the truth of God. That means that our ears are open to listening to the truth at church, instead of hearing the words from the outside world. We should speak more of the spiritual things than the things of the world. We should minimize the discussion of secular matters in the church. Instead, we should clearly proclaim the word of God so that we can become united in the truth of God. When Jesus was in the world, He only sought to proclaim the word of God clearly to others. We should also imitate Jesus’ manner so that the family of God can continue to be united as one in the truth, with one mind and one heart.
2. What is another way we can be one with others? 1 Cor 12:12 says, “12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” We are all parts of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 speaks of the diversity of gifts. Just as the body has many parts but all must become united to become one body in Christ. Should anyone boast that the hand is greater than the head? Or the teeth better than the tongue? All are needed, even the lowly parts. If everyone used their unique gifts to serve the church, then we will become united as one. We must not compare gifts by thinking if you can preach, why can’t I? Or if I can preach, why can’t you? So we are all different parts, compatible and complementing one another. The body is one unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.
3. According to Philippians 1:5, we will find unity from our fellowship in the work of the gospel. Our fellowship should not be based on fun activities. We should have united in the work of God so that God will bless and reward our work. We will then receive even more gifts from God when He remembers our work.
4. Finally, where else should we be united? According to Matthew 18:19, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” It is clear here that we should strive to be united in prayer. We currently have two prayer sessions at this church. The 6 am prayer is for the older people and the 8 am is for the middle aged people. It doesn’t matter the age actually, it’s your heart that matters to God. Some people are willing to get up early to go out and have fun, but not willing to get up earlier to pray. But if you are willing to pray, then prayer is the best way to start building unity. Prayer is the matter of the heart. The book of Acts is also called the “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” The events unfolded as a direct result of prayer and the acting of the Holy Spirit through men’s prayers. Jesus exhorted them in Acts 1:4 to wait for the promised Holy Spirit. In Acts chapter 2, three thousand people were added to the church as a result of their prayer. We don’t see this happening today in our church because our prayers are not like their prayers of that time. We need to learn to pray fervently and with one united heart.
There once was a preacher who was assigned to a new area. According to our church custom, preachers cannot request where they go; they are only assigned by the church. So preachers need to submit to those who make these assignments. So this preacher was assigned to take care of three churches and two prayer houses.
One of these prayer houses used to be a church. Due to lack of attendance, the prayer house lost its status as a church and was reduced to a small prayer house. The newly assigned preacher went to visit the council member’s home. The council member and his wife were already 60 some years old. The three of them had dinner together in the council member’s home.
Then the preacher asked the elderly couple when the service time was for that evening. The elderly couple smiled sadly and responded, “Preacher, we have not had service for many years!” Shocked, the preacher sadly said, “Let’s all right; we will go and have service anyway at the church.”
After dinner, they left for the church. As they passed the town, they saw two drunken youths fighting each other with knives. The couple talked in their native language and expressed how shameful to see their own grown children drinking and fighting. The preacher pretended not to understand their language and continued on to the church.
When they arrived at the church, the preacher went to the front doors of the church. He really wanted to cry because he saw all the glass broken on the windows and the doors. As he walked in, he found the small preacher’s room in the back littered with piles of garbage everywhere. In addition, the preacher’s bed was occupied by a sleeping drunken man. The preacher immediately drove away this drunkard from the house of God. The chapel roof also leaked and water marks stained the chapel all over.
Seeing the situation, the preacher said to the old couple, “Let’s pray! There will be no service. Let’s just pray!” So no service was held that evening. The preacher simply knelt down and cried in prayer. The old couple also cried in prayer; it has been so long since there has been prayer at the church.
If the church prayers are lacking, then it will be very difficult for the church to prosper. The apostolic church prospered because there were many sounds of prayer. No amount of debate and meetings will generate as much effective work as more prayers.
