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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 IV

 

In Review

 

“When we started this series on the ministry of reconciliation we probably thought we’d get one or two sermons out of it, and here we are on number four.  And we haven’t even gotten to, which will be the 5th sermon, on how to reconcile.  For when people have conflict, what are the methods, what are the Biblical methods that explain to us how we are to reconcile?  Whether husband and wife, we’re specifically talking about each other in the Church [Body of Christ], because as I’ve said a number of times, we have to apply these principles, but it is almost impossible to reconcile with people in the world.  You know, the people you work with just have a different set of values, they have a different way of doing things.  Even though we should try to do these, apply these principles, many times we can’t.  But we are commanded to do these principles inside the Church.  And the first two sermons were about how God reconciles us to him, what he did through Jesus Christ, and how he tied that into the Passover, because it was the Passover season.  How he sent Jesus Christ, because we have a corrupted human nature.  We are by nature hostile towards God.  We are by nature unable to do his Law.  And we are by nature the children of wrath.  And yet through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God is reconciling us to him.  We went through those Scriptures, how God did that while we were yet sinners, God did that while we were yet enemies.  I spent a great deal of time going through the Scriptures to show that we truly are by nature the enemies of God, we are an abomination to God.  That God must do something, we call it Salvation, God must save us, he must reconcile us back to him.  And it’s not something we can initiate.  He has to start the process.  He started the process by sending Jesus Christ across that chasm between us and him that we can’t breach, we can’t get across.  And then, he gave us his Spirit, to bring us into contact, into relationship with him.  And the problem is, the problem is we all now have two natures.  We have within ourselves a corrupt human nature that has to be totally recreated, and we have what Peter called the divine nature…he has given us the divine nature.  And so we have two natures warring within ourselves.  And it is because of our conflict with God that we have conflict with each other.  When Christians have conflict with each other, it’s because one of them or both of them have a conflict with God.  And we haven’t dealt properly with that conflict with God.  So, we spent two sermons showing how, and even that was not enough, I think of all the points I didn’t make in those two sermons, in understanding how God is reconciling us, and how he does that, and through Christ, and through his Spirit, and brings us into relationship with him, so that we become his children.  The third sermon, and once again, we only scratched the surface on that, there could have been two sermons on that one, easily, was what must we do then, if, since we now know, we understand that we are reconciled to God, how do we become reconciled to a brother who has sinned against us, or a sister who has offended us?  What do we do?  How do we do that?  And I went through the same five points, there were five points in the first two sermons, on why there is conflict between human beings, and why there is conflict between man and God, and I showed how God deals with all five of those areas.  Then I went through what we must do if we’ve been offended.  There is HUGE responsibility on the offended person.  I went through and showed how God’s instructions to us as the person who has been sinned against is the exact opposite of what we naturally do.   Our response to being offended naturally is the exact opposite of how God says to deal with it.  And how as we go through the instructions as we did, we see that all five of those areas of conflict must be dealt with by the person who has been offended, before they even go deal with the offense.  They must be reconciled back to God, they must deal with their own emotions, they must deal with their own reasons, they must know the difference between vengeance and justice.  We went through all those different ideas.  The idea that anger can be righteous, and anger can be unrighteous.  We went and showed how bitterness is always unrighteous.  We showed how a person can be in the right, become bitter, and end up being in the wrong.  We went and showed how the Scripture says we simply tend to gather, say your husband mistreats you, you tend to gather all your friends around you, and do nothing but put down your husband, how that now is a sin in itself.  So now we’ve added sin on top of sin.  I went through and showed that as the offended person, there is Scripture after Scripture, instruction after instruction in the Bible about what we must do as the offended person.  And that is not the natural way we handle things.  Our natural reaction to being offended is, ‘You’re wrong, I’ve been hurt, you had better repent, and you had better fix it.’  And of course that goes back to a couple core problems we have, and that is, when we are damaged we expect the other person to heal us.  Which means the other person is always controlling you.  Because what if the person won’t repent?  What if the person doesn’t do what they’re supposed to, what if the person doesn’t even understand the offense?  It’s amazing how many times a person will offend another person and not even know they did it, in a moment of anger, a moment of weakness.  To just do something in a moment of stupidity can do something very damaging to another person, and they don’t even know they did it.  And of course we have that core problem that we have to defend ourselves, the image we’ve made of ourselves.  We are corrupted images of God, we are corrupted images of God.  And we defend our corrupted image, because we see ourselves as gods.  And that’s the heart of the problem.  We see ourselves as gods, and therefore we will determine how other people will worship us.  We will determine how other people will treat us.  And we have expectations of them.  And when they don’t meet our expectations we feel we have a right to punish them.  So I went through that whole problem and how all of us have been through that.  All of us have been offended by somebody.  And all of us have gone through those various emotions.  And one thing I never even got to, which is a whole other subject in itself, is when offended, what we many times do is we impute a motive.  In fact, one of the things we’ll get to, actually how we deal with offense, we must find out what the person’s motive was.  Because sometimes a person can have, they don’t even know what they did.  We have to find out what their motive was.  But what we do, is if someone does something wrong to us, we automatically impute what?  ‘They did that on purpose.’  I can remember yelling that at my sisters when I was little.  ‘You did that on purpose!’  And I can remember them yelling that back to me, ‘You did that on purpose!’  And sometimes it’s like ‘I didn’t do that on purpose. What are you talking about?’  Right?  And so we impute motives.  We didn’t even get into that subject.  So today, I want to talk about the message to the offender, the person who has committed the sin against a brother, the person who has offended.  And remember, we can’t go anyplace without understanding the ministry of reconciliation, how God reconciles us.  We must go back to that.  And that’s why the first message, when I talked about human beings, it was not about the offender.  You could be, ‘Well, let’s immediately go to the offender.’  The last sermon on this was to the person who was offended.  Why?  The responsibility to the person who has been offended, according to the Scripture, is to be willing to offer forgiveness, and to be willing to approach and work with and show patience with the person who has sinned against you.  And we went through Scripture after Scripture that says do this because it is how Christ dealt with you.  So there was no question in whether Paul or Peter, both of them explained how this is to be done, and both of them used the exact same example, ‘This is how God reconciled you, so if you’re the person who has been injured, if you’re the person who has been sinned against, here’s what you must do.’  It is not the way we handle things.  This is why I said, when I started this series, this is one of about three very important doctrines in the Church that we have never fully explored, understood or explained.  We haven’t..  And because of that, we’re missing part of the Gospel.  You know, the ministry of reconciliation is a core element of the Gospel.  Without the ministry of reconciliation, we can’t even fully explain the Gospel.  So as we understand what God is doing in reconciling us to him, then we must understand how to apply it to each other. 

