Michael Youssef - From Valley to Victory - Part 19
If you have heard me preach for any length of time, most likely you've heard me say something to the effect that there is a promise in the Scripture by our Lord Jesus Christ that has always been a challenge for me. It is in Matthew 18:19. Let me read the promise of God in the context: "'Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.'"
In the context of Matthew 18:19, Jesus speaking about this unity in the Christian life, in the Christian community, in the home. And he talks about unity in willingness to confess our sins to God, and unity in experiencing the forgiveness that comes from the hand of God that results from genuine confession, the unity that results of our alignment of our will with the will of God, the unity that is a result of seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. You're gonna see all of that in Matthew 18. Unity that is a result of willingness to be in total obedience to the Father, unity that results from selflessness and self-surrender, unity that results from a total emptying of oneself, emptying of ourselves, and being open to be filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit of God. That is the unity that has to be in existence before anyone can begin to claim this promise.
Now, the Apostle Peter, who heard those words with his own ears from the lips of Jesus, takes this and he applies it to marriage relationship between husband an wife. I'm gonna show it to you from Scripture in 1 Peter chapter 3, the first seven verses of chapter 3, verses 1 to 7. After Peter explains how selflessness should be the hallmark of a Christian marriage between a husband and a wife, after he explains the importance of the selflessness in a godly marriage relationship, in verse 7, Peter gives us a clue as to the relationship between that selfless unity and God answering prayers. The last sentence of verse 7, 1 Peter 3, says, in effect, that, without that selfless unity, your prayers will be hindered. The opposite is true. When you exercise selfless unity in marriage, your prayers will be answered.
Now, I want you to turn with me to Romans chapter 15, the verse 13 verses. You cannot read the Scripture for any length of time without seeing how much God loves, blesses, and he himself is honored when true unity is taking place. Now, you have to understand, there are people out there in church world that said, "Unity is when all the denominations just mixed up together, becoming ecumenical". That is not the unity the Bible talks about because unity has to be a unity about the truth. We have to be united in the truth, not ignore the truth for the sake of unity. Our salvation, in fact, is the one overarching basis for that unity. Our sharing of eternal life, that we're gonna be together forever in heaven, should impact the shared life together in this earth, in this life.
So, let me give you biblical evidence of why God loves unity over the truth. First of all, you see the Holy Spirit inspires David in Psalm 133, verse 1, when he said: "How beautiful it is and pleasant it is for the brethren," or sisters, "dwell together in unity"! Secondly, Jesus himself, in John chapter 10, verse 16, he said: "'I have other sheep.'" He's talking about the Gentiles who have not come in yet. "I have other sheep which not of this fold," that's Israel. "I must bring them also, they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock and one Shepherd," unity. I cannot emphasize enough the amazing blessings that God brings about and only brings about when there is a selfless unity in any relationship, whatever it may be, whether it be in marriage, or be in the home, or be in small community, or be a church at large.
Sadly, in many a church today, a lot of goats have gone in, and they look like sheep. Thirdly, you find it in Acts chapter 4 what God gave the early church such power, such blessing like we have never seen in history right after Pentecost. Why? Because the Bible said, "They were of one," what? "Accord". Listen to what Paul said. Here's the fourth evidence, Ephesians 4:2 and 3: "Be completely humble and gentle; and patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort," here it comes, "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace". Even the individualistic, they were divided church in Corinth, even to them, Paul pleads in 1 Corinthians 1:10. He's pleading and say: "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no division among you, that you may perfectly be united in mind and thought".
Now, my beloved friends, there is a blessing, listen to me, I experienced it too many times, but even if I didn't experience it, the Word of God is true no matter what. There is a blessing all its own in selfless unity which cannot come any other way. There is an answer to prayer in selfless unity that cannot come any other way. And I hear people running around living for self, pleasing themselves, running around saying, "Oh, I'm praying for a revival". Right, God ain't gonna send a revival to people who are not united in soul and body under the hand of the Holy Spirit. To ignore the enemy of our soul and turn on each other is a formula for a disaster. That's what the Word of God is saying.
