Unity and Holiness in the Church

Unity and Holiness – The Importance for the Church

Unity and holiness is important to the church for the sanctification of believers and outreach and evangelism to unbelievers. God’s pattern throughout man’s history is to have an inside and outside, including during the Church Age. Holiness creates the boundary so the church doesn’t look like the world. In the Old Testament the Mosaic Law contained commands that allowed Israel to be holy and set apart from the surrounding nations. In the New Testament, believers are still called to be holy, but holiness in the church means avoiding worldliness, or separation from the world. Unity is important because unbelievers observe both our love for each other and our conflict.

Lessons for Unity and Holiness

  • Lesson 1: God’s pattern is to have an “____________” and “______________” (Matt 21:31; Mark 4:11; Luke 16:16; Col 4:5; 1 Thes 4:12; 1 Tim 3:7; 1 Cor 5:12-13; Rev 22:14-15).
  • Lesson 2: ________________ creates the boundary between the inside and outside (1 Pet 1:15; Heb 12:14).
  • Lesson 3: Holiness in the church means avoiding ______________________ (Rom 12:2; 1 John 2:15-16; Jam 4:4).
  • Lesson 4: Those outside observe our:
    • (Part I) __________ (John 17:20-23; Gal 6:10). •
    • (Part II) ________________ (1 Cor 6:6-7; Pro 6:16-19; Rom 16:17; Titus 3:10).

Family Worship Guide for Unity and Holiness

  • Day 1: Read Matt 21:31, 25:10; Mark 4:11; Luke 16:16; Col 4:5; 1 Thes 4:12; 1 Tim 3:7; 2 Tim 2:21; Jam 4:8; 1 John 1:9 and discuss: When do we see an “inside” and “outside” in the Old Testament? What about in the New Testament? Why is it God’s pattern to have an “inside” and “outside”? Can you think of times in Scripture people moved from the “outside” to the “inside”? What about the other way around?
  • Day 2: Read 1 John 2:15-17, 1 Cor 5:12-13 cf. Lev 24:14; Deut 17:7, 19:19, 22:21, 24, 24:7 and discuss: Why is holiness so important to the church too? How does holiness create a boundary between the “inside” and “outside,” or between the church and the world? What does this holiness look like?
  • Day 3: Read John 17:20-23, 13:35, Gal 6:10 and discuss: Why is unity so important, or in other words: what does unity communicate to the onlooking world? Why do you think it communicates this? What can you do to help strengthen the unity at CBC? Why are seasons of intense suffering in the body such great witnessing/outreach opportunities?
  • Day 4: Read 1 Cor 6:6-7, Pro 6:16-19, Rom 16:17, Titus 3:10 and discuss: What are the greatest threats to our unity? To our witness? Why did Paul tell the Corinthians to “suffer loss”? What are the six things God hates? Why such strong verses reserved for divisive people, or in other words, why are divisive people such threats to the church? What exactly do they threaten? How should the church handle them?

Sermon notes for Unity and Holiness

I’d like to begin w/ our first lesson…

Lesson 1: God’s pattern is to have an “inside” and “outside.”

If you take an elevated view of Scripture, you’ll see this.

I’d say the devil – and the demons w/ him – were the first ones to learn God establishes an inside and outside.

Lucifer was inside heaven, but when he sinned he was cast outside…and the third of angels who joined him were as well.

Who are the next people to learn there’s an inside and outside?

I’ll give you a hint: they’re the first people!

Adam and Eve were inside Eden, but they sinned and were put outside.

A few chapters later it started raining and what did everyone learn?

There’s inside the ark and outside the ark.

As you move through the OT, you actually see every historical book deals w/ an “inside” and “outside”:

  • In Exodus, God unleashed the plagues on Egypt, and everyone learned there was:
    • Inside Goshen where the Israelites weren’t affected.
    • Outside Goshen were the Egyptians were affected.
  • Then God delivered Israel from Egypt and it was clear there was inside Egypt and outside Egypt.
  • In Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy there was inside the camp and outside the camp.
  • In Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles there was inside the Promised Land and outside the Promised Land.

