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Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 1
Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 2
Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 3
Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 4
Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 5
Ministry Of Reconciliation Part 6

 

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Ministry of Reconciliation

 part II

 

At the base of every conflict that we have as human beings between each other, the root cause is in our conflict with God

 

“For those of you who weren’t here last week, this is the second in the series of sermons that we’re going to be going through, probably take about four sermons to cover, and even then we won’t cover everything that’s involved in it.  But we’re talking about the ministry of reconciliation and what that means.  It is a core doctrine of the Scripture.  It is a core understanding of an important aspect of the Gospel.  And Paul told the church at Corinth that he was sent by Christ to be a minister of the ministry of reconciliation.  And he said, it was as if God was pleading through him to those people, to be reconciled to God.  And we talked about reconciliation, we talked about how last week that reconciliation doesn’t mean that there’s conflict between people and they learn to get along.  That’s not what this is talking about.  Reconciliation has to do with conflict, because it has to do with individuals who are separated.  But it has to do with restoration of a relationship.  God is not interested in simply forgiving us, and then we just sort of get along with God.  The core of the understanding of the ministry of reconciliation is God’s desire to restore us to a relationship with him as his children.  And we went through last time and we showed that we are the children of wrath.  Let’s go to Romans 8:7, because this is our starting point.  There are a couple of important premises that we have established, and this is one of them.  In fact, this is the starting point.  I said we were going to talk about conflict between husband and wife, and conflict between children and parents, and conflict between employees and employers, conflict between members of the Church, conflict between neighbours.  We are going to talk about conflict, and the concept of reconciliation.  And I talked about five major causes of dysfunctional conflict.  There’s always going to be disagreements.  God never, by creating us all different from each other, there’s always going to be disagreements.  You and your wife may never agree on what color that couch should be.  You may compromise with something, or one of you may get the couch, guys.  Let her get whatever color she wants, that’s the smart thing to do.  But, you may never agree on that.  There’s always going to be disagreements.  But we’re not talking about that when we talk about conflict the way we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about dysfunctional conflict, conflict that destroys relationships.  And out of those five major causes of conflict, this is number one.  This is at the root of every conflict between you and me, and you and each other, this is why there’s riots going on in the Middle East, this is why there’s wars taking place, this is why there is conflict between human beings.  And until we deal with this one, we will never truly completely deal with the other ones.  Verse 7 of Romans chapter 8, “But the carnal” natural “mind is enmity against God;  for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”  In other words, at the base of every conflict that we have as human beings between each other, the root cause is that every one of us is in conflict with God.  And until that one is fixed, until that conflict is changed, we will never truly change all other conflicts.  We will simply despise each other, hurt each other, tear each other apart, we will gossip about each other, we will never solve those conflicts until this one begins to be solved.  I say begins to be solved because one of the things we’re going to look at today is that even though this is the natural mind, is the enemy of God, you and I were the enemy of God, every human being---and you know, this is hard sometimes for people who grew up in the Church and accept [Jesus Christ as their Saviour], they just grew up with this way of life, they had this way of life, you know, it became sort of natural, ‘oh we get baptized,’ and say, ‘I’m sorry for my sins.’  But I think many times we’ve never even at baptism fully recognized that we have an innate hostility towards God.  And it’s in every one of us.  ‘Oh no, I love God.’  No, the natural mind is the enemy of God.  We may like some of the things he does, we may even agree with some of the things he does, which is pretty arrogant, just to say that, isn’t it.  ‘Oh yea, I agree with God.’  But we’re hostile towards him.  And we can’t be subject to his Law.  We automatically see the Law as something that hurts us, keeps us from what we really want, and it’s something bad, it’s something evil.  That’s the way it is for human beings.  This is why one of the most common teachings in the Protestant world today is, “the Law was done away with.”  Why?  Because the carnal mind, the natural mind, can’t be subject to it.  And the carnal mind is hostile towards God.  That conflict is the basis of all conflict.  Now I covered that last time.  There’s some very important premises was talked about last time.  If you missed that, please go online, and I don’t know if it’s online yet, go online, and listen to that sermon.  Because there’s important premises that we’re going to move on with today, and the next two sermons it’s going to take to cover all of this.  Because we were the enemy of God by nature, we were the children of wrath.  It wasn’t just something we did.  ‘Oh yea, I did some sins.’  It wasn’t just something we thought, ‘Oh yea, I had some wrong thoughts.’  By our very nature, at the core of who you were, and at the core of who I was, we were the children of wrath, we were the enemies of God.  I went through and showed how God saw us as abominations.  And that there’s this huge chasm between God and us.  We were created to be the children of God.  And we were not the children of God, we were by nature the children of wrath.  Now to be the children of God is not just a relationship, to be the children of God means we must develop into us the nature of the children of God.  And that’s why Christianity is more than just the things we do, and it’s more than just the doctrines we believe.  True Christianity is becoming a child of God.  So, behavior is very important in that, doctrine is very important in that.  But you can be behave a certain way, and you can believe a certain way, and still not be a child of God.  Because to truly be a child of God, our nature has to be changed.  And you and I were absolutely in a place where we could not get out of.  You and I were doomed, God himself condemned us to death, and we had no way out.  The chasm between us and God is absolutely huge, there’s no way to get across it.  As I said last week, ok, understand, this is like the Grand Canyon, and to get to the other side where God is, we think we just get enough of a running start and jump.  We can’t make it.  There’s no way for us to reach across that chasm, because our nature is corrupt.  And this is the core of all conflict.  The core of all conflict is our conflict with God.  We were his enemies.  We saw him as an enemy, he saw us as an enemy.  And brethren, I fear that we’ve never faced that.  Many of us have never come to grips with our hostility towards God.  And so spiritually we’re stuck.  At the core of who we were, hostile towards God, the enemies of God.  So what did God do?  Because God had to do something.  God had to cross over the chasm.  And we read last time, and we’re just recapping where we covered last week.  He sent Jesus Christ, divine nature, into a corrupt human nature.  He had to reach across the chasm.  Mr. Armstrong used to call it “the gap.”  How does God get across the gap to us?  How do we cross that chasm?  We can’t.  So Christ came to earth, he crossed the chasm for us, and paid a horrible price so that God would forgive us of our sins.  Now we know that.  It’s all about the Passover.  The ministry of reconciliation is all about the Passover.  So he crossed the chasm.  We went through Philippians, where it says he gave up, he gave up his divine privileges to become human.  He really was human.  Now it was an uncorrupted human nature, but he was human, a divine nature in a human body.  He knew what it was like to get sweaty, and dirty, tired, and hungry.  And just read through the New Testament, he was always in conflict with someone.  In fact, when we get into the next couple sermons we’ll show how he dealt with some conflicts.  He was always in conflict with somebody.  You know, corrupt human nature, nobody got it.  Nobody totally understood him, even his own disciples.  Because corrupt human nature is always a mixture of good and evil.  Pure good they didn’t get [understand].  And what happened over and over again?  You see Christ’s frustration with them.  You know, just human frustration.  Yet as God he had never had an adrenaline rush.  He did as a human being.  He never experienced the chemical reaction to frustration before, he did as a human being.  He became flesh.  And then we went through the Scriptures that tells us, not only did he do it for the forgiveness of our sins, but ‘while we were yet enemies, while we were still the enemies, before we ever repented, before we ever acknowledged we were wrong, before we ever understood we were wrong, before we ever understood our nature was corrupt---he died for us, to reconcile us to God.’  This isn’t just about having our sins forgiven.  It is about us being brought back into our original purpose, so that we are no longer by nature the children of wrath, but we become the children of God.  And to do that, that core conflict between us and God has to be healed.  And you and I couldn’t do it, because we were his enemies.  We weren’t going to go to God, so God came to us.  He came across the chasm.  And that’s what we’ll be celebrating in about a month, Jesus Christ coming across the chasm, Jesus Christ becoming physical, so that he could begin to heal his enemies.  Think about that one.  Think about what it means to cross the chasm.  As I said before, or last week, we think it’s so wonderful, because it says ‘For a righteous man someone may die,’ Paul said, ‘but for his enemies will someone die?’  But that’s what Christ did.  To understand what he did, is not to compare to the, we see all the time where someone in combat jumps on a hand grenade to save his buddies.  No, this is being in a room full of people that hate you, a room full of people who torture you, a room full of people who spit on you, who hate your guts, who are hostile towards you, and you drop on the hand grenade to protect them.  Then you understand Jesus Christ.  While we were enemies, he did what he did, to reconcile us to God.  This is at the core of the ministry of reconciliation.  And eventually we’ll have to show how this deals with how you and I deal with each other.  Because the ministry of reconciliation expands out from what God is doing through Christ to bring us to him. 