 

The Message To the Offender

 

So, OK, where do we go to start the message to the person who has offended someone else, the person who has committed the sin?  Let’s go to Matthew chapter 18.  You know, we went through warning after warning last time, to those who have been offended.  Warning after warning in the Scripture that says that that could turn into hatred, and it could turn into bitterness, and when it does, the person who was offended is destroyed.  And yet they’re not the one who did wrong.  But they became wrong, because of what was done to them.  It’s like the old adage, when I counsel people who have been abused, or people who have are abusers.  It is amazing how many people who are abusers where abused themselves.  And because they were abused, what did they do?  They become abusers themselves.  Which is one of the great tendencies, and that’s why there’s so much said to the person who has been sinned against.  But we will never understand this until we’re first reconciled with God.  If we’re not reconciled with God, we’ll never do any of this.  Because we don’t have the strength to do this, this goes against our natural nature.  And our nature is hostile towards God.  So here’s where we begin speaking to those who have committed offense.  And we say ‘Oh yea, well I said something, I did something, and that upset that person, I’m sorry.’  No, before you ever say “I’m sorry” you need to read this.  In Matthew 18, verse 6, Jesus had just taken a little child and said that we must become like little children to God.  And then in verse 6 he says, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”  Once again, we’re dealing with problems and conflicts between Christians here.  Because he says ‘whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him for a millstone to be hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.’  [btw, that was the ancient Phoenician naval-merchant marine style execution.]  “Woe unto the world because of offenses!  for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!”  So how serious is it, and remember all of us have been offended, and all of us have offended.  I have been offended, and I have offended others.  And when we offend each other, what is Jesus Christ’s instruction?  When you offend a little one, which is a fellow-Christian (and most of us are little ones, I don’t know too many big ones, we’re all pretty small Christians), when we offend each other, Jesus Christ said, ‘How serious is it?  Well, it would be better if someone tied a big rock around your head, it would be better if you had cement shoes, and you were taken out in a boat here in the Gulf, and you were thrown overboard, and you drowned.’  I didn’t make that up.  That’s what Jesus Christ said.  When we do that to each other, how does he feel about it?  He’s explaining exactly how he as our older brother and as the head of the Church feels about when we do this to each other.  He says ‘it’d be better if someone took you out, you know, the Mafia took you out, fit you in cement shoes and threw you overboard.’  That’s what would be better than what you have done.  [Or what God could do to you, put you in the lake of fire.  One form of death would be a lot cooler and less painful than the other L]  So when we hurt each other, mistreat each other, then we have done something very serious in the eyes of God, in the eyes of Jesus Christ. 

 

Going Through Our Five Points Again

 

  1st Point, Seek God

 

So now let’s go through our five points, the same five that we’ve been going through.  I have offended somebody, you’ve offended somebody, how are we supposed to deal with that when it is brought to our attention that we have hurt or sinned against somebody?  You say, ‘Well what if it’s a false accusation?’  When we get into how to actually deal with conflict, then there’s ways to deal with false accusations.  But we all want that right up front, ‘Well, what if it’s a false accusation?’  Well the challenge here is, as you’re going to see, is that when someone brings you an accusation, that you automatically don’t say it is false, but that you automatically explore ‘What if it is true?’  Every time someone comes to you, ‘You really hurt my feelings,’ our initial response is, ‘Hey, I didn’t do that.’  ‘Hey, that’s your problem.  Hey, why don’t you grow up.’  ‘I’m sorry, let’s forget about it.’  The moment we do that, we are not fulfilling what we’re supposed to do as the person who has committed an offense against another person.  So the first point we always start with, is seek to be reconciled with God.  If someone comes to you and says ‘You have offended me,’ and your initial reaction is, ‘No I haven’t,’ or defensive, or ‘I’m not going to listen to you,’ or you push them away, then what you need to say is, ‘Can we set up a time to talk about this?’  And then you need to go fast and pray, and seek reconciliation with God.  2nd Samuel 11, and here’s why. 

 

Every Sin Committed Against Another Human Being Is Also A Sin Committed Against God

 