After they prayed for twenty minutes, strangely, they heard other voices join in the prayer. At the end of this forty minute prayer, they were amazed that a total of twelve people had gathered in the prayer. Where did the additional nine people come from? No service was announced; no one knew that there was prayer at church. How did these people come? The more the preacher prayed, the more joyful he became; the more they prayed, the more the people came. Even the old couple was very touched. One person was driving home from work, listening to his blaring radio. All of a sudden, he heard the sound of prayer at church, though he was driving at a place that was 5-6 km away from church. Hearing the prayer, tears came into his eyes, and he immediately drove to church to join in the prayer. Another woman was cooking dinner at home. She was located 2 km from church. Miraculously, God opened her ears so she heard the sound of prayer at church. Tears came into her eyes and she quickly finished cooking and ran to the church to pray. Another person was taking a shower at home. Suddenly God opened this person’s ears so that he could hear prayer sounds from church. Tears also came into his eyes and he rushed to church to join in the prayer. Another was drinking tea with friends, but God opened his ears so he heard of sound of prayer at church. Touched to tears, he too, ran to church to join in the prayer. Thank God!
One young preacher and two old people’s united prayer reached God so God came among them. The experience was so wonderful. The preacher resolved that he would live at that prayer house from that very day forward. Sadly, there was so much garbage in the preacher’s room and the bed was so rotten. So they start to clean up and the preacher started sleeping there from that very night. During the preacher’s stay at this prayer house, there were two times when it rained at night. The water seeped and dripped into the preacher’s room and he would have to wrap himself in a blanket and sleep, squatting in the corner. The bed was very small wooden beat up frame which was very uncomfortable. Also, there were many ants. One time, when the preacher got up, he found an outline of his sleeping body composed of black ants. The shape of his body contour composed of hundreds of ants remained even when he got up. God showed the preacher that God was watching over him and no ants were allowed to cross over the outline to disturb him during the night. Seeing this, the preacher laughed heartily.
Then the preacher started 5 am morning prayers at church. The council members saw all the ants around the church and could do nothing. Nevertheless, the weak members started to return to the prayer house. With faith the preacher announced that they would have a hymnal evangelism event where he would preach for only 20 minutes. The remaining time will be filled by the choir presentation of two nearby church choirs. Although this prayer house had a membership of only twenty members, the evangelism service yielded more than fifty truthseekers and one hundred eighty people in attendance. Though the members didn’t really know how to preach, they worked together in unity to invite many people to the service. There was no particular leader. Everyone worked hard in front of God. This pleased the Lord very much.
Though the church was small, the preacher still announced for everyone to come forward to pray for the laying of hands. So the entire floor was packed with people that there was no room for the preacher to walk around and lay hands. Plus there were no other deacons or elders to help with the laying of hands. So the preacher simply prayed in his place and begged God to personally lay hands on the people there. He said to God, “Lord, you know all things, all people. We have done what we could to bring the people. Lord, you are all powerful and you have your plans. We can only depend on you to fulfill your will here this evening. Please personally lay hands on the people here.” God heard his prayer and all the cries of the people there. Even though the entire prayer lasted only ten minutes, many people received the Holy Spirit. When the preacher originally got up to see if he can lay hands, he already found more than twenty people receive the Holy Spirit. These were people from different villages and different ethnicity. The preacher was filled with joy seeing how wonderful Lord Jesus was. The preacher only symbolically lay hands on one person to show his faithfulness to God, for he was unable to physically move around. Lord Jesus had personally laid hands on the twenty people so they all received the Holy Spirit.
There was a truthseeker there who also received the Holy Spirit. He used to be a karate champion. He saw a vision of the chapel, except the ceiling had no roof and the opening was facing heaven. Then he saw a giant person standing there. Though he could only see the bottom of this giant’s garment and the giant’s feet, he was able to see how this giant lay his huge hand on all the people at one time during prayer. This is how the preacher knew that Lord Jesus had granted his prayer and personally came to lay hands on the people.
There was another person who saw a vision like Revelations chapter 4 where there was a sea of glass, made of emeralds and gems. Another truthseeker saw Jesus nailed on the cross and the blood flowed to all corners of the chapel. Thank God! Though it was a short 10 minute prayer, Lord Jesus had laid hands and everyone experienced tremendous joy.
With all these testimonies, the prayer house prospered. Many people from different villages and ethnicities became baptized within a half year. We can see through this testimony the power of serving in unity. We must return to the Bible and be of one mind, one truth, and one body. No one should try to control and limit the gifts of others. Moreover, we must be one mind in prayer to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so we can be of one heart. Then the church will prosper and will not degenerate. If the church degenerates, it is because individual human wills are too strong. A church that glorifies God’s name will experience many miracles and testimonies will abound. Therefore, we should pray for God’s abidance. Though unity may seem easy on the surface, true unity is the result of God’s workmanship. May God bless everyone.