WE – ARE UNITED

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Last week I introduced you to a big concept, a big experiment that we are about to embark on here at Reality. I discussed how we are in a unique situation, having a new pastor, new vision, and new location which gives us a unique opportunity to do something new. And specifically that we are going to try a new kind of church membership – one where it actually means something to be a member and that being part of the church in that way can actually bring about the life change that is the vision of our church.
Today, and the next three weeks I promised I would spell out the details so that on the final week, on August 2nd, you will be able to decide whether you want to be a part of this or not.
Now, I also need to clarify a few things before proceeding.
1. This is the only time I am going to do this – that is, take the whole church through a membership class from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. In the future, this will be done via a small group over a few weeks in someones home or at the office. Like I said, this unique situation affords unique opportunities.
2. You don’t have to be a member to be a part of the church. We won’t be checking membership cards at the door or having member’s only seating. Membership is only for those who are ready to take their personal spiritual growth seriously enough to do what it takes to make it happen. That’s not a judgment on those not ready. It’s just like not everyone who wants to be healthy is ready to commit to an accountability group and a personal trainer. If you are not ready for this, that is ok, but know that because I love you, I will not stop urging you to do this.
Membership is fundamentally about you allowing me to do my job, which is spelled out in the scripture I used last week and will use again this week.
Ephesians 4
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
My responsibility, my calling, my mission in life as your pastor and teacher is to equip you to do God’s work. To train you, to teach you, mentor you, to apprentice you. To equip you to serve God. My responsibility is to build up the church (and for me that is specifically this church) – which is the body of Christ.
I love the analogy of the Body of Christ. This, of course, is Paul talking again. He describes the concept of the body in a few other places, most notably 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. He speaks of how the body is made up of many parts, but all form one body. He speaks of how the different parts all have unique functions and are each necessary to the whole. And as I’ve spoken on in the past, with the advent of modern science this analogy takes on an even deeper and richer meaning as we realize just how complex the human body is. It’s not just made up of arms, legs, eyes, and years – but of millions of little cells that all serve unique purposes and work together in the most amazing ways.
I will be unpacking some of that in the next few weeks. But there are a few large concepts about the body that translate into what church life should be like. This is a brief outline of what to expect in the coming weeks.
1. Human Body
I’ll begin with the end in mind. What is the purpose of a body? To do stuff, right? To actualize the thoughts of the person to whom the body belongs. A body that does nothing, but simply lays around like a rug is probably dead – but either way is of no use and no purpose.
1. Body of Christ
The purpose of the body of Christ is to actualize what Christ wants his body to do.  So the end of all that I will be talking about is that we as the body of Christ are not supposed to simply sit around and do nothing. We are supposed to go into the world and tell people about Jesus by how we love them and each other. That’s the second part of our mission – to LOVE OTHERS TOGETHER IN COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT. We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus to love on the least of these in the hope that we might win some. This I will be discussing in the final week – week 5.
But before we can do that, we need to be healthy internally. A human body that is broken on the inside won’t be much use to anyone on the outside. So, before we can effectively go off and save the world, we need to become healthy ourselves.
I believe there are two major ways that happens.
2. Human Body
Within the body are many systems. Cardiovascular system, nervous system, muscular system, skeletal system, hormones, organs, all kinds of things. The different parts/systems all serve the ultimate purpose of the body – they serve the person who the body belongs to. Even the brain is simply a fellow organ with a specific purpose.
2. Body of Christ
Within the body of Christ all the different members all love/serve Christ who is our head/leader/master, to accomplish His purpose. We all perform some unique function within this body to make it work and accomplish our purpose. This we will talk about in week 4.
3. Human Body
The different parts all work together and serve each other. Did you know blood is made inside of the bones? The muscles wouldn’t be much use without the nervous system, or the skeletal system for that matter. The heart and the lungs have intertwined fates, and the wild world of hormones seems to effect everything. When different systems stop supporting each other you end up with all kinds of disorders and diseases – like diabetes.
3. Body of Christ
The different members all love/serve each other. a huge aspect to being a part of this family is how we interact with each other. Remember that long list of one-anothers? Remember that new commandment about loving one another? This is a huge part of being in the body of Christ and will be a huge part and huge benefit to being a member in this experiment. That I will be talking more about next week.
4. But this week, we have to start with the one thing that pulls it all together. Without this, we can’t even have a body – we would just be a bunch of parts laying around on the ground. It’s the very thing that Jesus prayed we would have before he went to the cross:
John 17 – Jesus Prays for Unity
20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
UNITY
Is at the very heart of the concept of WE.
