You know how sometimes you read a passage of Scripture and unexpectedly something in that passage jumps out at you? Maybe you’ve read that passage several times, but this time Holy Spirit highlights an idea and it goes deep into you and if you act on it your life can change in a real way. That happened to me a little while ago and I want to write about it here. I hope you find it both hopeful and challenging. It has to do with love, unity, glory and harvest.
Last fall, my wife and I were at a Catch The Fire conference in Raleigh. Part of that event included the live recording of a new Catch the Fire Music album. The interesting thing about this album is that it is an homage to Vineyard music – music that has been very instrumental in shaping the worship of the church in the West over the last three decades. Since the Catch The Fire movement emerged from the Vineyard, it only seemed right that CTF Music would undertake such a project.
Personally, I was excited by this prospect because when I came into the Charismatic, revival culture of Catch the Fire in the mid-90s, Vineyard music was one of my go-to vehicles to carry me into depths of heart-level worship and the presence of God like never known before. So, I felt privileged to be in the room those four days when they were recording this live album1. Listen closely. Any discordant singing you hear will likely be me! But that’s beside the point of this blog…
One of the songs they sang repeatedly over those four days was “Let Your Glory Fall” written by David Ruis in 1992 – a year and a half before the Outpouring began in Toronto. Here is the chorus:
Let Your glory fall in this room
Let it go forth from here to the nations
Let Your fragrance rest in this place
As we gather to seek Your face
Even in the midst of red hot revival and Holy Spirit activity, many of us sang those lyrics with a deep hunger in our hearts for an even fuller manifestation of the glory of God, not just in our own lives but also in the nations of the earth. The problem for us Christians is that, like our Father Abraham2, we belong to another world. Now, we get glimpses and tastes of the world to come, but we still live in this one. We have brief encounters with the glory, purity, beauty, holiness and majesty of unfettered access to the One who is all those things and more. But we are still stuck here. So, our hearts continually, sometimes consciously mostly unconsciously, cry out for that Kingdom which has come, but is yet to come in all its consummate fullness!
So, as we’re singing that song I am really getting into it and worshipping my heart out. I should add that being the left-brained, contemplative, analytical type I like to pay attention to the lyrics of the songs that I’m singing. We get to this part of the song:
Let Your kingdom come (Let Your kingdom come)
Let Your will be done (Let Your will be done)
Let us see on earth (Let us see on earth)
The glory of Your Son
In the midst of our singing, a question pops into my brain. Holy Spirit put it there. “Let us see on earth the glory of your Son.” What does it look like for the glory of the Son to be seen on earth? What does that look like in reality?Without skipping a beat Holy Spirit dropped John 17:22 into my thoughts. I looked it up3. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.”
Everybody! The manifestation of the glory of Jesus on earth is His Church in unity!
I know that the glory of Jesus is manifested in other ways, such as in miracles and demonstrations of his power. For example, Jesus’ first miracle according to John, when he turned water into wine, was a revelation of his glory4. However, there is no more complete, enduring witness to the magnificence of the Triune God than his only representative here on earth, his Body, the Church, His Bride, which is “multi-une”. (I just made up that word.) It might not roll off the tongue but it does speak to the truth that while God is three persons in one, the Church is many made into one.
I kept on reading:
I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!”
According to Jesus in this passage, the glory of God is manifested when His Church (to which he has already given his glory) manifests a unity that comes from the Spirit5 (which has already been given) and is grounded in the love of God (which has already been poured out)6. The observation I am making – expressed in clunky way – is that we have already been given everything we need in order to manifest the glory of the Son on earth. The two main ingredients for the glory of God to be revealed are love and unity. The foundational element is love. The Trinity is united because their existence is based on love. An outcome of their oneness is that they exude glory!
Therefore, as I’ve done, we can sing and petition for the glory of the Son to be revealed on earth until the cows come home. However, the Tri-une God from heaven is whispering, “I have already given you everything you need in order to reveal the glory of the Son. What is stopping you from manifesting his glory?”
I must admit when I was hit between the eyes with the call to unity I was immediately discouraged. We, the church, have had 2,000 years of history rife with disunity, distrust, hatred and fratricide. I’m told that there are 45,000 Christians denominations globally. How will it ever be possible for the Church, the Bride, the Body of Christ to be united? Disheartening.
