Conflict and Gospel Grace Reconciliation (2)
I was born in Idaho Falls in December of 1969. I grew up in a Christian home. I have practically spent my whole life in the Christian church in Idaho Falls. I am no stranger to the conflict that arises among brothers and sisters in this city. Conflict can occur over a number of reasons: (1) Bible doctrine issues, (2) different goals and philosophy of ministry, (3) miscommunications, (4) personalities, and (5) pride, etc. and etc. It is in the midst of conflict in Idaho Falls, where God asks us to trust Him, to glorify Him, and to be peacemakers among the body of Christ. Last week, we looked at how central to our Christianity is the pursuit of peace. And it is through our Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, that we are able to have peace with God and with one another. And our unity in the body of Christ is the best apologetic (defense) for establishing who Jesus is and the spreading of His salvation message. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. So last week, we started at ground zero in looking at what God tells us to do when we are hurt with a brother or sister. We can separate ourselves entirely from that brother, fight that brother, or pursue gospel grace reconciliation. God calls us to the latter. And at the very beginning of our hurt in our relationships with others, we should prayerfully consider how we can overlook what offended or hurt us by that other individual. Love covers the multitude of sins. But what if this is something that we can’t overlook and where we are currently not on speaking terms with that brother or sister? What should we do?
Today, let us continue in considering God’s steps for us as we desire for His glory to be manifested in gospel grace reconciliation. In this message, I am utilizing the helpful wisdom of Ken Sande, who lives in Billings, Montana. All Bible verses are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible.
Step Two – Let God search your own heart and point out His path to sanctify you. Ask yourself this question, “How can I show Jesus’ work in me by taking responsibility for my contribution to this conflict?” Let God show you how the inward hurt is revealing the emotional surrounding and protecting of an idol in your life. Jesus, the wonderful counsellor, tells us something very, very, very hard.
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:3-4
Notice how Jesus perfectly assesses the conflict: your brother’s speck and your plank.
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?” – James 4:1
What we get hurt about is what we treasure most. And it is the threatening or loss of that treasure (often very good desires) in our hearts that spur on the intensity of our hurt and the fight.
Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21
I know that when you are in the midst of conflict or loss, whether it is in your marriage or immediate family, on the job, or with a brother or sister in a church family, it is an easy tendency to bunker down and maintain your own right standing before God and others. Job did this in the Bible: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” – Job 23:10. “Let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity.” – Job 31:6. Job’s friends, such miserable counselors as they were, sought to point out sin in his life but to no avail. Job’s friends were pushing and applying orthodox truth and a remedy to the wrong person and situation. Of course, this wasn’t the problem in Job’s life. But in the middle of the great loss, Job did have a severe difficulty trusting the ways of God. At the end of the book of Job, God asks him question after question. He couldn’t answer one. And then in conclusion, God inquires of Job, “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it. Then Job answered the LORD and said: Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.” – Job 40:2-5. Job humbles himself before God. And this, brothers and sisters, is the start of his healing.
Likewise, David defended his integrity before God by saying, “You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.” – Psalm 17:3. But then David also prayed in other Psalms, “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.” – Psalm 26:2. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24. And so we should pray like this when we are hurt in the midst of conflict. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” – I John 1:8
What is it that you treasure most right now? Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I think about when I first wake up? Or when I go to bed at night?
- What is it that makes me the angriest during the week?
- Why am I so troubled by that circumstance or that other person?
- What do I feel is being threatened?
- What am I most passionate about?
- Who or what do I shed tears over?
- What is it that makes me the most depressed?
- What is it that I wish I had that I don’t have?
- Who or what am I trusting the most in the conflict?
- Who or what do I desire to talk about the most?
