The God Who Unifies | Ephesians 4:1-16

A Spirit-Led Church

In this message, Kylen Perry, Director of Young Adults, walks through Ephesians 4 and unpacks how God’s goal for His people isn’t one of uniformity, but unity in Christ. We may play different positions, but we wear the same jersey. Because we belong to Christ, we belong to each other and live that out in our lives together at Watermark. And instead of those differences stunting our walk with God, they stir our wonder of God because of his work in Christ to bring all kinds of different people together in him.

Kylen PerryMar 10, 2024Ephesians 4:1-16

In This Series (8)
The Gifts of Tongues, Prophecy, and Healing | 1 Corinthians 14
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 24, 2024
A Spiritual Checkup | 1 Corinthians 12
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 17, 2024
The God Who Unifies | Ephesians 4:1-16
Kylen PerryMar 10, 2024
Is There a Spiritual Power Outage in Our Lives? | Acts 16:6–10
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 3, 2024
How Does the Holy Spirit Minister to Believers? | Galatians 5:16-26
John ElmoreFeb 25, 2024
What Part Does the Holy Spirit Play in Salvation? | John 3 and Romans 8
Timothy "TA" AteekFeb 18, 2024
Who Is the Holy Spirit? | John 14:16-17, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Timothy "TA" Ateek, Oren Martin, Antoinette Davis, Emily Hope, Dave BruskasFeb 11, 2024
Why Talk About the Holy Spirit? | John 14:16-26
Timothy "TA" AteekFeb 4, 2024

Key Takeaways

  1. God is a Unifying God because God is a Unified God (Ephesians 4:1-2) - Jesus didn’t come to just save individuals; he came to build a family. We aren’t meant to be alone, and this is the beauty of the church, the body of Christ. Just as God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity, so also are we one yet one together. When you place your faith in Jesus and identify with Him, you aren’t just united to him in his death and resurrection, you’re also united to his body, the church. That’s why one of Watermark’s 10 markers is that we’re “A Community Church.” We are followers of Jesus, but we’re also the family of God.
  2. Our Development Depends on Our Diversity (Ephesians 4:11-13) - We need each other, because our unity produces maturity. For Paul, he’s writing about the union of two mortal enemies: Jews and Gentiles. Two groups of people that did not get along, had no common interests. And yet, what Paul is saying is that they need one another to attain to the unity of the faith and knowledge of Jesus, to mature manhood and womanhood. Unity doesn’t mean sameness in all things, but unity in the things that matter most: the gospel of Jesus, the good news that the eternal Son of God took upon himself our humanity, perfectly obeyed, suffered, died, and rose again for us and our salvation. As all different kinds of people come together in Christ, we display the power of the saving and unifying gospel.
  3. The Stronger Our Unity, The Clearer God’s Beauty (Ephesians 4:14-16) - Spiritual maturity is not synonymous with spiritual activity. You can “know” and do mature things, but still be immature. You can still be tossed to and fro by the winds and waves of this world. But Paul is making the point: the stronger our unity, the clearer God’s beauty. The more we know and live in God’s love for us in Christ, the better we love each other. And it’s through our love for one another that we grow up into Him and make Him more known.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

Love for others isn’t instinctual, it’s produced by the gospel and intentional. It doesn’t move towards the person or situation that’s easy to love, but the person or situation that’s harder to love, where love isn’t just a feeling, but a choice. This is the love God demonstrated for us in Christ, in that while were still sinners Christ died for us so that we might live in him (Romans 5:6-11). So, for example…

  1. How does God’s love for us in Christ and gift of his Spirit produce love for others?
  2. How can we more faithfully display this kind of love and unity in our lives together at Watermark?
  3. Who do you not naturally spend time around? Why might this be the case? How does the gospel empower us to more faithfully reflect Christ in this area?
  4. Who do you currently feel distant from? Is there a person/people to whom you need to be reconciled? How does God reconciling you in Christ motivate you to pursue reconciliation with others?
  5. Who do you see on the periphery in your life? How can you look to Christ, who pursued people on the periphery (e.g., sinners, tax collectors), in order to pursue them?

Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing? Good? It's Daylight Saving Time. You're like, "This isn't the 11:00; this is the 10:00 service." I went to bed last night paranoid about the fact that I rely too heavily on technology. I have to preach today, and I am praying to God, "Please, Lord, let my alarm clock wake me up so I'm not late to this thing." Wouldn't you know, man? God is good. I woke up before my alarm clock.

We've not had the chance to meet. My name is Kylen Perry, and I'm the new young adults director here at Watermark Community Church. Thanks for that. You're kind. I love Dallas. I really do. I love it so much I married a piece of Dallas. My wife is from the city of Plano. She's from this area. I think we have a picture of her. Yeah, there we go. I know; that's how I felt. She's amazing. We love this city. We're so grateful to be a part of this church, genuinely. I'm not just saying that because I have to get you on my side really fast today.

We always anticipated… We were like, "God, you're probably going to bring us to Dallas," just because she's from here and my whole family from East Texas have migrated their way here to the Dallas area. When we got the call from TA and from the Lord to make the move out of Houston and come here, we knew God had something very special in store. So, we're grateful to be here. If this is your first time, let me extend to you a really warm welcome. I'm new too, so we can figure this out together.

Hey, I'm excited for where the Lord is taking us today. I want to start off by telling you a story. If you're an incoming freshman to Texas A&M, you have a couple of different options whenever it comes time for freshman orientation. Like, how are you going to get acclimated to the traditions of Texas A&M and the landscape of College Station?

You can go to Fish Camp, which is the traditional route. You can go and learn the traditions and learn the yells and understand the lingo. You can go and pick it up from Fish Camp or you can go to its Christian alternative, which is known as Impact. Anybody familiar with Impact? Yeah. They're a loyal bunch of people. I chose to go to Impact because I was only getting to go to one camp that summer before I made my way to school.

I picked Impact, and the reason for it was because I thought to myself, "This is probably going to be a group of people who are very similar to me, so, being an introvert, I stand the best chance of making friends here." So, that's why I chose to go to Impact. I thought, "These people are going to have similar interests. They're going to come from the same worldview. They're going to be like-minded in many ways."

So, I make my way to Impact. As I show up, everything there is exactly what I expected. I show up, and I board the bus, and it's great. Everybody is really similar to me. They're excited about college. We're sharing what we're studying, and we're making our way out to Latham Springs. We get off, and things continue just as they had been going. We meet our counselors, we get put into our groups, and we adopt our colors. It was amazing. I was like, "Man! This is perfect. All of these people are exactly as I thought. They're just like me." That is, until worship started.

What you need to know about me is I come from a worship background where we didn't sing with instruments; we sang a cappella, which meant the closest thing to an instrument we ever got was a pitch pipe. You know, everybody has to sing on key. So, I walk into worship, and they're not only playing instruments. It's a scene. The fog is so thick I can't really see. I can't make out what's happening. The music is turned up to 11. I can't even hear my own voice. Not only that. I have this feeling deep inside, and it's the bass hitting me. I've never felt music.

I'm sitting in this moment, and for a first-timer to something like this, this didn't feel like worship; this felt like a war zone. I'm looking around, and that guy is jumping up and down. He can't contain himself. That guy over there is waving a flag. He's assembling the troops, and they're headed out to fight. Those girls are gathered up and crying together. My ears are ringing. It's like, "Man! It feels like someone just dropped a bomb in the room," and I am absolutely dazed and confused. I'd never been a part of anything like this.

I walked in thinking, "We are going to have so much in common," and in that moment I was like, "We have nothing in common. You people are totally different than me." The minute I noticed that one difference… Again, it was that one instance where I was like, "Man! I don't fit in." I sat down in my seat and started to consider all of the differences, because that's the way it works. You notice one thing, and then you notice everything.

