Recently on the StartLiving blog:
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! … For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” – Psalm 133
The Bible speaks of an amazing blessing when God’s people are in unity. However, this is one of the most rare occurrences in the Body of Christ. I believe there are many reasons for this, but I would like to focus on how to foster unity instead of on the reasons why we so easily sow discord.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not without effect” - 1 Corinthians 15:10
Grace is the chief unifying agent in the kingdom of God. Gods grace towards us, flowing through us, means that we now have the ability to accept people just the way they are. We did not have to earn God’s favour, He extended it to us and we took hold of this free gift by faith. By extending the grace we have received from God, to others, we no longer expect people to look, talk, walk and act the same as us in order for us to be unified. Let God’s grace in your life not be without effect.
” … Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” - John 13:34
Love always needs an object. It needs a direction and it needs intent. God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us. This is without any guarantee that we would ever love Him back in return. Love is always a choice. We have three fundamental choices to direct the thrust of our love towards: God, ourselves or others. When we love God, we will automatically love people. When we love ourselves we use people. We manipulate them in order to get what we want out of them and then move on. Unity is driven by love, if our motive is not love we will not and cannot be in unity.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves … “ – Philippians 2:3
Humility, or the servant heart, is at the centre of every healthy relationship. Whenever we put others’ needs ahead of our own we are showing the characteristics of Jesus, who humbled Himself and became a man, a servant of men. He humbled Himself to the extent of death. Serving out of love and with grace is a necessity for unity, especially when communication can be a little difficult at times – actions do speak louder than words.
” … knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope … “ – Romans 5:2
Unity is not possible unless it is being fostered by and with people of character. People of good character are mature, they have no hidden motives, they are honest and are willing to take responsibility for their decisions. Why do you need people of character? Because fostering unity is not easy, there is a lot of resistance against it by people who think they are ‘right’ and make it their business to discredit others. People of character are hard to find, because character is built in the trenches and so few people have actually been to the front-line, so few have paid the price.
“I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.” - 2 Corinthians 6:18
We will only value unity if we see God valuing it. We can only see what God values when we realise that our values have become His values, that our nature has been changed to His nature. That our identities are no longer our own, but that we are now called SONS and DAUGHTERS of the living God, righteous, holy and blameless. We can’t act contrary to the way we see ourselves. If we see ourselves as secure, then we will be willing to take the risk of fostering unity, even if we are ridiculed.
To live in the fullness of what God has for us I believe that unity must be one of our core values, not an outward conformity to structure. But, rather an inward knitting of the hearts of Gods people. Together we can love so many more people.
Getting rid of bad habits and overcoming temptation or addiction, is something many people have to deal with at some point in their lives. The easy answer would be not to start in the first place. However, even with the best heart, if our actions don’t line up with our intentions, before we realize it we end up going down the inevitable path of destruction.
Habits, both good and bad, are formed relatively easily, but take a mammoth amount of time and effort to break. So, my question is, why are some habits harder to break than others, why does it seem like ‘I just can’t overcome’ a certain issue, even though I know it is destructive?
I think it starts by what you believe about yourself. The biggest lie you can believe is that you are sinner and it’s just a matter of time before you sin again. Most people get this misconception from bad bible teaching and the massacring of Romans 7:
In the chapters leading up to this verse (Chapters 5 and 6) Paul makes a compelling argument for why we are no longer ‘slaves to sin’ and that we can no longer live in something we have died to:
In the chapter following Romans 7, namely Romans 8, Paul drives home the point that sin is no longer part of our identity, Jesus died to give us a new nature, one that is in right standing with God.
It’s clear then that in Romans 7 Paul can’t be talking about his nature after he met Jesus.
This needs to be settled in your heart. If it isn’t, you will always act according to the way you see yourself, a sinner. If you have put your faith in Jesus and the finished work of the cross, then your nature is no longer sinful, according to 2 Corinthians 5:22 it has become righteous, just like Jesus’.
So, how does this help me to get rid of my bad habits? Knowing I am righteous (in right standing with God) in my spirit, drives and motivate me to live a righteous life. It is not the other way around. Living righteous does not make you righteous, you are made righteous and therefor you live right. Crucial.
Righteousness generates the desire for holiness.If you see yourself as made holy, then you will want to act holy.
Some habits seem harder to break because you are still holding on, not wanting to release parts of what once was your identity. The Word says that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds(Romans 12:2). Our habits are generated by our spirit, but become a reality through our minds and then into our bodies.
Change the way you think by reminding yourself of who God is and what He did in you. This makes all the difference. Even though some habits die harder Jesus died so that we can overcome any temptation and any addiction!
A new year is at hand and with it new opportunities to make good and better decisions. A lesson I learnt in 2013 and one that I want to carry over into this year is something I’d like to share on this blog. I trust it will help you to prioritize and bring more stability to your decision making framework.
We never have to look too far to find opportunities to compromise on what we stand for or believe, these temptations are an everyday occurrence, some with more venom than others. However, there is one value which I, personally, hope to uphold and see flourish this year as well as seeing you prosper here, that is relationships.
We are relational beings. God created us to be in relationship with Him, primarily and in His image so as to reflect His glory when we are in relationship with others. Relationships are the single most powerful witness, sermon and testimony that anyone could ever see or experience. Healthy relationships speak volumes of the security, the love and the grace that a relationship with Jesus Christ brings, it is the best way to put what you believe into action.
No amount of unity can be achieved without healthy relationships, why then do we compromise on relationships? Why do we sacrifice relationships in the name of structure, vision, procedures or any of the other myriad of justifiable things we conjure up in order to achieve our own goals? Surely no goal is worth reaching without anyone to share the achievement with?
Take a step back and ask yourself: What is my motive for doing what I am doing? Am I fostering reconciliation, operating out of love and in grace towards those I come in contact with? Am I willing to humble myself when I make mistakes, thus forging a bridge of relationship over a potentially stormy situation, thereby putting the relationship before my own agenda?
My challenge to myself and to you in 2014 is to value what God values, people. Not vision, not ‘taking ground’, not ‘the numbers’, not your calling, but individuals, messy individuals, who will teach you more about yourself and the God you are in relationship with than any amount of sermons, preaches or testimonies.
If we can value the individual, not for what we can get from them, but from what we can give, then we will start to taste what it must be like to know God and Jesus Christ whom He sent, we might taste abundant life (John 17:3), we might think twice before compromising. May 2014 be the year that your heart beats to the same rhythm as His, the rhythm of a world He loves.