Question: how do we go about practicing this selfless unity in order that we may experience the unique blessing of God, the unique answers to prayer? Here the Apostle Paul gives us six characteristics that we need to exhibit in order to practice this selfless unity, whether it be in the home, in the marriage relationship, in the family, or in the church: put others up. Put self down. Put Christ before you always. Put yourself under the authority of the Word of God. Put yourself under God's power. Six, put God's glory above all else in your life.
Then, in verses 7 to 13, the Apostle Paul practices what he just taught and literally sings a hymn of unity. Let's look at these very quickly. Verse 1, put others up: "We who are strong ought to bear with failings," or the weakness, "of the weak". And the word "ought" here means that we are in debt. We are under obligation to do that. This is not take it or leave it, if you feel like it. Hello? We are under obligation to help the weak. Being sympathetic with those who are spiritually weak does not mean that spiritually mature person approve of what they're, or acquiesce to what they're doing. No, no, no, no, we don't approve or acquiesce to their weakness, but we be sympathetic with it.
Instead of the strong should offer help to the weak so that the weak become strong, not that we all become weak. By carrying the burdens of their weakness, we want them to come to know the liberty and the freedom, and the joy that comes with that liberty, and the joy that comes with that freedom. It means that we who are strong not continuously being critical or condescending of those who have certain struggles in their life. No, no, no, but rather, the strong must listen carefully to the weak, all without agreeing with them. In no way here the Apostle Paul is saying, "We need to compromise the truth of the gospel in order to do that". No, in no way Paul is encouraging us to undermine biblical morality or approve of sin. That is not what he's saying, no. He is still speaking in the context of matters that are not necessary for salvation, as we have previously seen in Romans 14.
"Each of us should please his neighbor for his good," that's the neighbor's good, "to build them up". Question: how do I use my Christian liberty, my Christian freedom, my freedom in Christ, in dealing with others? Contrary to what you might think, it involves self-sacrifice. It may involve that we have to forego some of our liberties publicly. It may mean that there's certain food we don't have to eat if it's gonna offend somebody. There may be some liquids that you forego drinking in public if it's gonna offend or hurt or causes a brother or sister to sin. Any exercise of our liberty in Christ, if our actions are gonna cause someone to sin, is gonna cause someone to fall, is gonna cause someone to stumble, we don't do it. That's liberty, that is true liberty.
Now, people think for freedom in Christ, you're free to sin. No, no, no, the freedom he gives us is freedom not to sin. No matter how badly you wanna do this, hear me right, listen carefully, God does not give us our liberty and our freedom just for our benefit. No, no, no, he gives it to us for the benefit of others. You read in Philippians chapter 2, verse 21, if you read it carefully, you see the pain in the voice of the Apostle Paul about some people in the church at Philippi who were people in places of influence, but they were thinking only of themselves. And that caused him deep pain. They were not teaching wrong doctrines. They were not living immoral lifestyles, no. Their primary problem is that they're looking out for number one always while neglecting the members of the body. Put others where? Put self where? Put Christ before you always.
Let's look at verse 3: "For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.'" My beloved, if your eyes on Jesus, you will soon discover that while he was fully God, and yet he laid aside, he gave up his splendor, he gave us his glory. He didn't give up his divinity, but he gave up the manifestation of his divinity. While he's fully God, he became a servant. While he's fully God, and yet he fully obeyed the Father. Had Jesus sought to please himself and not the Father, he would not have divested himself of his splendor and glory and become man.
But you remember, in his humanity, in the garden of Gethsemane, and he was sweating blood, that he said, "Father, if you can see some way by which this cup would go away from me," thinking about that first moment, the few seconds in which, for the first time since before eternity, he's gonna be separated from the Father because he was carrying your sin and my sin and the sin of the world, "if there's some other way, but in the end, Father, it's your will, not mine". Jesus said, "I did not come from heaven to do my will. I came to do the will of the Father". Please listen carefully. Think about this. When you're tempted to say, "I am tired of serving my family. I'm tired of serving my church. I'm tired of serving, period".
