Text: Eph. 4:1-32
The 4th of July always reminds us of our freedom as a people. It is a great celebration of independence. Unfortunately, this word “independence” has come to mean something that our forefathers never meant it to mean.
Today it means “no one tells me what to do, I can do whatever I want, I’m Independent.”
To our forefathers however, the idea of Independence was more like Inter–Dependence than our modern idea of it.
This is also true spiritually. One of the reasons American Christianity is in trouble today is because we have a false idea of what it means to be a Christian.
We think being a Christian is like being an American … we are independent, we don’t answer to anyone but God and no one can tell us what to do. (although actually if this were true we would not be independent, we would be interdependent),
The Bible never supports the idea that we are supposed to be independent! Actually, this is the concept of Evil! Satan got Eve to think and act Independently from God or her husband, sin resulted! Satan himself acted Independently from God; and it was his downfall … the drive for independence is built on a foundation of sin and evil!
The Bible teaches Interdependence … we are not alone, and we don’t grow alone … we are built together as a Holy Temple, upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. Nothing good happens spiritually with independent Christians … it is a contradiction in terms! There is no power in being independent.
Illustration: A man went to an asylum for the criminally insane. He was a bit surprised to find that there were three guards to take care of a hundred inmates. He said to one of the guards, “Aren’t you afraid that the inmates will unite, overcome you, and escape?” The guard said, “Lunatics never unite. Locusts do.”
Christians should unite. If we don’t, we don’t know where our power is.
The Bible clearly teaches that Christians are interdependent, never independent. We must not only be in a right relationship with God, but with one another as well. There is no power to the Christian life lived alone.
- Our First point in this three-part series speaks of: “Union”
- The Second post will look at point two: “Useful”
- Then the Third part will focus on: “Understanding”
A. Compassion (Read Ephesians 4:1-3)
When Paul talks about the Church, or about Christians, it is Always in the context of Togetherness.
- Unity is a big theme in the Bible.
- Paul stressed it, Jesus talked about it, indeed it is found everywhere in the Bible.
- We were never meant to be Independent!
Paul’s comments in the first three verses are all about “bearing with one another in love.”
- Even Jesus did not act alone. He always did the will of His Father, and always acted in concert with His Father and the Spirit. He never acted independently.
- There is No Independence – but Inter Dependence – in the Godhead. So why would there be Independence in the Body of Christ!?
One of the greatest perils of modern Christianity in America is the obsession we have with Independence.
- Independence focuses on “Me” … the focus of Christianity however is “Us.”
- Jesus never sent out His disciples alone… never less than two at a minimum.
When we see through our own eyes only, we tend to set ourselves up above others. The beauty of Inter-Dependence is that we are kept to healthy balances because we are Not the only thing!
- It is not healthy to act Alone, we can never do as much alone as we can with the help of others.
- It is not healthy to see things Alone, the picture is usually distorted.
Illustration: A minister took a guilt trip in a sermon: “I let the congregation really have it. Their stewardship was dismal, their participation was weak; and they were wallowing around in their own shortsighted pursuits. After my sermon, in which I really let it all hang out, a little old lady said to me with a smile, ‘Pastor, I hope you’ll feel better soon.’ “
It is easy to lose focus Alone … but by being United with others, we are checked, challenged, cared for, and commissioned.
- What makes America so strong? It is not our independence, it is our Inter-Dependence. How we work and set goals together. Remember we are the United States of America! Not Untied!
- Our forefathers did not proclaim Independence in terms of being alone. They declared Independence from corrupt control; and created a Union, which by definition is Inter-Dependence!
- Inter-dependence is the grid for compassion; it breeds compassion and selflessness because we are Not Alone. Independence, on the other hand, breeds arrogance and selfishness … doesn’t need others.
B. Connection (Read Ephesians 4:4-6)
Notice Paul’s emphasis here:
- “one body … one Spirit … one hope … one Lord … one faith … one baptism … one God”
- Inter-Dependence is God’s design!
- By the way, that is why our Country is as strong as it is, it was built as “One Nation under One God, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for All.” It was all about Inter-Dependence!
Illustration: The emblem of the state of Kentucky shows two men facing each other shaking hands. The motto beneath reads: “United we stand, divided we fall.” That could well be the motto of a nation, a congregation, or a family.
- Is it any wonder then that our nation is so strong … with our forefather’s strong Biblical roots they built a nation with Biblical structure, thus making it strong!
The Church is strong too, when it understands and functions as an Inter-Dependent group.
- No Church is strong when it fails to have unity, Psalm 133, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! … For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
- The New Testament gives the same picture; while we as individuals might all have different gifts, they are intended to bless All … We are a team.
Great leaders understand the importance of Inter-Dependence:
Illustration: After D-Day in World War II, someone said to General Eisenhower, “It’s great how you were able to coordinate all the teams in that great enterprise.” The General quickly corrected him: “Not teams,” he said, “but team.”
All ministries and ministers in a Church need to see the Inter-Dependence of one another. Failure to do so results in superiority by some, (power struggle) division results, and the Church lacks power and witness.
Even on the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit fell only after “they were in one accord.”
No wonder the Spirit can’t fall on some Churches today!!!
(Our next post will look at point two “Useful.”)