2nd Samuel chapter 11, you know the story here.  I won’t go through all of it, I mean I won’t read all of it, I’ll explain, you know, 2nd Samuel 11 and 12 is about David.  It’s some hot sleepless night for David, and he’s on the top of his palace, and of course in Jerusalem they have flat roofs, and the roof itself was actually part of the building.  It was a patio.  And you would sit on it, walk around on it.  And he’s walking around on the top of his palace, or either that or the balcony of his palace, and he looks out, and of course the palace is going to be a little higher than all the other buildings, and what’s he see?  A beautiful woman, at night, taking a bath, on top of her house.  Of course, she thinks nobody can see her.  [btw, this was Ahitophel’s grand-daughter, David’s counselor, one of David’s wise men.  And because of this, David knew this girl, probably watched her grow up and develop into a beautiful young woman.  Sins like this don’t often happen in a vacuum.]  You know what happened, he invites her, she’s probably very young at this point, invites her into his home, and she comes up to the palace, and he seduces her.  Now that’s an abuse.  That’s an abuse of his power and of his manhood.  You know, we can say, ‘Well she went along with it.’  You know, it’s interesting, the Bible doesn’t say much about Bathsheba, and it doesn’t even condemn her much.  It does put a lot of responsibility on David because he was the king, and because he’s misusing his position.  And so he commits adultery.  Well, he realizes she’s married, so he brings her husband, Uriah, back from the front, because he was a soldier, and says ‘Go see your wife.’  He brings him in, makes like, ‘Give me a report, give me a report.’  Of course he’s confused because he knows the officers give reports all the time, but you know, David does this thing, ‘I would like a report from just a foot-soldier, so give me a report.’  Uriah won’t go home to his wife, Uriah is a man of principle, and he says ‘I can’t go back to my wife, my brothers are out there risking their lives dying in the field for Israel,’ and he won’t go back.  He won’t go into her.  So there’s no way, now, to convince him that his wife’s pregnancy is caused by him.  David even goes as far as getting him drunk.  Finally David sends him back, and then in one of the most abusive acts of betrayal you can think of, gave him orders, the orders he took back to Joab, the commander, was his own death-warrant.  He said ‘Send this man out in the most troubled spot of the battle, and when things get rough, have everybody retreat but him.  Don’t give him the signal.’ And they did, they left the man out there and his was killed.  I mean, David murdered the man, as much as if he had taken a sword and killed him himself.  And now time goes by.  Now this is one of the most abusive things you can think of.  You seduce a man’s wife, you lie, you steal, you murder a man.  And you use your position as king to do it.  In all the Bible there is not much more of an abusive thing than the sins of this man.  And it’s interesting that God did not kill him, and there’s a reason why God didn’t kill him.  In chapter 12 God sends Nathan to him.  Now we don’t know how much time has gone by here, possibly months, but there’s some time that’s gone by, and David hasn’t repented.  And Nathan says to him, he tells him a great story, he says ‘I have something I need you as king to make a ruling on.’  He said, ‘A man in the country here that is a very rich man, he has the greatest flocks, he has land, he has money, this man needs nothing.  But he’s such a miser, that he had some friends come to visit, and he sent some of his servants to a nearby little farm, there’s a family, and they have one lamb, and it wasn’t kept to be eaten, it was a pet.  It was the children’s pet.  He stole the children’s pet, and killed it and served it to his guests.’  Now the normal penalty for stealing was you had to pay back four times or seven times, depending on the infraction [four sheep for a sheep, five beef cattle for a bull].  He jumps right over that.  He [David] says ‘this is so dastardly, this is such a planned out act of sin and aggression, that I say this man has forfeited his life, I want him brought into the palace, we will have a trial, and he will be killed.’  And Nathan says, ‘You are that man.’   Now at this point, what would have raced through the mind of David?  Now I want you to remember something, he’s a king.  He lives his life with a power you and I couldn’t even imagine.  He says something and hundreds of people jump to it.  He has the power of life and death over everybody in the kingdom, as he showed with Uriah.  He has an enormous power.  And David could have said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, Nathan, I am God’s anointed, who are you to tell me I’m wrong?’  He could have said, ‘You know, you know Nathan, you don’t understand, I have six wives, and they get to fighting, I just needed somebody new, I’m under stress here.  Nathan, you have no idea, this is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, and I love her.’  Right?  That’s always the excuse for adultery, ‘I love him, I love her.  I’ve never experienced this kind of love with any of my wives, I love this woman.’  He could have said, ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, men die in battle all the time, you can’t pin that one on me.’  But that’s not what he did.  What he did is he said, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’  But David understood, and when it was simply placed in front of him, and this is why God did not kill him, this is why God gave him another chance.  He understood that his sin against Bathsheba, his sin against Uriah, his sin against his army [and his sin against Ahitophel’s family honour], I’ll tell you what, I can’t imagine if his troops found out what he did. Because if they would have, who would ever trust him again.  He sinned against Israel, he sinned against millions of people.  He realized that every sin against a human being is also a sin against God.  Every time we abuse each other, we are sinning against God.  And that’s why if you have sinned against somebody, what you need to do, is immediately deal with the fact that you now have a conflict between you and God.  And see, we hardly ever go there.  We hardly ever go there.  ‘Well, you’ve done something wrong to me.’  Even if we say we’re sorry to the person, we almost never go and deal with the conflict we have between us and God, because, we just don’t take the responsibility.  Now what David found out and realized, there are two kinds of judgments from God against sin.  There’s a temporary judgment and the eternal judgment.  God did not take away from David, by the way, the temporary judgment.  He suffered, he suffered for the rest of his life.  In fact, God told him ‘There will be violent conflict in your family for the rest of your life.  And the son that’s going to be born from the union between you and Bathsheba, he’s not going to live, and I’m not going to heal him.  He’s going to die.’  But he also told him, Nathan said, ‘Your sin is forgiven.’  The eternal consequence of David’s sin is forgiven.  His temporary consequences were not.  When you and I sin against each other, there are sometimes temporary consequences because of what we’ve done to each other.  We’re looking for reconciliation with God, forgiveness from God, and then we’re looking to reconcile with each other.  This means we have to take responsibility for our actions.  We must acknowledge our own responsibility, we must be accountable for what we’ve done. 

 

How Do I Respond When Someone Says I’ve Offended Them?

