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Our Need of Unity

Speaker: Jacob DeSouza

I would like to thank you and welcome you for this online presentation this morning. I speak to you from the Adelaide church on a beautiful, sunny day. And I want to thank the Lord for making this possible.

As you know, through this health crisis, we cannot meet together in a church capacity, but in spirit, and through this technology, we still can be together. So, let us praise the Lord for that.

And at this time, I’d like to remind you of the theme for this weekend’s online conference, which is “Our Greatest Need”, my greatest need, your greatest need; and the topic that was assigned to me to share with you at this time is this one here, “Our Need of Unity”, – “Our Need of Unity”. Unity, my brothers and sisters, is what I believe with all my heart to be one of our greatest needs today.

In the scripture reading that I have for you this morning, we find this beautiful truth given to us by the apostle Paul. In Ephesians, chapter four, let us read from verse one, Ephesians four, verse one:  the apostle says, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace… Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto to a perfect man, and to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”.

With these beautiful words in mind, I’d like to suggest to you this morning that the Bible speaks about unity in a beautiful way. To God, when we are united, that’s something pleasant, that’s something good.

This is taken from Psalm 133, verse one, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in”, what is it? “unity” – “unity”.

So, according to this passage, and according to God’s ways, to be united, to be as one, is a good and pleasant thing. It’s not hard to see that. Yes, we need a unity in the family. Yes, we need unity in the home as never before. We need unity in the church, of course. We need a unity in the faith. Unity, again, I want to say, this is one of our greatest needs today.

You might have heard the story of the father, who had a family of sons and the bundle of sticks. A well-known story.  Again, the father, his sons, and the bundle of sticks. And if you haven’t heard it, I have it here for you.

They story goes to say that a father had a family of sons who were perpetually quarrelling among themselves, fighting, arguing disputing against themselves. Now, when the father, when he failed to heal their disputes by his exhortations, he determined to give them a practical illustration of the evils of disunion.

So, one day he told his sons to bring him a bundle of sticks. When they had done so, he placed the bundle into the hands of each of them in succession and ordered them to break it pieces. And guess what, they tried it, tried it, tried it and were not be able to break it. He next opened the bundle, took the sticks separately, one by one, and again put them into his hands, into the sons’ hands, upon which they broke them easily. He then addressed them in these words:

“My sons, if you are of one mind and unite to assist each other, you will be as strong as this fagot, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies. But, if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.”

What a beautiful story. What a beautiful story that illustrates the strength of union and the weakness of disunion. What a beautiful story that illustrates the benefits of being united. And guess what? Then, what is it that is the opposite of benefits? or let us put it this way, the weakness of being disunited, if you like, or the weakness of disunion.  

With that in mind, I’ve got this question for you. What could be our most important need?  As we think of our Christian practices, as we think of our religious practices, if you like, what could be our most important need in our Christian practice today? I hope you understand my question.

Now, from Bible Echo, April 23, 1894. “What can I present before my brethren and sisters in Christ that is more important for their study and practice, than the Saviour’s prayer for his disciples? The entire” then she says, “The entire seventeenth chapter of John is full of marrow and fatness.”

So according to this statement, my brothers and sisters, what is it that could be more important for our study and practice, than John 17? Nothing. John 17, as I understand, is very important to you and me today. Why? Because there you find Jesus praying to His Father, so that we may be united, so that we may be one.  Yes. In a very short prayer to His heavenly Father, Jesus prays for the same thing three times. That we all may be one, that we all may be one.

So, let us read some verses from John 17.  John seventeen, this is Jesus speaking, and He says, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world. And for their sakes, I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That”, notice this, “they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us and that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that”,  again, “they may be one even as we are one: I in them and thou in me” and now, notice again, the third time, Jesus saying just the same thing in a short prayer, “that they may be made perfect in one; that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and has loved them, as thou hast loved me.”

 So, based on what we just read, my dear brothers and sisters, I’d like to suggest to you this morning that one of our greatest needs today as a people is to fulfil these words, is to fulfil the words of Jesus in John 17, especially these ones that say, “that they may be one”. Unity, Jesus, in John 17, prayed for unity, not only for the disciples 2000 years ago, but he prayed that prayer for you and me, as well. I say that based on this, Manuscript Releases, volume one, page 355:

“0h read the prayer of Christ for unity.” Oh, read what? And what prayer? That’s not the Lord’s prayer. Read the prayer of Christ for unity. “Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are one:”

“The prayer of Christ”, don’t miss this point, “…The prayer of Christ is not only for those who are now his disciples. But for all those who shall believe on Christ through the words of his disciples, even to the end of the world.” That’s for us.