Because WE implies UNITY.
US can imply unity as well, but it can also imply separation – as in US and THEM or US versus THEM – such as US in the seats and THEM on the stage. But WE has no AND and no OR. It’s just WE.
And getting back to our main scripture for this series, you will see it in there as well.
Ephesians 4
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Notice he speaks of the body of Christ here as well, and Christ is the head, and all the parts are in there for a reason and have a job to do. But first comes unity.
A body is not a body if all of it’s parts are not united. Parts that decide to do their own thing are called cancer.
In the church, that means we are united in what we believe and in what we aim to do.
Ephesians 4
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future
WE – as the body of Christ – WE must have unity. But not just any unity.
WE MUST BE UNITED WITH JESUS CHRIST.
He is our head. We are his body. We can’t be His body unless we are united around Him.
And He is one with the Father. And this is accomplished through the Holy Spirit.
Trinitarian theology is both simple and impossible for us to comprehend – but it’s true. Somehow God exists as three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – yet is still ONE. This same mystery is how we – though many – can also be ONE with that same God.
Understand it completely or not – that is what we are called to, and that is what WE are and will be at Reality Church.
So, the first step to being part of the WE here at Reality is that we must be united in what we believe. And more specifically, what we believe about Jesus Christ and His Word.
Rule of Faith
Many years ago, when the church was being formed in the first few centuries, they didn’t exactly have the bible like we have today. They had the Old Testament, but the New Testament (as we call it today) was only a scattered collection of some letters to individual churches and the memoirs of a few disciples or near disciples of Jesus. But underlying all of those writings, and ultimately what helped shape what letters and memoirs ended up in the canon (the collection of books) we now know as the New Testament was something called the “Rule of Faith”. The “Rule of Faith” was not something that was written explicitly or fully in any of these letters or memoirs (what we now call books of the bible), but it was the underlying narrative at the core of this message that tied them all together.
Paul has a few places where he hints at “faithful sayings” or “passed on” statements. As most of this information was passed orally, it makes sense they would consolidate the most important basics into easy to remember and recitable statements.
Here is one that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 15
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.
It is statements like these that the believers would recite regularly, and this is how they would tell the story to those who hadn’t heard it yet. It is a statement about the core of our belief. That Jesus had indeed died but rose again, and many had seen him as proof.
This and other passages pointed to the “rule of faith.” Later as the church was getting more organized after the generation of the apostles and even the next generation who had direct contact with the apostles died out, those of the third and fourth generations who had no direct access to the spoken testimony of the originals but only had the writings started writing out what had been passed down by mouth. They wrote down creeds that you won’t find in scripture, but still represent the key points of scripture regarding the most important aspects of the faith.
One is called the Apostles’ Creed, which was first penned around 180 AD.
Here is a somewhat modern English version. It was originally written in Latin.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth;
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Now, again this is not scripture – but it IS a summation of the core narrative surrounding Jesus. It includes the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The virgin birth of Jesus. His crucifixion and death. His resurrection and ascension into heaven and his future judgment. All of this can be clearly found throughout the New Testament, just not in this concise form. This creed also says a little about us and our place in this narrative. A few points of clarification:
the holy catholic Church is not the Roman Catholic church (though they think it is) – catholic simply means universal, so this is a statement of belief about the unity of the whole church.
The communion of saints is not talking about Saint Patrick and and Saint Peter. In the scriptures, believers are called saints. Many of the newest translations don’t use that word, but that is what it is referring to – simply the communion (not the bread and wine – but the gathering and unity in spirit) of believers
And of course the forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting are the promises we will receive if we believe.
There is also another old creed that is used today called the Nicene Creed. This was created originally in 325 AD and later revised a little. It’s basically the same as the Apostles’ creed but it goes into more detail about how the trinity works.
In many churches one or both of these creeds are read every Sunday – in fact they are recited by the congregation. This was also a common practice in the early church and all through the middle ages.
Why?
Because it brings unity. It aligns our hearts and minds on the most important question of all. When each individual in the body can say with confidence that “I believe” – then it can also be said that “We believe”. And in our context – the context of a church that claims to be grounded in God’s Word – for any individual to claim participation in the statement, “WE are grounded in God’s Word. We are dedicated to seeing lives changed…etc”, that individual must believe what he or she is saying, and you must believe what is in the Word you claim to be grounded in, therefore you must believe the “Rule of Faith” – that which was passed on – that which is the fundamental core of our faith. In order to be a part of the body of Christ – you must believe in Him. Romans 10:9 says:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
And it is this believing faith, and that confession that makes the difference between a Christian or Christ Follower – and not. We also call ourselves “believers” – which implies that if you don’t believe – then you are a “non-believer.”