 

Christ Died So That We Can Be At Peace With God

 

Now, Jesus Christ jumps across the chasm, Isaiah chapter 52, we’ll read some at the Passover service, or we’ll read all of it.  But Isaiah 52, starting in verse 13, here we have one of the most detailed Messianic prophecies in the entire Old Testament that talks about the first coming of the Christ, and why God was doing it.  Verse 13 says, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.”  It talks about how he had to be beaten to the point, and marred to the point that you will not even be able to tell that he’s a man.  You know, interesting enough, we were made in the image of God.  Because we are a mixture of good and evil, because our human nature is corrupted, and that’s at the core of this, corrupt nature, because of that, we are marred images of God.  Jesus Christ had a perfect nature, divine nature in a human body.  In order for us to understand what has happened to us, he physically was marred to the point, and the word here is “marred,” he was physically marred to the point that you couldn’t tell he was a human being, just like you and I, our nature was so marred, so twisted, so different from what it was designed to be, that when God looked at us, we weren’t his children.  God didn’t say ‘There’s my child.’  God said, ‘This is a child of wrath, a child of anger, a child of hatred, a child of war, a child of conflict.’  Verse 15 says that he sprinkles many nations.  You go through chapter 53, it talks about how he would just look like every other person, there was nothing about him that you would say ‘Wow, there’s somebody special,’ he looked like any other Jew of his day.  Verse 3 says, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:  and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”  He is in conflict with the very men and women that he was sent to reconcile to God.  The conflict between human beings and God is exemplified in what human beings did to the One who crossed the chasm.  He says “a man of sorrows” and we think, ‘Well Jesus must have been happy all the time.’  Actually, he could not be, it is not possible to have a divine nature, and live in a sin-filled world, and feel happy all the time.  ‘He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,’ he says, ‘we hid as it were our faces from him, he was despised, and we did not esteem him.’  Verse 4 says, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.”  He’s come to take that on himself, yet he “carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”  (verses 4-5)  Now I want you to notice this, because one of the main premises we set last week was, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”  This is about how to be the children of God, and the children of God are peacemakers.  The children of wrath are conflict-makers.  Now none of us are totally the children of God yet.  This is the problem.  We still have corrupt human nature.  We’re still battling it.  But we need to understand where the core of our issues come from.  You know, husband and wife trying to figure out where to go on vacation, and having a disagreement is normal.  Screaming and hollering and shouting at each other starts with their conflict with God, and ends up with a conflict with each other, because of our nature.  Look, it says “the chastisement” for our what?  “our peace”, so that there’s no longer war between us and God.  ‘The punishment for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.’  He paid the price of our war with God, so that we can learn peace and no longer be at war with God.  Notice verse 10, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief:  when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”  God said ‘I am pleased with this.  I am pleased with the way,’ now this tells us something about the love of God, ‘I am pleased with the way my Son suffers for my enemies.’  When we start to understand the ministry of reconciliation, and how it breaks down, and how you and I are supposed to live, you and I don’t live this way.  But we need to, if we wish to be the children of God.  It pleased God for Christ to suffer, to reconcile his enemies, so that they were no longer the children of wrath.  So Jesus crosses this chasm.  But you know what?  We’re still the children of wrath, aren’t we?  He hasn’t changed our nature only by coming and dying for us, or even by being resurrected.  Something has to happen.  And the first thing that has to happen is we have to recognize our hostility towards God, we have to recognize that as we read in another place where Paul wrote, ‘he died for us while we were yet sinners,’ we’re filled with sin, which is rebellion against God, we’re filled with our own ways, and that that has motivated us to live certain lives.  We must repent, we must accept that he came across the chasm, we must accept who he is, we must accept the price that was paid, so that our hostility could be removed. 

