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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 V

 

In Review

 

“We’re going through a series of sermons on the ministry of reconciliation, and we did four sermons over the last three weeks, and there were other things to be covered, so we took a little hiatus from that.  I’m going to go back to that, because I really believe this is a core issue of the Scripture, in our relationship with God and in our relationship with each other.  In the first two sermons, and just to review it a little bit, we talked about how we are reconciled to God, and what that means.  What it means to be an abomination to God.  We were created in the image of God, but when Adam and Eve decided that they were going to live life their way, immediately their nature changed.  We went through how they had a corrupted human nature, they were no longer in the image of God.  And so they felt guilt, they felt shame, they had all kinds of problems they’d never had up until that moment.  And then after their natured change, the way they thought changed, the way they felt changed, and God drove them out of the garden of Eden.  And ever since then human beings, somewhere early in our development, our nature gets corrupted.  Satan influences us, we become corrupted.  Somewhere in the womb, somewhere right after birth, every one of us becomes a corrupted image of God.  And then when we talk about sin, when we talk about individual sins, we need to, we need to deal with individual sin, we need to understand the things that we do, say, and feel that are sin.  And yet when we deal with conversion, we have to deal with more than individual sins.  We have to deal with the fact that every one of us has a corrupt nature.  Even for us sometimes we do the things that make us feel religious or look religious, but we haven’t dealt with the core that has to be changed.  The very core of who we are has to be changed, we have to take on a new nature.  In going through that, we went through how we are an abomination to God, we are his enemies.  Those are the terms that he uses.  We are the enemies of God [in our uncalled, pre-conversion state, he is talking right now about all of us in our pre-converted states of mind].  That by nature we are hostile towards God and can’t be subject to his Law.  We are the children of wrath.  That’s what we are.  At our core of being we are the children of wrath, the children of anger, the children of rebellion.  And God sent Jesus Christ here to begin this reconciliation process.  He wanted to reconcile us into a relationship, to bring us into a relationship with him.  And this is where the problem lies in so much of Christianity, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, that basically, most Christians, if you really get down to it (I’m not just giving a blanket statement), many Christians in this country are Christian agnostics.  There’s a God, and they go to church, but in their daily lives there’s no proof of God.  There’s no proof of God in their daily lives.  And so really they’re sort of Christian agnostics.  That seems like a contradictory term, but it is true.  There’s the problem.  And so we have to realize this isn’t just about accepting God, it isn’t just about believing in God and somehow accepting Jesus Christ.  True Christianity is having our nature changed.  And so in order to do that, realize, there’s this huge chasm between us and God.  If you remember, I said it’s like the Grand Canyon, and we’re on one side and God’s on the other.  And what we think is if I can get enough of a running start, I can jump that chasm, and I can get to God.  The widest part of the Grand Canyon is only five miles wide and a mile deep.  What kind of a running start do you need to jump that?  So, we have to realize God had to come across the chasm, that’s Jesus Christ.  He became like his brothers, we read that in the Book of Hebrews.  Remember?  In order to what?  To reconcile us while we were yet enemies.  We couldn’t get across the chasm, so he came across for us.  He became like us, lived a sinless life, and died for our sins, died because we are children of wrath.  And then he returned back to his Father [cf. John 1:1-14]  The problem is, of course, that still leaves us on the other side of the chasm.  So he had to give us, God had to give us his Holy Spirit.  Now he brings us to him, he takes us where we cannot go, so we can have a relationship with God.  That relationship totally depends now (after God’s done all this) on our submitting to that Holy Spirit.  We’ll probably talk about that during Pentecost next week.  Our submitting to that Holy Spirit brings us, so that we are changed from being these fallen images of God, the children of wrath, to where we are changed into becoming the children of God.  Which is what we were originally designed to be anyways.  The problem with free-will, he gave it to us, we were going to go bad and do it, it’s why Jesus Christ was slain from the foundation of the earth.  He knew we were going to rebel, and he knew he was going to have to reconcile us, and he had a whole plan to do it.  And so that’s how God reconciles us to him.  It’s through our understanding, and repentance.  We have to come to an understanding of how corrupt we are, and how worthless we are, that we are an abomination, we are his enemies, but he wants us to become his children.  And that’s why we read in Romans he said even our repentance is because of the goodness of God.  You didn’t repent because one day you woke up and said, ‘You know, I think I’ll go tell God I’m sorry.’  We repented because we saw the goodness of God, and then said, ‘Wow!  I’m not that way.  I’m not a child of God.  I wish to be child of God.  I wish to follow, I wish to obey, I wish to have my sins forgiven, I want to be cleansed.’  It was that goodness that drew us toward him to begin with.  So that’s what the ministry of reconciliation is, we took two whole sermons talking about how we reconcile to God.  And that must be a core belief, that has to be a core motivation for every one of us.  That isn’t just a nice doctrine that’s good to know, ‘Good, we know that doctrine,’ so we can intellectually discuss it.  To intellectually know that doctrine and not have it be a motivation is to deny it.  It’s power is what it does in us.  And so that’s where we start.  It starts with God reconciling us to him, and the fact that he wants to reconcile all human beings to him.  So then we did two more sermons on, what is our attitude toward each other, specifically as Christians, when we have conflict with each other?  Remember I went through five reasons for conflict, core reasons, there’s other reasons.  There’s lots of reasons, but usually they boil down into those five categories.  The number one reason that we have conflict between each other as Christians, is we have conflict with God.  We have to solve the conflict with God, then we can solve the conflict with each other.  But it’s our personal conflict with God that is the center of all other conflicts.  So we have to deal with that one first.  We talked about how then, the person who is offended and the person who has committed the offense, who has committed a sin against another person, how they are to deal with that.  And whenever we don’t know how to deal with it, we always go back, Scripture after Scripture, where we’re reminded, you do this, because this is how God did it for you.  It’s amazing, how much of the responsibility lies on the person whose offended, to be proactive.  Why?  Because that’s a God-like character.  We offended God, we were his enemies, and he reached out to us, we didn’t reach out to him.  We as the sinners, he reached out to us, when he was the one who was sinned against.  So, we went through two sermons and dealt with those issues between each other.  But now we have to go through the concept of ‘How do we do that?’.  OK?  We went through what you must do, and how you must pray, the attitude you must have, how you must look at the other person, all these Scriptures.  But now it comes down to, ‘OK, we’re squared off like two gun-fighters, now what are we supposed to do?’  And now we get into some core issues of conflict resolution.  That’s a big subject, I’m not going to go through all the things we could go through.  But I do want to go through Matthew 18, because Matthew 18 applies the beginnings, practical steps.  Now remember, you really can’t do this, until you’ve done all the things that you must do first, what we covered, what you must do if you’re the offended person.  And then, if you are the offender, you must do all those other things.  So when you take this first step, and there’s three stages of conflict resolution that’s talked about here, when you take that step, you must have already prepared by doing the other things.  If you haven’t, you will probably fail in what you do.  So you have to do the homework first.  Remember, there were questions that were asked, huge things we must do. 

