United in Heart (Session 1) – Ephesians 2:11-22

The theme of our Retreat for the next two days is the word UNITY: Oneness in Christ. 

The word ‘UNITY’ is a very familiar word to all of us. Probably some of you are already saying “I know all about Unity, I’ve been hearing this word since the time I was born”

But there is a possibility that even though we are familiar with the word ‘Unity’, we haven’t still understood it as we are supposed to, according to the scriptures.

And therefore, let’s keep our hearts and minds open and be willing to empty ourselves. Let’s keep aside all our preconceptions and allow God’s word and His Spirit to change us, in the direction of becoming more like Jesus.

Our country India is known to be a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country. We celebrate our diversity, and why shouldn’t we?

  • More than 1500+ languages are spoken in our country.
  • People of different religions viz. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism etc. live together.
  • We have 29 states and seven union territories. Each of these states and union territories has its unique culture, traditions, food, dressing sense, belief systems.

Of course, we should be proud of ourselves. Here’s how our Prime minister Mr Narendra Modi proudly speaks about India, he says “Vividhita Main Ekta Hamare Desh ki Vishehta” (Unity in diversity is our country’s speciality)

But even though we celebrate Unity in diversity, the truth is, we are all divided in our hearts, one against another. And not in two or three pieces but hundreds and thousands of parts, probably as many cultural, languages & caste divisions that exist in our society.  

If we truly believe we are united, we wouldn’t have inequality amongst us, every citizen in our country would have had equal rights, equal opportunities, and most importantly, freedom to pursue their dreams.

But that’s not the case. Statistics says the top 10% of Indians owns 76.3% of the wealth in India. Do you think that is a fair distribution of wealth among the people who call themselves united?

If we were united, preferences in government offices, private companies, schools, colleges and other societies, wouldn’t be given based on caste, colour, education, wealth, gender, state background, language etc.

And therefore, even though we celebrate Unity in Diversity, we can see how our Indian society is divided. 

Unfortunately, we also get to see such discrimination in our so-called churches and Christian organizations.

Now, I don’t want to dwell too much on these differences and divisions but would like you to give some serious thoughts about it later.

Instead, I want to point our hearts to God’s word and show you what true UNITY is, why is it important and how can we genuinely experience UNITY in our hearts.

The passage I want to turn to is Ephesians 2:11-22

Alienated & divided because of Sin

Verse 11-12: Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 

In this passage, Paul is addressing a group of Jews & Gentiles who seem divided on the issue of circumcision. The Jews were saying, believing in Jesus is good, but to become a true believer, you also have to be circumcised. To which Paul confronts them saying that this is not what the true Gospel is. Instead, he is saying that it is only by Grace through Faith we are saved and not by our works. 

And as he is addressing the issue on circumcision and the division caused by it, he first reminds them all saying “you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

When God made us, in his image, he did not mean for us to live in disunity. In fact, the very purpose of Him creating us was to share the fellowship and unity that the triune God – God the Father, God the Son & God the HolySpirit had & enjoyed among themselves. 

God made man so that we would enjoy the same relationship with Him and with each other. But in our rebellion and selfishness when we chose to disobey him, his virtues & his good-intended laws, we broke that relationship with Him which also affected our relationship with each other. 

The first murder in the bible, the older brother Cain killing his younger brother Abel was the result of that Sin.

The first major split or a division happed because of Sin. Genesis 11:1-9 tells us the story of the Tower of Babel. 

Genesis 11:1-9: Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

It was Sin and sinful motives of sinful people that caused the first division.

Therefore, even in our Indian context, where we are talking about disunity and disharmony among people, let us all be aware that the real cause of it is Sin. 

It is because of Sin; we are in hostility – unfriendliness, opposed to one another, hatred towards our fellow brother & sister. And unless we deal with Sin, we are never going to experience true Unity in our heart and in this world. 

When the government talks about Unity, they do so to get votes and gain power. When organizations talk about Unity, they do so to sell their product & services. When various other entities talk about unity, they do so for their own personal benefits.

We see how Sin has taken deep roots in our society and culture that even though when we talk about Unity in diversity, it is to take advantage of each other for selfish gains. In our Sin, we are living like animals where the Law of the Jungle is ‘Survival of the fittest’, where nobody wants to know the truth when it is only the Truth that can set us free from this bondage and misery, and allow us to live in Freedom and Peace.

And what is the Truth? 

United through Christ

Ephesians 2:13-22: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 2In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

When we hear the account of Jesus and what he has accomplished for us on the cross, we realize that God’s ultimate purpose is to bring us back to himself and to one another, as one man, one bride as per the original design.

In our Sin, we were far away from God, but now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

We may think as if God is doing all this for us, for our well being. Yes, of course, that is true but the greater truth is that He is doing all this for Himself, to restore back that which was broken because of our disobedience and failure and to bring the order of creation, that which He intended while he was creating us.

Therefore, Unity is not just something that we need as a society to bring back order in our lives but it is primarily God’s agenda for restoring back what was lost. Through the sacrifice of His son Jesus, God is uniting his people for the big day of his return, his rule and his dominion on this earth. Satan will be defeated forever and we will be united to Christ in a grand marriage celebration.

Either we are in it & for it or we are not in it & not for it.

Brothers & sisters, as we talk more about Unity, the agenda is not to manipulate you into something we want to build for ourselves. It is not about the Gathering church and our small little community, but it is about the Kingdom of God. It is about the greater goal that is far beyond ourselves and our identity and comfort on this earth. It is about God.

This is not some new kind of lifestyle we are calling you but this is the ultimate purpose for which we are being created. 

Therefore, when the Gospel is truly understood and applied in our lives, every circumstance, every faulty mindset, every faulty cultural belief, every broken relationship, it should bring peace, joy and restoration that ultimately unites our hearts to Christ and to one another.

Without Christ, Unity has no purpose.

Without Christ, Unity has no meaning,

Without Christ, Unity is not possible.

In some way or the other, we have all fallen prey to the schemes of the enemy and have separated ourselves from receiving and experiencing the grace of God.

We have failed to surrender our lives to God for the sake of unity with Him, we have allowed our sinful hearts to take over our choices, our decisions, our affections, & our emotions.

There is no one who can say that he or she is perfect before God, and therefore as we’ve heard God speak to us and if He has convicted us of our sins, our response should be repentance and faith, surrender and commitment to the Gospel. 

Group Discussion Questions:

Q1. What are some specific areas in your life where you are currently experiencing disunity with God?

Q2. What are some specific areas in your life where you are currently experiencing disunity with one another?

Q3. What are some cultural, traditional, emotional, political or sentimental reasons that hold you back from seeking unity with God and with one another?

Q4. How do you think the Gospel addresses your specific reasons for not seeking or pursuing unity with God & with others?

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