I meet people all the time from churches who say their purpose is the purpose of God. They say they are focused on reaching people who don’t know Christ personally. They say they are committed to developing disciples (followers of Christ). By the way Christ said if you FOLLOW ME, I’ll make you a fisher of men. A key part of being a disciple is involvement in trying to bring others into a relationship with Jesus Christ. I meet people all the time who make some of these claims, but I wonder WHO REALLY GIVES A RIP about God’s purpose of reaching people for Christ in this generation.
Before you say that’s ridiculous or this doesn’t apply to me – read John 17 carefully. It’s the most significant recorded prayer we have of Jesus. It’s called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in the Scripture.
As you read John 17, see how often you come across the word “one”. In His prayer, Jesus prayed specifically for His disciples (the first 11 – not including Judas who betrayed Him) and for everyone who would believe in the future because of their testimony & word (that includes you and me if you’re a follower of Christ). He prayed that we would be “one” (unified / in perfect harmony) just like He was with the Father.
Jesus prayed for our protection from the evil one, but He never prayed that we’d be protected from the things of the world. He prayed that in the midst of what we experience in the world that we’d be ONE by being sanctified (made pure, holy, set apart for God’s purpose) through the Truth!
Check out verses 20-23: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
When we are ONE as God the Father & God the Son were/are ONE, and when we are PERFECTED IN UNITY — the world will begin to understand and know that God sent Jesus and loves them. Granted, not everyone will respond, but I agree with Paul Billheimer in his classic book LOVE COVERS. He says: “The most important, momentous, crucial, but the most ignored, neglected and unsolved problem that has faced the Church from its infancy to the present throbbing moment is the problem of disunity…..The sin of disunity probably has caused more souls to be lost than all other sins combined. Possibly more than anything else, it is the one thing that binds the hands of the Holy Spirit and thwarts His work of convincing of sin, righteousness and judgment.”
There are many issues related to this, but one of the most critical issues we need to address individually and in our churches is the things we say about other followers of Christ or other churches.
Paul states very clearly: 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. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV) Do your words benefit others around you? Do they benefit the Kingdom of God? Do they help reach others for Christ?
And James was pretty clear: And the tongue is like a fire. It is a whole world of evil among the parts of our bodies. The tongue spreads its evil through the whole body. The tongue is set on fire by hell, and it starts a fire that influences all of life. (James 3:6 NCV) We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people, whom God made like himself. Praises and curses come from the same mouth! My brothers and sisters, this should not happen. (James 3:9-10 NCV) Does your tongue spread evil or promote peace & grace?
The Book of Wisdom states: The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. (Proverbs 17:27-28 NIV) There is a time for everything – a time to be silent and a time to speak up – but you’ll be considered discerning if you learn to hold your tongue.
If we want to be aligned with Christ’s purpose (Luke 19:10) and His High Priestly Prayer (John 17) we need to guard our attitudes, actions and WORDS toward other followers of Christ. Don’t SPRAY words that destroy, instead PRAY words that deploy the Holy Spirit’s work in building God’s Kingdom in your life, church and community!
I’ve not arrived, but I strive to guard my tongue when it comes to speaking about other followers of Christ. One thing I try to practice consistently is when I’m driving by a church, I pray specifically for that church, pastor & the leaders of that church to be blessed and used by God to build His Kingdom. Maybe you ought to make this your practice too.
If we fail to apply the truth of God’s Word when it comes to the use of our tongue, then maybe the real truth is WE DON’T GIVE A RIP about God’s purpose of reaching those who do not yet know Christ.