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Unity and Community

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
July 26, 2020 8:00 am

Unity and Community

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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July 26, 2020 8:00 am

America has become one, vast, terrifying community. That rather radical statement was made by one observer of modern culture. Is it true? Have we lost the true sense of community that once bound us together, and has that loss reached its tentacles into the church? Join Dr. James Boice as he explores the current disunity in our culture, the Christian ideal for unity, and how it might be attained.

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Unity sometimes seems to be a virtue of the past. It's been replaced by the fractured and even hostile desire of groups of individuals to advance their own agenda and sadly the disunity of the culture is spilled over into the Church of Jesus Christ and welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically the great theme of the 133rd Psalm is the unity of those who live together as brothers but is such a unity possible in our modern world can a true sense of Christian community still be found in our churches join Dr. Boyce as he explores a beautiful song on the unity of God's people and the ingredients necessary to achieve it, but many of us today have Latin as a second language, but we do know some Latin phrases that way. Some of us do. If you are old enough to have been taught Latin back in high school we know etc. lawyers use the term pro bono one Latin phrase all of us should know is Americans is one we find in some of our coinage has three words goes like this. He blurry bus remains one employee. This means manning a priori. This means from Manny's all e pluribus unum means one from NAR alpha of many.

That's the American ideal, or at least it used to be one great culture formed out of many diverse cultures the melting pot unity community. All those things that we were taught were good when we were young, but it doesn't exist anymore don't have that kind of unity anymore. We certainly don't have it as an idea what we have is a fracturing self conscious competing and even hostile desire of groups and individuals to advance their own way.

Would like to think that this ideal still remains in the church, but unfortunately the same thing we see in the secular world is impacted the church to we sometimes sing about it.

We say we are not divided all one body we we really are divided and sometimes even individual congregations are deeply fractured without Psalm 133 is about unity. Unity of those who lived together as brothers we begin to look forward to the reign of Jesus Christ, we begin to touch on things like unity and realize to the extent that Jesus Christ reigns among his people here that unity actually is attainable.

The song is beautiful poetry at sometimes quoted by people who don't even believe the Bible because things are have a certain poetic ring about it as it touches on things that we generally believe are good it's so beautiful this little poem that it's really a pity to try to analyze it. Sometimes beautiful things are broken apart by analysis and yet were not just to have sentimental thoughts about unity. This, like all other portions of Scripture is meant to teach us something and so is looking at it, at least briefly to say what does this really teach us about unity. Therefore points here, even in this short Psalm that are rather hard to miss. First of all, unity as a gift from God and something I've already sent but it comes out very strongly.

In Psalm, it's that point of the first of the Psalms to metaphors for unity that it's compared with anointing with oil, especially the anointing environment was the high priest bow anointing is something that's done that God's direction in his way and with his authority.

So any blessing that confers comes from God and the Psalm you get that carried on in the imagery because there is threefold repetition of the words running down running down and down, all in verse two. It's the same word in Hebrew so it's emphasizing the same thing coming down that is from above comes from God and then the blessing proceeds to us or his people. Now it's that way with unity. We are all sinners and one of the problems with sin is that Sim divides the exact opposite of what were talking about here. Sin always ruptures it produces hard feelings and divisions of hatred and strife and sometimes open warfare, but that which comes from God unites so God is the only one was actually able to bring people together any real unity any real lasting unity is from him. Secondly, it teaches that unity is for the small and the great alike. This is the chief point of the second of these images of the Psalm in which the duo of Mount Herman is imagined to be falling on Mount Zion. Herman was the highest mountain in Israel that was located about 200 miles north of Jerusalem and it was proverbial for the duo which fell on its lofty heights is also often covered with snow. A lot of the freshwater for the land came from Mount Herman.

Now here in the Psalm list. Do that is said to fall on Herman is also said to fall on Mount Zion, which is not very high like the preceding metaphor do comes down from heaven welcomes down God. This stresses that all unity is from God, but the chief idea here is that it falls on Zion, as well as on Mount Herman. When the country or church or even the family is at peace.