Like, "We're not just different in this moment. We come from different cities, and we have different backgrounds and different upbringings. We have different interests, passions, giftings, callings, and desires in life, different friend groups. We have all manner of differences." It absolutely stunned me. I walked in thinking, "These are the people I'm going to share so much in common with," but for a moment, it felt like I had nothing in common with them.

Then I looked over to my left, and sitting beside me was a good friend of mine, a guy from the same city I'd grown up in, the same background I hailed from, the same worldview I myself had, but engaging in this moment in a very different way than I myself was. He was singing, hands lifted, absolutely a part of the room. We had the same history, the same upbringing, the same worldview, yet our response in this moment, which felt different for us both, was completely opposite.

Where I was overwhelmed by everything happening, he was overjoyed by it. Where I was judging people for what they were doing, he was just joining into the fun. Where I felt way out of place, like, "I don't know; maybe I should just slip out the back and get away from this group," he was all the way in. He was completely at home amidst all of these people. Where in my experience I was impeded by the differences around me, he was motivated by them.

The reason for it was he knew something I didn't know in that moment. He realized something I have since grasped: when you have Jesus Christ in common, your differences are not worrisome; they're wonderful. Why do I tell you that? Because I think my experience at camp can feel a lot like our experience in this room, and I'm not talking about worship. Worship is always really great. They do a great job.

But we walk in here thinking, "I'm going to have all sorts of things in common with these people," and then we realize, "I have nothing in common with these people. They are so very different from me. They don't walk like me, talk like me, act like me, think like me, or look like me. They are totally different than me."

What I want us to know today is God meant it that way. We should have the perspective that we're going to study from the Scriptures that our differences don't stunt our walk with God; they stir our wonder for him. That's what we see the apostle Paul talk about in Ephesians, chapter 4. As we come to Ephesians, chapter 4, what we learn is God is a God who unifies. That's what Paul has spent the last three chapters of this letter to the church at Ephesus explaining.

He's like, "Hey, God chose you, saved you, and adopted you into his family, and now he has brought you near not only to himself but to one another." He's writing to an audience of disparate parties, people who are very different, yet he says, "In Christ, you're united. God didn't just save you individually; he saved you into his family to be a part of the collective whole."

As we turn to Ephesians, chapter 4, we see that Paul begins to explain, "This is what it looks like to be a part of the family." There's a way in which we should walk. He says this, starting in verse 1: "I therefore…" "In light of all that God has done, in light of the fact that I was dead in my sin, dead in my trespasses, and God saw me there and saved me to himself… Not by any way of something I did. I did nothing to earn his favor. God in his lovingkindness came to get me. In light of that…"

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you…" If you read the Greek, he's imploring us. He's pleading with us. He's begging you. "Listen up!" "…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…" So, how do you do that? How do you walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you've been called? That feels like a really high bar. What am I supposed to do? Well, I work in young adult ministry, so I asked some young adults, "Hey, what do you think?" and they came back with a variety of responses.

"Sacrifice, man. That's what Jesus did. Jesus sacrificed himself for us. That's what it looks like. To be worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus, I should sacrifice myself. I should give myself up for the sake of other people. I should do so with no expectation of anything in return. Like, if somebody rolls the proverbial grenade into the middle of the room, I'm the one who lays my body out and takes the hit."

"Study your Bible." That's a response I got a lot of. Why do you study your Bible? "Because I need to soak in deep the truths of God. I need to build a good doctrine and a foundation upon which I can grow in my Christlikeness. I need to mine the riches of this book, all that God has said, so I can know his character and nature and see his signature across the world."

Maybe it's not that. Maybe it's discipleship. Jesus showed up, and he grabbed a group of people and started to invest in them. He started to strategically deposit into their lives. He looked at them and said, "Hey, I know a bunch of things. Let me tell you a bunch of things. That way you can not only learn what I know but be like I am."

"I need to do that. I've got to find somebody, whether it's my son or my daughter. Maybe it's a coworker at the office. Maybe it's a roommate who doesn't really want me to disciple them. But you know what? This is what it means to walk in a manner worthy of God. So guess what, buddy? Here I come. Knock, knock, knock. 'Hey, do you want to read the Bible?'" This is the way we feel like we should do it.