 

Now remember when I went through, as the offended person, how before you truly approach the offender, you must ask and answer ‘How did I contribute to the problem?’  Because many times when we do that, we find out that the offending person we offended somewhere along the way too, we helped contribute to the problem.  But you see, we don’t think in those terms, when we’re hurt, we’re wronged.  So the offendee, or the person that’s been offended, must take responsibility, but the offender must really take responsibility.  The offender must say ‘How did I do this?  What did I do?  I must be responsible, I must be accountable for what I have done.  And if I have sinned, I must do something about it.  I must respond.’  You know, in the end, what kind of people we are, in terms of our Christianity, comes down to how we respond.  Right?  God calls you.  What do you do?  We talk about our responsibility, how we respond to God.  It’s how we respond.  When God gives us his Law, what do we do?  We repent [of breaking it].  What is repentance?  It’s a response to God.  What is our obedience?  It is our response to God.  What is our faith?  Our faith is our response to God [even though our faith is bolstered and empowered beyond mere human faith by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit].  God didn’t call you because you had great faith in him.  You have faith in him because he called you.  So even faith is a response, it is our responsibility.  And so when we have sinned against another person, God is not only going to judge our sin, he’s going to judge how we respond to the person who we have offended, how we respond to them.  Matthew 5 is very interesting.  Matthew chapter 5, verses 23-24, I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve taken someone to this Scripture and said, ‘Do you think this Scripture says, ‘If somebody’s done something wrong to you, leave your gift at the altar and go deal with it’?’   I bet you half time the person says ‘Yes, that’s what it says.’  No it doesn’t.  Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”  When we go to worship God, there is a moment when we are either reconciled to God or not.  We come here every week, to be reconciled to God.  We pray every day, to be reconciled to God.  We try to obey God every day, we try to live by faith to be reconciled to God, to have a relationship with God.  And he says there are times when you are worshipping God, and at that moment, you will remember, maybe because God helps you remember, that somebody has been offended by you.  And now what do you do?  ‘Leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.’  Now he doesn’t say, ‘First be reconciled to your brother, and then be reconciled to God.’  The whole point is, you’re coming to God in reconciliation, you’re responding to God.  And as you respond to God, there’s a point, you say, in your mind, we have to come to grips with, ‘Wait a minute, if I’m not in reconciliation with my brother, God expects me to, ok, stop, and go deal with this.’  I’m coming with my gift to God, I’m coming to worship God, and in that act of response to his reconciliation, we are now motivated to go reconcile to someone, who what?---we even think we offended.  That’s how important this is.  If a brother has something against you, go to the brother.  This is the responsibility of the offender.  Now you may go to your brother, and the brother says, ‘You didn’t offend me.’  I have that happen all the time.  I’m amazed how many people call me from here or Austin or Waco and say, ‘I think I may have said something wrong to you,’ and I have no idea what they’re talking about.  And then they’ll say it, and I’ll say ‘You didn’t offend me.’   Well, I’m always amazed when somebody does it, because I think, ‘Wow, they’re doing this:  ‘I think I’ve offended somebody, I’d better go talk to them about it.’  Because it’s never easy to do that.  ‘I think I’ve done somebody harm…have I done somebody harm?  Then I’d better try to go undo the harm.’  When we are acutely aware of the reconciliation we have with God, we become acutely aware, and have a desire to reconcile with those that we’ve hurt.  When we don’t, there is a problem between us and God.  When you and I are in a conflict so deep that it’s separating us as Christians, we create a conflict, and we open up again the conflict we have with God.  It’s why God tells us, in Peter, ‘Guys, treat your wives right, so that your prayers be not hindered.’   What’s he saying?  When we misuse our wives, God says ‘You have a conflict with me.’  Of course, wives, it’s the same way.  When you misuse your husbands, you now have a conflict with God, and there will be problems between you and God.  As we talked last time, there’s sometimes you can’t reconcile with somebody, they won’t let you.  We’ll talk about that when we get into conflict resolution.  But here we’re talking about the attitude.  If we don’t have the attitude and approach down, if we don’t have the understanding down, conflict resolution will achieve little or nothing.  We must come with this attitude.  So, when you have offended somebody, or when someone comes to you and says, ‘You have hurt me, you’ve offended me, you’ve sinned against me,’ the first thing you need to do, and the first thing I need to do is make sure we’re reconciled with God.  Because if we’re reconciled with God, we will say, ‘OK, let me put my gift here, and let me go deal with the person who I’ve offended, let me go deal with the person that I have hurt.  Let me go help heal that.’  

 

Point #2, We Have To Give Up Our Need To Control The Response Of The Other Person---Taking Personal Responsibility

 