“Christ  … looks down the lines 2000 years to his church, which would be in existence in the last days before the close of this earth’s history”, Christ, my brothers and sisters, 2000 years ago, prayed John seventeen in our behalf, so that we may be made one as He’s one with the Father.

That’s part of our work. That’s a major part of our work, to strive for unity, and once we have that, to preserve it.  Again, what’s our work? or a major part of our work?  It’s found in this statement over here: 1888 Materials, page 1150. Let us read it.

“Please read this chapter”, again, what chapter? John 17, “with careful, prayerful attention”, and a key word here. Notice this key word here, which I mentioned before. Please read this chapter, John 17, with careful, prayerful attention and practice, my brothers and sisters, the petition or the prayer which Christ made to His Father.

Again, what could be our most important need for our practice today?  Or, what should be our most important need for our practice today? And as we read that, we are told to practice Jesus’ prayer in John 17, which is a prayer for unity.

Now, she goes on to say there, “Mark the twentieth to the twenty-third verses. This unity it is our work to cultivate.” So, what is our work to cultivate? “This unity is our work to cultivate”. And she goes on to say, “Even our thoughts are to be brought into captivity to Christ, that we may bind them about and think no evil of our brethren.”

This is a major part of our work today, to strive for unity, to seek to be one in Christ as He is one with the Father.

From Patriarchs and Prophets, page 520: “It is the will of God that union and brotherly love should exist among His people.”  She goes on to say, “While we are not to sacrifice one principle of truth, it should be our constant aim”, don’t miss this point, “it should be our constant aim to reach this is state of unity.”

So, what’s the question? What should it be our constant aim? What should be our constant aim? It should be our constant aim to reach this state of unity. That’s our work. That’s a major part of our work. That’s a major goal that we should have, to reach this state of unity.

In Testimonies, volume seven, page 239. “Union with Christ”, right, is our only safety, right? Now perhaps I’m missing something there in that statement. It’s not only union with Christ that is our only safety, but it’s union with Christ and “with one another”, that is our only safety.

Now, as we look at the screen there, what is it that you see? You see Christ in the centre. And you see “we”, “we”, “we”, getting closer, drawing nigh to Christ. And my question is, what could be or what should be the sure result of drawing nigh to Christ? as we, as you see on that picture there, as you see on that slide there, as we individually draw nigh to Christ, what will be the sure result?  We don’t have to guess that. It’s right there in that statement.

Manuscripts, volume 7, 1890. “If we draw nigh to God”, listen, “If we draw nigh to God, individually, then don’t you see what the result will be?” Can’t you see there, “we will draw nigh to one another.”

So again, you’ve got Christ in the centre and individually we draw nigh to Him, what will be the sure result, my brothers and sisters? We will draw nigh to one another. That’s right. This is the sure result of drawing nigh to Christ. She finishes there by saying, “We cannot draw nigh to God, and come to the same cross without our hearts being blended together in perfect unity, answering the prayer of Christ, that they may be one as He is one with the Father, and therefore we should seek in spirit, in understanding, in faith, that we may be one that God may be glorified in us as He is glorified in the Son and that God shall love us as he loves the Son.”

So again, I’d like you to see this. Christ in the centre and we individually drawing nigh to Him, the sure result will be, we will be drawn nigh to one another, and God, according to this statement, will be glorified in us.

Now, true unity is not an ecumenical unity. Okay? This message that I’m giving you this morning, it’s not an ecumenical unity, is not an ecumenical message. True unity is not unity for the sake of having numbers in our sight. True unity is based in the light.

First John 1:7: “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  So, what is it that we have, if we walk, individually in the light? We have union, we have fellowship, we have communion, we are one in Christ.

From General Conference Bulletin, April 10, 1901.  “God wants unity to be seen”, what is it that God wants to see among us, within his people, within his church? God wants to see unity. God wants unity to be seen. Yes, according to this statement, both separation in unity will be seen in our ranks. But God, my brothers and sisters, wants to see unity. And in fact, we dishonour God by not being united. Did you know that? That’s a dishonour to God. If we are not united, if we are not striving to be one, to be united, that’s a dishonour to God. That’s a dishonour to God. And we are in fact, working contrary to Him.

As we’re told here, in this statement from Spaulding and Magan, page 364: “He who is not actively engaged in promoting unity and love and equity and sound principles is exerting an influence that is” what, everyone? “contrary to Christ.” And the cause of not promoting unity, not striving for unity is found in this: In first Corinthians, chapter three, verse three. And there the apostle Paul says: “for ye are carnal.” The work that we might do which is contrary to Christ, the cause of that is that we’re still carnal.