 

Matthew 18 and The Ministry of Reconciliation

 

You Must All Become Like Little Children---A Nature Change Is Required

 

So let’s start in Matthew 18, Matthew chapter 18.  We’ve got a lot to cover today.  And let’s start in verse 1.  Now we’ve already read, actually, in these series of four sermons, we’ve read much of Matthew 18.  But now I’m going to look at Matthew 18 in the context of putting all of it together.  So let’s start and look at how this whole discussion by Jesus began.  Matthew 18, verse 1, “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said,” now Mr. Henderson gave a sermonette on this recently, ‘how can we be like a child?’ ...he said, “I want to talk about how we become like a little child,” he said, “I have a little child.  And sometimes I love her, and she’s so responsive, and sometimes she’s a little brat.  So I don’t understand how that could fit in here.”  He must have been having a bad day.  And we talked about that.  That’s true.  The point he’s making here is Jesus picked up a little child who was very docile at that moment, and we’ve all seen that in a child, where there’s a moment where they’re totally dependant on the adult, totally, completely ‘I’m yours, you can do with me what you want, I love you and all I want from you is to love me.’  And he picked up this child and said, ‘At this moment, what you see in this child, that’s the way we’re supposed to be with God.’  Now, their question was, ‘OK, the Kingdom’s coming, and you’re the Messiah, you’re the Son of the Kingdom, and you’re going to reign over the entire world.  And since we’re your disciples, and we’re the inner circle, what jobs do we get?  Who do we get to rule over?  How much power do we get?’  That’s the question here, you know, We’re going to be kings and priests [cf. Revelation 5:9-10].  Hey, I want to be a king, and I want Rome, I’m going to pay those guys back.’  Right?  Remember they were under Roman authority at the time.  Their thinking is, what power are we going to get?  And his answer is, ‘See this little child?  You have to become like this little child, this docile to God, this willing, this innocent to God.’  “And said” verse 3, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  So, we’re back to the change of human nature.  Conversion is the change of the core of who we are.  Sometimes people will come into the church, keep the letter of the Law, and that’s as far as their conversion goes.  That’s not complete.  The letter of the Law is not enough, never was, never will be.  It is the change of nature that is required.  ‘Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.’  “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (verse 4)

 

To Receive Other Christians Is To Receive Christ, To Not Receive One Such Christian Is To Not Receive Christ