Now, the second point is, and some of you probably have this written down, so you remember the points:  We have to give up our need to control the response of the other person.  As the offender, what is it you want?  If you’ve done something wrong to somebody, what is it you want?  You want immediate forgiveness and reconciliation, and maybe a little piece of the person too.  ‘OK, ok, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that, I’m sorry, but you really shouldn’t be this angry.’  That’s not, that is not an apology.  That is a backhanded way of trying to now correct the person you offended.  Now maybe their anger is out of control.  And there is a point in time you have to go deal with, ‘You know, you sinned against me with your anger.’  But when the offended person comes to you, that’s not when to do that.  When they come to you, you have to give up the need to control their reaction.  What you have to do, is you must be willing to take ownership and responsibility for what you did wrong.  Now their contribution may have been enormous.  But you don’t start there.  We’re talking about ‘Where do you start?’  The starting point is, ‘Yes, I see what you’re talking about, I contributed in this way, and I’m sorry.’  You know, the Bible talks about confessing.  ‘I am sorry’ is not a confession.  I’ve seen people say ‘I am sorry.’  And the other person says, ‘But what are you sorry for?’  ‘I don’t know, I’m sorry for your feelings getting hurt, and that we have some kind of problem between us.’  That’s not confession, that’s appeasement.  That’s not even an acknowledgement that we did something wrong.  I tell you what, if that’s the way we repent to God, we have no salvation.  What is it we repent to God?  We acknowledge that we are sinners, we acknowledge that we break his Law, and we acknowledge that we have a corrupted human nature.  Right?  That’s, repentance is absolute acknowledgement that my nature is corrupt, it is an abomination.  We went through what the word means.  That’s how it’s used.  And that I am by nature your [God’s] enemy.  That’s what we repent of.  See, when our neighbour comes to us and says ‘You’ve hurt me, you’ve offended me, you’ve sinned against me,’ what we want to do at this point is defend our corrupted image of ourselves.  And that’s why we have to acknowledge ‘If I’ve sinned, I’d better make sure here, I’d better look and see if I’ve sinned, because if I’ve sinned against this person, I’ve also sinned against God.  ‘If I’ve sinned against this person, I’ve also sinned against God.’  And therefore I have a requirement to repent.  The thing is, when we’ve sinned against a person, we must repent to God, and we must repent to the person we sinned against.  We must confess that sin, and we must repent of it.  That means you have to listen to that person, and understand the indictment, you have to understand the accusation.  We say, Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, don’t start coming here accusing me.’  And there is a time when we have to deal with a false accusation.  That’s another story.  But when a brother or sister comes to us and says, ‘You did this.’  We must stop and say, ‘Explain to me how I did that.  Explain to me what happened, explain to me how you feel.’  Now sometimes you may find a simple misunderstanding.  And all you have to say at some point is, ‘Oh, I get that, I remember that now, you’re right, I did say that.  Ah, it was like half a sentence, there is no way you could understand what I meant.’ And you explain it, and the other person goes, ‘Oh, ok.’  It’s amazing how sometimes offenses can be just dealt with, by simply understanding where the offended person is coming from, and be willing to acknowledge, ‘Oh, I contributed to this.’  Now sometimes, we contributed big-time.  We actually sinned against the other person, we offended them, we lied about them, we slandered them, we said something terrible to them, we made a promise and didn’t keep it.  We made a business deal and cheated them.  Well there’s times Christians do terrible things to each other.  And we have to deal with those things when they bring them to our attention.  So even as the offender, when someone approaches you, your first reaction with corrupt human nature, is to try to control their response.  ‘OK, ok,, ‘I’m sorry…you have to forgive me, if you don’t forgive me you have a problem.’  No, we have to step back, stop trying to control their response, and be analyzing ‘Where am I responsible, what have I done?  How must I respond to this person?  What is my response?  What is my response?’

 

We Need To Seek God’s Solution Instead Of Fulfilling Our Own Desires and Expectations

 

The third problem we talked about, is then we need to seek God’s solution, instead of fulfilling your desires and expectations.  We must seek God’s solution, instead of trying to fulfill our personal desires and expectations.  Now this is hard.  Because I know my reaction.  When someone comes to me, confronts me over something, it’s hard because my very first reaction is, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, let me explain my side of the story.’  I have to say to myself ‘Don’t do that! Don’t do that!’  because we have to listen instead of saying ok now you have to meet my expectations, we have to say [to ourselves], ‘Wait, wait a minute, I have to step back a minute and meet that person’s expectations.’  Remember I gave you a series of questions to ask yourself, if you’re the person who was offended?  Let me give you a series of questions to ask yourself if you’re the offender.  If someone comes to you and says, ‘You’ve offended me.’  This is sometimes why you say, ‘Well explain to me, and let me think about this.’  Or ‘Let’s set up a time where we can discuss this, because I don’t know how to work this through.’ 

 

A Series Of Questions For The Offender To Ask Himself

 

Question # 1, How Did I Contribute To This?

 

The questions you need to ask yourself: Did I sin against this person?  Did I hurt them through ignorance?  Has there been some kind of miscommunication between us, and how did I contribute?  The first thing you need to ask yourself is ‘OK, did I sin?  Let me figure out what I’ve done here.  Was I just being ignorant?  I ignored the person’s feelings,  Here this person was having a terrible trial, they just found out a relative died, and I’m cracking jokes, and I hurt the person’s feelings.  Wow, I was insensitive, so I have to deal with that.’  Sometimes it’s just miscommunication, sometimes we say the stupidest things.  So the first thing is:  How did I contribute?  Did I slander this person?  Maybe I shouldn’t have said that about that person.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been so mean to them.  You know, I really did lose my temper with that person.  I sinned.  That’s the first question we should ask ourselves, instead of defending ourselves. 

 

Question # 2, How Must I Take Responsibility For My Actions?

 

The second question is:  How must I take responsibility for my actions?  How must I take responsibility for my actions?  And I tell you what, responsibility sometimes means restitution.  We don’t think about that much.  You know, if your neighbour, let’s apply this to someone outside the Church.  Your neighbour comes over and says, ‘Ah, you know your dog got loose and came over and impregnated my dog, and my dog is a thoroughbred and your dog is a Hinds 57 mutt.  [laughter]  You ruined my dog.’  And our reaction might be ‘Come on, they’re dogs, I mean, thoroughbred dogs, how dumb is that?’  Right?  Dogs are dogs.  ‘Well, I’m sorry, I tell you what I’ll do, I’ll patch up that area, and I’ll keep my dog on a leash so that he doesn’t get over there.’  We think, ‘Good, I made restitution.’  No you haven’t.  You fixed how you damaged your neighbour.  Restitution means you pay for the dog you ruined.  That’s restitution.  And the Scripture requires restitution, if we are the offender.  It requires restitution. Now, if that person says, ‘I forgive you, it’s OK,’ wow, that’s wonderful.  If they don’t, you don’t have the right and I don’t have the right to say ‘Boy, what’s wrong with those people?  Charging me $300 for that stupid little poodle, I  hate poodles anyways.  They’re French, what’d the French ever do?’  [laughter]  No, our requirements, our desire, understand this, as the offender, our desire should be ‘I will restore to you whatever damage I have done.’  That’s Christian, that’s Christian.  ‘I damaged your dog, I’ll buy you a new one for $300,’ because you are responsible for your actions. 

