Conflict and Gospel Grace Reconciliation (4)

Let’s say that you have a conflict with a family member, a coworker, or another Christian in Idaho Falls that is not being fixed between the two of you.  You have talked to this person but issues have not been resolved.  And if you feel compelled that you are unable to let go of the issue, what would Jesus instruct you to do?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:15-19:

“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.  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.  But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.   Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Today, we are looking at our fourth message in this series on conflict and gospel grace reconciliation.  With today’s content, I am utilizing thoughts from Ken Sande in Billings, Montana, who leads a ministry focused on Christian peacemaking.  The Scripture references are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.

Step Four

So what is step four in the process of pursuing reconciliation in the midst of conflict?  You should pray about bringing one or two others to hear the conflict between you and that other person.

“We should try to keep the circle of people involved in conflict as small as possible for as long as possible.” – Sande

“I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.  And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.” (Philippians 4:2-3)

“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matter?  Do you not know that we shall judge angels?  How much more, things that pertain to this life?  If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge?  I say this to your shame.  Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?  But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!  Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another.  Why do you not rather accept wrong?  Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?  No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!” (I Corinthians 6:1-8)

Ken Sande provides a sample illustration of how to engage in initiating help from someone else in the conflict:  “Bob, I would prefer to resolve this matter just between the two of us.  Since that has not happened and because this involves issues that are too important to walk away from, my only other option is to obey what the Bible commands, which means asking some people from our churches to help us out.  I would prefer that we go together to get that help, but if you will not cooperate, I’ll ask for it by myself.”

It is in this conflict, two men can seek the help of a godly peacemaker, whether that might be another friend, neighbor, church member, or pastor.  Sometimes, this can extend out to continual sessions for counsel and prayer together.  The additional one or two also serve as witnesses to what they observe.  So what if there is no repentance?  What if there is no demonstration made to pursue God’s will and peace?  What if there is no display of humility in the issues of conflict?

Step Five

“And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.  But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

Share the conflict with the spiritual elders in your church.  The elders would desire to meet with those of you in conflict.  The elders might desire to consult as well with the one or two others that have met with you in the conflict.   You should listen to the counsel of the elders.

“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

The only times that you may disobey the elders is if they are clearly asking you to disobey Scripture.  For instance, Acts 4 states, “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:18-20). Peter and the other apostles declare in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

But going back to the elders’ instruction and counsel, if the elders witness unrepentance in regards to sin, this must be lovingly shared to the members of the congregation.  And the whole congregation must move together in church discipline towards an unrepentant member of the congregation.

Only God knows the true hearts of individuals, but a congregation must not allow one to continue as a member of the local fellowship when that individual is teaching contrary or living a contrast to the life and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So what would be examples of this in the Bible?

“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.  For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).

 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!  And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed, might be taken away from you.  For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  Your glorying is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  I wrote to you in my epistle not keep company with sexually immoral people.  Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.  For what have I do to with judging those also who are outside?  Do you not judge those who are inside?  But those who are outside God judges.  Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person (I Corinthians 5).

“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).

“But we command you, brethren, in the name of Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” (II Thessalonians 3:6)

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.  Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (I Timothy 5:19-20).

 “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.  Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).

In these passages, we have examples of those attacking essential doctrines of Christianity or living in notorious immorality.  When a church member is blatantly teaching that which is contrary to Scripture or living an ongoing, unrepentant life of sin, the local assembly is to move congregationally (a church vote) in removing the sinning person’s membership.

Is this loving?  Deitrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Nothing is so cruel as the tenderness that consigns another to his sin.  Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.”

Three concluding notes of caution:

  • Some in the practice of church discipline will wrongly call people (divisive) heretics and practice church discipline. Wrong application.
  • Some in the practicing of discipline will completely cut themselves off from those they have disciplined. They think only law and never offer gracious gospel to the one they disciplined.  This is a mistake.  Wrong heart motives.  We are to continue a loving, evangelical witness.
  • Some practice second, third, fourth degrees, etc. of separation. Their thinking is “I have separated myself from this person and so must you to the same degree.  If you don’t follow my example, then I will separate from you.” Wrong zeal.

In following these paths, we quickly lose the main purpose of love and gospel grace reconciliation.  We have become the Pharisees, and we place ourselves on a pathway of bitterness.

We must have hearts that pursue love, grace, peace, and forgiveness.

Ken Sande says forgiveness can be expressed with four promises: (1) I will not dwell on this incident. (2) I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you. (3) I will not talk to others about this incident. (4) I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

“Here is the ultimate weapon:  deliberate, focused love (cf. Luke 6:27-28; I Cor. 13:4-7).” – Sande

 “Bless those you persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  Be of the same mind toward one another.  Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.  Do not be wise in your own opinion.  Repay no one evil for evil.  Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.  Therefore ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14-21)

Peter says, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (I Peter 3:8-9).