 

Verse 5 is very important, “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”  Now, at this point, and what we see through the rest of this, he’s using this child that is there.  He picks up this child.  He’s using this child, and saying, ‘This is now a Christian, this is what a Christian is supposed to be like.’  So from this point on, when he talks about little children, he’s talking about Christians.  We’re brothers and sisters, we’re all little children in the same family.  And verse 5 is very important, because this is what launches into the next thing that Christ is going to talk about.  Jesus says, ‘Your relationships are important.  When you’re receiving another Christian in this kind of humble relationship, then you receive me,’ Jesus said.  And this is why I said, unresolved conflict between us as Christians, when it goes on and on and becomes toxic, it hurts us and it hurts others, it’s actually a problem between each of us and God, it’s actually a problem between each of us and God.  These relationships are so important, that when we don’t work this out, he says, when you receive this person, you receive me.  Of course, the corollary then, if you don’t receive this person, you don’t receive me. 

 

If We Cause One Of These Little Ones, One Of These Christians To Sin…

 

So we have to understand the gravity of what he’s saying here.  And that’s why he comes to verse 6, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a milestone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offenses cometh!”  He says [in verses 8 and 9] ‘If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off,’ in other words, he says, if something is causing you to sin in your life, get it out!  If something is causing you, you know, we can apply it then in verse 8 and 9 to all kinds of personal sins too.  I mean, if something is causing you to not be honest, if something is causing you to break the Sabbath, if something is causing you to drink too much, if something is causing you to just, you know, fill in the blank, he says, ‘get rid of it.’  But verses 6 and 7 deal with how we deal with other people.  And he says, ‘If you cause one of these little ones to sin.’  Now how do we cause each other to sin?  Now I can say that nobody here has ever caused me to, you know, I can’t think of any sin.  None of you has ever caused me to envy, none of you has ever caused me to steal, ah, there’s been times you’ve almost driven me to drink, but that’s another thing [laughter].  [Comment:  Some people, who have a problem with alcohol, some other caustic people can drive them into that sin, so it does apply.]  You know, I’ve got to see if you’re awake sometimes.  See what happens?  How do we cause each other to sin?  Now obviously we can.  If someone’s in a business deal, and two of you are in a business deal, and you lie to each other, you’ve caused…there’s a sin.  How do we do this?  The main way that Christians cause other Christians to sin, is we do something bad to them, we do something mean to them, and their response is a sin, uncontrolled anger, bitterness, hatred.  Right?  So he says if you cause somebody to sin, that’s terrible.  You have done an offense, which is probably sin on our part.  The person who is the offender, we have sinned, and the other person responds by sinning, and he says, when you do that, the person who originated it is really held by God responsible for what that person did.  Now we talked about that when we talked about the message to the offender [in Reconciliation sermon #4].  Now remember here though, the offended person has also sinned now.  He doesn’t like the way the offending person sinned. That’s not what should happen here, ‘Well, it’s ok, because you caused me to do that.’  That’s not an argument here you can do.  Everyone is responsible for their own sins.  But he’s giving a real responsibility here and an extra warning to those who cause somebody to sin.  He says because when you do that, and we’ve all offended others by doing something wrong against them.  And all of us have been offended.  We’ve all been on both sides of this coin.  I find it very interesting here, that, and you find this throughout the Scriptures we saw, there’s this huge responsibility also on the person who was sinned against.  Because if we respond to sin [wrongly], why are we different from the person who did the first sin? 

 

The Two Major Ways We Despise Each Other As Christians…Don’t Do It

 

