“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
The United Kingdom, by Randall D. Kittle

I remember watching an artist paint a picture in which they added new colors layer upon layer. First yellow, and then green, and so on until the picture was complete. Each new color highlighted a different part of the picture, and the true beauty and depth of the painting could only be seen after all the different colors had been added.

Similarly, the various expressions of the body of Christ show the depths of God’s love for mankind and His creativity. Though each believer expresses God’s love in a different light, we are one body with one Spirit. We have diversity with unity — a diversity of gifts and expressions, with a unity of heart and spirit.

Anyone reading the Bible would clearly understand that God’s kingdom is a united kingdom, for there is truly only one King — Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God has always been a united kingdom … and it will always be a united kingdom. His kingdom is more than just different groups of believers from across a city coming together for a special service. It is not a uniting together of multiple kingdoms — it is all those who have bowed their knee and given their allegiance to the King!

In Ephesians 4:3–6 the Bible clearly declares the unity of the Spirit we are to have:
“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.” This certainly sounds like one kingdom … not many small kingdoms just trying to work together. We can stand upon this verse and know that we are part of God’s United Kingdom, for we are all called together to one faith. How many faiths are we called to? ONE!

Not Like Procrustes
Let us rejoice that we are united together in love by such a gracious Savior. As the Lord renews our minds to see His United Kingdom and begins to bring unity to the body of Christ, it is important that we do not pursue uniformity. There is an ancient Greek legend of a bandit named Procrustes that illustrates the importance of this. Procrustes would force his victims to lie upon a certain bed. If they were shorter than the bed, they were stretched to the length of the bed; if they were too long, they were chopped off to fit. Yes, Old Procrustes would have uniformity no matter what the cost!

God is not desirous of us becoming “cookie-cutter” Christians. This is not His way of uniting His kingdom. One of the obvious signs of a cult is when everyone begins to look and act and talk like everyone else. Uniformity almost always degenerates into mediocrity because it destroys originality. God has called us to soar as eagles, not sit on a perch parroting what others have told us. God is the infinite Creator of the universe, and He has many different expressions within the body of Christ. Let us be what He has created us to be, while acknowledging that the full expression He desires can only be found as we become one United Kingdom!

The City-Wide Church
Another spiritual truth that goes hand-in-hand with this is that there is only one Church in a city. I am not speaking of my church or your church, but His Church. Which “church” am I a part of? The Church in Rockford! This is not just something cute to say, or some glib phraseology; it is a spiritual reality.

As God looks over a city, everyone who truly belongs to Him is part of His Church in that city. I am thankful for the different and various expressions of His Church throughout my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. Yet, there is truly only one Church in the city of Rockford. From God’s perspective, the body of Christ in any city is not divided; it is one. Let us echo the appeal of Paul,
“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

According to the epistles of Paul, there is only one Church of God in each city. When Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth, he wrote to the church which is at Corinth. When he wrote to the believers at Thessalonica, he wrote to the church of the Thessalonians. It is also notable that when Paul wrote to the believers in the Roman province of Galatia, which includes a number of cities, he addressed the churches in Galatia.

We need to boldly proclaim this fact. The more we profess this spiritual truth with our mouths, the more easily we will see it with our eyes. This will also help catalyze change in the understanding of others, so they can realize these truths as well. There is power in the confession of our lips, and we need to stop shrinking back from declaring this truth of His kingdom. Many would say this proclamation only causes others to question us.
Good … then we have opportunity to explain the truth that there is only one Church in each city, so others can more clearly understand.

Different … But One
As believers, we are part of God’s United Kingdom and we are also members of His Church in the city in which we live. While we may be comfortable with this from a biblical standpoint, we may not be very comfortable with it in the physical. We often feel uncomfortable when we are around those who are different than we are. Others with a distinct way of dressing or expressing themselves may make us feel uneasy.

This is as true for the Church as it is in the natural. Those who are expressive may be uncomfortable around those who are reverently quiet. Those with the gift of serving may feel awkward around those with the gift of teaching. Romans 12:4–5 says,
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Although we have various expressions with different functions, yet we are one strong and unified body.

Diversity & Divisions
Unfortunately, the sad truth is that the body of Christ in America is full of fighting and fragmentation in our day. We are not functioning as the United Kingdom Jesus has died to make us. These separations in the Church are visible at various levels in different areas. In some areas, you will see just a lack of cooperation, while in other areas you can observe active warfare — groups of believers attacking, tearing down, and slandering their brothers and sisters in Christ.

No war causes more damage, loss, or bitterness than a civil war. This was true for the United States Civil War with its huge loss of life, and bitter feelings that remain to this day. And it is also true for our spiritual civil wars when we attack and wound each other. “Friendly fire” has caused more wounds, loss of territory, and bitterness in the body of Christ than anything else.