Conflict and Gospel Grace Reconciliation (3)

Introduction:  Two brothers had two different personalities and goal.  The one brother talked to his dad.  The other brother talked to his mom.  This eventually caused the younger brother and his mother to scheme against the wishes of the father and the older brother.   The conflict brought a huge upheaval that eventually resulted in the formation of two separate nations.  Family conflict occurs in page after page of the book of Genesis.  And yet through the generational stories, gospel grace reconciliation trumps it all at the end of Genesis.  When we open up the book of Exodus, we read story after story of new conflict among the Hebrew people.  The Bible is the book that we must go to in giving us the guidance we need to deal with conflict.  We are in a Sunday morning series dealing with conflict and gospel grace reconciliation.  Today, we look at step three.   In review, step one calls us to overlook transgressions by others as the Lord does with us.  Step two urges us to search our own hearts and see how we might have contributed to the conflict.  Step three involves going to your brother or sister to talk about the conflict.  In this message, I am utilizing thoughts from brother Ken Sande in Billings, Montana.  Also, I am using the New King James Version of the Bible.

Step Three – Jesus tells us, “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

Elsewhere Jesus says, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24

So if you have a problem with your brother or you know that your brother has a problem with you then you need to get together and prayerfully seek God’s reconciliation in your relationship.

Before you decide to talk to your brother or sister?  Ask yourself these questions:

Is it dishonoring to God?  Is it damaging your relationship?  Is it hurting others?

“A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” – Galatians 5:9

Is it hurting the offender?

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart.  You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” – Leviticus 19:17

“Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.  If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?  He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?  And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” – Proverbs 24:11-12

“Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” – Proverbs 27:5-6; 9:8; 19:25; 28:23

“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20

“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

The Greek word for restore is katartizo – to mend, to repair, to equip, to complete, to prepare.

You should be 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.

“The Greek verb used for “go” in Matthew 18:15 implies a continual action.  If you don’t succeed at first, try to discern what went wrong, seek appropriate counsel, and correct your mistakes.  Give the other person time to think (and give God time to work), and then go again.  You should continue seeking to resolve the matter privately until it becomes apparent that further personal conversations are truly pointless or are likely to do harm.  At that point you should consider whether it would be wiser to overlook the matter entirely.  If doing so is inappropriate, you will need to seek help from others, leading to step four.” – Sande

So how do you prepare for such an encounter?

  1. First, you need to prepare your own heart. If you desire to promote peace, you will not rip into your brother but be humble and transparent before him about your own shortcomings.

Do you need to confess any of your sins as you talk with that other person?

Here are some example scenarios:

“Bill, I appreciate your forgiveness, and I will really work at controlling what I say in the future.  In fact, I’d appreciate it if you would let me know if you ever hear me talking like that again.  In the same way, I believe there are some things you could do differently in the future that might help to avoid similar problems.  May I explain what I mean?”

“Linda, there’s no question that my careless words contributed to this problem, and I am really sorry for aggravating you.  At the same time, I’m not sure you realize who you contributed to this problem.  As much as I would like to drop the matter, I’m afraid we’ll have similar problems again unless we get all of our concerns on the table.  May I explain how I see your conduct in this matter?”

  1. Prayerfully plan your interaction with that other brother or sister with these suggested guidelines.

Give the hope of the gospel.

“When someone has disappointed or offended me, my natural tendency is to come at them with “the law,” lecturing them about what they have done wrong and what they should now do to make things right.  This approach generally makes people defensive and reluctant to admit their wrongs, which makes a conflict worse.  The Lord is graciously working to teach me a better way to approach others about their failures.  Instead of coming at them with the law, I am learning to bring them the gospel.” – Sande

Look at what God has to say to the most schismatic church in the New Testament.

 “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” – I Corinthians 1:2-9

Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19-20

God’s wrath is always perfect.  We have the perfect illustration of Jesus cleansing the temple.  Also, God’s wrath is a perfect demonstration of His righteousness in the book of Revelation.  But our wrath is usually 99.9 percent of the time not perfect when we are engaging with other adult brothers and sisters.  The meekest man on the face of the earth, Moses, did not exhibit properly a righteous wrath with the complaining, carnal children of Israel.  We must take note of this.  We must learn to listen in the heat of conflict.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” – Proverbs 10:19

“A quick-tempered man acts foolishly” – Proverbs 14:17

“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” – Proverbs 16:32

“He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” – Proverbs 17:27

“He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” – Proverbs 18:13

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” – Proverbs 15:28.