Maybe it's not that. Maybe it's the Great Commission. It's sharing the gospel. "I was dead, and now I'm found. Why? Because somebody told me the good news of Jesus, so now I've got to do the same thing. That's what it means to walk worthy of the Lord. I've got to get out there, and I've got to go east, south, north, and west. It doesn't matter where I go. If anyone will listen, I'm going to tell them as much as I can, because I want them to know the same good news I know. It's good news!"

So, what do you think it is? Well, those things are all really good, and the Bible would commend them, but that's not what Paul says. Paul's answer is different. What does it look like to walk in a manner worthy of this calling to which we've been called? He says so in verse 2. "…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…" Do you see the command there? We bear with one another. That's it.

"That's it? That feels really anticlimactic, Kylen. Do you know what Jesus has done? I feel like I should do more. I feel like I need to get out there and give myself up and do all I can to deserve and earn and merit the fact that he gave himself for me. You're just telling me I'm supposed to put up with people? Like, me and my brothers and sisters in Christ are in the back of God's minivan, and we're a little bit anxious, and we're fighting with each other, and he's like, 'Hey, kids, settle down or I'm going to turn this thing around and we're going to go back home.' That's it?" Yes.

It feels so very simple, yet that's very strategic. It's so important to God that God has made it so very simple. Paul says the same thing when he writes to the church at Philippi. He says this in Philippians 1:27: "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit [you're united], with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…"

We learn that Jesus didn't just come to save individuals; he came to bring those individuals together. There's a reason Dr. Stuart Grassian… He's a former professor at Harvard Medical School, and he's one of the nation's foremost experts on the topic of solitary confinement and its effects in the lives of people. There's a reason he details some of the most detrimental consequences to isolating people from one another.

He says the effects of solitary confinement can include hallucinations, panic attacks, obsessive tendencies, harmful ideation, and paranoia. That's dire. Those are serious effects. It's not like you just have a case of the hives. No, this is a dangerous sort of situation. The reason for it is the good doctor wants us to know, as does God, that we are not meant to be alone. It's not good for us. We need each other.

We need the body, this body, which Jesus Christ has gone to the cross to purchase back to God and to one another. We need each other. The Bible is adamant about this point. If you go and study the Scriptures, it does not take long until you figure this out, because you turn to page 1, and it says, "It's not good for man to be alone." Page 1! It's a big deal to God. Why? Why is it not good for man, for humanity, to be alone? Because God is not alone. God, in his very nature, is three in one. He is Father, Son, and Spirit.

We don't have time to unpack all of the inner workings of how that plays itself out. We actually talked about it on February 11. You can go back and check out the podcast on it. What we know is that God exists in a community himself. He is bound together, Father, Son, and Spirit, by a relationship of love. He is one in essence, but he's three coequal, coeternal persons. He cares that we're not alone because he's not alone.

You see, God is a unifying God because God is a unified God. That's our first point today. He's one. That's what the Shema says. God teaches his people, the nation of Israel, back in the book of Deuteronomy, what it looks like to pray. This is, according to Judaism, the most important prayer they pray. They pray it every single day. What does it say? "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." He's united. He's undivided from himself.

In the same way, that should be true for us. God has come to take you as you are and connect you to him as he is and her as she is to make an us as he is, as God himself is. God is community, so he has invited us by way of being made in his image to have the same experience ourselves. He is "triunified." Union is a part of who he is, so it should be a part of who we are.

Yet here's what's fascinating. If you look through the halls of history around the globe, across ethnic lines, humans are historically bad at this. What's the quickest way to amass a great following on social media, to go viral? Just criticize someone. Take someone's opinion or their perspective or their thoughts on a situation and undermine them. Mock someone. Make them look dumb. Expose their incompetence. People will be quick to follow you. They'll hit the "subscribe" button.