 

So How Do We Repent?

 

So how did we repent?  Now we learn another important point here about reconciliation.  Romans chapter 2.  Romans chapter 2, because we will have to get to a place here in the future when we’ll discuss how do you do this? in life towards people.  Romans 2, verse 4, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”  He says, ‘Do you remember God’s approach to this thing?---His goodness, his forbearance, his longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?’  You see, why did we repent?  Did we repent because we were just such good guys?  Did we repent because we said ‘You know, I repented because my nature wasn’t as hostile as this other guy’s.’  Why did we repent?  Because God’s goodness led us to repentance.  At some point we saw God, we saw his greatness, his goodness, his love, and we said ‘That’s not what I am, I’m hostile towards you, I accept the price you paid, and I wish now to be brought into relationship with you.’  It is his goodness that brought us to repentance.  [Comment:  That sounds a lot like the Gospel of Salvation.  See: http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel%20.htm]  Remember as I said, if God’s approach to us was this, ‘I’ll forgive you when you say you’re sorry,’  we would all go to the lake of fire.  God’s goodness said, ‘I will do this for you, when you were a sinner, I will do this for you, while you’re my enemy.  I will show you what goodness is, I will show you what righteousness is, I will suffer, as the offended party I will suffer for the good of the offender,’ and he put his hand out.  That’s God.  Repentance was, we reached out and took his hand.  But it was his hand that was stretched out.  It was his hand that came across the chasm.  It was his price to be paid to stop the hostility that we have towards him.  And it was his goodness that brought us to repentance.  Now repentance still is our response.  It is required.  God’s, Christ’s sacrifice, is that enormous sacrifice, that suffering, that becoming a human being, going through torture and death and resurrection, all that, being hated by his own disciples, being, you know, in the end, nobody stayed with him.  In the end he was alone.  Everybody, every human being ran away, or hated him.  That’s all he had.  And that price, what he did, requires us to respond to it, to receive it.  Forgiveness is always offered by the offended person, the offended person.  Relationship requires forgiveness.  These two things have to work together.  Remember that, forgiveness is Christ-like behavior from the person who has been offended.  Repentance then helps restore relationship.  The Biblical concept of repentance is a reasoned understanding of God’s standards of good and evil, coupled with feelings of regret from living in rebellion against those standards and in living in rebellion against God.  So it’s an understanding of God’s standards, and there’s an emotional aspect that ‘I’m sorry I did this.’  And it is then an acceptance of the price that Christ paid, and a willingness to give up self-determination [ie a willingness to live God’s way and not our own].  We’re going to talk about that in a minute.  Remember one of the four great motivations is our need of self-determination, our need to control.  It’s one of our four great motivations.  A change of nature means our motivations have to change.  There are people who obey the Law of God for wrong motivations.  That’s why in the New Testament, it says the problem with ancient Israel, they obeyed but without faith.  In other words, they tried to obey, but they did it for the wrong motivation.  So we have to understand the motivations here. 

 

The Change Of Nature Is More Than A Change Of Behavior---We’ve Entered Into An Internal Conflict Within Ourselves

 

