Jesus and His disciples were in the Upper Room. The “Last Supper” had just been finished, and Jesus prayed to His Father for His followers. I’m reading now from John 17: “I am praying for THEM. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. All Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one…
“…I have given them Your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
Continuing in Verse 20: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. The glory that You have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one…”
This was Jesus’ last prayer before He went out to the garden, where He would not only be betrayed by a friend, He would be horrifically beaten without mercy, and suffer an excruciating death in the most inhumane way possible. So, what was Jesus concerned about now, knowing what was coming very soon?
His disciples — those who believed in Him and who trusted and followed Him. The men and women He had walked with, talked with, laughed and cried with, and most of all, taught the things of the Kingdom of God to. He was praying for THEM. Verse 9 tells us specifically, He was NOT praying for “the whole world,” as the false teachers of “universal salvation” will tell you. No… He was praying for God’s children, His disciples. And He declared these were the ones who belonged to the Father.
A very important point in Jesus’ prayer was when He prayed that they would all be ONE. Just as Jesus and the Father were one in unity and purpose, so He asked His Father that His children might also be UNIFIED, as one.
Jesus knew the world hated them, just as the world hated Him. He knew it was not going to be easy for them in the days ahead. They would face terrible persecution for the rest of their lives. He asked His Father to sanctify them in His Word, set apart for His purposes, and just as the Father had sent Jesus into the world, Jesus was now sending them out as His representatives… to guide the lost, the religious, the carnal and worldly to the way of the Father and His Kingdom.
And then Jesus went on in His prayer, praying not just for those who were present with Him at the time, but also for all those who would believe in Him later, through His disciples’ testimonies. Yes, Jesus prayed for US, folks, and His heart’s cry — at a time when He must have been in great emotional and spiritual agony — was that WE, like the disciples, would be ONE, together in faith, following the Word of God, united as ONE with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Yet it seems that our Lord’s prayer was not — and has not — been answered… yet. I do believe it WILL BE one day, perhaps one day very soon. But after more than 2,000 years, our Savior’s request of His Father, it seems, has not YET been granted.
In fact, it didn’t take long at all before those the disciples taught began quarrelling and engaging in division and dissention among themselves. In Acts 15, we read: “Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.”
In Romans 16, Paul warned, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.”
Again in 1st Corinthians: “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
Can you sense Paul’s frustration here? He went on in Chapter 3 of 1st Corinthians: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”
Clearly, Jesus Himself wanted His true Church to be unified, following His commands and God’s Holy Word literally. We are not to follow or worship the doctrines of the imaginations of MEN. We are to be following GOD and God only. Jesus chastised the religious leaders of His day for making up carnal, worldly teachings and commands, straining at gnats while swallowing camels. But yet today, those who claim the name of Christ are more divided than ever. In fact, we now have more than 33,000 different denominations, all claiming “Christianity.”
How can this possibly be, when we are all supposed to be reading from the same Book? Simply stated: each of these denominations have added their own doctrines of men, rules and requirements, rituals and traditions… most of them irrelevant, much of it nonsense. In the process, the study of the TRUE Word of God and teaching of the WHOLE counsel of God has fallen by the wayside.
We “major” on the “minors,” each thinking we have it all down correctly. And we avoid, like the plague, the “hard” issues — those cultural, moral and social issues addressed in God’s Word — (AND by Jesus Himself FREQUENTLY) — lest we might possibly offend a lost and perishing sinner. We all think WE are following “The Way.” But obviously, we are NOT.
Because we’re biblically illiterate. We follow MEN rather than the Word of God, which, IF WE READ, STUDIED AND APPLIED IT LITERALLY, we WOULD be “one.” But in most church buildings in America today, most people no longer even carry a Bible to their Sunday service, much less take ten minutes a week to read from it at home. Instead of following Christ, they’re following “Pastor so-and-so,” or whatever denomination they may affiliate with… and as long as this continues, there will never be unity in the Body of Christ.
In small towns and large metropolitan areas across this country, there are churches. Small towns may have 20 churches. Large metro areas may have thousands. Yet, no matter where you go, it’s rare that the pastors will even speak to one another. It’s as if they’re in competition with each other for the “business” of new “customers.” Those who attend these churches follow the doctrines of THEIR “church, THEIR DENOMINATION; and sadly, MUCH of modern-day so-called “Christian” doctrine has become purposely filled with lies and deceptions and deliberate OMISSIONS.