When you're tempted to do this, look at Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus because keeping your eyes on Jesus will mean that you are willing to pay the cost, any cost, that you're willing to accept misunderstandings, their ridicule, slander, deprivation, persecution, and even loss of life itself for Jesus's sake. Put others where? Put self where? Put Christ before you...? Put yourself under the authority of the Word of God. Verse 4, look at it carefully, please. Underline it in your Bible. It's important because I'm telling you, it is fashionable now in this 21st century that people standing in judgment of the Word of God. Preachers are standing in judgment on the Word of God.
A very prominent English theologian, unfortunately, he has been followed by thousands and tens of thousands of pastors in America. He said that we must distinguish between when the Apostle Paul is speaking as the Apostle Paul and when he's speaking as the Jewish Rabbi. Really? Who's gonna make that distinction? Who's gonna decide? Look at verse 4: "For everything," can you say, "Everything"? "For everything that was written in the past," he's talking about the Old Testament, "it is written to teach us, so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope". Paul's talking about the Old Testament, the Old Testament of which today's preachers are saying, "We need to get unhitched from the Old Testament and the Ten Commandments".
What a tragedy. The New Testament hasn't been written yet, and that Paul here is talking about the Old Testament. We don't need to get unhitched from the Old Testament in the 21st Century, no, and a million nos. Here Paul is saying even the parts of the Old Testament, like the ceremonial requirements, which we don't live under anymore, the ceremonial law has already passed, fulfilled in Christ, sure. But even those are very valuable for us today. From them we learn more about God's character. From them we learn to understand the ways of God. From them we see how God works. From them we can understand the mind of God. And all of that encourages us to persevere in our circumstances. All of that encourages us to be patient. All of us empowers us to produce fruit. All of that empowers us to be anchored in God.
Far from dragging me down and wanna get unhitched from the Old Testament, I believe the Lord can teach us some marvelous things, and that's what Paul is saying here. He said, "They were written for us today so that we may learn from them". Put yourself under the power of God. Here's the amazing part, verse 5. Look at verse 5 with me. Even the things that God requires of us to do he gives us the power to do them. Isn't that a wonderful God we have? Isn't that an amazing God we have? Romans 15:5, Paul said: "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the spirit of unity among yourself as you follow Christ Jesus".
He's saying that our unity with one another, our patience with one another, our perseverance with one another can only be accomplished through the power of God working in us. Listen, you want to try it on your own? You can't do it. It's an impossibility. You try it on your own, and you're gonna fail over and over again, and the devil loves it. Put others where? Put self...? Put Christ before you...? Put yourself under...? Put yourself in his...? Finally, put God's glory above all else. Look at verse 6: "So that with one heart and one mouth you may glorify God our Father of the Lord Jesus Christ". Then, in verses 7 to 13, he practices what he just commanded, and he began to sing with one voice. Obviously, probably hoping that that's what the church in Rome would be doing, singing with one voice.
Now, I began the message by telling you about the unique blessings that comes from selfless unity. I began by telling you about answers to godly prayers that stems from selfless unity. And here Paul is saying, "The consummate purpose of that selfless unity is not your neighbor, even though," he said, "that's important". But the consummate, the ultimate, the zenith, the apex is to please who? The Lord, is to please the Lord. That's what's all about. When there is selfless unity over the glory of Jesus, watch out.
God's blessings is gonna come in a unique way. God's answer to prayer are gonna be manifested with great power. God's power itself will become manifest in the midst of this sinful generation. There's one thing I notice in the book of Revelation. There are no solo songs. There was always corporate singing. They were singing with one voice. They're praising God with one voice, one heart. They were so united together in praising in God, the 24 elders, they cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus and they sang with the angels. And then every living creature comes in and joins in singing. And then even those who've been victorious over the beast, they were given harps, and they began to sing together.