The change of nature is more than change of behavior.  It is change of nature, it is a change of the core of what we are and who we are.  And that’s what true Christianity is, it goes through layers and layers and layers, as we learn, as we grow, until it gets down to the absolute core and heart, in those dark rooms of our minds that we don’t let anybody else in, and God kicks the doors down.  Because that has to change too.  Just because Christ came across the chasm doesn’t mean we get across the other way.  So we repent.  But after repentance, we still can’t get back across the chasm.  So what God has to do is God has to give us his Spirit, so that we learn to submit to a new nature.  Jesus Christ was the divine nature in an uncorrupted human nature.  You know what you and I are?  A corrupted human nature, in which God puts his nature into.  You and I have a corrupted human nature and a divine nature inside of us [if you are a Holy Spirit indwelt believer in Jesus Christ].  So wait a minute, a divine nature?  Holy Spirit.  Whose Spirit is it?  It’s God’s.  1st Peter chapter 1, 1st Peter chapter 1.  1st Peter chapter 1, verse 2, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:  grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”  Now you notice where he starts from, he starts his entire argument that the people of God are the elect, and they are sanctified by the Spirit, they are cleansed, they are made holy by the Spirit, for the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ they’ve been reconciled.  The blood of Jesus Christ allows this to happen.  “Grace be unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”  Verses 3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,…”  Let’s go to 2nd Peter.  Because this isn’t where I want to be.  2nd Peter chapter 1, but that was a great section…verse 2, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:  whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises:  that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”  Now, by this very statement, you and I are in conflict.  We were in conflict with God, and everybody else that didn’t do what we wanted.  Now you’re in conflict with yourself.  I know I’ve told this story before, but many, many years ago a person came to me and said they weren’t going to see their professional counselor anymore, and I said “Why?”  The person said, “Well, I’ve been talking about this anxiety, and for months I’ve been going and seeing this counselor, and this counselor kept asking me to explain, and asking me to explain, asking me to explain.  And finally after months and months of therapy, the counselor said, ‘Well I’ve been able to analyze your problem, it’s actually very, very simple.  You’re in constant conflict inside yourself, because part of you wants to obey the Bible, and part of you doesn’t.  So just throw out the Bible and do what you want, and you’ll be happy.’”  And the person told me with a big smile, “I realized I wasn’t sick, I’m a Christian!”  [laughter]  We’ve entered into an internal conflict here.  Because you and I haven’t given up all that hostility yet.  You and I still have part corrupt human nature.  And we don’t want to recognize that.  We want to believe since we have the divine nature we can sort of trust ourselves.  And you can’t, and I can’t.  We can’t trust ourselves.  Because that divine nature is changing a corrupted human nature, which at its core is what?---enmity against God, and cannot be subject to his laws.  This is why our initial reaction to almost any instruction or correction from God is what?  Negative.  Almost every time we have an instruction or correction from God, our first reaction is negative, it’s anger, it’s hostility.  Why?  Because at the core, we still have some of that, we still have some of it.  So now we become partakers of the divine nature.  We receive God’s Spirit.  This is why we make such a big issue out of, at the Passover, when you partake of the bread and wine, you should be, #1, you should have repented, and gone through repentance counseling with a minister of God, you should have been baptized and had hands laid on you to receive the Holy Spirit.  You say ‘Why do we make such a big thing out of that?’  Because when we take that bread and wine, what we’re saying is, “I have received the divine nature, I have done everything that was required of me by Jesus Christ to be reconciled to God.”  To take that lightly is a very serious issue. 

 

The Beginning Of Repentance, Spiritual Growth

 

1st Corinthians 2, now, here’s where, if God gives us his Holy Spirit, we begin to see things, we begin to understand things more like he does.  [We actually begin to understand the Bible when we read it, which people in the world can’t seem to be able to do, not matter how hard they try.]  So what do we usually begin to do?  We begin, first of all, to keep the Law.  So we begin to not steal, we begin to be honest, we begin to honor our parents, we begin to keep the Sabbath, we begin to do those things because God leads us there.  Through his Spirit, we can now be subject to it.  We find that we can obey it, because the divine nature helps us do that, as we submit.  1st Corinthians chapter 2, verses 11-13, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?  even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”  You’ve heard this many times.  “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”  Now notice verse 14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:  for they are foolishness unto him:  neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  The idea that we have to find the hidden god within ourselves, which is the New Age movement, the apostle Paul says, you will find an inner god within yourself (remember what I talked about last week?).  We all have made ourselves as gods, we live life as gods and goddesses, we determine how other people will treat us.  We determine how we will be worshipped, we will determine how we will worship God.  And we try to enforce that on everybody.  And here he says the natural man can’t even understand what God is talking about.  The natural mind gets bits and pieces of it, bits and pieces.  Why?  Because we’re a mixture of good and evil.  Some people are just better than others.  Man, there’s some people that just have more good than others, and they get bits and pieces of what God teaches.  And that’s wonderful, because I’ll tell you what, when anybody figures out something that God teaches, they get a blessing from it.  But that’s not what Christianity is all about.  I had a very long talk with a Catholic theologian recently, Mr. Vincent Thomson and I, I had a long talk with this man.  He said we should search for the commonality between religions.  And I told him, as I’ve told you before about the time I talked to the Hindu philosopher, and he said the three greatest Hindus were Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Mother Theresa, because they all had discovered the hidden god within themselves.  And this Catholic theologian was quite excited, ‘See, there’s the commonality we have!’  No, there is no hidden god within each of us, there’s this god that we’ve created in each of us.  And God says, ‘those natural little gods down there, those natural little clods of dirt pretending they’re gods,’ that’s all we are, we’re just chemical beings pretending to be gods.  And he says, ‘Guess what?  You’re going to make an absolute mess out of this, and you will die.’  We said, ‘No I won’t, I’m god.’  And that’s what we do.  We’re like little munchkins pretending we’re gods.  And this is the state of humanity.  You’ve been called out of that.  You’ve been called to have your nature changed.  Verses 15-16, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ.”  We have the mind of Christ, the divine nature has been given to us.  And it is at war with your internal corrupted human nature.  But, every one of us that has been given that divine nature, that not only changes our relationship with God, you have to understand, it changes our relationship with each other. 