Seek to agree

When in conflict with that family member, or friend on the job, or church member, is there anything that they are saying which you can agree with about yourself?

“Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it.” – Psalm 141:5a

“The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise.  He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.  The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.” – Proverbs 15:31-33

“But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” – Ephesians 4:15

Use the Bible carefully 

This is critical.  Don’t use it to tear down a brother or sister.  Use the Scripture in proper context and to the proper situations.

Recognize your limits

“Finally, whenever you are trying to show someone his fault, remember that there are limits to what you can accomplish.  You can raise concerns, suggest solutions, and encourage reasonable thinking, but you cannot force change.  God may use you as a spokesperson to bring certain issues to the attention of another person, but only God can actually penetrate the other person’s heart and bring about repentance.  Paul clearly describes this division of labor in 2 Timothy 2:24-26: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (emphasis added).  As we have seen throughout this book, God calls us to be concerned with faithfulness, not with results.  If you prayerfully prepare, speak the truth in love, and do all you can to effectively communicate your concerns to the other person, you will have succeeded in God’s eyes regardless of how others respond (Acts 20:26-27).  God will take it from there—in his time your words will produce exactly the results he wants.” – Sande

Next week, we will conclude this Sunday morning series on conflict and gospel grace reconciliation by looking at step four (involving one or more witnesses) and step five (taking the conflict to the church).

Conflict and Gospel Grace Reconciliation (2)

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:

  1. What do I think about when I first wake up? Or when I go to bed at night?
  2. What is it that makes me the angriest during the week?
  3. Why am I so troubled by that circumstance or that other person?
  4. What do I feel is being threatened?
  5. What am I most passionate about?
  6. Who or what do I shed tears over?
  7. What is it that makes me the most depressed?
  8. What is it that I wish I had that I don’t have?
  9. Who or what am I trusting the most in the conflict?
  10. 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.

  1. 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

  1. 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?
  1. 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

Conflict and Gospel Grace Reconciliation (1)

What do you do when you are in the middle of conflict?  It is natural to be overcome by the big problems and lose sight of the big God.  Actually, your big God completely engulfs any of your problems.  God would tell you to do three things when in the middle of conflict.  And let me acknowledge that I am utilizing helpful thoughts and structure by a Christian brother named Ken Sande who lives in Billings, Montana.  All Bible references are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV).

1. First of all, trust God

God is sovereign.

Scripture reminds us over and over again, “The LORD shall reign.” – Exodus 15:18.  Indeed, our God does reign.

Over nations.  Over cities.  Over Idaho Falls.  Over churches.  Over marriages.  Over every individual life in this room. “Every conflict that comes into our lives has somehow been ordained by God.  Knowing that he has personally tailored the events of our lives and is looking out for us at every moment should dramatically affect the way we respond to conflict.” – Sande

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen.” – I Timothy 1:17

God is good.  (Yes, all the time, God is good)

“God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God.  Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; for You render to each one according to his work.” – Psalm 62:11-12

The more confidence we have that God is both sovereign and good, the meeker we can be.  Meekness is an attitude toward God that causes us to accept all his dealings with us as being good, and thus to accept them without resistance or resentment (Rom. 8:28).  A meek person is content and thankful no matter what his circumstances (Phil. 4:12-13), because he sees that God has already given him everything he needs in Christ (Matt. 5:5; Romans 8:31-32).  Thus, instead of thinking, “I’m missing out; it’s not fair,” a meek person thinks about and gives thanks for God’s goodness, mercy, power, and provision (Acts 4:23-31; 5:40-42; 7:59-60; John 18:11).  Meekness has nothing to do with weakness, for both Moses and Jesus are described in the Bible as being meek (Num. 12:3; Matt. 11:29).  In fact, meekness has sometimes been referred to as “power under control.”  This quality is highly commended throughout Scripture (Ps. 37:11; Matt. 5:5).  Meekness has a direct impact on our dealings with other people, especially in the midst of conflict.  Knowing that God works for good in all things, a meek person is able to endure mistreatment from others with patience and without resentment or bitterness.  Because this attitude does not come to us naturally, we need to pray that the Holy Spirit will work steadily to help us to become meek.” – Sande

What thoughts have you been thinking about God throughout this past week?  Certainly, what you are thinking about God has direct bearing on your horizontal relationships with one another.

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” – Colossians 3:1-2

I would encourage you to wake up each morning and meditate on the attributes of God; likewise, when you go to bed at night.