Now, if you currently are a non-believer. If you have never put your faith in Jesus Christ, don’t worry, I am not saying that you can’t come to our church. In fact, I strongly encourage you to. We believe we hold the answers to all of life’s problems both in the here and now and in the life to come. And just as God does not want anyone to live or die without having a relationship with Him – we don’t want that either. Give us a chance to show you what it means to be a Christ follower. You don’t have to commit to anything today – though if you want to, you will have that opportunity. But don’t take what I’ve been saying as saying only believers can come to this church. Not true.
What I’ve been talking about is the beginning of what is called “membership” at the church. Membership is not required to attend. It’s not required to participate and enjoy most of what the church has to offer. You are loved. You are welcome. We really do want you here. But know that our goal is to introduce you to the one who changed our lives, because we want you to have the same thing. So, please hang in there. Check us out a little longer you will see what I’m talking about.
Or if you are ready, why not accept Jesus today?
In fact, let’s all bow our heads and close our eyes. I’m not going to preach another message right now to try to convince anyone – but if you’ve maybe been coming for awhile – or grew up in church – or even if this is the first you heard about it – but in your heart you know you are ready to accept the forgiveness of your sins that Jesus earned by dying on that cross and coming back to life – then I want to give you that opportunity right now.  In fact, if that is you will you please raise your hand so I can see you. No one else is looking around. Excellent. Now say this prayer with me. The words don’t save you – the belief in what you are saying and what it means does….

So, the first step toward being a member – not an attender – is that you believe the fundamentals of the Gospel – that you are saved, a Christian, a Christ Follower.
The next thing we must be united around is the vision, mission, and core values of this particular church. This is not a requirement for being a part of the body of Christ – but is a requirement for being part of this particular body called Reality Church. Basically, why would you want to be “part” of an organization or group of people that you don’t believe in what they are called to do? So, I won’t belabor this point. Honestly, the most important thing to me is that you are a believer. After that, find the church whose DNA matches yours. And if this is that church – great!
And just to recap, as I promised you will not stop hearing about this from me…this is what you’re signing up for if you become a member. It it was on a flag, I’d expect you to be waving it as a member.
Our Foundation:
We are a church that is GROUNDED IN GOD’S WORD
Our Vision:
We are a church that is dedicated to seeing lives changed by the transforming, restoring power of Jesus Christ.
Our Mission:
We will see lives changed by
Doing life together in authentic community.
AND
Loving others together in community involvement
As we do these things we will be guided by three core values that define our personality:
Add Some Awesome
Keep It Real
People Matter More
OK
I’ve now established that the foundation of WE – or membership – is UNITY.
WE…ARE UNITED
To be a member of this body, to be part of the WE – you must be united with what we are united with. It’s that simple. It’s ok if you are not – it just means you are not a MEMBER, you are an ATTENDER.
The difference between a MEMBER of the body and an ATTENDER is like the difference between your SKIN and your SHIRT. The skin is fully united with the body and will stick with it through thick and through thin. The shirt is just along for the ride.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being the shirt, with just being an attender. As I said before, you don’t have to be a member to attend.
But trust me, you will miss out on the very best part of what it means to be a Christ Follower. And WE will miss out on having you.
I’ll use this analogy again in future weeks.
Membership.
There is more to it than all of us just agreeing on what we believe, although this unity is first and foremost. It’s more than just a mental acknowledgement.
Jesus was a man of action.
And if you really do believe in Jesus and are grounded in His Word, then you can’t get around the fact that he expects more from us than mental ascent and checking a few boxes. He wants a real relationship with us, which requires some commitment on our part. It may sound like hard work, but the benefits are amazing.
If you think that it’s amazing watching those guys and gals on the show Biggest Loser drop those pounds, imagine all the junk in your life that is not of God as being heavy fat attached to you. You’ve tried to shed it on your own, but have failed. You’ve probably even wondered if it was even possible to get rid of some of it and feel free. Well it is, and the way God chooses to do it is through other people. He uses people to help people, but just like in the Biggest Loser – it takes commitment, time, and effort – but having friends to help and a personal trainer who loves you and will encourage you along makes all the difference. And that is what this whole thing is about.
I believe as we become united and start serving God and serving each other in the way He tells us to in Scripture, that we will all start seeing amazing results in our own lives. We will be changed and others will notice and want some of it too.
I pray you will join us in this adventure.
Let’s Pray.