 

Question #3, What Lessons Can God Teach Me Through This Situation?

 

The third question:  What lessons can God teach me through this situation?  What lessons can God teach me about how to treat other people better, how not to do certain things, how not to sin, how to deal with the situation where somebody has a false accusation, a situation where a person is angry with me and they shouldn’t be?  What lessons must I learn? 

 

Question #4, Am I Being Defensive Because I Feel Threatened?

 

A fourth question:  Am I being defensive because I feel threatened?---and that we have to say ‘OK, why am I feeling threatened?’  What image of myself am I trying to defend?  It’s natural to feel that way.  I feel that way every time someone approaches me.  You try to deal with that feeling of being threatened.  And sometimes you have to tell somebody, ‘I’m going to have to think this through, I feel threatened by this, I feel threatened by this.’  But why do I feel threatened?  What image of myself am I trying to protect.

 

Question #5, Am I Angry Because My Pride Is Injured?

 

And then a fifth question:  Am I angry because my pride is injured?  Am I angry because my pride is injured?  So a person comes to you, they say ‘You’ve hurt me, you’ve done something wrong.’  We think about it, and say ‘You know what, you’re right, I did wrong, let me apologize for that, I’m sorry.’  And you hug each other.  And then the person walks away.  And the next Sabbath they come to church, and they’re ignoring you.  And you say ‘Boy!  That person didn’t forgive me, that person is a real sinner, and I’m offended by it.’  But you have to understand something.  Trust is earned.  And when you and I break trust with each other, it takes a very, very special person to restore that trust right away.  Most of the time, it takes time to heal.  It takes time to heal.  Proverbs 18, that’s why Solomon wrote this proverb in Proverbs 18, Proverbs 18, verse 19, so just as we run through this enormous responsibility on the offended person’s side, how we’re to act, how we’re to work through the offense, how we can sin.  Of course, most of the time when we are offended, we actually sin back.  The Bible just talked about it over and over again.  One of the things that destroys people as much as any other sin, is when you are the innocent person, and you have been mistreated by a fellow Christian.  More people probably have been destroyed spiritually by being the innocent person who is offended and mistreated and sinned against by a fellow Christian than anything else, because of the bitterness and the anger and the hatred that forms.  Let’s look at Proverbs 18:19, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city:  and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”  When you’ve offended someone, you must give them the time to heal.  And you must now continually reach out to the person you’ve offended.  You must continually reach out, and sometimes you must take a little bit of abuse from them, to show that you are truly sorry, you’ve truly repented, and you are not trying to hurt them in any way.  Trust is earned.  And it takes a very special person that when they forgive, they say, ‘OK, I trust you again.’  Usually it takes time.  We have to understand that. 

 

Fourth Point: As The Offender, You Must Seek To Help Heal The Other Person’s Damage Emotions---Developing Sensitivity

 

The fourth point, is then as the offender, you must seek to help heal the other person’s damaged emotions.  Remember these same five points?  Remember we said how what’s remarkable about God, he’s the offended person?  And yet all of his actions are actually trying to heal the offender?  God is trying to heal the offender.  God is trying to heal the sinner.  Well in this case, you’re the sinner, you’ve hurt somebody, you’ve damaged somebody, and they come to you.  We now, try to heal them.  We try not to continue to be offensive.  And this is what is very important about even the concept of being offensive.  Jesus Christ offended a lot of people in his ministry on earth.  But I want you to understand something, Jesus never offended anybody because of his meanness.  Jesus never offended anybody because he was trying to manipulate them, because they didn’t meet his expectations.  Jesus never offended anybody because he was trying to project his rights onto others.  In fact, if he were to project his rights onto others, he would have killed everybody on the face of the earth, because he had the right to do so.  By the Law of God he had the right to do so.  Jesus never offended people because of his ego-centrics, because he just didn’t care about other people’s feelings.  When Jesus offended people, it was because he told the truth from God’s viewpoint.  And there are times when we will offend people by telling the truth from God’s viewpoint.  That kind of offense must be because the people are offended with God, they’re offended with the truth.  I’ve seen over the years, many people use God’s truth as a weapon to offend anybody they didn’t like.  Or use it to make them feel superior to other people.  At that point, you’re offending people for the wrong reason.  You know, there’s a very interesting little story here in Matthew 17, let’s go to Matthew 17.  Matthew 17, verse 24, because this tells us a lot about Christ’s approach.  Matthew 17:24-26, “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?  [this was the Temple tax]  “He saith, Yes.  And when he was come into the house Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon?  of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute?  of their own children, or of strangers?  Peter saith unto him, Of strangers.  Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.”  Now his argument is, if we are the sons of God, we shouldn’t have to pay the Temple tax.  But he doesn’t talk about tithes here.  He’s talking about there was a special Temple tax.  And he as the Son, he’s the Messiah, why would the Messiah have to pay a Temple tax?  I’m sure Peter, Peter didn’t respond.  I’m sure Peter’s thinking, ‘I’m not even sure what he’s saying, and usually when I say that, I end up in trouble.  So I’ll just keep my mouth shut, ok.’  But it is his next statement that he wants to lead Peter to.  First of all he said, “Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money:  that take, and give unto them for me and thee.”  Jesus said, ‘You know Peter, I don’t have to pay a Temple tax, but we’ll pay it anyways, because we will not offend those people.’  This is the Creator of the universe, the Creator of the universe said, ‘They won’t understand, so I’ll pay the tax even though I morally don’t have to.’  Yes, Jesus offended people.  But he always offended them because they were offended with God, he simply told the truth, and in telling the truth people can become offended with him and God.  Notice though his lifestyle, except for the truth of God, everything he did, even when he didn’t have to, even when it was an imposition for him to do so, he acted in ways that would not offend other people.  If the Creator of the universe, we keep going back to Christ, in the ministry of reconciliation it’s all about not only the work that God is doing through Christ, but the example of Jesus Christ.  We keep going back to him.  Everything takes us back to what God is doing through Christ through the ministry of reconciliation.  And we go back to, he’s saying, ‘Look, Peter, you’re going to have to learn a lesson here, and that is, a lot of times you do things just because it won’t offend somebody.  Not because you have to, but because your concern is not about offending the other person.’  Jesus never backed down.  That’s where you and I have to learn, we never back down from the truth, we never back down when we know doing the truth is going to offend somebody.  But will still try to do even that in a manner that brings glory to God.  [Comment:  Peter was a rough, tough fisherman who had the reputation of having a mouth on him, as the saying goes, what I would call a crass fisherman-sailor.  Having come off submarines, I know exactly what that means, and find myself having to repent of that element of blunt crass-honesty myself.  To learn what type of people most of the apostles were, because they had been fishermen, watch the movie The Perfect Storm.  The definition of etiquette found in Emily Post is that etiquette is merely having behavior that does not offend others, it’s simply behaving in a manner that does not offend.  You see, Peter, who would be looked upon by the high-class society in Jerusalem as one of those uncouth fishermen, could offend just by walking into a crowd and just being Peter, just being himself.]  And in the everyday actions of life, we try not to offend.  How much more should that be in the Church, that we try not to offend each other?  Because, remember one of our premise statements, in the very first sermon?  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”  So here as the offender, as the person who sinned, you’re going to say, ‘How do I be a peacemaker?  I’ve offended this person, and they’re not letting go of that anger right away, they’re mad at me for awhile, they’re upset with me, they don’t trust me.  What’s their problem?’  Instead of doing that, our response should be, ‘I offended that person, now what must I do not to continue the offense?’  What must I do not to pile offense on top of offense?  What must I do to help that person heal, I have damaged that person, I wish to help them heal.’  Now you can’t, and I can’t always heal each other emotionally.  That takes God’s help.  But we already talked about going to God for healing, if you’re the damaged person.  You know, when we went through point four, when we said you were the offended person, you have go to God for healing of your emotions, healing of your mind.  As the offender, you want to reach out to that person. 