 

Upon Conversion, Receiving God’s Holy Spirit, Our Relationship Changes Between Each Other and God, And We Become A Family With Those Whom God Has Called

 

Everybody in this room, whether you have God’s Spirit in you or with you, God’s Spirit’s either in you or its with you, working with you, leading you towards baptism, one or the other.  Once that begins to happen, God becomes what?  He goes from being your judge to your Father.  Jesus Christ becomes your Brother.  So if God is my Father, and Jesus Christ is my Brother, and God is your Father, and Jesus Christ is your Brother, and the Church is called the household of God, what does that make us in relationship?  I’ll give you a hint.  We’re brothers and sisters.  We are the family of God.  We must now, we are required to apply the same standards of conflict resolution with each other that our Father and Brother has applied to us.  That’s a biggie.  That takes the ministry of reconciliation to a whole new place.  Romans chapter 8, Romans chapter 8.  But that’s why until this one is fixed, you can’t fix anything.  You can’t fix your marriage problems, you can change a few things, but you can’t fix it at its core.  You can’t fix the problem we have with each other in the congregation, you can’t fix anything, at its core.  See that’s why the reason I told you we’re going to talk about conflict, but I’m not going to talk a lot about conflict resolution techniques.  You can go buy hundreds of books on those, and many of them are very good.  Because God isn’t interested in us negotiating a peace.  God is only interested in you and me giving 100 percent total surrender, complete surrender.  That’s the only peace he’ll accept.  So this isn’t a negotiated peace between us and God.  And this then gives us the basis for dealing with conflict with each other.  And I’m not going to talk about your conflict with the world.  You know why?  You can’t fix that.  We can’t fix conflict with people who are not sharing the divine nature.  You can only do conflict resolution techniques with them.  I suggest you get some books, I’ve got some great ones I can recommend.  You know, how to increase your ability to have communication, how to sit down and negotiate problems, there’s books on that, and that’s how you deal with the world.  But that is not how we deal with each other.  Romans chapter 8, Romans chapter 8, and verse 13, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die:  but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”  So if we live by the Spirit, your old nature dies.  You and I still have components of it.  I’m still shocked sometimes at my own hostility towards God, I’m still shocked sometimes at the way I can treat other people.  I’m still shocked at what goes on in my head sometimes, because it’s not divine.  It’s all part of my corrupt human nature that’s still there.  But God’s Spirit is more powerful.  You know, a few weeks, about a month ago I talked about overcoming, how God will give us victory?  But it’s not an easy victory.  There’s a price to be paid.  So why’s there such a price to be paid?  Because changing corrupt human nature is difficult.  Ask Jesus Christ how hard his price was just to be able to open the door for us to have peace with God.  And then we have to ask, ‘What price am I willing to pay to be reconciled to God?  What price am I willing to pay to be reconciled to Jesus Christ?’  We don’t ask that question enough.  You and I should be asking that question all the time.  What price am I willing to pay, measured not by other people?  So we measure our righteousness by other people, but what am I willing to pay by measuring that price to be reconciled to God?  What am I willing to give to be reconciled to God, when I look at that price Jesus paid?  He goes on here, he says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.   For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”  God becomes our Father, Jesus Christ our brother, we now become a family.  “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” (verses 15-19)  That means we now must, in our conflict with other people, in the Body of Christ, we must see each other as fellow sons and daughters.  If we do not, then we will never deal with the conflict between us, ever.  If we just see other people as people who need to be corrected, or other people who are sinners, other people who are a nuisance to us or whatever, it all starts with our conflict with God.  What price are you willing to pay to accept the price paid for you?  Now, in our reconciliation with God, sometimes we really grasp at it at Passover time, we say ‘OK, OK,  I understand, I’m going to be dedicated to you, and you know, this coming year, I’m not going to use your name in vain anymore, and I’m going to keep the Sabbath better, and I’m going to pray more, and I’m going to fast more, and I’m going to spend more time in this Bible,’  And then God says, OK, then how are you going to be reconciled to your brother?”  ‘Oh, but, that has nothing to do with this.’  [chuckles]  He’s our Father, he’s our Brother, we’re each other’s brothers and sisters, yes it does.  This Holy Day season let’s be reconciled to God, to Christ.  It is the only way we can then deal with other things. 

 

When Conflict Occurs Between Believers, Step #1, Go To God, and then…

 

Now remember, I said last week, that the number one reason for all dysfunctional conflict, not disagreement, disagreement’s normal.  Among human beings, we can disagree on whether you want to eat at MacDonald’s or Wendy’s.  That’s not sin, that’s just people voicing opinions.  People have opinions on all kinds of things that have nothing to do with righteousness.  How we deal with the differences [in opinions we have] has to do with righteousness.  Many times the differences of opinions really have nothing to do with righteousness.  But the conflict becomes dysfunctional and the relationships break down.  Reconciliation---but what we want to do is deal with the issues, reconciliation doesn’t deal with the issues first.  Now it does deal with them eventually.  Reconciliation deals with the relationship first.  And that’s why all conflict, I don’t care who you have a conflict with, but it is specifically, if it’s someone whose a brother or sister in Christ, then our first requirement is to go to God.  Next time I’ll talk about that and I’ll show you how we do that.  Our first requirement is to go to God because we must make sure we are reconciled to God, and we understand the price that Christ paid, one, for you and me to be reconciled to God, and two, the price Jesus Christ paid for the other person to be reconciled to God.  What price did Christ pay for that other person to be reconciled to God?  And you see what we do?  We discount the other person, and the price that Christ paid for them.  And that, boy that puts us down a really bad road.  Now for the other four areas of conflict.  I want to show once we become reconciled to God, and that he gives us, you know, Christ crosses the chasm, dies for us, Christ is resurrected, now the Holy Spirit is given to us, we jump across the chasm, we now are in a relationship with God, we have the divine nature battling inside us with our corrupt human nature. 

