What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.1-4

“True Unity in the Church”

Philippians 2:1-4

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.1-4

Philippians 2. [1]“Fight breaks out in the middle of church service” reads a headline from WDSU news out of New Orleans Louisiana. A fight over church leadership and finances spilled out of the pulpit and on to YouTube in LaPlace.

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The fight at the St. Michael Baptist Church was caught on camera and later uploaded to the Internet. “It’s a disgrace. It’s uncalled for,” parishioner Vanessa Jones said.

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Members said the fight was the result of a dispute that started with questions about the church’s finances. “I think they have a lot of preachers using the church for personal gain,” parishioner Albert Robertson said.

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“We asked questions regarding finances and it was told to us that, ‘If you don’t like what I’m giving you, go back where you came from,'” parishioner Edna Robertson said. Jones said those that did raise questions were put out of the church. She said the decision affected 49 people.

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The distraught parishioner said her family helped found the church at its first location in Kenner. “I know they are turned over in their grave [because of] this,” Jones said.

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Members have even taken the matter to court. “The judge put the board of trustees in charge and [the pastor] has just ignored that,” Robertson said.

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WDSU contacted the church’s longtime pastor, Leroy Sanders Sr., by phone at his home in Independence. He said the problems are mostly arising from a small group of newcomers, many of whom are not in good standing with the church.

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The pastor said he has opened up the books to members as required by the church’s charter. Sanders also said there has been no proof of wrongdoing with church money.

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He said he plans to file a suit of his own against some members for defamation….”

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Unfortunately, this kind of spirit is found all too often in local churches.

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And even among good churches, there can be a lack of true unity. True unity, of course, if far from just getting along. There seems to be someone or something whispering into Christians ears that separates the closest of Christians. They don’t separate on the truth usually, it’s usually bitter feelings, discord and strife sown among the brethren.

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And even among the warmest of Christians, at the right time if you pay attention, you can feel a subzero wind rustling through the congregation.

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We need true unity, not just the ability to get along.

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Let’s read our text this morning and see what the Lord has for us this morning regarding unity.

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Philippians 2:1–4 1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

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Paul’s concern is that there be true unity, not Christians just having fun. Earlier in the same paragraph, in chapter 1:27, Paul was concerned for true unity because of dangers outside the church. Now, he’s concerned about true unity because of potential dangers inside the church, namely … all of ours sin natures.

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So I’d like to preach on “True Unity in the Church.”

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Still by way of introduction, I’d like to briefly point out that true unity in the church is Paul’s joy. Verse 2, make my joy complete by … your unity, is the idea. This is happiness for a spiritual leader.

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I get asked all the time, “What can I do to make you a happy pastor …” …… well, actually, I don’t get asked that … “but the one thing that does make a happy pastor is to be unified in your homes and in the church the way it is described here. In fact, I could have entitled this message, “How to create a happy pastor.” But for the sake of taking the spotlight off of me, we won’t do that.

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Keep in mind that Paul enlarges on the topic of unity from 1:27. Verse 27, “Exercise your citizenship” remember we translated it that way, according to Phil. 3:20 … “Exercise your heavenly citizenship in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” As a citizen of heaven, if you’ve trusted Christ, your oath of citizenship is the gospel … and you need to now exercise your citizenship in a manner worthy of that oath.

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And to do that demands unity in the church, true unity in the church.

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First, chapter 2:1, the motivations for unity.

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  1. The Motivations for Unity

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And there are 4 motivations.

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Philippians 2:1 1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,

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EXP: After having come to Christ, have you experienced any encouragement? Has a brother or sister in Christ come alongside you and put their arm around you and try to lift you up and give you hope, confidence about your future?

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Has the Lord ever meet you in your deep time of need? And brought to you His promises that have boosted your spirits?

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Take the second one, consolation of love. Has any Christian ever come alongside you with great love for you and consoled you … Perhaps you are going through a trial or some sort of loss, pain … has the glorious presence of God ever come to you with wonderful joy and peace?

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How about any fellowship? A true sense of partnership all from the Holy Spirit’s work in and among Christians in our assembly…have you had that? A real experience of comrade-ery, like we’re all on the same team and a part of the same heavenly country, true brothers, sisters, fellow citizens of heaven?

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Or 4th… how about affection or compassion? Have you ever had at least some experience of tenderness or compassion? Have you exercised compassion or has anyone exercised that toward you? Maybe you offended someone and they forgave you? Or from the Lord… do you know His compassion and grace … do you experientially know the affection and compassion of God in the gospel of Christ? Has that had any impact on you?

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The comfort in times of sorrow, conviction and rebuke when in sin; comforts from love, true fellowship of the Holy Spirit … when it seems everyone else has abandoned me, at least I have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit with others…along with rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep…

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What benefits we have in Christ!

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APP: We have experienced that! Christians have experienced that! The people in the opening story … the Robertsons and Pastor Sanders … they have not experienced that at that church, but born again people have. And if you know Christ, you know these this!