To the Corinthians, the apostle Paul said, “for ye are carnal for whereas there is among you envying and strife and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men?”  You understand then my brothers and sisters, if we are not striving for unity, if we are not striving to become one in Christ, as He is one with the Father, we are working contrary to the will of God. And the cause of that is that we’re still carnal.

Now, in first Corinthians, chapter one, the apostle Paul says: “I beseech you”, “I beseech you, brethren, by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions”, Now what could be the opposite of being united? The opposite, the opposite is being divided. And as we saw in the story right in the beginning of this presentation, division causes weakness. Union causes strength.

“Now, I beseech you brethren, by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you always speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; and that ye be perfectly”, perfectly, “joined together in the same spirit in the same judgment.”

Is it possible my brothers and sisters to have this close fellowship and union and unity as the apostle describes there, that they may be perfectly joined together, would it be possible? Before, we touch on there; I’d like to share this with you, how that our unity will testify something very powerful.

Number one, it will testify that we are indeed the children of God. When we are united, when we are one, as Christ and the Father are one, that will testify that we are indeed the children of God.

The Signs of the Times, May 2, 1900. “When Christ abides in the heart,” “When Christ abides in the hearts of the believers, unity will be seen.” When what, everyone? “When Christ abides in the hearts of the believers, unity will be seen, love will flow from them to others in strong currents.” Don’t miss this point. “Their unity will testify”, what is it? “Their unity will testify in a most powerful manner, that they are the children of God.” And it doesn’t stop there. “It will have an irresistible influence upon the world.” Yes, unity, when we are united, when we are one as Christ is one with the Father, that will testify to the world, that we are the children of God, and it will have an influence upon the world like nothing else.

From Review and Herald, November 12, 1901: “Unity will bring into the work, a power that we have not yet seen. This will be the evidence to the world, that the work is of God.” Did you catch that? What is it that our unity will testify to the world? And what is it that it will bring into the work? Based on this, a power that has not yet been seen.

Now, today, is this perfect unity seen among us? Is it what God sees in us? Is it what the world sees in us? or among us?  When this statement was written, unity was not seen among them, and I wonder if it’s still the same thing today with us.

Manuscript Releases, volume 20, page, 223: “At present there is not that unity that should exist among our brethren, and the Lord says, ‘Come together’, ‘Come together’”. Who says that? The Lord says that. “Come together”. We have no time to lose. Or have we? The Lord says, “Come together”. “At present”, back a few decades ago, the prophet said, “there is not that unity that should exist.” How about today? How about today?

From Manuscript Releases, volume six: “Difference and dissension will be seen among those who are not chosen by the Lord.” So, what could it be, or what is the opposite of unity, or union? It’s right there in that statement, “Difference and dissension”, and that will be seen, not among those who are chosen by the Lord, but among those who are not chosen by the Lord. She goes on to say that, “There is no work more sacred for Christians than to maintain peace among themselves.” I’m going to read this again. It is very, very important for us to understand this. “There is no work more sacred.” You know, as you think of the work of God, and how everything’s sacred, but here we find that “there is no work more sacred”. Okay, we’re discussing this this morning our greatest need, right, our greatest need and here we find that there is no work more sacred for Christians to maintain, than what? to maintain peace among themselves. “Then they present to the world the unity that Christ prayed might exist and bear witness that God sent Christ into the world to redeem the world.” This is a powerful statement.

Now what could be the greatest enemy we face to the unity that God wants to see among us? What could be the greatest enemy we face to the visible unity God wants to see among us? Let me suggest to you this morning that it’s: self, self, self.

This is found in Pamphlets, number 146. “When the Testimonies came, they made of no account the words of reproof given to them. By precept and example, they were filled with their own doings and counteracted the work to be done. They would not concede to right, they would not consent to correct wrongs, and to walk in the light.” Now notice, “Self, self, self, was the centre, no unity was seen, but disorder and dissension was manifested.” So, what could be? or what is, I should say, the greatest enemy we face to the unity that God wants to see among us? Self, self, self.