These questions that you would ask yourself in the midst of conflict might reveal a number of heart treasures: (1) position, (2) family relationships, (3) church family friendships, (4) pride in our service for the Lord, (5) personal independence, (6) emphasis of a particular ministry, (7) procedures, (8) personal spiritual gifts, (9) personal doctrinal interpretations, (10) safety, (11) reputation, (12) self-preservation, (13) security, (14) success, and (15) happiness, etc. and etc. These good treasures can be troublesome idols when they are elevated above Jesus. Conflict brings to the surface those personal heart treasures that the Holy Spirit is calling us to deal with and allow the Lord Jesus Christ to be sovereign over. Healing comes when we repent and let go of our personal treasures and let Jesus be King in our hearts and sovereign Lord in this city.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer” – Psalm 19:14.
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” – Psalm 141:3.
Let God do His work of sanctification in you in the midst of the trial.
So what if this other person in your life is continuing to make things difficult for you? “If he is an employee, it may be appropriate to fire him, and if he is an employer, you may need to look for another job. But what if the other person is your spouse, a child, a longtime friend, or a member of your church? These relationships should be not be easily forsaken, so when one of these people disappoints you, you will need to choose between two courses of action. On the one hand, you can trust God and seek your fulfillment in him (Ps. 73:25). You can ask him to help you to continue to grow and mature no matter what the other person does (James 1:2-4). And you can continue to love the person who is blocking your desire, pray for God’s sanctifying work in his or her life, and wait for the Lord to open the door for progress at a later time (I John 4:19-21; Luke 6:27). If you choose this course, God promises to bless you and, no matter what the other person does, to use your difficult situation to conform you to the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). But there is another course we often follow. We keep fighting to achieve our desire, dwelling on our disappointments, and allowing our desire and disappointments to control our lives.” – Sande.
In the conflict, you can follow the wrong path of “I desire, I demand, I judge, and I punish.”
David Powlison writes about the idolatrous judging that takes place in our hearts: “We judge others—criticize, nit-pick, nag, attack, condemn—because we literally play God. This is heinous. [The Bible says,] ‘There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy, but who are you to judge your neighbor?’ Who are you when you judge? None other than a God wannabe. In this we become like the Devil himself (no surprise that the Devil is mentioned in James 3:15 and 4:7). We act exactly like the adversary who seeks to usurp God’s throne and who acts as the accuser of the brethren. When you and I fight, our minds become filled with accusations: your wrongs and my rights preoccupy me. We play the self-righteous judge in the mini-kingdoms we establish.”
So going back to that initial question in step 2, “How can I show Jesus’ work in me by taking responsibility for my contribution to this conflict?” Let me suggest three critical areas.
- One of the biggest problems can be the use of your tongue.
“See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, world of iniquity.” – James 3:5b-6a
“There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.” – Proverbs 12:18.
Have you been complaining against the Lord’s people? “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.” – James 5:9
Be on guard against exaggeration. Is your communication only emphasizing your side of the story? “Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, for would you deceive with your lips? Do not say, ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.” – Proverbs 24:28-29.
Be careful not to gossip. “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no gossip, strife ceases.” – Proverbs 26:20.
Have your conversations been wholesome? “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” – Ephesians 4:29
- Another problem could be you are violating one of the most important commandments in the Bible – the golden rule.
“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” – Matthew 7:12
Here are some questions for you to consider:
- Would you want someone else to treat you the same way that you have been treating him?
- How would you feel if you found out people were saying about you what you have said about her?
- If your positions were reversed, how would you feel if he did what you have done?
- Ten years from now, would you feel right about you are doing right now with this person?
- And yet one more problem among other sins could be your submission to authority.
In America, we don’t like to submit to anybody, especially when we think that the authority is more corrupt than we are. But God enters the picture and states to you, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.” – I Peter 2:13-19
- Is my earthly authority causing me to sin personally?
- How can I be trusting God in the midst of whatever my earthly authority is doing or not doing?
- Am I becoming my own authority in this conflict, whether it is related to family, church, or American government?
We are out of time this morning, but we will pick things up again with step 3. . . .
Step Three – Going to your brother for gentle restoration. This is ongoing, loving, continual action for gospel grace reconciliation. Be going to your brother as many times as the Holy Spirit does in communicating with you over issues in your own life.
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” – Matthew 18:15