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And if you know these things, unity will be true for you.

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TRANS: This is again, where the Gospel … particularly the benefits of the gospel, motivate your godliness:

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If you have experienced these four benefits of the Christian life, this is designed by God to motivate you to be unified with God’s people. And the more we as a church provide encouragement, love, fellowship, and compassion … the more our people will be motivated to be unified!

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What could you do to encourage someone today? Do you someone struggling underneath trial? What could you do to love another believer, or show that you are really with them and on their side?

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And in your activity in the church, ask yourself, “Do I want to do this out of motivation for self-advancement or Christ-advancement, His-church advancement?”

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When you do things like that, it makes them want to be close to you and close to the church you are a part of!

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And so now that you are motivated to unify, let’s look at the measure of unity … the measure of unity in verse 2.

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  1. The Measure of Unity (v.2)

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Just as there are 4 motivations for unity; there are 4 measures of unity. The apostle wants us to see the deep connection between these two verses. You’ll see it as we go through it … If you had those 4 spiritual benefits, let them motivate you verse 2 to …

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Philippians 2:2 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

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This is all internal isn’t it!

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They are to be first of all like-minded … Have you experienced love from others encouragement from others fellowship of the Holy Spirit as you relate with other Christians, have you had affection and compassion with other Christians? … Ok then, have the same mind … Have that same internal attitude as others have displayed to you.

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And maintain the same love. Love that was shown to you, show to others. Maintain that same love.

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And the third one, united in spirit, likely sums them all up. We are to be “spirit-joined.”

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ILL: We talk about people who are “joined at the hip.” What we mean by that is that they are always together, inseparable.

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But this word “spirit-joined” … “joined at the spirit” refers not to us always being together, but that our spirits are joined … This is internal, as …

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ARG: 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, “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.”

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This is an internal attitude of mind; a heart attitude, “joined at the spirit” same mind. In any church, people could get along on the outside, but on the inside, in the hearts, that’s a different story … there can so easily be outward getting along, but on the inside, in the hearts, there is too often deep-rooted division.

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ILL: People in many churches today are like potatoes in a burlap bag. You’re next to each other because you’re forced to be so by something external, namely a burlap bag. If the bag gets torn, however, you all come tumbling out. The unity of the potatos in the bag isn’t internal, it’s external. So when issues come, financial troubles arise, questions about leadership, because there hasn’t been an internal unity motivated by the love of Christ displayed among his people, there is a falling out, church in-fighting…and splitting.

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But biblical unity as described here is internal. “Spirit-joined”… joined at the spirit, same judgment, same mind, intent on one purpose.

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[2]As one commentator put it, we need to be more like a magnet. Metal shavings are attracted to the magnet because of something internal. They are unified because they are of one internal drive… our drive to be united is also internal … “spirit-joined” our heart and mind, is to be one. We should be close, like brothers and sisters …. and have the same mind and are going the same direction, intent on one purpose.

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And so when issues come, financial troubles, or questions about leadership … because there has been an internal unity motivated by the love of Christ displayed among his people, there is NOT a falling out, church in-fighting, or splitting… but there is humility, courtesy, unity, like-mindedness, patience … there is “a diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

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But in a lot of churches, there is outward unity, but on the inside, in the hearts, there is deep-rooted division…division over doctrine or lack thereof, over church practice, over policy, over the direction of the church…let’s not be potatoes in a burlap bag, but magnets and metal shavings, of one mind.

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ILL: And the Philippians themselves seem to be dealing with unity problems. They had to deal with false teachers in Philippians 3 … And they had to deal with members not being unified in Philippians 4 … Euodia and Syntyche … And who knows what these ladies were disagreeing about…they did share with Paul in his struggle for the gospel … but they weren’t living in harmony … perhaps they argued over who would sing the solo, or Euodia was gossipping about Syntyche, or Syntyche was power hungry over Euodia, or Euodia wanted her style of music and Syntyche wanted hers, or there was a long standing bitterness between the two, that wasn’t known except by them and Paul .. either way, that’s not unity. They must have forgotten all the benefits of being a Christ-follower in chapter 2:1… the encouragement, comfort, compassion … and so they weren’t motivated to be united.

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We need to be like how the church is described in Acts…

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ILL: Acts 1:14 The disciples were with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer

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Acts 2:46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

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Acts 4:24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord in prayer

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Acts 5:12 At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.

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Acts 15:25 The early church had to deal with whether the Lord wanted Law-keeping to be required for salvation, and they worked it out … and had “one mind” on the issue… no law-keeping required for salvation.

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APP: One accord, one mind, one purpose, “joined at the spirit” because of the encouragement in Christ, the comfort that love brings, the fellowship that the Spirit brings to a congregation, compassion, affection … because of this, they are together in all things. When there is disagreement, there is a unified spirit that works it out.