God has made room in His Word for a wonderful variety of spiritual phenomena. It seems a bit arrogant for any one group to claim they have grasped it all. God will not allow Himself or His Spirit to be placed in any one denominational box.

In Ephesians 3:10, Paul describes the wisdom of God being
“manifold,” meaning: “complicated, many-sided, infinite and containing innumerable aspects.” Every aspect of God’s creation is diverse and multifaceted. Why should His Church be any different? The intricacies of our God require that His Church consist of various temperaments, personalities, and styles. To accommodate these diverse expressions, He has allowed for various “tribes” in His body that we call denominations.

It is important to realize that denominations don’t divide the Church … unless they are being empowered by a sectarian spirit. Sectarianism means:
“to divide, separate, or split apart.” It is a major obstacle to the Bible-ordained unity God’s Kingdom has and His Church should display. A sectarian spirit is one of the strong spirits operating in the Church in America, and we must stand against it, for it divides believers into opposing camps and creates separation and mistrust.

This sectarian spirit may have had its way in the Church for a long time, but its days are numbered and coming to an end. The household of faith being divided and separated is not God’s desire. Jesus said,
“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). The true “house of the Lord” can never be divided, will stand forever, and is about to be manifest on the earth.

An Inclusive Heart
Oswald Chambers said, “The division of the Church is to be deplored, and denominationalism is to be deplored, but we must not forget that denominations have reared up the best men we know.” It is not denominations that need to be done away with, but the lifting up of man-made traditions and stiff-necked spiritual pride. Individuals need to re-evaluate the motivation of their hearts. Francis Frangipane, in his book The House of the Lord, says that “God can use any church structure, if that congregation is seeking God.” You see, it is not the label of our church but the condition of the heart that matters.

Although the Machiavellian maxim says, “divide and conquer,” Satan also knows how to unite and conquer. To bring a nation to its knees, an aspiring dictator must first unite the people by appeals to national pride or some past wrong. Then comes “perfect unity,” which is really only uniformity.

One of the problems with uniformity is that it causes us to not only separate from others who aren’t like us, but to easily discount their gifts and discard them. Once while praying I saw a number of people from a church gathered in a room; some sitting in chairs and some standing, congregating around a round oak table. On the table were puzzle pieces spread out, and those gathered had just started to put the pieces together. After a number of pieces had fit together, the next piece, which looked like it should fit in, just didn’t seem to fit. It was decided this piece must be from a different puzzle and so it was tossed into the wastebasket. As time went on, it became easier to see where each piece went. Finally, with all the pieces used the large puzzle was complete … except for one piece missing near the center. Someone called out, “That’s the shape of the piece we discarded!” Some of the people began to dig through the wastebasket looking for the missing piece. Similarly, if we seek Satan’s substitute for unity — uniformity, we may easily discard others who are different and do not seem to fit, only to find out later how necessary they are.

Unity does not demand that Christians lay down personal traditional beliefs and worship together in a huge tent. Neither does it demand that everyone worship the same way nor accept the same experiences. But it does require unconditional love and acceptance of every believer who has Jesus as Lord. If we say we cannot fellowship with other streams within the body of Christ, we are saying we cannot fellowship with the Holy Spirit, for the same Spirit abides in all believers.
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body … and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). We must have an open, inclusive heart that looks at our common spiritual heritage and acknowledges that we are all subjects in the same kingdom and ruled by the same King. An exclusive heart lifts up its ideals, driving away others who are not the same; an inclusive heart lifts up Christ alone, which draws others in.

The Walls Shall Fall
God desires to speak hope to our hearts that there will be tangible, visible unity of the body of Christ. He wants us to look with expectancy to the day when this will be so clearly manifest that all will be able to easily see it.

One day as I was praying for the kingdom of God to come in more fullness, the Lord showed me a city from on high. In each little neighborhood, brick walls were jutting up, some just a few stories tall, but others extending high into the heavenly places. I could see how the community had been carved into many small fragments. These walls of sectarianism kept some people out of where they needed to go, and trapped others in from where they needed to depart.

Then the Lord said to me,
“Just as in the days of Jericho, I have ordained that these walls come crashing down. I have not called you to tear down these walls, but to simply do as I have told you, for the battle is the Lord’s. If you will simply look to Me and obey, the victory is assured. As I have revealed My desires to some, they have not understood, or have feared losing their ‘little kingdoms’ and have begun to build their dividing walls even taller. Do not fear or worry, for who can stand against the Lord? The battle is mine says the Lord, and the victory is sure.”

These huge sectarian walls seem so ominous and insurmountable. How can they ever be torn down and removed?