 

Let’s Look At God’s Answer To Your Need To Control

 

Let’s look at the other four primary motivations we have in conflict.  One, our need to control.  Let’s look at God’s answer to your need to control.  Remember I said we all have a natural desire to protect our rights, our self-image, and emotional security.  We will do most anything to protect our rights [look at the Civil War, 600,000 people killed over the issue of protecting a person’s rights], self-image and emotional security.  And I really stress self-image, because that means we made a god, we’ve made ourselves into a god, how we appear, how we want ourselves to appear, instead of being authentic, who we are.  So we all want to appear a certain way, and we will protect that at all costs.  We will also protect emotional security at all costs.  And in doing this, what we do is make ourselves gods.  [When we do this] we are independent of God, we determine goodness, we determine concepts of justice, we determine how each situation should end up.  Responding to God’s offer of reconciliation means giving up worshipping your self-image and allowing God to recreate who you are.  But the moment he starts that recreation, part of you says, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, I don’t want to look like that.  I will look weak, or I will look stupid, or I will be not liked by people, or if you do that I won’t be able to make the kind of money I wanted to make.  If you do that, some of my friends will leave me.  If you make me look like that, my cousins will all think I’m an idiot.  I don’t want to look like that.  What I want to do is sort of look divine to everybody else, but keep part of my corrupt human nature.  I want to have both.’  And it’s not the way this goes.  We have to give up control to God.  We must try to understand the uselessness of trying to control everything in life, and you and I have to accept our dependency on God.  Now, go, go ask for that.  But I have to warn you what that means.  When you go and ask God to help me to understand my dependency on You, you may end up like Job.  It just depends how hard it will be for God to deconstruct the image you’ve created, the image we’ve created of ourselves.  You say, ‘How do you know this?’  I know this because I’m an expert at it.  I’ve worshipped myself all my life.  I’m actually expert at this.  I’m an expert at conflict, I’m an expert at selfishness, this isn’t hard for me to figure out.  I’m not saying it’s easy to do.  Now, accepting your dependency on God doesn’t mean you give up your personal responsibility for making decisions.  God does hold us accountable.  But it does mean that you have to give up your hostility towards God, and you have to accept your spiritual poverty before God, and hunger for God.  We’ll talk about that more in just a minute. 

 

2nd Major Motivation For Conflict

 

The second point of the four major motivations, that you know, number five was of course our conflict with God, when we look at the human things that motivate us---is in James, we talked about our need to satisfy our desires.  How not all desires are wrong, but they become wrong.  And we went through Genesis, Adam and Eve, and how their desires became wrong, they weren’t wrong, but they became twisted.  Their human nature became a mixture of good and evil.  At that point, they defended their own desires.  Our desires seem so right, even when they’re destroying us.  It’s amazing.  Our own desiring can be absolutely destroying us, and we will think they’re good.  We will have this automatic hostility towards God.  Have you ever been sitting in a sermon, and a Scripture’s being read, and it just makes you mad, and you don’t even know why?  That’s your hostility towards God.  If the Scripture’s being read, the Scripture’s coming out to you, not the preacher, but the Scripture, and the Scripture makes you angry, what is that?  That’s that very core issue of ‘I am the enemy of God.  He can’t really tell me what to do, because I’ve made my own image.’  James chapter 4, James says ‘Where do wars and fights come from among you?’  So where do conflicts come from?  Now he’s talking to the Church here, by the way, he’s not talking to the world.  So, why is there conflict still among us?  ‘Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members.’  He says you have a conflict within yourself.  We want to do things our way.  We have five senses, we’re supposed to use those senses, God says that they’re given to us to experience, but they have to be within a context.  You know, you can taste food and it tastes really good.  So you can eat a nice meal with a steak and a baked potato and a nice little desert, and a little bit of wine, some salad and a vegetable, and it’s actually good for you and it’s fine.  But you go to one of these places that have, and if you can eat the 72 ounce steak within an hour, the baked potato and salad and everything, and you get it for free.  That’s a total misuse of your senses [unless of course you’re a strapping young teenager that could empty a refrigerator, I know, I was one].  So he says there’s a war within you.  He starts with ‘that there’s wars and fights among you, but they come from our desires from within ourselves.  You lust and you do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain, you fight and war, and yet you do not have because you do not ask.’  So we do not go to God, we don’t trust God to supply our needs.  Remember, one of the things I said about desires last time, was that we have expectations of other people.  And when other people don’t meet our expectations, we feel absolutely justified in hurting them.  We have expectations of everybody.  And when people don’t meet our expectations, when situations don’t meet our expectations, we feel justified in either hurting them or despising them, because they haven’t met my expectations.  So he says, we don’t take it to God, we don’t look for God’s answer.  And then, verse 3, ‘You ask’, so that when you finally do go to God, ‘and you do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your own pleasures.’  So when you finally do go to God, you’re so selfish he won’t answer the prayer, because now you’re so motivated by your selfishness, God won’t answer the prayer.  Now this is what I find very interesting here, in verse 4, because James takes this, works this problem through, and in a very short period of time here, brings it down to the core issue.  He says, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?  whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (verse 4)  He’s talking to the Church.  And he says, ‘You know what your problem is?  Inside yourself, the war is going on because part of you is still an enemy of God.  You haven’t recognized that, you haven’t recognized that.’  This Passover season, when we examine ourselves, it’s not to examine ourselves and say ‘Ooh, I might as well give up, because I’m worthless and I can’t make it.’  It’s to examine yourself and say ‘Yes, part of me still resists God, part of me is still the enemy of God, part of me still doesn’t want to submit to God,’ and you go throw yourself before God and say “You reconcile me to you, because I can’t do it.  I can’t change my nature, you can, you can give me your Spirit.”  Now we have to submit to it, we have to play our part, but we have no part to play if he doesn’t give us his Spirit, if he doesn’t take us across the canyon, across the chasm.  And this is our once-a-year reminder, and this reminder should be going on all throughout the year, but unfortunately we don’t, that’s why we have so much trouble.  Then we have to stop, and say, “I can’t do this!  You must help me!  It is your goodness that brings me to repentance.  I am dependent, I am impoverished without you.  And therefore I come and seek your reconciliation.  I ask for your price to be paid for me.”  And we start to give up control.  We start to let God satisfy our desires.  How does God do that?  I’m just going to touch on that, just touch on it.  Because I’m going to give a whole other sermon on this sometime in the next few months.  How do we let God satisfy our desires?  It means our desires, our attitudes have to change. 