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TRANS/APP: But somebody says, “How do you get that?” First, you have to be motivated. I trust you see the joy of all of this … if not, you need to dwell long and hard on all the benefits of being a follower of Christ;

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You need to think about the body of Christ and how you’ve been ministered to through this body, the Fellowship, comfort, the help … All through Christ…

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And then you are going to have the desire to be unified verse2 … And and that will make you want to put into practice the method of unity verses three and four.

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When you’re motivated by the love and care of the local body of Christ, you’ll want to put into practice the measure of unity. And to get that unity, you’ll need to employ the method of unity: humility.

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  1. The Method of Unity (vv.3-4)

Philippians 2:3–4 3 [Negatively …] Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but [positively] with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 [negatively] do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but [positively] also for the interests of others.

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Paul gives us positive and negative aspects of the method of unity. In other words, you can’t have true unity … “spirit-joined” people without humility.

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First, take the negative commands.

negative: Verse 3, do nothing from selfishness. That word used to be a neutral term referring to a worker who is ready to be hired, but came to take on a negative connotation to mean someone who is ambitious for themselves. Ambitious … “I want this position,” or “I’m going to raise my voice on this so that I can be followed” … This is a desire for power, office….status in the church. No place for that!

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ILL: You remember back in Philippians 1:27, we are to strive together for the faith of the gospel. And that word “strive” had the word we get athletics from and it meant to contend for.

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We’re to strive, contend earnestly for the faith, but we’re not to have that attitude toward one another! Again sports … Basketball is kind of my sport and Lebron James, a basketball player for the Clevland Cavaliers has said that he is chasing the greatness of Michael Jordan, who is considered the greatest player of all time.

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That kind of spirit has no place in the church! We don’t try to one up each other in the church.

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ILL: I remember one young preacher who was in seminary at the time and he said, “I’m going to pastor the largest baptist church in America!”

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Folks, that’s sickening! That pride and conceit makes me want to vomit…

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And so do nothing from empty conceit, Paul says v.3: This is vainglory or a desire for praise. … “I preach or teach for the praise of men,” or “I serve in the church to be noticed, to be thought of as spiritual. And so the service you do offer in the church, if you’re full of empty conceit, you’d do it to be praised of men. You were selfishly ambitious to get the position and now you exercise that position for the cheap praise of men.

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If that is your temptation, you need to rebuke yourself and have safeguards up, and run from that as far as possible. You are not to minister to be noticed by people.

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And a big last one, verse 4, looking out for your own personal interests. Bad!

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The more people in the church are looking out for their own personal interests, the more divisive that church will be. They are self interested; they are not interested in the work of Christ in the church.

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If Paul the apostle were to be a member here, how would he support our church? How would he not look out for his own personal interests?

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And so don’t retreat into your own world; serve others, care for others, even when you don’t feel like it, look out for their interests too.

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ILL: C. S. Lewis made this insightful comment: “We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking, there would be nothing to be proud about.”

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And we could add, proud of being “more spiritual, more talented, more in the service to Christ”… this is looking out for your own personal interests … empty conceit.

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TRANS: And none of that will foster unity; only disunity. So, what do we need?

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Positively …

We need humility!

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Philippians 2:3 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

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Humility isn’t getting down on yourself all the time, it isn’t weakness either. It’s not a low esteem of yourself, it’s a not esteeming yourself at all! Constantly demeaning yourself is a false humility; it’s actually, pride. Because you’re absorbed with yourself.

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True humility is not thinking about your own interests, but primarily the interests of others. It’s the attitude of a slave, being there constantly for the service of others, not thinking of yourself.

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APP: You should make humility a spiritual project of yours. Have you ever done a study on it? Why should you? “Because God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” And without grace from God, what good is your life? But if you have humility, lowliness of mind, and an attitude that you are here for the service of others you’ll get grace.

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And Paul’s concern is that humility will empower your unity within the body of Christ. If you have it in your heart to be of service to others to look out for the interests of others, and not to be selfishishly ambitious, or doing things for the praise of men and you have a lowliness of mind and you’re regarding others as more important than yourself and you are looking out for the interests of others … If that is your internal state of mind, your attitude, you will have a magnet inside you that’s unified with the people of God.

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But if you’re proud you’ll have division, fighting, and a miserable church experience.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.1-4

Now, this isn’t anything novel. Christ himself was the one who gave us this example …Philippians 2:5 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

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…when He left His glorious throne above to be made in the form of a mere man….and to die for others…

The humility of God in the incarnation. If God can come to earth to die for us, surely if His Spirit resides in you, you’ll be empowered to have a degree of that humility.

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Folks, this is what rejoices the heart of any pastor, and makes his joy complete… when the mind of Christ, the attitude of Christ is deep in our hearts and we are empowered by all the joys of being followers of Christ and then we exercise humility toward one another.

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Humility-driven, Spirit benefit-enabled unity is part and parcel to a gospel-worthy life of a citizen of heaven.

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  1. http://www.wdsu.com/article/will-trump-clinton-divide-families-at-thanksgiving/8278570

  2. https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/50-12/the-motives-for-spiritual-unity