If we leave the OT and move into the NT, we reach the Gospels and the pattern continues…

What did Jesus bring w/ Him when He came from heaven to earth?

The Kingdom of God, and there was an inside and outside:

  • Matthew 21:31b Jesus said to [the religious leaders], “The tax collectors and prostitutes go INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD BEFORE YOU.”
  • Mark 4:11 [Jesus said], “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but FOR THOSE OUTSIDE everything is in parables.
  • Luke 16:16 [Jesus said], “The kingdom of God is preached, and everyone FORCES HIS WAY INTO IT.”

You reach Acts, and now there’s inside the church and outside the church:

  1. Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom TOWARD OUTSIDERS.
  2. 1 Thessalonians 4:12 Walk properly BEFORE OUTSIDERS.
  3. When Paul described the qualifications for elders in 1 Tim 3:7 he said [elders] must be well thought of BY OUTSIDERS.
  4. 1 Corinthians 5:12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? (Paul says we don’t have to worry about judging – or confronting the sin of – those outside the church) Is it not those INSIDE THE CHURCH whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside.

The pattern even continues for eternity…

Revelation 22:14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that THEY MAY ENTER THE CITY BY THE GATES. 15 OUTSIDE are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

Believers are inside. Unbelievers are outside.

Now let me ask you to think about something…

In the OT the boundaries were physical. There was physically inside and outside:

  • Eden
  • The ark
  • Goshen
  • The camp in the wilderness
  • The Promised Land

But when you reach the NT, there’s no physical boundaries. The church is spiritual. We are the church. The church IS where we go!

So let me ask you this…

What creates the boundary for us between the inside and outside?

The answer brings us to Lesson 2…

Lesson 2: Holiness creates the boundary between the inside and outside.

This is one reason holiness is so important!

Without holiness:

  • You can’t tell the difference between the church and the world.
  • The inside looks like the outside.

Regarding holiness, I think we often misunderstand what it means…

  • If something is holy we’ll think it’s good or moral or righteous.
  • If something is unholy we’ll think it’s bad or immoral or sinful.

But it’s better to think about holiness meaning set apart. For example:

  • When Moses approached the burning bush, God told him he was standing on holy ground:
    • It didn’t mean that ground was more righteous than other ground.
    • It didn’t mean that other was more sinful than the ground he was on.
    • Instead, it meant this ground was set apart for God’s use.
  • Canaan – or the Promised Land – is the Holy Land:
    • It doesn’t mean that it’s more righteous or less sinful than other land.
    • It simply means that out of all the land on the face of the earth, this is the land God specially set apart for His use.
  • If you had two identical vessels, but one was used in the temple and one wasn’t, the one used in the temple was holy and the other wasn’t.
    • It doesn’t mean one is good and the other is evil.
    • It simply means one is set apart for God and the other isn’t.

In the OT, God gave ceremonial commands that were amoral to help His people be holy. These are the commands we typically think are weird:

  • The commands associated w/ clothing:
    • Tassels they had to wear
    • Fabrics they weren’t supposed to mix together
    • The commands associated w/ farming certain ways.
    • Leviticus 19:27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. Some of you are so unholy you don’t even have beards…Pastor Cary.

Now here are two questions you could ask…

First, you could say:

  • What’s the big deal about mixing fabrics together?
  • Why did they have to wear tassels on their clothes?
  • Why did God care how they gardened, or trimmed their beards?

How does that make Israel good or moral?

It didn’t make Israel good or moral…but it did make them holy! All these commands helped them be set apart from the surrounding nations.

Now let’s talk about the application for us…

Just like God called Israel to be holy in the Old Testament, He has called us – the church – to be holy in the New Testament:

  • 1 Peter 1:15 As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
  • Hebrews 12:14 Without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Now here’s the question…

If Israel was holy by keeping those weird commands, does that mean we’re holy by keeping these weird commands?

  • Do we need to put on tassels?
  • Do we need to avoid certain foods?
  • Do we need to get rid of our clothing that mixes fabrics?

