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Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 2:1-12 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.  Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome  (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Notice: 16 nationalities, hearing the Gospel in their own language. 3000 believed. I imagine went home as believers, filled with the Spirit, sharing the Gospel.

Immediately on the Day of  Pentecost, the Church became a multi-ethnic mega-church by the power of the Holy Spirit. They had power against the dominion of darkness. They had courage. They did not fear death, imprisonment, or torture.

The New Covenant was for all people, and it is the commission of the Church to share the good news with all people.

Matt 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Nevertheless, most of the believers remained in Jerusalem to learn from the apostles until the death of Stephen in Acts 7 scattered them. Remember they were to be witnesses to Samaria, too. However, the Jews did not associate with Samaritans.  Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit led Phillip into Samaria.

Acts 8:4-8 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.  Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.  When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said.  With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed.  So there was great joy in that city.

We see from this that preaching Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit causes barriers between people and cultures to fall.

Acts 8:14-17 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.  When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (OK to ask for Holy Spirit after baptism and pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit)

Furthermore, “The ends of the earth” in Acts 1:8 meant taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. Now that was a greater barrier than associating with the Samaritans. There were bigger cultural differences. Jews were God’s chosen people. The Gentiles were pagan. Jewish law encouraged separation from Gentiles and a faithful Jew kept himself clean and holy by not associating with them. Therefore, the first church had a prejudice problem that the Holy Spirit had to deal with.

Acts 10  uncomfortable but convinced, Peter went in obedience to the Spirit.

vs. 27-35 Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.  He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

Peter begins telling them about Jesus and the Gospel. He doesn’t get to finish his sermon before the Holy Spirit fills these new Gentile believers.

vs. 44-48 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

While we may have individually dealt with prejudice in our own hearts, we still must confront this satanic barrier. Our government is the biggest proponent of dividing people. There is only one race—the human race. We have more power and influence when we are united.

Do you remember the Peanuts cartoon?  In one cartoon Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels. "What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus. 

"These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they're nothing, but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."

 "Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can't you guys get organized like that?"

Unity will be achieved if we just do what Jesus said, “Love God and love your neighbor.” There is unity in Jesus, who is the Truth. He brings us together and makes us formidable. That is why the enemy works hard to separate us. Beware of pride and arrogance that causes division in the Body of Christ. Stay humble and focused on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Work on the mission He gave us: to make disciples and love one another.

We don’t need a diversity plan if we just love people and welcome them into our lives. Cultural differences won’t matter when people feel loved. Maybe we have a different traditions or life styles, but if they are genuinely loved, they won’t want to leave.

Associating with different people will change us. We will change them.  The Holy Spirit will change all of us into the image of Christ. In the meantime, He has empowered and unleashed us to reach out and love others in our community. Maybe we at First Christian in DeQueen won’t turn the world upside down by ourselves, but we can turn our lives right side up. We can turn our homes right side up. And we can be a catalyst for change everywhere we go.

We are Christ’s witnesses and our purpose is to fulfill the commission of Christ.

So, after we get new people in the church, then what?

Eph 4:1-7 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. Vs. 11-16  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,  to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

So we are called to be the new people of God, bound together in unity under Christ. The Church of Jesus Christ has two major characteristics. First it’s one people, composed of all nations and cultures without distinction. Secondly, the Church is a holy people, set apart to belong to God, and therefore showing by its life, a purity and righteousness that looks like Jesus.

Today we’re thinking about the diversity and unity of the Church. How does that unity happen and how is it to be maintained. As we just read in Eph 4:

A. Unity depends on our Christian character.
Paul begins his exhortation by listing 5 characteristics of the Christian that unity depends on: humility, gentleness, patience, mutual forbearance, and love. Not surprisingly, he begins his list with humility. That is, the sort of attitude that Jesus displayed when he became one of us. It’s an attitude that recognizes the worth and value of other people.

Humility is essential to unity. Pride always results in discord.  Notice that humility and gentleness form a natural pairing. They are the words used by Jesus to describe himself (Matt 11:29)"I am gentle and lowly of heart.”

The next two characteristics also form a natural pairing. Patience and forbearance are longsuffering attitudes towards aggravating people: the sort of attitudes that God has toward us.

The final characteristic in his list is love, which takes in all the other character traits and enables them to be expressed. It’s the controlling force for everything we do, because God is love.

B. (Secondly) Unity Arises from the Unity of our God.
For example, there is one body because there is only one Spirit, who brings the Church about, and only one Lord Jesus, who is its head. There is one hope, one faith, one baptism, because there is only one Lord Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Finally, there is only one family of God, because there is only one Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in all. Therefore, our unity comes from the fact that the one Father creates the one family, through faith in the one Lord Jesus, and the power of the one Spirit of the one body.

Of course, as we look around the churches today, we realize that we’ve been very successful at breaking down this unity. Well, the unity of the Godhead isn’t damaged, but its testimony in the churches and to the world is not visible. That’s why Paul makes this plea to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. To get back in tune with the Godhead, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. Let me illustrate: Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred instruments in an orchestra, all tuned to the same tuning fork, are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. Likewise, one hundred worshipers meeting together, each one focused on Christ, are in heart closer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from Jesus to strive for closer unity.  As we draw closer to Christ, we draw closer to each other.

C. Thirdly, Unity is enriched by the diversity of gifts.
The church itself is made up of a whole lot of individuals, everyone of us different from all the rest, but we are different for a reason. The differences you see are often the result of the different ways Christ wants to work through us.

The gifts he lists here are that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but a significant one. Why? Because these are all gifts with the same purpose: to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. They’re all gifts that in one way or another bring God’s word to people, whether it’s for the first time as in apostles and prophets, or in the form of the gospel in the case of evangelists, or in a systematic and applied way in the case of pastors and teachers. That isn’t to say that other gifts aren’t important, but when it comes to the church achieving the unity, and the maturity that God desires, these gifts are necessary to achieve them. You see:
 

(D. Unity demands our growth to maturity.)
If we’re to achieve unity, then this is what we should be striving for: maturity! To be grown up. It’s what all children long for isn’t it? In the case of the Church, maturity equates with attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. That is, to possess the same character of Jesus and the unity that Christ experiences with the Father. Remember what Jesus prayed for at the last supper?

John 17:20-21 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

This is what it means to reach the fullness of Christ, to be one with each other and with God the Father; to be able to stand against all the winds of misfortune, all the blasts of the evil one.

One sign of immaturity is that you’re easily swayed from what’s true. But those who are mature aren’t like that. Rather, they stick with the truth, speaking it in love. That means you have to know the Word and live by it.

And the end result of all this is that From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Again, every part is needed. Every part needs to be working in love for the body to be built up.

So how can a diverse body like the church achieve the sort of unity with diversity that God desires? By being filled with the Holy Spirit, exhibiting His fruit, so we become more like Christ as we mature in Him.

Is it your desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Do you need power from God to bravely come against the kingdom of darkness and be Christ’s witness in your home, work, school, and in the market place? Come to Jesus this morning to receive more of His Spirit so you have grace and power to be like Him and accomplish His will.

If you have never given your life to Jesus, give it to Him today. Repent of your sin, confess Jesus as Lord, and submit to baptism so that you will receive the Holy Spirit and a new life.