 

Fourth Point In Our Series, One Of The Major Reasons For Conflict: Pride

 

And then that last point, where one of the major causes of conflict between us and God and between us and each other is pride.  And that means, as he offender, you and I must first seek humility.  We must first seek humility before we can even sometimes solve the problem we have with the person.  And this may be the most difficult aspect of repenting, is humility.  Because, you know, what we do, Genesis 3.  Now when we started in the first sermon, we came on back to certain points, where human nature became corrupt because of what?  They ate of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil.  So every human being became a  mixture of good and evil.  And because of that we have conflict with God, and we have conflict each other, because we are a mixture of good and evil.  Now what happened right after they did that?  Let’s go back to Genesis 3 and just look at the story.  Genesis 3, for they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Now up to this point there has never been a lie told between a human being and God.  There’s never been a lie told between a human being and a human being, until Satan got to them, and convinced them.  They have an immediate change of nature,  they see everything differently.  Look at verse 6, in Genesis chapter 3, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”  So that’s where we stopped in the first sermon, when we were reading through this.  But let’s read now the immediate response of this, or what happened from this, the consequence.  “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”  They had no embarrassment as husband and wife from their own nakedness before this.  They were very comfortable with it, it was a good thing.  If God says ‘I made them male and female,’ and he made them without clothes, and he introduced them to each other without clothes, and it says, God’s answer was what?  ‘This is very good.  I’ve done something very good here.’  And the angels are saying, ‘How do you do this stuff?’  Immediately there’s a change in nature.  There’s guilt, there’s wrong thoughts, there’s confusion.  Why?  They have established themselves as gods.  Up to this point, spiritually, they were still in the image of God.  They are now corrupted images of God.  And as corrupted images of God, they’re mixing good and evil together, and internally, inside their own minds and hearts, they’re becoming confused, they’re filled with anxiety, shame.  [Comment:  That is why heresy, and when you find a heretical website, is so dangerous.  Because they are a mixture of good and evil, solid truth mixed with real doctrinal error in the primary doctrines of salvation.  There will always be differences in doctrinal interpretation in secondary areas that don’t affect Salvation, but I’m talking about primary doctrines, like when one says Jesus was a created being, instead of being very God, eternally existent.  Reading from such a site is like eating from a cake that has had arsenic mixed with the flour before baking, it’s all poison, even though it still tastes like cake, it’s deadly.  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/What%20is%20Arianism.htm for an example and explanation of this form of ‘good and evil.’]  Verse 8, “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day:  and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.”  They needed a relationship with God, and now their nature is what?  So hostile towards God, filled with such shame and guilt, that they hide from God.  See how their nature’s changed?  They’re all hiding from God, ‘He’s gonna get us, he’s gonna hurt us, we’ve been bad,’ and they’re hiding.  “The LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” (verse 9)  Remember it isn’t because God didn’t know where they were.  It’s like the little child that’s hiding behind the chair, saying, ‘Daddy, find me, daddy, find me.’  They’re out in the open, covering their eyes, ‘You can’t see me.’  Oh, where are you?’  We’ve all played that little game with children, right?  God says, ‘Well, where are you?’  So he said, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” (verse 10)  He has fear, he never had fear before, you know, shame.  He saw new things, he never experienced anything like this before.  He said, ‘I also knew, there’s something wrong with my body, my wife, there’s something wrong with us.’  There wasn’t anything wrong with them before that point.  “And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked?  Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (verse 11)  Now notice the initial reaction.  Now pride comes in, ‘I can’t be wrong, the little god that I’ve made myself into, it’s not my fault,’ lack of taking responsibility is the immediate corrupted human nature reaction.  “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”  ‘Now remember, it’s the woman you gave me.  You know, ultimately God, you really messed up here.  I would never have eaten that fruit, but you made her, it’s your fault and her fault, not my fault.’  But what happens here is pride, ‘I can’t be wrong, and even if I am wrong, it’s really not my fault, somebody else made me do it.’  This is where we go.  We don’t want to be wrong, but he had to admit he was wrong, so what does he say?  ‘I am wrong, I am guilty with explanation,’ which in some points of law, you can be guilty, or not guilty, or guilty with explanation.  And we all want to go before God and say, ‘Guilty with explanation.’  I’ve actually gotten with human beings who could never repent, because they blamed God for their own sins.  I’ve actually dealt with people like that.  ‘If God would never have exposed us to Satan, we would never have sinned.  It’s his fault we sinned!’  Ah, I don’t know what to say to somebody after that.  “And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”  (verse 13)  ‘And the woman said, ‘Satan, the devil made me do it, it’s his fault.  It’s really not my fault.’  When someone comes to us, now remember, they’re being confronted by God.  ‘OK, we’ll say, I have to go apologize to God.  