That blessing is a blessing for the smallest or least member of the community as it is for the greatest.

All are blessed, especially the small, specially the insignificant end.

By contrast, disharmony, strife or warfare hurts everybody. Thirdly, the blessing of unity flows from one person to another. The first of these images, the anointing of Aron, was a blessing from God for him, but Aaron of course was the high priest and it was his duty to bless other people have in the Old Testament, the so-called ironic blessing, which he blessed the whole people of Israel. Now that's what happens with unity. It sprints the description of the oil running down from his beard upon the collar of his robes probably suggest this to because there's the camp here that since his oil was precious oil told in the Old Testament.

All of the things that were mingled with it. It was actually an Arab medic you described, for example as perfume in Exodus 30, 33 so when Aaron was anointed the fragrance of the blessing would spread other people. Now it's that way with unity.

A person who is at peace with himself or herself or the people who are blessed by unity are blessings to others wherever they go. They tend to win people to their unity and spread it. And finally, unity is a foretaste of heaven.

This comes across in a very last of these three verses which speaks of life forevermore well that's what the Psalm teaches let's go back. However, what I was saying at the beginning of the study and talk about this lack of unity today because it certainly more noticeable by its absence, and by its presence.

I spoke of America and the fact that unity was once an American ideal, and the fact that it's gone, no longer think of ourselves as the melting pot where everybody blends together instead a competing pluralism is the ideal people no longer work for harmony. Instead, they struggle with each other for group advantages and individual rights. All of this has its roots in our current understanding of what it means to be an individual and there has been a tremendous change here within our lifetimes. The last 20 or 30 years, something terrible has happened to Americans in the way they relate to other people before that time.

That was really something about ideal that said well we are here to help others. Parents were certainly here to help their children because we had the ideal that each generation would advance over the one preceding it was the parents were largely responsible for that and moreover his parents got old children at the ideal that they were here to help their parents. They weren't here merely deliver themselves. Neighbors help neighbors great American ideals as the barnraising or somebody has troubled his barn burns down, and so all the neighbors get together to help and put it up again. It's not something he can do alone. He needs others. But as I say all of that has changed. Today the majority of people in a profound deep way focus on themselves and deal with others only for what they can get out of them and the sociologists of documented that we share some of it with the 1981, a sociologist named Daniel Yankelovich published a study of the 1970s by the title new rules searching for self-fulfillment in a world turned upside down, but that book did was document a title shift in values by which many and then eventually the great majority of Americans began to seek personal fulfillment and pleasure is the chief end of life thinking about others anymore. They were thinking about themselves. Yankelovich found that by the late 1970s, 72% of all Americans spent much time thinking about themselves and their inner lives, so pervasive, so obvious that in 1976 Thomas Wolf coined the phrase to describe the entire decade. In an article that he published in the New York magazine calling at the me decade phrase it still with us what we say is not a good thing thinking about ourselves all the time make us happy if we just redirect our energy toward the time that we're wasting on other people and instead concentrate on fulfilling ourselves that we find fulfillment and joy doesn't work that way, as were beginning to find out all the does this make us miserable fails on the personal level in the fails on our relationship with other people to in spite of what humanism seems to promise, we just concentrate on ourselves will be happy, it actually makes our world in human and a failure to relate to other people actually hurts ourselves as well.

Charles rations another sociologist. He wrote a book called the Greening of America coming of a new consciousness.

Rebirth of the future was published 1971.

He anticipated a lot of the things that were coming, but less of this is what he wrote see if it doesn't describe the world you live in now. Modern living right says has obliterated place locality and neighborhood and given us the anonymous separateness of our existence family. The most basic social system is been ruthlessly stripped to its functional essentials.