Why is that the case? Isn't that so odd? Because apart from God and lost in our sin, humanity by our nature does what sin delights in. What does sin delight in? It delights in division. Sin delights in division. Where God comes to create, sin comes to destroy. Where God comes to bring flourishing, sin comes to bring withering. Where God brings order, sin brings disorder. Where God comes to give peace, sin comes to bring chaos. Where God comes to unify, sin comes to divide. They are opposite in nature.

But since we have been brought into the family of God, our nature intrinsically changed by way of our union to Jesus, we behave as God does, not as sin does. That's why Paul says in verse 3, "[Be] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." When you place your faith in Jesus and identify with him, you're unified to God and unified to us. That's why here at Watermark one of our 10 markers is that we're a community church. We're a community together, so we should fight for this.

When you place your faith in Jesus, you do become a follower of Christ, but you also enter the family of God. That's why we fight for unity. That's why it matters so much to us. That's why Paul is saying here in verse 3, "Be eager to maintain unity." In the Greek, it's so interesting. That word for unity is only used here in all the Bible. Nowhere else does this word make an appearance, and the word means oneness.

We should be so unified that we look like one. It's the name of God on the front of our jersey, and none of us have a name on the back. That's what it should look like. Paul wants to make that point so clear that in three verses he says the word one seven times. He says, "There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God."

What is he trying to say? God is one, so we should be as well. Because it is true, no one is expendable. Everyone is essential. Let me say that again for the people in the back. In this family, no one is expendable. Every single person is essential. We need each other, and God knows this is the case.

Now, you may hear that and think to yourself, "It's a nice sentiment, but I'm a self-made man. Nobody helped me out. Nobody gave me aid or helped me along. I am who I am today because, man, I stood on my own two feet. I'm self-made. I'm self-sufficient. I'm self-reliant. I don't need other people. Why are you telling me I need other people?" Well, that's where the apostle Paul goes next. We jump down to verse 11. He says this. Why do we need each other? For this reason.

"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers…" We don't have time to unpack that. That will be unpacked in weeks ahead. "…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until…" Here's your answer. "…we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…"

As Paul keeps going, he tells us we need each other because our unity to each other produces our maturity individually. You get better when you're not alone. As we're invited into God's family, we come in as we are, but we don't stay there. You don't stay as you were when you come in. No. We walk together, and we change. We get better. We grow up. We look more mature. We become like Christ.

You see, our development depends on our differences. You look more like Jesus, but not by looking more like each other. We need to be different, and God knows that. Paul makes this abundantly clear as he writes this letter to the church at Ephesus. Again, he's writing to two mortal enemies. He's writing to an audience of Jews and Gentiles, people who just don't get along. You know that neighbor down the street you try to avoid? That's the situation here.

These people have nothing in common. They don't want to see each other. They don't want to interact. If you looked them up on social media, John the Jew and Jim the Gentile…no mutual friends. None whatsoever. They would never pop up on the "suggested friends" list, and if they did, you're clicking "remove." That's how they felt about each other. They don't cross paths ever.

Yet Paul is saying, "Hey, guys, you need each other. You need one another." Why? "To attain to the unity of the faith and knowledge of Jesus, to mature manhood, to mature womanhood." That's why you need each other. He says it like this in 1 Corinthians 12: "But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part…" Meaning, if they were all the same. "…where would the body be?"

You've never seen a body that is composed of one single element. We don't consider an arm a body. We don't consider a group of legs a body. He's saying, "No, you need to be different." "As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!'"

Don't you hear it? We need each other, but we don't just need each other; we need each other to be different. We need it. We need to be different from each other. Our maturity, our development, depends on this. Unity in the family of God does not mean sameness. It does not mean uniformity. There's strength in our differences.

When I first met Brooke, just to give you an example, I was floored. I mean, she's beautiful, but we shared so many similarities. She not only had all of the nonnegotiables, but she had a bunch of the "nice-to-haves." Do you know what I'm talking about, fellas? She loved the Lord, and she was obedient to his Word and kind to people. "Praise God. Awesome. I'm not going to date anybody who's not like that."