 

What Are The Attitudes That We Have To Have?

 

What are the attitudes that we have to have?  How do we make the jump?  I was reading a very interesting book recently, from a doctor who calls himself a Christian psychologist, and he was trying to figure out, he was saying, he had this perfectly, I mean brilliant understanding of how corrupt human nature is.  He had a brilliant understanding of Jesus Christ and what we’re supposed to be like.  And then he said, ”I  know as psychologist, God’s Spirit is supposed to have to connect that,” but he said, “There has to be an actual thought-processes in a human being to make that connection.”  He said, “I can’t figure out what they are.”  So there was a frustration, how do you get from here to here?  He could see both of them, and he knew somehow God’s Spirit was involved, and from just counseling hundreds of people, he said, “How do human beings get from there to there.”  Not, just OK I get power, but what are the thought processes, what are the attitudes that must be there?  Well the attitudes are in Matthew chapter 5, Matthew chapter 5.  You know almost every, not every, sermon, but almost every sermon over the last two years, I always give you a little homework to do at the end, you know, to go home and do this week.  What you need to do this week is take Matthew chapter 5, verses 3 through 10, and read it, and study it, and think about it, and throughout the day, write it down on a 3 x 5 card, or keep it with you, so that throughout the day, whenever there is an issue that comes up, of temptation, of persecution, or conflict, you go and say ‘What is my attitude here?’  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Until you and I recognize the absolute poverty we have without God, we will always do it out of pride.  Our actions will always be out of pride.  But remember, those who are poor in spirit, they get the Kingdom of God.  These are the attitudes of a child of God.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  The mourning there has to do with our recognition of sin, our recognition of ourselves, and that’s a whole other subject.  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  What is the earth?  When Jesus Christ comes to set up the Kingdom, not now, these are all Kingdom ideas here.  These are all Gospel ideas.  Just like last week when I read from Romans, where we’re given the gospel of peace, in these terms of reconciliation.  These are all Gospel ideas, this is what the children of God are all about, these are their attitudes, this is how they approach life.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  Hunger and thirsting is an uncomfortable place to be.  Christianity isn’t about learning to be happy 100 percent of the time, because Jesus Christ wasn’t happy 100 percent of the time.  Divine nature in a corrupt world, he mourned, he hungered, he thirsted, I mean, on a spiritual level.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” and “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Do we want to be in the Kingdom of heaven, do we want to be in the Kingdom of God, do we want to be the children of God?  Then we have to become these things.  This is all about the ministry of reconciliation.  This is nature-change.  This is just as important as keeping the Ten Commandments, maybe more so.  You have to keep the Ten Commandments first, I can’t say it’s more important.  But you can keep the Ten Commandments and not go here, and not be a child of God.  We have to go here.  This is what we must become.  This is the change of nature.

 

3rd Major Motivation For Conflict

 