Until I let the Spirit of wisdom speak. Here are some thoughts:
First, God sees things vastly differently than I do. He says, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”7 I know that he can’t be talking about me! I live with myself 24/7 and I know that there are tons of flaws in me. However, it might be that, through his gorgeous eyes of love, he already sees a Church that is without spot or wrinkle. Just maybe. Maybe the blood of Jesus is powerful enough to present is holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation8.
Second, the issue is not that there are 45,000 denominations. I would argue that having lots of denominations is a good thing. Given the diversity of cultures, ethnicities, thought patterns, there would be something really wrong if we had one monolithic entity called the Church. God’s handiwork is full of diversity and creative expressions. The real problem is denominationalism or a spirit of divisiveness. We have not allowed our distinctiveness to add to the whole, rather we have chosen to let our differences divide us. There really are just a very few non-negotiable tenets of the faith that we all need to agree on in order to be followers of Jesus. The ones I hold dear are encapsulated in the Creeds9.
My wife and I were recently taken by our friend and colleague, Bruno Ierullo, to a Unity conference in Poland. It was a four day gathering of church leaders from the Catholic, Charismatic, Evangelical, Pentecostal and other Protestant traditions. It was a powerful and historic moment as leaders from every quarter confessed and repented for the hatred, name calling and judgements that we had all made against each other. There was a heartfelt commitment to honour and speak kindly about each other despite our differences. It was a sacred moment. My wife and I feel a desire to encourage our friend Bruno in his ongoing work of fostering unity across the chasms in the Church.10 He is called by God for this and sometimes at personal cost.
Third, I said to my congregation that in my position as a local church pastor, I don’t have any influence over the global church. My purview extends to those who think of me as their pastor and look to me at some level for spiritual leadership. Therefore, my strongest message and my deepest desire is that we make unity, based on genuine love, our utmost priority. We are not pursuing uniformity where we all think the same thoughts on every point. Lord knows, we have enough issues in our world that would divide us. We do want humility of heart, a preferring of each other, a willingness to walk in one another’s shoes. We celebrate our distinctives rather than letting those non-consequential differences divide us. We learn from each other where we can.
I believe based on John 17:22-24 that if we pursue this goal of unity wholeheartedly that we truly will see the glory of Jesus manifested in our midst in more profound and life changing ways.
Even more than that, we will see the harvest of souls that we have heard prophesied so often and for so long, come to fruition. Notice with me, “May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”
Brothers and sisters, a united church will display the glory of Jesus. The glory of Jesus in us and on us will be immensely attractive to a lost, divided, confused, fragmented world! When we are able to display a body in unity the unbelieving world will believe what we say about Jesus.
Father, would you forgive us for our sin of pride that has causes so much division in the Body of your precious Son. Lord, we confess that we have been more concerned about our own empire building rather than serving the Kingdom of God. We have not humbled our hearts and chosen to honour and prefer our brother and sister. As a result, we have not celebrated our differences. We have not chosen the way of cooperation and mutual encouragement, sharing and learning. Holy Spirit, would you help us to get back on track, individually, as congregations and as denominations. Jesus, we so desire to see your name glorified in the earth. Lord, help us and use us to display the love, grace, mercy and beauty of Jesus so that many more will come to know you for who you really. Amen!
1 The album is called “Holy and Anointed One” and released in 2022 by Catch The Fire Music.
2 “Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” – Hebrews 11:10 (NLT)
3 Unity is a prominent theme in John 17; the connection between Trinitarian glory and unity of the church is spotlighted in 17:22-24.
4 “This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” – John 2:11 (NLT)
5 For example, Paul urges the church in Ephesus to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3 (NIV). You can keep only what you already have in your possession.
6 As it says in Romans 5:5 (NLT): And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
7 Song of Solomon 4:7 (NLT)
8 “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation …” – Colossians 1:22 (NIV)
9 The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds were formulated by the early church to articulate biblically sound central tenets of the faith. These are also referred to as Ecumenical Creeds since any branch of the church can agree to these statements on God the Father, Jesus, salvation only through Him, Holy Spirit and the Church, the Resurrection and the Age to come.
10 See Bruno’s website, United in Christ, here.