But she also liked golf. She liked going to the lake. She loved listening to Texas country, and when we would go order fajitas… "All beef, please." Tell me a single man who won't wipe that up. That's what you want. I was floored by this. I was like, "Oh my word! This woman from heaven above, God sent. Please, let us be united in marriage, holy matrimony. Lord, this is holy and good."

But here's what you need to know, Watermark. I was floored by all of the similarities we shared, but I have been forged by every difference since that time. I am who I am today in large part due to the differences and not the similarities between her and I. Before I met Brooke, I could spin a good vision and lead with the best of intentions, but I really struggled with follow-through. A good woman like her wouldn't let me do that. She taught me by way of that difference to honor my word, to do what I say, and to mean what I do.

When we would get into conflict, my tendency was to get really defensive, to escalate really quickly, but because of her and our differences, I know what it looks like to slow myself down, to downshift, to listen intently, and take responsibility wherever I can. Because of her, I know that instead of just assuming she knows what I'm feeling or struggling to express it, I need to consider and contemplate and intentionally communicate, because it's for the good of her and our marriage and thus our family.

You see, God used Brooke's differences from me to grow my maturity. In the same way, he uses the differences of others to grow our maturity too. Oftentimes, because I'm in young adult ministry, young adults will come up to me, and they're zealous. They want to grow quickly. They want to be like Jesus.

So they'll come up and be like, "Kylen, I'm stuck. I'm stagnant. I'm stalled out. How do I continue to grow? I can't get there fast enough. I feel like I'm dead in the water. I'm dried up. I have no fervor. There's no more enthusiasm or intensity in my faith. What do I do? Why is this the case? Why can't I grow?"

What I'll do is I'll ask them a question. "Who are you spending time with?" Therein lies so very often…not always, but so very often…the issue, because they're just spending time with people who are exactly like them. Our development depends on our differences. You can't just spend time with, hang out with people who think like you, look like you, go to the same places, and come from the same places as you. You must spend time with people who are different than you.

I wonder if that's the case for some of us in here today, that if we did an honest inventory of the people we spend time with, we would see a lot of similarity and very few differences. This is not the way it's meant to be. Am I telling you today you shouldn't hang out with people you share things in common with? No. You'd all hit the door running. That would be hard. That would be a hard truth.

That's not what the Word of God says. Jesus had his own people he would steal away with whom he had close, intimate affection toward, whom he considered friends. Yet what we know by way of the Scripture is that while you're allowed to spend time with people who are just like you, that's not enough for you. We need to be different. Resistance brings growth.

If you want to run faster, you push the pace. If you want to lift more, you raise the weight. If you try to take some inches off the belt line, you cut the calories, because we grow not in situations of comfort but in situations of challenge. We need resistance to grow. Meaning, if you want to be more like Jesus, you have to spend time with people less like you.

So, say you do it. Say you commit to this stuff. You feel convicted today, and you're like, "I'm in. Okay. Let's do it. I'm all the way in." How do you know if it's working? That's where Paul goes next. Verse 14: "…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…"

You see, Paul comes here and presents a contrast. He takes little children and contrasts them to those growing in Christlikeness. Little children are representative of spiritual immaturity, and those growing in Christlikeness are representative of spiritual maturity. So, how do you know if you're spiritually immature? You don't conform to God's truth, what he's saying today, but you conform to the world's truth and whatever it standardizes as correct.

Paul talks about this when he writes again to the church in Corinth. He says, "Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ." In Christ, yes, but still infantile in spirituality, still immature. "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready."

What's Paul's point as he writes here? What's my point as I'm talking to you today? Spiritual maturity is not synonymous with spiritual activity. You can do a lot of mature things, you can say a lot of mature things, and still be immature. I know it's true because this is my story. When I was in college, I loved the things of God. I loved to roll into the coffee shop, put my Bible down, sit across from a friend, talk the deep things of theology, listen to that podcast, and take down feverish notes. I was an intellect. I loved God, but I didn't love his people.

