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One in Christ

July 30 2023

Book: Psalms

Scripture: Psalm 133

Next week, we will begin a new series in the Gospel of Luke. This morning, I want to take advantage of this fifth Sunday with a look at Psalm 133. 

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is 

    when brothers dwell in unity! 

2 It is like the precious oil on the head, 

    running down on the beard, 

on the beard of Aaron, 

    running down on the collar of his robes! 

3 It is like the dew of Hermon, 

    which falls on the mountains of Zion! 

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, 

    life forevermore. 

I’ve heard it said that there is no bond stronger than the bond between a mother and a child. That may be true in general, but my life is proof – it is not always true. Even family relationships can be difficult. And according to the Bible, there is a bond more important than family ties. 

David is not talking about siblings when he mentions brothers dwelling in unity. He’s talking about the community of faith. He’s talking about the blessing of a properly functioning community of faith. They called it “Israel”. We call it “the church”. 

This community is “good”. It is “pleasant”. Not good for some, good for everyone. But for that to be everyone’s experience – a good and pleasant church community – then we must first have unity. 

Unity is the special sauce of the church. 

If you read verse 2 and think of vegetable oil running down a man’s head, then you will miss the point. This was the special anointing oil of a priest.  

This is Kentucky Fried Chicken’s 11 herbs and spices. This is your grandmother’s secret recipe. 

If you go back and read the recipe for the anointing oil of Aaron in Exodus 30, you will notice that the oil was expensive. It had to be handled with care. It was considered holy to God. It was only to be used for the specific purpose of anointing a priest.  

If someone made this oil at home and used it on someone else, they would be kicked out of fellowship and cut off from the family of God. And that basically meant death in the wilderness. 

So why does David choose this oil as a metaphor of unity in the church? He wants us to know how special, how costly, how serious this is to God. This type of unity is the special sauce. We won’t be God’s church without it. His blessing will not rest on us without it.  

All of this really foreshadows the blood of Jesus. Our unity was bought by the shed blood of Jesus. Nothing more costly. Nothing more special. Nothing more serious to God. Jesus died that we might be one. 

And there is still the same prohibition not to try and fabricate unity without the recipe of God. It won’t work. Many people in the world crave unity. We’ve heard the calls for people to unite. “Why can’t we all just get along? Why can’t we set aside our differences and come together?” That’s a noble desire, placed in our hearts by the God who created us. But it will never work itself out naturally.  

In fact, God won’t let us achieve unity without him. That’s what the tower of Babel was all about. He will not bless people’s efforts to unite outside of Christ. Only God can bless His people with unity, because: 

Unity is a gift of God to His church. 

It is not something we can work towards or achieve on our own, even in the church. 

The second picture David gives us in Psalm 133 is the dew of Hermon falling on Mount Zion, another name for the temple mount of Jerusalem. 

Mount Hermon is about 100 miles north of Jerusalem. It is today the home of Israel’s only ski resort. In David’s time, it was probably snow-capped year-round.  

There were times, even in the summer, when the wind would blow just right and carry some of the snow over Jerusalem and a cool mist would fall on the city. 

If you have ever been to the zoo or a theme park in July, then you’ve probably experienced something similar.  As you walk along the sidewalk, all of a sudden you are hit by a cool mist because there is a fan blowing the mist down on people as they walk by.  It makes you want to just stand there, doesn’t it? 

David’s community was like that to him.  It was a special community of relief. It was good. It was refreshing. It felt like a blessing. 

But just like the mist fans at a theme park, that cool breeze was a gift. It was something extra. It was something unexpected. It was not something you could earn. But it was something you might pray for… 

Imagine being outside in the heat of the summer and working the ground. It’s humid. It’s hot. You’re sweaty. The sun is beating down on you. What might you pray for? “Please Lord, send a cool breeze!” 

That’s the kind of gift we find in unity. We want it. We need it. We pray for it. We can’t manufacture it. But we beg God for it. Why? 

