(Not Unity At All Cost)

When Jesus prayed in the garden, prior to His arrest, part of His prayer was, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:20b-23) Today, much emphasis on Christian unity has been reduced to a cheap substitute of what Jesus was praying about. So what's the difference? Well for one thing, with today's brand of unity most of the martyrs of the ages past would never have died. This is because modern counterfeit unity is at the expense of doctrine, rather than being firmly grounded in it. Unity has become the new found "lowest common denominator" doctrine. Using this shifting standard, in the name of unity, churches and individuals that openly espouse doctrine that have scripturally and historically been condemned as heresy, are now welcomed. For many the lowest common denominator has been reduced to, "If you love Jesus" ('love' which in many cases is as meaningless as someone saying, "I love peanut butter"). Little or no concern is given to the fact that the "Jesus" they worship may have little or no resemblance to the true Christ revealed in Scripture.

When Jesus prayed, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message..." (v20), He was making an important statement. Their is clearly in reference specifically to the apostles and generally to all of the revealed truth in God's written word (which the apostles taught). To not "believe in me (Jesus) based upon all of "their message" is to void any possibility of the following statement, "that all of them may be one" (v21). How can we begin to be "brought to complete unity" (v23) without looking at the example that Jesus gave... "just as you (the Father) are in me and I am in you." (v21) and "I in them and you in me" (v23). Jesus likened true unity to the unity between Himself and the Father. Consider this relationship - Jesus truly worshipped the Father in Spirit and in Truth, was obedient completely to the Father, uncompromising in doctrine while demonstrating God's love. True love for the Father cannot allow for compromise of the Father's doctrine. If Jesus (being Truth - John 14:6, 17:17) is in us (as the Father was in Him), how can we begin to believe that we can have unity based on anything less than the absolute truth.

If anyone has established themselves upon doctrine that distorts God's Holiness, Sovereignty, Mercy, Grace, and Love (basically who God is) as revealed by scripture, they ultimately can not be worshipping the same God. Therefore no unity can exist. All unity between believers comes only from our being in God (v21).

Watering down the gospel, preaching a gospel of "accept Jesus for a better life", with no mention of sin, judgment, and the need of repentance cannot create unity. Rather it promotes division, as those that have been convicted by the truth of scripture stand opposed (in word and deed) to the inferior message and it's resultant fruit. Paul stated this in 1 Corinthians 11:19, "No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval." You see, only moral and spiritual relativism can state that two opposing views can both be right. This is scripturally impossible. The Bible tells us that "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). God is not a God of greys, much less black and white, God is a God of Truth. Absolutely 100% the Truth. Our desire should be to grow in God's Truth, to seek diligently that Truth in the pages of God's Word and to trust that God will reveal that Truth to us through His Word and by His Spirit.

Believer, have you chosen to water down the narrow truths of God's Word, to redefine God's Truth to suit yourself, to accept unquestioned a redefinition by some theologian, teacher, or pastor, when scripture clearly, by context and verse shows otherwise? Or maybe you've added to the Truth, additions based on the ideas of man, or chosen to selectively chose what Truth's you feel apply to you. The bottom line is, that if it's less than the Truth or more than the Truth, it's simply not the Truth.

Getting back to what I said about the martyrs of old. These saints of the past more than often died on single points of doctrine. Yes, some were asked to outright deny their Lord, but more often they were asked to deny a point of doctrine that defined who God is - just who they were worshipping. To deny that Truth would to them have been the same as denying their Lord. How far we have come from that point. Some now would say that we can work together in unity with Catholics or even possibly Mormons; as they to worship Jesus. Sadly, the Protestant reformation has been reduced to being labeled as "petty quarreling" by one respected evangelical leader - supposedly no longer worthy of division. It appears that the multitudes that died, died in vain... NO, let me boldly and loudly say, "they died for the Truth and their Lord." Oh for a generation that is willing to stand for the Truth, who understands that to follow the Lord is costly; not cheap. In our land of little persecution and non existent martyrdom, many are quick to say, "I'd die for my Lord" - but the proof of whether or not you'd really die for Him is in whether or not you'll live for Him. If the Lord should tarry, I believe that we will have the opportunity to stand for, or deny, our Lord. No, it will not be an outright, "Deny God or Die", but likely a more subtle, "Stop preaching against Homosexuality or face lawsuits or prison." Ah, but some would say, that's just a minor point of doctrine, we can set it aside for a season - and oh you can - but you have denied God; for you have denied an attribute of the unchanging and Holy God revealed in scriptures who will punish all sin and "by no means clear the guilty." (See Eccl 12:14 & Exod. 34:7) Satan rarely attacks by the front door of outright denial, rather mostly through the long term style of one brick at a time. As each piece of doctrine, each teaching of scripture falls one at a time - it matters not that the front door was left closed - God has already been denied.

Noted author and president of Ligonier Ministries, R.C. Sproul hits the problem right on the head, "One of the reasons we don't fight about truth anymore is that we don't care about truth as much." Do you love the Truth? Jesus said that if we love Him we would do what He said (John 14:23). Romans 12:9 tell us that "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." How can we begin to uphold the highest commandment, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind", when we have redefined the three "all" s to mean some . Some would say that it's impossible to meet that command, or 1 Peter 1:16 to "be holy, because I (God) am holy", so why preach about them... It would require a person to de different, radically different. Yes, that it would. No where in scripture are we told to shoot for mediocrity and hope that we hit it. Rather we are told, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." That's aiming for perfection (100% the Truth), knowing that if we fall short, God will correct us, pick us up, and aim us back towards perfect holiness again.

Jesus told us in His prayer that the real unity of all believers grounded firmly in God and His Truth, will send a message to the world - "to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (v23)

This message will be divisive. Jesus himself said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to `set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and `a man's enemies will be those of his own household.'" Combine that with Jesus' statement that "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." and you can see that the to live for Christ is costly not cheap - promoting division with the world - but being secure in the knowledge that the true unity of being in the Father can never be taken away in life or death.

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them to me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. - John 10:28-29

Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 1995-1997. Feel free to duplicate as long as the source is cited.