How else could there possibly be entire denominations “accepting and affirming” of what God’s Book calls an “abomination?”
How else could these so-called “churches” be ordaining open-and-practicing homosexuals as “pastors?”
How else could we have arrived now at the point where 67% of professing, faithful church-going “Christians” now believe that same-sex so-called “Marriage” is just another lifestyle choice and is just fine with God?
How else could we have self-proclaimed “Christian” clergy blessing and celebrating things like Planned Parenthood, where the main goal is to sacrifice as many innocent preborn babies to Molech and Baal as possible?
How else could so-called “Christian” churches be coming alongside Muslims to celebrate “Ramadan” with them?
How else could some “Christian” pastors come together in perceived “unity” with Muslim Imams, yet those same “Christian” pastors could not tolerate praying together with a Christian pastor of another Christian denomination?
Let’s read this, from the book of Jude: “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
It’s a sad state of affairs. Rather than being ONE in Christ, unified under His authority and His Word, we have fragmented into more than 33,000 different pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle of confusion and chaos, and few there be that will even bother anymore to open the Answer Guide — the Bible — and preach, teach, study and BELIEVE it literally.
This denominationalism happened for a reason, though. Biblical doctrine matters. Truth is truth, and lies are lies, and we must be very careful what we believe… and WHO we get our instruction from. When someone goes off the rails, and refuses to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints, a separation must take place. If these “filthy dreamers,” as Jude calls them, refuse to return to the absolute truth and authority of God’s Word, we are to separate and have nothing to do with them. Now, I am not calling for more DIVISION… I’m calling for more of God’s Word and for doing away with the foolish doctrines of men. Because that’s the ONLY thing that will ever unite us as “one.”
If a person has the Holy Spirit within them, it’s very easy to differentiate between shallow “churchianity” and God’s true Remnant. If you DO have a real, faithful God-honoring church to attend, you’re greatly blessed, because these are becoming more and more rare today as, increasingly, people are walking away from the fake smiles and shallow handshakes you get at the social clubs, and they’re starting home study groups — meeting together with other believers and going from house-to-house, as the early Church did. There, they study, pray and praise the Lord in Spirit and in Truth, and they have a support- group system in place — a real Church FAMILY; something they never were able to catch a glimpse of in the pre-programmed Institutional denominational “churches.”
I do believe a great revival is coming to our land in these last days, as the Remnant believers begin assembling themselves together as Jesus intended, truly UNIFIED as ONE Body of Christ. They’re tired of biblical illiteracy, and they’re doing something about it. Meanwhile, I believe the effeminate, cowardly pulpiteers who continue to preach only the happy, self-help false “love gospel” are going to continue to struggle to keep the masses entertained enough to keep them coming back to sit through yet another stage performance week after week.
The latest figures show that about 5,000 churches close down forever in America every single year, and that number is increasing. The devil’s doing a great job — because at the same time, we have a record number of new mosques being built. This is what happens when we indulge our vain imaginations.
We MUST assemble — even more so now, as we see the Day approaching. But we must absolutely be much more discerning as to HOW we assemble, and WHO we assemble with. And beware of the schemes of the enemy….because our adversary, the devil is coming to your local “church” regularly — because your local church leadership is eager to welcome him in, eager to accept his financial offerings and eager to keep him amused and coming back. They dare not offend him, lest they lose a “member.” But friends, there can never be unity in division. And the ONLY thing that will unify us is an intentional, serious study of God’s Word.
We must dispense with the “glitz” and “glamour” that has become modern American churchianity — until we DO that, we’ll never be “one” — because God has HIS true and faithful servants, but the evil one has deceived many.
Heavenly Father, give us a hunger and thirst for the TRUTH of Your holy Scriptures, and let us finally be ONE, united as Your true Church, following the truth, the whole truth and nothing BUT the truth that can only be found in Your Word.
God’s precious Word is sufficient, friends. So let us be ONE, united in faith in Christ alone, in God’s Word alone. Everything else is just vain religion; and religion is NOT Christianity.
Audio CDs and transcripts of this message are available when you call me at Wisconsin Christian News, (715) 486-8066. Or email Rob@WisconsinChristianNews.com and ask for message number 283.