I would make excuses, find ways around, loopholes from actually loving the people the Holy Spirit was leading me to love. Someone would come forward. I was like, "Man, I'm an introvert. I don't get energy from other people; I get it from me, so that guy is going to be better loved by somebody other than me." Or "That guy seems awesome, but we just don't have a lot in common. He would be better served with somebody who has more in common with him, who gets along better, where they have some common interests and commonalities."

I would make every excuse under the sun, yet what became clear to me in time is I was far more spiritually immature than I thought. Sure, I knew a lot about God, but I did not know God as well as I thought. Why? Because it is delusional to say you love God and not the people he came to save. If you think about the people he came to save, it's not just a people; it's all people…every tribe, tongue, and nation. He has come for them, so we are for them as well. That's why Paul says in verses 15-16:

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."

Paul is making our third and final point here: the stronger our unity, the clearer God's beauty. The stronger our unity to one another, the clearer God's beauty is to the world. The better we love each other, the better we know and the world knows the God who inspired that love. Jesus says so in John 13:35. "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, that you're my followers, that you're the ones who believe me, that you're the ones who have committed your lives to me. They will know this is true if you have love for one another."

That's our distinguishing mark. First John 5:1: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God…" It just takes belief. "…and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him." That may feel obvious to us. You may be sitting in here, and you're like, "Love God and other people. Thanks, man. Lost an hour of sleep. This is what I showed up for, something I already knew."

It may feel obvious, but it's anything but obvious. The apostle Paul is looking at us and saying, "Hey, this kind of love, a love that unifies people together, is not instinctual; it's intentional." It's not driven by feeling; it's driven by choice. It's an act of obedience to some measure. It's knowing God loves everyone and unifies us together, and thus I love everyone and work to preserve that same unity.

So, how do we do this in real life? Well, I was just thinking through it, and hopefully this may be helpful. I know there are three questions that are helpful for me to evaluate with respect to different people in my life. The first question is…Who do you not naturally spend time around? If you started spending time with them, they'd be surprised. You're not normal to them.

It doesn't mean because you have different interests or "Man, we don't get along." Maybe you're just in different stages of life. Maybe you come from a different background, and you don't have natural points of intersection. Who do you not naturally spend time around? We know from today that our development depends on our differences. So who's different to me who I can bring close to me that we might together grow up into maturity?

Maybe it's not that. Maybe it's…Who do you currently feel distant from? Who is it that when you walk into the room and see them, you start walking the other way quickly? You can't get away fast enough. Who is that person? Who is it that when they walk in, there's an awkwardness, a tension in the air?

Again, sin delights in division, so what's right for us in that moment, for the sake of our unity to each other, is to not lean away but to lean in. It's to seek to understand. "Hey, why do I feel this? Do you feel this too?" And it's to ask for forgiveness for whatever it is we can own. Maybe it's not that. Maybe it's…Who do you see on the periphery in your life? Who is on the outside of your normal circle? Who's outcast in your regular day?

What does it look like to welcome them in, to engage those the world just does not want to engage, to spend time and to listen to their story, and to not just listen to it but process it, ask questions about it, and then find the time again to meet together? What does that look like? One of my former pastors said one time for those people we have 1 percent in common with, find it and spend 100 percent of your time talking about it. He called it the 100 and one rule. Find the 1 percent and spend 100 percent of your time on it.

I think that's really good, because that's a useful tool as we think about those who are on the periphery who Jesus Christ saw on the edge yet brought close at hand. Jesus did not move toward the multitudes but the marginalized, because he was full of compassion. He saw the people, like sheep without a shepherd, helpless and harassed. Do you have the same compassion?

I don't know what the right step is for you today, but I know this. Our love for one another is our distinguishing mark. It's our trademark in life. It is that variable by which the world should know us. As they see our love for each other, they will see the one who inspired that love. The stronger our unity, the clearer God's beauty.

They will see "Why is it that people love like this? It doesn't make any sense why he's spending time with him or she's taking time to meet with that girl. Why are they doing these things? It doesn't make sense. Why would they lean in in a difficult moment as opposed to leaning out?" Because our God by essence is love. That's what John tells us. And he is by expression love. "For God so loved the world he sent his only Son."