This brings us to Lesson 3…

Lesson 3: Holiness in the church means avoiding worldliness.

Holy still means separate or set-apart…but from the world:

  • Just like Israel was holy by being separate from the surrounding nations, the church is to be holy by being separate from the world around us.
  • There are a lot of verses I could give you, but here are just three:
    • Romans 12:2 DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
    • 1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
    • James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

I don’t have to try to make these verses sound stronger.

  • If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.
  • Friendship with the world is enmity with God.

That’s strong language!

If you want to be holy:

  • Don’t worry about tassels, and foods, and fabrics.
  • But worry about worldliness!

The only way the church can be separate from the world is if there’s a division between the two…and holiness creates that division.

If you think of the examples we discussed, God always made boundaries between His people and the world. It was never blurred:

  • People in the Israelite camp never said, “Hey, let’s make sure the inside of the camp is just like outside the camp.”
  • People in the Promised Land never said, “Hey, let’s make sure being inside the Promised Land is just like being outside the Promised Land.”
  • Jesus never said, “I don’t want to be exclusive, so let’s make sure people can’t tell if they’re inside the Kingdom of God or they’re outside Kingdom of God.”

Hopefully you notice the application for the church…

There must be a clear division. When people come into the church they should recognize they’re leaving the world. A number of things should make this clear:

  • Our music…
  • Our language…
  • Our actions…
  • Our clothing…

This is why it’s important to understand the difference between morality and holiness, b/c when we see the difference…

The question isn’t just:

  • What is right and wrong?
  • What is good and bad?

The question is also does this look like the world?

Sadly, sometimes when churches engage in outreach they try to blur the line between the church and the world. They say, “We’ll look like the world to reach the world.”

But if you’ve been listening up to this point, you know that’s not God’s plan. He wants a clear distinction:

  • When I attended a Christian church for the first time it was the difference between the church and the world that made the church attractive.
  • For many people, they turn to Christ b/c they’re sick of the world…but if the church looks like the world, they can’t leave the world.

Bill Izard said, “If we are obsessed with making our Christian worship comfortable and non offensive to [unbelievers who] hate [God], we are in danger of denying Him and His call to holy living. Are we justified in taking such a risk, only that we may not offend? Surely Christians are not to seek to offend, but Christ says those who follow Him will be offensive – it is unavoidable.”

There’s one more thing that really speaks to those outside, and I want to get a little momentum into discussing it w/ you…

Take your minds to the Last Supper.

Jesus is hours before His death on the cross. He knows He’s going to be leaving this life, and at this dramatic moment – knowing the needs of all future believers – what would you expect him to pray for us?

That we would:

But He didn’t pray for any of those things.

He prayed for unity!

Look w/ me at John 17:20

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only (He means He doesn’t ask – or pray – only for the 12 disciples He prayed for in the previous verses), but also for those who will believe in me through their word (this is us!), 21 that they may all be one (here’s His prayer for us to have unity), just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, (now notice this…) SO THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE SENT ME. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one (He prayed for us to have unity again), 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, (and then notice this a second time…) SO THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW THAT YOU SENT ME and loved them even as you loved me.

Twice Jesus prayed for us to have unity, and twice He said WHY He prayed for that: so the world may know [the Father] sent [Him].

This is why our unity inside is so important. It communicates to those outside that the Father sent His Son!

And this brings us to the first part of Lesson 4…

Lesson 4: Those outside observe our (part 1) unity.

Let’s think about why our unity inside is so important…

When those outside see a group of sinful, selfish people – which is what every church is – w/ different personalities and backgrounds and opinions and preferences all living in unity and fellowship w/ each other:

  • They know that doesn’t just happen.
  • They say, “Wow, there’s something supernatural about this!”

It legitimizes Christianity to them!

The other reason unity is so important is it makes Christianity attractive!

The other day Katie and I were talking, and somehow we ended up discussing all the hazing I experienced to join a fraternity in college. She said, “I can’t believe you went through all that. It sounds like what people go through to join a gang. It’s a real testament to how much people want community.”