Because, according to David, that is where “the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” 

In other words, without unity, we will not experience the blessing of God. There is a tremendous amount of meaning packed into this last verse.

God has commanded, or ordained, that his blessing will only fall on the community of faith by way of unity. Even life evermore… In other words, we will not experience transformation, renewal, restoration, conversions, growth, any of it without the gift of unity. 

So, we should probably pray for that! It’s really not an option, is it? None of what we are doing as a church will matter if we are divided. 

Jesus knew this. In John 17, the day before his cross, he prayed for us. He prayed that the church would experience the gift of unity. He said, “I ask that they may be one even as we are one.” John 17 is actually the longest prayer in the Bible and the theme of the entire prayer is unity! 

With all this in mind, let’s talk about Christ Fellowship.One of the adoption vows we take as we join the church is this one: Do you promise to pursue unity and faithfulness? 

Considering what David says about the community of faith in Psalm 133, I want to ask that question a bit differently. Is your vision for this church being informed by the vision God has for this church? Do you want Christ Fellowship to be a place of unity and faithfulness? A place of refreshment? Do you want it to be a brotherhood? A family? 

All of us have a tendency to think that something is missing and that the church would be better if only… Fill in the blank with whatever your preferences may be. 

All of us prefer different things when it comes to music and programs. But we have to remember why we are together in the first place.  

If we think of the church primarily as an event that we choose to attend for our own selfish reasons, then we don’t understand the purpose of the church at all. 

The church is not just a place for me to consume content. If that’s all the church is to you, then you’ll keep moving around looking for better content. Or you’ll stay home and find the content online. And there’s great content out there! You can find far better preachers than me online! 

What you can’t get online is connection. You won’t get shepherding. You won’t be known by anyone. And you’re going to miss out on most of the blessings God promises to His church. 

God’s vision for the church has nothing to do with better content or personal preferences. That stuff is almost entirely influenced by megachurch marketing culture, not the Word of God. 

What do we need to have a healthy church? A good church? According to the Word? 

We could come up with a Biblical list of things, all of which are good and right. Things like expository preaching, good doctrine, discipleship, sacraments, prayer, good leadership, and many other possible answers. 

But the most basic answer is very simple. To have a healthy church you need a group of people who are committed to Jesus and committed to one another. 

One in Christ. Not unity without Christ. Not Christ without unity. But both… Jesus. Unity. 

The church is only a special community because of the presence of Jesus. But Jesus only promises to be present WITH HIS PEOPLE. You can’t have Jesus without the church. God does not bless solo Christians who refuse to gather with His people. 

The promises and blessings of Scripture are always plural. There is no Christianity without Christ. But there is also no Christianity without the Church. 

You can’t “do Christianity” without the church. Listening to sermons online… cranking up your worship playlist on Spotify… talking to God by yourself… all good things, but in no way are those things a replacement for being part of a local church. 

I saw this yesterday – watching church online is like watching a fireplace on your TV… it’s pretty, but you won’t feel any of the warmth. 

I know there is no perfect church. But God’s vision for the church is perfect. And it’s clear. He expects us to gather regularly. 

“Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another.” – Hebrews 10:25

I know that making time to be here regularly, in person, is a sacrifice. It is especially difficult with young children. I get it. But this is literally the most important thing Christians do! This. This is it. Worshiping Jesus with each other. It’s the most important thing our kids can see us doing. 

And there’s a very important reason built into God’s plan for the church. What is the church? It is a group of sinful people committed to loving one another. It’s how we live out the Gospel we claim to believe. It’s how the world can see and know that God really has the power to change people’s lives! 

What did Jesus say to His disciples in John 13? By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. 

Not because you wear a cross around your neck… not because you post Bible verses on social media… not because you listen to Christian music alone in your car… they will know we belong to Jesus when we belong to a church and when that church has a reputation for love.