But when somebody else comes to us, ‘OK, you’re right, you’re right, I’ve listened to you, this is what you said, and you’re right, I shouldn’t have said that, but you know what, it’s so hard to be around you.  You’re right I did that, but I did it because you just complain all the time and I can’t stand it.  Yes, you’re right, BUT let me explain to you how bad you are, so that you can understand that I’m really not bad in what I did.’  We must take responsibility for our part.  Now you don’t take responsibility for someone else’s part.  But you must take responsibility for your part.  How do we do that?  Let’s turn to Philippians 2 here, the last Scripture we’re going to go to.  Philippians chapter 2, how do we deal with pride?  Well there’s another little series of questions I want you to ask yourself, that I need to ask myself on a regular basis.  And sometimes I fail.  Philippians 2, verse 3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”  ‘let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, pride, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.’  “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (verse 4)  So if someone comes to you and says, ‘You have sinned against me.’  You need to ask yourself a couple of questions in relationship to these verses.  1. One, am I resisting taking responsibility for my actions because of my need to appear righteous.  Do I feel that confessing will make others loose respect for me?  Sometimes we just can’t admit because, ‘Well if I admit it, and they don’t take responsibility, people will loose respect, that person will loose respect for me.  I can’t admit that I’m wrong.’  Well, the Scripture says we must.  2. Second question, am I resisting taking responsibility for my actions because I see the other person as spiritually inferior to me?  ‘Yeah, I did something wrong, but let’s face it, do you know who that person is?  They’re really hardly barely converted.  Let me tell you about that person’s sins, well I knew that person 20 years ago.  So let me tell you about that person’s sins.’  And so we don’t take responsibility because we actually believe, we don’t say it, but we know, in our hearts we believe that that person is spiritually inferior to us.  Am I willing to listen to the offended person, and strive to understand his or her viewpoint?  3. And then the last question, am I willing to take the offended person’s interest as seriously as my own interests?  ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, their interests as serious as my own?’  Isn’t that what Paul just said?  How do you do that?  Well, he takes us in the next verse, I’m going to read this from the NIV, he takes us in the next verse to an example of how to do this.  So he says, ‘OK, this is difficult, this is hard, so let me give you an example of how to do this,’ Philippians 2:5-6, reading it from the New International Version, so in verse 4 [of Philippians 2] Paul says, ‘You should not look out only for your own interests, but also to the interests of others.’  ‘OK, this person says I’ve offended this person, I have my interests, I have my feelings, I have my ideas.  But OK, I have to hold that person’s interests as equal as mine.’  Well how can you do that?  Well Paul says, here’s how you do it.  “Your attitude” reading from the NIV, verse 5, “Your attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ’s,”  Oh wow, he takes us right back to, he goes to Jesus Christ’s example in every one of these cases we talked about, ‘let’s go back to the example of the Person who has reconciled us to God, let’s go back to him, his example, his reconciliation is what we do.’  “who being in very the nature of God” it says “in the form of God” in the King James.  But we think of a form like an outline of something.  That word “form” has much more substance to it than that.  And this is the translation, a more literal translation, “he was by very nature God.”  You and I by nature are corrupted images of God, who have received the divine nature as an act of healing.  ‘He was by very nature God, and did not consider it equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself” it was a decision he made “he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.”  Yea, he could have come as the conqueror of the Roman Empire, but he didn’t.  He came as a servant, by nature.  The nature of Jesus Christ, the divine nature in flesh, was as a servant, being made in human likeness.  “and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and  became obedient to death, even death on the cross.”  He says, his point here is, if the sinless Son of God humbled himself by becoming by nature a servant, a servant in a human body, when you’ve sinned against somebody, can we not humble ourselves?  Can we not humble ourselves to confess, and try to bring peace to the person we’ve offended?  Can we not do that?  Can we not try to do that?  We’re back to spiritual poverty here, aren’t we.  The concept we began in the first sermon.  Humility and spiritual poverty before God are the keys to reconciliation, whether you are the person who has been offended, or you’re the person who has committed the offense.  If you’re the person who has been offended, or if you’re the person who has committed the offense, it still comes down to that humility and spiritual poverty before God are the keys.  Only after understanding the ministry of reconciliation between God and yourself, carried out through Jesus Christ, only then can we do what we’re going to discuss the next time.  Where everybody wants to go when we talk about this subject, everybody wants to say, ‘OK, give us some means and ways to carry out reconciliation.’  Well we covered four sermons that give us the attitude, the understanding, the example of God.  So next time, we can finally now go through methods, if you will, of reconciliation.  [Transcript of the fourth sermon in the six part series on The Ministry of 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

 

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To download the whole series on  mp3, “Ministry of Reconciliation” (6 mp3’s) see: http://mediafire.com/?dm82ak6v1c82m

 

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