Unified in One (John 17:23)
What do you think of when you hear the word church? Perhaps the thought comes up of a building like the one where you go on Sabbath to sing songs, hear a sermon, or see friends. In our society, it is easy to view church as an event or a building, but the early church viewed it as a way of life.
To the early believers, church happened every time they met together, which was pretty much all the time. Every day, they met together for worship or to eat, learn, share, or pray. Their lives were devoted to God and His church, and because of it, great things happened: nonbelievers saw the love they had for one another and wanted to be part of it! While Jesus was on earth, He prayed that His followers would be unified so that the world would know God’s love (John 17:23). And through His early church, His prayer was answered.
Love proves the existence of the faith that receives the salvation.
Two Connections: God’s Love for Us and Our Love for Others
What is the link between God’s love for us and our love for others?
Sometimes we can’t help but wonder: Why must I love others? Even when others don’t like me? Does God really love me? Even when I feel unloved and unlovable? Even when I really mess up?
There are two answers in the book of Galatians. The first answer is the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:13–16, 22), and the other is faith (verse 6). So walking by the Spirit is the way not to hurt each other but to serve one another through love. In Galatians 5:6, the faith that connects us with Jesus and receives His justification is “faith that works through love” (NCV). In other words, it is the faith that proves that love doesn’t merit our salvation. Love proves the existence of the faith that receives the salvation.
Because God loved us, He created us in His own image to rule over all living things, and it was all very good (Gen. 1:26, 28, 31). But since the time sin entered this world, the connection between God and His people has been severed.
How Does This Connection Work? (Gal. 5:22)
One must walk by the Spirit, because it is the Spirit who produces humility, purity, contentment, faith, and good works; who makes you different from the world and separates you from sin. It is the Spirit who produces love, enlightenment, and wisdom and makes the truth known to you.
Faith is the first step of a Christian life, and it is the graduate school of the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is the teacher and the power. We never graduate to something else, it is always faith and the Sprit, they walk together. Faith is the channel, the conduit that leads us to the Spirit. Love is the fruit of the Spirit and of faith. God gives us the Holy Spirit. He does this through faith. And love is the fruit of the Spirit received by faith (Gal. 5:22).
The love of Christ is the deep nutritional soil where we are planted; the Holy Spirit is the jar that pours that love into our lives; and faith is the source that we send down into the soil.
How to Become More Unified With God (1 John 4:7, 8, 16)
God wants us to have a relationship with Him, and in our hearts, we crave a relationship with Him too. He wants us to show to the world what real love is and what the purpose of living is.
1 John 4:7, 8, 16 says that God is love—love comes from God. God is the source of love. Like electricity running though electrical wires, love comes from God to us, then flows through us to others in the community. When John says, “Let us love one another,” he is encouraging us to allow God’s love flow through us. Since God is love, love must characterize those who claim to be born of God or to know God (1 John 4:7; 3:10, 14; 4:20, 21). Those who claim to be doing the will of God and reflecting God’s activity in the world will be known by the love they manifest for God and for one another. This was what Jesus told His disciples (John 13:35).
As followers of God, we need to remain focused on Jesus and not the little things that divide us. He wants us unified in love, using our Godgiven gifts to build each other up and serve a hurting world around us. Most important, 1 John reminds us again that Jesus is the bottom line. Once we meet Jesus and give ourselves over to Him completely, our lives are permanently transformed (take a look at Colossians 3). The past, present, and future and our identity pivot upon Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. If we have that straight, everything else falls into place.
1. How can church keep us united?
2. What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?
3. How can we completely surrender ourselves to Jesus?