It would have been interesting to hear the conversations of the people inside Jericho as the Israelites started their “assault” as directed by the Lord. Israel’s battle-plan was to parade around this greatly fortified city carrying a big box hanging from some sticks, complete with a trumpet processional. I am sure there was more laughter than fear from those standing on top of those walls that were more than ten feet thick. But God had spoken to Joshua what Israel was to do and, as they were obedient, the walls crashed and crumbled. In fact, it says that the Israelites didn’t even have to climb over the rubble. The rubble was flat as they walked in. The sectarian walls that have caused disunion in city-wide Churches across America are going to come crashing down just as flat. Our God is no less powerful today than He was in the days of Jericho.

Re-United Cities
While it is God’s desire to bring the unity of His kingdom to the Churches in cities across North America (and indeed around the world), this may seem like little more than an unattainable wish. Let me remind you, it was not so many years ago that the Berlin Wall stood in the city of Berlin dividing the east and the west. Few people had predicted the crumbling of this portion of the “Iron Curtain.” I remember watching on television as the German people dismantled this impregnable barrier right before our very eyes. In a moment of time, the years of separation were over and the divided city was re-united.

I believe this was a prophetic sign of how God is going to
suddenly remove the barriers of division in our cities and cause His body to come together as one. In cities across the world, the sectarian walls that have stood as cold and formidable as sheets of iron will soon quickly be dismantled and destroyed. In what will seem like the blinking of an eye, believers who have been isolated in separate camps will be suddenly and dramatically re-united. The unity of the kingdom of God will rush into the Church causing many to feel uncomfortable and uneasy. Even so, Lord, come quickly!

His Unity
Why is the body of Christ in each of our cities going to become one? They are going to be one because two thousand years ago Jesus prayed for us — that we would be brought into complete unity. The Heavenly Father will not leave any of Jesus’ prayers unanswered. His prayer for unity is found in the seventeenth chapter of John. “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. I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me” (John 17:20–23). Churches across our cities are going to be one not because of our efforts, but because that was Jesus’ prayer for us.

This unity the Lord has called us to is not just seeking unity for unity’s sake. Jesus states the purpose for our unity twice in this verse. It is
to let the world know that the Father has sent the Son. It has often been said that the world will know we are Christians by our love. Jesus tells us here that the world will know the Heavenly Father sent Him because of our unity. As the Church begins to display the United Kingdom of God in these last days, it will be a strong testimony of the realness of our message — for only the supernatural power of God working in us could ever bring us to this place of oneness. Let us say yes to the Lord’s desire to make us one, so the world will know that our loving Heavenly Father has sent Jesus His Son.

The result of releasing God’s United Kingdom will not only be a testimony to this world, but a release of victory and power. Nearly every time Israel went forth into battle
“as one man” they were victorious. There is a strength we can only know when the army of the King presents the enemy with a united front. In city after city, as the sectarian walls crumble and fall, the united body of Christ will be much stronger than we ever imagined before, winning victories we couldn’t have even dreamed were possible. Remember, when the Holy Spirit fell in power to begin the Church “they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). From a position of unity will come new measures of power.

Pursuing Christ
How is this unity going to occur? It won’t occur because we somehow decide to spend a lot of time and energy trying to “put up” with each other. The kingdom of God is united not because each soldier is the same, but because every soldier is obedient to the Supreme Commander (the Holy Spirit) and has unwavering loyalty to the King. If we try to come together ecumenically on common ground before we can get closer to the Lord, we will never make any headway. However, if we all pursue the Lord, pressing into His presence to get closer to Him, we will also come closer to each other. Our focus is not to be on unity, but Jesus. As we press into Him, pursuing His presence, unity will be the fruit.

Jesus said the glory of His presence, which He imparts to us, makes us one.
“I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one” (John 17:22). If we are truly seekers of the Lord, when we meet someone who is from a different movement but who is pressing into God, we will sense the glory of God that is upon them. When we realize that God’s presence is with them, we will be drawn to them with loving acceptance. It won’t really matter the particular nuances of their theology or convictions, for in them we will see the glory of God and we will be drawn to Him.

For the Glory of the Lord
At the 1997 Promise Keepers’ Conference in Washington, D.C., Max Lucado challenged all the men gathered to shout their denominations as loud as they could. The result was an indistinguishable roar … little more than a loud noise. Then he asked them to shout once again, this time calling out the name of the One responsible for their salvation. The words “Jesus Christ” reverberated across our capital city.

Jesus Christ was glorified that day — not a man, a movement, or a tradition. Each man left that unified gathering to go back to his church to fulfill the mission God had for him. Whatever denomination, association, movement, etc. he is a part of is merely the platform from which he ministers, but Christ remains the foundation on which he lives.

Though the body of Christ has functioned like a skeleton made of disjointed, dry bones, in this hour our God is prophesying to these dry bones, blowing His breath of life upon them. He is proclaiming that the time has come for them to join together and come back to life. The walls of separation are about to fall, and His Church will stand as a vast and mighty army, showing forth His United Kingdom.

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