When we look around:

  • Whether it’s fraternities…
  • Whether it’s gangs…
  • Whether it’s clubs…

Really any organization that offers community, they exist b/c of the strong desire in all of us to belong.

And this is why unity inside the church is so important:

  • It’s attractive to those outside.
  • They can tell it’s not like the superficial, shallow relationships that are so prevalent in the world.

In John 13:35 Jesus said, By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We’re so familiar w/ this verse we lose some of the significance! Think of all the things Jesus COULD have said reveal to those outside that we are His disciples:

  • Praying a lot…
  • Going to church…
  • Memorizing Scripture…
  • He even could’ve said living a holy life…which is what we would most expect Him to say, b/c – like we just talked about – holiness is what allows us to be separate from those outside

All these things are important, but Jesus said it is our love for each other that identifies us as His disciples

Listen to this important verse…

Galatians 6:10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, AND ESPECIALLY TO THOSE WHO ARE OF THE HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH.

There’s a difference between the way God wants us treating those inside versus those outside.

We’re to be kind and loving to everyone, but God wants us showing special favor toward the church.

Why would God say this?

My suspicion is it relates to what we’re discussing…

If we’re going to be a good witness to those outside, we need to make sure the inside is healthy and strong…and that means making sure we’re taking care of our church family.

Churches will talk about outreach, and there are lots of different forms it can take:

  • Sharing the Gospel with people…
  • Inviting people to church, or a marriage conference, or your home fellowship…

And these are all great things to do, but one of the greatest forms of outreach is simply:

  • Loving those inside
  • Serving those inside
  • Taking care of those inside

These actions speak powerfully to those outside

Now let’s talk about the other side of this…and it brings us to the second part of Lesson 4…

Lesson 4: Those outside observe our (part 2) conflict.

Since the church – or the body of Christ – is the visible representation of Christ on the earth in His physical absence, it’s impossible for those inside NOT to be saying something about Christ to those outside. And if there’s conflict between us, that’s going to say something about Christ to those outside. They’ll think things…but obviously not the things we’d like.

Conflict among those inside ruins our witness b/c those outside look on and say:

  • These people can’t get along.
  • They say they’re followers of Christ – who talk about love – but look at them fighting.
  • This whole Christianity thing must be nonsense.

Then they walk away shaking their heads in unbelief.

This makes them think the Father did NOT send His Son.

Francis Schaeffer said, “Bitter divisions among Christians give the world the justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel. But when reconciliation, peacemaking, and unity are on display inside the church, that becomes a powerful witness to a [hurting] world.”

We know the Corinthians had a lot of issues in their church. One of the issues was their conflict w/ each other. Paul was upset about it, and listen to why that was the case…

1 Corinthians 6:6 Brother goes to law against brother, AND THAT BEFORE UNBELIEVERS? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?

Paul was upset their conflicts inside the church, b/c those outside could look on and see it!

Our unity is so important, Paul says it’s better to suffer loss than go to court against each other b/c of how bad it looks.

Anyone ever heard of fratricide before?

Fratricide takes place during battles when soldiers kill those on their own side. Although it might be hard to believe that happens, I used to be an officer in the Army and let me give you two situations I have familiarity w/ that demonstrate it…

We used to train w/ something called MILES gear, which stands for, “Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System.” Basically, it’s a big game of laser tag, b/c it’s better to have soldiers train w/ lasers than bullets.

One time I was running through the woods and one of my soldiers popped up in front of me and I shot him. His MILES gear started making the loud annoying sound that lets you know you’ve been shot. The only way to turn it off is to take the key out of your rifle, which then prevents your rifle from firing. Essentially, you’re rendered ineffective as a soldier.

When that happened, I remember thinking…

It must be really hard at times during an actual battle to make sure you don’t hurt those on your side!

When I became a tank officer, we had to spend a lot of time on tank identification. Before I could receive my own platoon I had to take a huge test and name all the different US and foreign tanks for one main reason…

So we could recognize our friends from foes.

You wouldn’t believe how much tanks all look the same from a distance or on the screens in the tanks themselves.