2. Secondly, seek ways in how you can glorify God

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.  Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” – I Corinthians 10:31-11:1

How can you honor and please the Lord in the middle of conflict?  How can you glorify God?   Rather than being continually upset or fearful by what you think is going down in the conflict, seek how you can grow and glorify God in the midst of the conflict.  This is the whole purpose for why God is allowing it.  Your good and His glory.

As other people watch you in conflict, what fruit of the Spirit do they see? “And we labor, working with our own hands.  Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat.  We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.” – I Corinthians 4:12-13.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23

“That the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience . . . the older women . . . reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things . . . young women . . . to love . . . discreet, chaste . . . young men . . . sober-minded . . . sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” – Titus 2:2-8

3. Third, be a peacemaker

Think about what your natural tendencies might be in conflict.  To escape from others?  To leave them? Or to fight others? And to shut them down?  Both responses add more hurt.  In one verse, we see both of these natural responses in chosen Abram’s family:  “And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.” – Genesis 16:6.  An escape or fight response usually ends in KYRG:  Kiss your relationship goodbye.   Thankfully, God stepped into the middle of this.

Now there are instances where you might need to step down or step aside to give God time to work in your heart.  To calm down.  To pray.  To rest.  To let God redirect your thoughts.  I can understand this.  And also, flight is good when one’s physical life is in grave danger.  But here is the Lord’s way.  Don’t permanently leave your marriage, your family, your brother or sister, or your church family.  Let God do His ongoing work in you and those around you.

In the midst of the conflict, commit yourself to resist fleeing or fighting.  Resolve in your heart to do this – what God desires of every one of you.  Be a peacemaker.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . those who mourn . . . the meek . . . those who hunger and thirst for righteousness . . . the merciful . . . the pure in heart . . . Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” – Matthew 5:3-9

Seek to be a fulfillment of your Lord’s prayer for you.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” – John 17:20-23

“As death drew near, the Lord focused on a single concept he knew to be of paramount importance for all those who would believe in him.  He did not pray that his followers would always be happy, that they would suffer, or that their rights would always be defended.  Jesus prayed that his followers would get along with one another.  This was so important to him that he tied his reputation and the credibility of his message to how well his followers would display unity and oneness.  Read his prayer once more and think about how important unity is to him.  Is it equally important to you?” – Sande

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 15:5-7

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” – I Corinthians 1:10

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:1-3

Endeavoring – “The Greek word that is translated “make every effort” in this passage means to strive eagerly, earnestly, and diligently.  It is a word that a trainer of gladiators might have used when he sent men to fight to the death in the Coliseum: “Make every effort to stay alive today!” So too must a Christian agonize for peace and unity.  Obviously, token efforts and halfhearted attempts at reconciliation fall far short of what Paul had in mind.” – Sande

“Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” – James 3:18

In conflict, we are to (1) trust God, (2) glorify God, and (3) be peacemakers.

Now, the Bible does give us a plan (a path of clear steps) in how to go about resolving conflict and seeking gospel grace reconciliation.  In this sermon series, we are going to look carefully at the gradual increase of steps of a clear gospel plan that God has laid out in His Word.  In this message, we only have time for considering step one.

Step One – Ask yourself some questions in light of these verses.  How big should this issue be to me personally?  Could I just put the issue that I have with my brother or sister and my personal hurt over this before the cross of Jesus?  Do I need to even talk to the one I feel hurt with about this?  Sometimes, in our hurt, we make things that are small very big.  And then we enlist others to join in on our hurt.  Maturity comes by how we can overlook personal offenses against us.

  • “Do not strive with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm” (Proverbs 3:30).
  • “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins (Proverbs 10:12).
  • “A fool’s wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame (Proverbs 12:16).
  • “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
  • “The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts” (Proverbs 17:14).
  • “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression (Proverbs 19:11).
  • “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears” (Proverbs 26:17).
  • “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).
  • “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things” (Romans 14:1).
  • Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Corinthians 13:4-7).
  • “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
  • Bearing with another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).
  • “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (I Peter 4:8-9).

If you are short-suffering with another person, how do you think that other person will naturally respond back toward you? Why are you so short-suffering with that other person?  Is God that way with you?  Look at what you have thought wrong or said wrong this past week.  Look at what you did that you shouldn’t have done or at what you should have done that you did not do.  Did you repent over every sin that you committed this past week?  If you haven’t repented over every offense this past week that you have committed, what has God done with those sins?  I will tell you.  It is His love that covers the multitude of your sins.  Such glory.  Such love that pours from the heart of our Father.  And it is up to you through the presence of Christ in your life to respond the same way to one another.