Friendship has been coded over with a layer of impenetrable artificiality as men and women strive to live roles designed for protocol competition hostility and fear and replace the warmth of the circle of infection which might sustain man against a hostile environment. He said that America has become one vast terrifying anti-community, we say that's world out there certainly churches are exempt. Unfortunately, the churches are not always exempt, at least not everywhere about at all times is what Michael Scott Horton writes about the churches are churches. One of the last Bastian's of community and yet they do not escape this kind of individualism. Many of us drive to church listen to the sermon. Say hello to our circle of friends a return home without ever having really experienced community earlier evangelicalism was so focused on corporate spirituality. The communion was taken with a common cop we hear endless sermons in spiritual gifts and how the body of Christ is supposed operate in concert and yet our services are often made up of the professionals who entertain us in the individual separate believers who are being entertained. Sadly, I think that's not only a description of what's out there, but a description of the direction in which many evangelical churches are moving and what a pity it is because it means we miss the opportunity to demonstrate the reality of something which the world all his ignorance of God. Nevertheless, desperately seeks and those that lacks well now I want to move back to something positive and we talked about the song that we talked about the lack of unity in the world and the church.

Let's ask the question. Where does unity come from them and can we find it again once it is been lost. We already gave the answer to the first question unity comes from God. The answer to the second is yes unity can be rediscovered and reestablished, but only as men and women get outside of themselves and submit their own selfish individualism to higher and more worthy cause and self-indulgence of the Bible shows the way I want to go through and go back to the early chapters of Genesis.

Back in Eden. Here you find God.

Looking at the world that he had made seeing something that he didn't think is good. He said it's not good that the man should be alone but wanted Amanda live with relationships and harmony so he created a woman with whom the man would be able to share God's bounty and the joys of the work God gave to our first parents and so Adam did until sin entered in cause mutual accusations and disharmony find the same thing in the New Testament, Jesus was talking about what he came to do, namely to establish a new community in the reality of his church.

This is what he said. He said I am going to build my church. Matthew 1618 and not only that, he prayed for the church. One thing he prayed for is that God's people might have unity did it in John 17 lesson.

My prayer is not for the original disciples alone. 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 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 IN them and you and me.

May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me and have loved them them even as you have loved me is not enforced her artificial unity.

It's not something imposed from without. It's based on a common participation in Christ and his gospel is analogous to the unity in the Godhead only passed beyond the Gospels to the book of acts to the history of the early church we find that this idea was realized with a very large extent. In that first Christian community in Jerusalem is a set annexed to this community that they are. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship of the breaking of bread and to prayer. That's what we're interested in because we want to see this in our church and churches was think about that church. The new testament counterpart. I suppose what we have been seeing in Psalm 133. What about that church. Well, for one thing, it was an inner-city church and a pretty big city of that family was a large church and had a multiple staff ministry started out with 120 had a couple disciples there apostles who were in charge, but after Peter preached a Pentecost 3000 were added to the church all in one day. So at that point if we take the numbers at face value you had 3120 people in the congregation. They soon found the 12 apostles were not enough, so they collected a bunch of deacons to supplement what they had reelected seven of them. So now they had 19 officers in order to handle this particular church.

Now a large church has its problems course and so did this when it was in a perfect church. The church that had hypocrites had doctrinal errors was full of sinful human beings of all types and yet was a model church in many respects. One of the striking things about it is this emphasis upon fellowship or unity fellowship has been withholding something in common literally means a common participation in God and it's this that had drawn the early Christians together.

Someone has said, the stronger your fellowship on the vertical dimension is the stronger your fellowship will be on the horizontal dimension was a stroke. The closer you are to God. The closer you will be to other people and this is what they had found in Jerusalem. Here the things that are mentioned.

First of all, notice the apostolic teaching they devoted themselves to the apostolic teaching real unity or community and reestablished only around a common set of convictions and beliefs. And that's what drew these early believers together.

Is there devotion to the teaching that was being given to them by the apostles and it's the first thing, Luke mentions he stresses that in these early days in spite of that marvelous experience of the power of God that they had witnessed a Pentecost which might've caused them to focus on their experiences instead the disciples actually devoted themselves. First of all, that the apostolic teaching. I would could've been a temptation for them to think back to Pentecost and focus on that entirely and wish that they might somehow experience that again. I might've remembered the way the Holy Spirit came and use them to speak.