  • It can be very easy to confuse one of your own tanks w/ one of the enemy tanks.
  • Or in other words, it can be very easy to mistake a friend for a foe.

As a result, a lot of fratricide that takes place during battles.

You can imagine how devastating this is…

You’re trying to win a battle:

  • You need everyone fighting the same enemy.
  • And you end up destroying people on your side.

Can you think of anything the enemy you’re fighting would want more than you destroying your own people?

The sad thing is after I became a Christian, the one place I saw the most fratricide is in the church!

I’ve seen some Christians, and I’d be surprised if they’d treat anyone as badly as they treat other Christians.

I’ve seen Christians do things in the church, and:

  • I can’t imagine them doing the same in the workplace b/c they they’d be fired.
  • I can’t imagine them doing the same:
    • In their school, b/c they’d get kicked out
    • On their sports team, b/c they’d get punished
    • In their neighborhood b/c nobody would have anything to do w/ them

But they’ll do it in the church.

We aren’t in a physical battle, but we are in a spiritual battle.

The Bible says our enemies are:

  • The world
  • The devil
  • And our flesh

But the way we act in the church sometimes you’d think our enemies are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If the devil wanted to destroy churches, what do you think would be one of his most successful approaches?

  • Wouldn’t it be causing those inside to attack each other?
  • Wouldn’t it be causing us to think those on our side are actually our enemies?

Galatians 5:15 If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Here’s what we need to keep in mind…

When we bite and devour each other we’re doing two things:

  1. We’re working against Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer
  2. We’re serving the devil and helping him in the battle.

Curtis Thomas said, “The more fractured we are, the greater we become spectacles to the world. The more we are united in love, the more the world sees Christ.”

So my prayer for Cornerstone for the years to come is that God blesses you with great holiness and unity:

  • Because of what it says about Christ
  • Because of what it says to the outside world

Let’s pray.

Extra material

Let me close by sharing something that happened last year…

I turned forty!

And this caused two things to happen:

  1. First, I gained some credibility, b/c as you get older, people think you have more wisdom and knowledge…and that’s biblical: Job 12:12 Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding [with] length of days.
  2. Second, I lost some credibility…and it’s credibility I’m going to continue to lose as I get older…at least when I talk about certain things.

And here’s why…

The older you get the more conservative people expect you to become. So when you talk conservatively in your 60s, 70s, or 80s, people say, “Well, of course you’re going to say that…YOU’RE OLD!”

So as long as I’m still sort of young – at least to some people – and still have some credibility preaching conservatively about holiness and morality, I want to do that as boldly as I can.

But considering what I just said, guess who has the MOST credibility when it comes to conservativeness, morality, and holiness?

Young people!

But here’s the unfortunate truth…

Many young people think, “I’m young, so…

  • It doesn’t matter what I do.”
  • I can’t contribute to a church.”

Then churches make this worse when they make young people feel like they don’t have anything to contribute by removing them from services or events. Instead, we should encourage youth to set a good example.

I’ll use my children to explain why this is so important…

My greatest desire is to see my kids love and serve Christ. I want them to have good examples to follow.

The examples I follow in my own life are typically men in the church who are 10-or-so years older than me, experiencing the next season of my life.

But do you think my children look up to these men?

Probably not.

Who are my children looking up to?

They’re looking up to the people a few years older than them. My oldest, Rhea, is 11, and they go down in age from there, so you can do the math. They’re looking up to the young people who are in their teens and perhaps early twenties.

If you’re in that age group:

  • And you’re a young man who is setting a good example for my boys – and the other boys in the church – I want to thank you!
    • Thank you for treating the young ladies around you w/ respect.
    • Thank you for serving and being mature for your age
  • If you’re a young lady in that age range and you’re setting a good example for my girls – and the other girls in the church – I want to thank you.
    • Thank you for carrying yourselves w/ respect
    • Thank you for dressing modestly and embracing biblical femininity…versus the world’s feminism.

My prayer is the young people would become the next generation of the church here.

Do you have a question or thought? If so, please let me know. I do my best to respond to each comment.

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