Now, having said all that, is unity really attainable? Is that perfect unity that God wants to see among His people today really attainable?  Think about it. Now, how many times do you think Jesus, or how much time do you think Jesus wasted when he was here on this earth, especially in prayer? All right, and as you can remember, we’re discussing today, we’re discussing at this time, John 17. In the prayer for unity that Jesus addressed to his Father about 2000 years ago, how many times has Jesus wasted time in prayer? None.  Listen to these words, “Jesus did not pray for that which was not attainable by us.” Do you think Jesus would pray for something that was impossible to be attained, as we find in there? Never. He knew it could be attained. “Jesus did not pray for that which was not attainable by us, and if this unity is possible, why do not those who as professed followers of Christ strive more earnestly for this condition of grace?”

If we believe, my brother and sister, that this is a possibility and through the Holy Spirit, this can happen among us today, why don’t we strive more earnestly for this condition of grace? That will only happen when we put self aside and allow the Holy Spirit to come in and to do that in us and for us?

“Through the Holy Spirit”, don’t miss this point, “through the third person of the Godhead, through the mighty agency of the Holy Spirit, this unity may be attained”. I hope we are clear on this one. Yes, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s work is this, to bring us together as one. And that’s why the devil hates so much the Holy Spirit and has poured in people’s minds the idea that He does not exist.

He’s the One that helps us in our infirmities. He’s the One that helps us to overcome sin. He’s the One that helps us to be able to reflect the image of Jesus fully. He’s the One that helps us to be one, as God is one with the Father. That’s His work.

Let us read that again, “Through the Holy Spirit, this unity may be attained, and love for the brethren will abound, and men will take knowledge”, and men will take knowledge, “of us that we have been with Jesus and learned of Him. Our life will be a reflection of His holy character.” When?  When we strive for it. “When we strive for this unity”, according to this testimony, “When we strive for this unity as God desires us to strive for it, it will”, not might, but it “will come” to us, my brothers and sisters. I hope you understand this.

We are told in the testimonies that if we are not striving for unity, if we’re not working, if we are not working to have this oneness in Christ, it shows that we are not bound up with Christ.

From Manuscript Releases, volume five: “When church members are imbued with Christ’s spirit, they will be able to fulfil His commission.” When what? When we are imbued with the Holy Spirit, we will be able to fulfil His commission.  But unless we, unless they strive, listen to this, “But unless they strive with all their capabilities to answer the prayer”, what prayer? “’Neither pray I for these alone but for them also which shall believe me through their words, that they all may be one as thou Father, art in me and I in Thee’, they are not bound up with Him.”  I hope you caught that.  Because if we are not striving for unity, for becoming one in Christ, it shows we are not bound up with Jesus.

Now, from the same book: “When the people of God are one with Him, they will be one with each other.  Their unity and love will testify to the genuineness of their union with Christ.”  What did that say? – What did that say?  It said, that our unity, when we are united together in one, that will testify of the genuineness of our unity with Christ.  So, when we are, as the people of God, one with Him, we will be one with each other.  I hope we understand that.  But for that to happen, again, we must strive for it. And once we have it, we are told to preserve it.  We are told not to relax, not to sit back and relax, but to preserve it.

Manuscript Releases, volume 5, page 342: “Once this visible unity is achieved, God’s people, in humility and meekness, they are to strive to preserve unity and harmony.”  What is that?  Once we have it, what is it that we are told here?  We are told to strive to preserve it.

Again, I would like to read Ephesians, chapter 4: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you,” See, this is an appeal, you know, Paul was appealing to the Ephesians, and he appeals to us to strive for unity, to become one with Christ as Christ is one with the Father.  “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity”, my brothers and sisters, “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace… Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

So, in conclusion, what could be our most important need today for our Christian practice, or what could be our most urgent need, or our greatest need today as a people?  Again, it’s to fulfil the words of Jesus, it’s to fulfil the prayer of Jesus in John 17, for unity.  It’s to be able to become one as God is one with His Son.  It’s to be able to fulfil this, that we all may be one.  But for that to happen, again, through the Holy Spirit, we must strive for it.

And as we have understood this morning, it is attainable.  Jesus never prayed for something that is not unattainable. That’s a major part of our work today as a people.  And once we have it, we are told to preserve it.  Unity is, what I believe with all my heart to be, our greatest need today as a people.

May the Lord help you; May the Lord help me; May the Lord help us individually;  May the Lord help each family in His church.  Because, like I said in the beginning, we need unity.  Where? In the family.  We need unity, where?  In the family circle.  We need unity, where? In the church.  We need unity in the faith.

May the Lord help us, my brethren and sisters; this is my prayer for you, for your family, for your local church, for me and my family.  This is my prayer. I hope and pray that you may have been blest through listening to these words, words of encouragement.  May the Lord help us and bless us; May the Lord bless you.  This is my prayer in Jesus name, Amen.