So the people in Jerusalem each heard them in his or her own language they might've said all that's what we need to have again they might've remembered the miraculous and said what we need are more miracles. Please do something miraculous again. That's not what we find what we find.

Instead, is that they are not reveling in past experiences, but reveling in the word of God.

I want to suggest this is always the first mark of the Spirit filled and therefore united church church which is filled by the spirit always devotes itself to the apostolic teaching. It's a learning church grounds its experiences in Scripture and then test them by God. Now, secondly, there's the fellowship, love of the Scriptures led these believers also to love one another, which meant that they had genuine unity as God's people the most important thing about them both individually and as a communion was there devotion to the teaching and because of it. They cared for one another at paragraph at the end of acts two shows that they actually share their possessions with one another because they cared about another so much they didn't want anyone to be in material need and then here's 1/3 characteristic of the church.

It was characterized by worship.

That's what's involved in those phrases, the breaking of bread and prayer breaking of bread, of course, stands with the communion service and prayer.

Although it's something that can and should be done individually and at different times in this passage actually refers to corporate worship because the Greek language. It has the definite article before the word prayers doesn't merely say they devoted themselves to prayer, but that the prayers that is formal worship. This means that when they got together, they observe the Lord's supper. They prayed and they praised God, where did they do it well. It says that they did in the temple courts. The only large area in Jerusalem in those days where you could get a great group of people together was the enclosure around the temple to hold perhaps 200,000 people was plenty of room for them to grow. Then you read in the same paragraph that not only did they worship in this formal setting.

They worshiped informally as well because the very next phrase says that they broke bread in their homes. It's a deliberate repetition you see in verse 42 they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, and in verse 46 they broke bread in their homes and if they did both worship formally when they came together, and they also worshiped informally together in smaller groups when we follow this biblical idea of unity from Genesis through Psalm 133 the teaching of Jesus Christ in his prayer than his realization on the early church was completed by looking the whole way through to the very end of the church as it emerges in the last book of the Bible in Revelation were encouraged to do that by some 133 because that's Psalm talks toward the end about life forevermore. God bestows his blessing for Mount Zion earthly Zion is a type of heavenly Zion Hebrew speaks of it is a joyful assembly or an enduring city revelation because of the new Jerusalem, which there will be no sin or evil or pain or death. All of which disrupt which there will be no disharmony because the desire of every one of God's redeemed people will be for his glory and for the glory of the Lamb was Jesus Christ.

We sing blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love, the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above that's it exactly. It's in anticipation of that perfect future unity that causes us to seek and maintain our unity now and when we do that the people of God we have something unique to offer to a very divided world. One commentator says if we dwell together in loving unity now. We have already begun the enjoyments of eternity which are for evermore, and can never be taken away from us for listening to the Bible study our teaching. The teaching of Dr. James Boyce. We often speak of unity in the church, but true unity requires a common identity.

What is the main factor that should bind us together, find out in our free CD message entitled unity unity, also by Dr. Boyce. This free offers our way of saying thanks for listening. Call us today at 1-800-488-1888 will be pleased to send you a copy of unity unity again. Our phone number is 1-800-488-1888. Help us to bring others into the brotherhood of Christ through your prayers and financial support of Dr. Boyce's powerful messages from God's word. You can make your contribution by visiting our website at the Bible study our God word. You can also call us directly at 1-800-488-1888, and our mailing address is 600 Eden Rd., Lancaster, PA 17601.

Thank you. We appreciate you and all who listen. Pray and give reformation 20 wine in place for truth are websites of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals, proclaiming biblical doctrine to foster a reformed awakening in today's church, find blogs, articles, and podcasts from today's most influential reformed thinkers connect to it all from the Bible study our God by Mark Daniels thank you for joining me, why is it that so little of the worship that characterizes the people of God in past ages seen in the church today and why is it that were so often uncommitted spectators rather than worshipers. Join Dr. James Boyce next time of the Bible study our as he ponders these questions in the state of worship today from the perspective of Psalm 130 4X next time on Bible study our preparing you to think and act biblically

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