The third point was we have this need to be emotionally healed.  Remember I said one of the great problems we have with conflict is that, what do we do when the other person won’t say they’re sorry, what do we do when the other person won’t heal us?  Or when they thought they said they’re sorry, but they really don’t get any justice for it.  And so we go around angry and upset, and constantly obsessed with what the other person did to us.  What do we do?  It is very interesting, that God doesn’t need to be healed by us.  And remember, we’re the offender in our relationship with God, we’re the enemy, we’re the abomination.  God’s the righteous, God’s the good, God’s the victim, if you will.  God’s forgiveness is active, our forgiveness is passive.  Now I want you to really think about this.  It’s his goodness that leads us to repentance.  You and I when we’re in conflict with somebody, you know, if I’m upset with my wife because she did some little thing, and I’m sitting around waiting for her to come say she’s sorry.  I’m waiting for her to come heal me, because I’m the man of the house, and I have my own little image of myself, and I’m my own little god walking around, waiting for her to come heal me.  Now, when she does come and say ‘Hey, I’m sorry,’ and she heals me, the shame about that whole thing is, is that I should have been a lot bigger than that.  Now I was telling people, when you’re upset with your wife, or your husband, do something.  Take 30 seconds and make a mental list where you can only think about [their] good traits, and make a list of [their] good traits.  It’s amazing that so much of the time, if you do that for 30 seconds, you’re the one who goes to them and says, ‘You know, I’m sorry.’  But see, our concept of forgiveness is passive, we require the other person to come, repent, so I can be healed.  Because God is pure love, he seeks, now I want you to think about this, he seeks to reconcile with his enemies so that he can heal them. Aren’t you glad?  Aren’t you glad God isn’t walking around with hurt feelings, waiting for you to come say you’re sorry?  Instead, God took his enemies, reached out to us, while we were still enemies, reached out to us, in order to heal us his enemies.  This isn’t the way we think folks.  The divine nature is so different than what we are.  And when he does that, through the power of ‘I’m here to heal you, you abomination,’ that’s so powerful it leads us to repent.  It’s amazing.  The power in paying that price for enemies is so powerful it leads the enemies to repent.  That’s reconciliation.  That’s God’s method of reconciliation.  Our problem is, it’s so hard for us to do, because when we’re hurt by somebody, we need them to heal us.  We’ll talk about that next time, how you deal with that.  It has to be healed by God, we have to let God do certain healing in us, then we have the power to deal with the person whose offended us.  We’re not pure love, we can’t do this the way God does it. 

 

4th Major Motivation For Conflict:  Pride

 

But it shows us him, it gives us a vision of the purity of the mind of God, and that God’s answer to pride, remember that fourth reason, for conflicts, pride.  We just have an exaggerated viewpoint of ourselves, and we’re just not going to submit ourselves to somebody under any circumstances, it just doesn’t matter.  The person did me wrong, and I won’t submit.  The person did me wrong, and I’m not going to do anything until I get my pound of flesh, until that person is chastised, or hurt, whatever, till justice is served.  We want to win.  Right?  We want to win.  That’s the thing about pride.  I know a lot about pride too, I’m good at it.  I’m an expert at pride, I’m ashamed to say.  I am.  And you know what?  I’ve been here 13 years, that is not a surprising statement to anybody in this room.  Not one of you here is surprised.  Right?  We want to win.  We want others to recognize the image that we have created of ourselves.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Being poor in spirit doesn’t mean walking around being depressed.  Being poor in spirit means to understand your absolute poverty, spiritual poverty without God.  It means to understand your spiritual worthlessness without God.  That’s what it means.  That’s God’s answer to your pride.  You say ‘I have pride.  I wish to be stripped of my pride’?  Don’t go ask that one.  Go ask ‘God help me to see, and mercifully deal with my pride.’  Don’t ask to be stripped of your pride.  It is a price that is too high to pay, you can’t do it.  It’s too high.  We can’t handle that.  So go ask God to help you see your pride, to understand your poverty, absolute spiritual poverty without him, our absolute dependency on him.  We’re like that little child, you see a child trying to tie their shoes and can’t do it.  And you go try to help and they get mad at you and push you away and say ‘Me do it!’  Right?  ‘Me do it!’  Until they’re frustrated, crying and upset.  And we say, ‘I would have helped you all along.’  ‘But I’m independent.  I don’t need you.’  Yea, we do, we need God absolutely at the core of our being.  See, you were created with that need, I was created with that need.  We have to recognize it.  At the core of who you are is an absolute need for total dependency on God.  And we don’t want to accept it.  And because we don’t want to accept it, we’re not reconciled to God.  We’re still fighting.  We still have hostility.  We still resist!  And it’s because we don’t want to accept that total dependency, that total poverty.  You can hide, you can work hard, you can play hard, you can pretend, you can be very religious, but at the end of the day, deep inside, there is that core emptiness that only God can fill.  At the end of the day, we have to understand how short and ultimately meaningless life is, without God, without him filling that void.  Only when you experience the utter poverty of life without God, fully accept and understand his way of reconciling you as his enemy, and recognize your own inability to cross that chasm, will you begin to actually be reconciled to God.  But I have to tell you something, in conclusion here, when you do this, when we actually do this, when we understand how corrupt our own human nature is, and we still have parts of it, I don’t care how long you’ve had God’s Spirit, there’s still part of you that still has that corrupt human nature in it, when you understand that, when you understand what it took for God to send Christ across the void, when you understand God’s Spirit that takes you across the void into a relationship with God, and you understand the internal conflict, and you understand how you still resist God, and you’re still hostile towards him, and he hangs in there with you anyways, when you understand how these core motives have to be changed, what it really means to understand the beatitudes, when that happens, something else is going to change in you.  And this is not what we’re prepared for.  This maybe what we resist the most.  When that actually happens to you, you’ll begin to look at other people, and you begin to see, instead of seeing them as enemies, and I’m specifically talking about the Church, but you begin to see them as wayward, hostile children to God, spiritually weak, spiritually impoverished, just like you are, just like you are.  And when you see that, only then do you begin to understand that the ministry of reconciliation is how God brings us to him, and then it is how God requires you and me to treat each other.  [Transcript of the second sermon in the six part series on Reconciliation, given by Gary Petty, Pastor the United Church of God, San Antonio, Texas.  Copyright © The United Church of God.  Source UCG site: http://san-antonio.ucg.org/sermons]

 

Related links:

 

To download the whole “Ministry of Reconciliation” series (6 mp3’s) see:

http://mediafire.com/?dm82ak6v1c82m

 

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