Last story. A couple of years ago, Brooke and I visited Greece for a vacation. Has anybody in here been to Greece before? I recommend it. It was pretty awesome. We went for vacation, and part of our trip was spent on the island of Crete. While we were there, we were staying at a hotel, and just out over the bay was an island.

Now, this island had a really infamous history, because this island, known as Spinalonga Island, was the island the government at that time had deemed as the land of the lepers. This was the island those conditioned in leprosy were shipped to for fear of sickening the rest of the healthy community. This was the island to which the "living dead," as they were known, would be sent with no expectation of any return.

Spinalonga had no public cleaning. It had no running water. It had no electricity. It was the most inhumane of living conditions, yet why did they need to improve the living conditions? Those going there were not living. Their destiny was death. While we know leprosy isn't lethal today, at that time there was a lot of fear around it. There was no treatment.

As people were isolated there, anyone who was sent to Spinalonga was considered lost, including a 21-year-old man by the name of Epaminondas. Epaminondas ("Epi" for short, as his friends knew him) was a law student at the University of Athens. He was a bright legal mind, and because he had so much potential, it was deemed a tragedy and an incredible loss when they learned he would be shipped to Spinalonga to dwell in this dark existence.

Yet, as Epi made his way to Spinalonga, he did something no one else was willing to. He founded what became known as the Brotherhood of the Sick of Spinalonga, which solely existed to improve the living conditions of those cast off to die upon this island's shores. And he succeeded. Because of Epi's life and his presence among these people, houses were whitewashed. Roads were built. Public cleaning was established. Electricity was run. Even a theater was built.

You can read through the record, but even Spinalonga's own residents recount the sound of music filling up what was once a vacant and voided street. There was life, all because of one man's presence there, one man who chose to identify with the sick of that island, and in so doing, he brought to them something they had never known. He took away their inhumanity and gave them the gift of community.

Why do I tell you that? Because this is what Jesus Christ has done for you and me. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left the halls of heaven, descended into darkness, entered into our isolation, embraced our infirmity, and endured our iniquity because he wanted you in his family. This is the heart of God: to see a people lost, yet seek them that they may be found; to see a people dead in their sins, yet seek them that they may be alive in Christ; to see a people alone and seek them that they might be united to him and his family forever.

Do you know this God, a God who is in the business of saving individuals but also building up a people? If you're here today and want to walk in the wonder of a God like that, who would save me from my sin apart from anything I could do, not doing anything to merit Christ's sacrifice but simply receiving the gift of eternal life, because God so loved me he sent a man to do what I could not… If you're here and want the wonder of walking with a God like that, then come and walk with us, because that is the God who leads us forth in wonder. Let me pray for us.

Father, we love you. O God, what a miracle it is that we do, for we could not love you had you not loved us first. Lord, I don't know what the stories, what the backgrounds, what the contexts are of the people in this room, yet, God, I don't need to know those things, because from your Word I know even still what you want for them.

You want them to have more of you, and you want them to have more of us. Would we walk into the fullness and freedom that's available in Christ. Would any here today who do not know Jesus raise their faith and place their hope in the fact, God, that they can't earn their way to you. They can't deserve heaven's smile, but Jesus Christ has done what they could not.

If you're here today and want to place your faith in Jesus, it's as simple as saying, "Jesus, be the Lord of my life. Save me and take me where it is you now are. I know I cannot save myself, and I know you have died to forgive me of my sins." Maybe you're here and you know the Lord. What is God asking of you today? Is it to encourage someone? Is it to reconcile with someone? Is it instead to process through your community, the people you spend time amongst, and seek out those who look less like you? I don't know what it is, yet God has a response for all of us.

Father, we are sensitive to your leading now. By your Spirit, would you prompt us? Would we be a Spirit-led people, a church that goes wherever it is you call? We love you. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.

About 'A Spirit-Led Church'

We study the work and person of the Holy Spirit so that we can more fully understand and experience the Spirit in our lives.