So then he goes on in verse 10, and I find verse 10 very interesting, in the midst of this discussion that Jesus is having, because it seems like all of Matthew 18 was connected, it was all said at the same time.  It’s hard to tell sometimes, because the writers of the Gospels, of course, they’re taking a long period of history, and sometimes they’re just pulling out different things and putting them together.  You see that in Luke 15, he takes three parables on the same subject and sticks them together.  Probably Jesus didn’t give all three parables at the same time, it’s a related subject.  So it’s hard to tell, but it looks like Matthew 18 was all said at the same time.  There’s nothing in here to indicate the break, like the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Mount has a beginning and an end.  We know that it was all said at the same time in Matthew’s account.  So this appeared to be all said at the same time, so we have a context in which he now said something very interesting.  He said, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” (verse 10)  Now he’s not just talking about children here.  Remember, he picked up the child and said ‘you must be like this child, this is what you should be as my follower.’  So he says now, ‘be very careful that you don’t despise one of these my followers.’  He’s talking to who?  Fellow followers.  He’s talking to disciples about disciples.  ‘Take heed, be very careful, that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father whose in heaven.’  What that means is a whole other discussion, we won’t go there, because I want to stay on the point that Jesus is making.  Verses 11-14, “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.  What think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?  And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.  Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”  How do we despise each other?  I thought a lot about that.  How do we despise each other?  Now, remember, the whole context here is Christian against Christian, brother against brother, sister against sister.  That’s the context here.  How do we as Christians despise each other?  And I’ve been thinking about all the ways we do this to each other, and you can take most of the ways we despise each other and bring them down into two categories.  First of all, we despise each other because we feel superior to the other person.  We have the problem of being in a church with three or four generations of people in it.  ‘I remember you when…’  Right?  [“A prophet is not without honor, except in his own city or town” principle, not giving people the space in your own mind to allow for their spiritual growth.]  And it never goes away.  You’re sixty years old, and the eighty-year-old says ‘I remember you when you were fifteen, remember when you wrecked the car and they found out you were drinkin’?’  They still remember it!  Right?  Now, that’s not always true, despising.  But we have to be careful.  We despise each other because we’ve known each other long enough, we know each other’s sins.  You don’t have to be around each other very long to figure out, ‘Guess what…’  If you don’t know this, I don’t want to make you feel bad, if you’re a new person I don’t want to make you feel bad, but every person in this room is a sinner.  Now we’re forgiven, but there’s still part of our nature that’s messed up real bad, in every one of us.  We’re still struggling with it.  And we know that about each other, and we can despise each other because ‘Your sins are worse that my sins.’  I’m going to give a sermon on that, here sometime this summer. [Comment:  When a foot-soldier in the US Army was given a battlefield commission, raised to the rank of a commissioned officer, it was standing orders that soon afterward he would be transferred to another battalion or division, simply so he would not be assigned over the men who knew him personally as a foot-soldier, so that the men now under him would have the proper respect due him.  So even the US Army recognizes this principle.]  It’s so easy for us to look at homosexuality and say ‘That’s an abomination.’  And it is an abomination.  God says that.  Should we just stand up and say that’s an abomination?  Yes we should.  But you know, he also says that pride is an abomination, he also says, there’s a lot of things, there’s a lot of things.  So we have to recognize there’s certain things where we say ‘Well, yea but, my sin’s not an abomination like your sins.’  And we actually despise each other.  The other way that we despise each other, is that when we get mistreated by somebody, and then we won’t forgive the person, so we literally despise the person, because they did something mean to us.  So that’s the two ways, that you can take most the ways, not every way, but most the ways we have of despising each other as Christians, and because of those two things.  In fact, both of them come at us at the same time.  Somebody looks down on somebody else because they consider them spiritually inferior, so they despise them, and this person’s offended, so they despise them back.  Because why?  ‘You’ve offended me.’  Both of those things have happened now.  So, take heed, he says, be very careful that you don’t despise each other. 

 

Three Stages Of Conflict Resolution:  Sage I

 

If You Don’t Confront Your Brother, You Will End Up Despising Him

 

And then he launches into the three stages of conflict resolution, three stages of conflict resolution.  Matthew 18:15 then, first stage, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone:  if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”  Don’t despise each other, you’re brother has sinned against you.  Your brother [or sister] has done something to you.  I don’t mean just hurt your feelings.  Remember when I went through how we have to sort through and say, it’s amazing how many offenses in life really aren’t that important?  Just let ‘em go.  You know, the best marriages aren’t the marriages that the people never do something they shouldn’t do toward each other, most of the cases it’s they just forgive each other.  And they’ve learned not to do it, more and more and more.  As time goes on, they don’t do mean things to each other.  And as time goes on, they forgive each other easier and easier.  But now we’re dealing with something that’s really offensive, that’s so damaging you must say something, so damaging you must say something.  Now, I want you to understand, this is a command.  Sometimes we’ll say, ‘No, no, no, no, I’m not going to go talk to that person.  That person did this to me, and I’m not going to go talk to that person, that person has to come say they’re sorry.’  This is a command, this is part of the Law of God.  Go to Leviticus chapter 19.  Remember last week I talked about the holiness code?  That in Leviticus there’s whole sections of this about holiness, and how we need to study and realize that whole sections of Leviticus still apply to us as Christians, in terms of our holiness before God.  Leviticus 19:17, Jesus, in Matthew 18, is using some of the Old Testament to make his point.  He’s using the Law to make his point.  Leviticus 19, verse 17, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart:  thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.”  People like to say, ‘Well, the Old Testament had nothing to do with love and these kinds of things.’  Where do you think “Love God will all of your heart, soul and all your might” comes from?  And “Love your neighbour as yourself” comes from?  It comes from the Old Testament.  Here is the command not to hate your brother in your heart.  ‘You shall surely rebuke your neighbour and not bear sin because of him.’  In other words, when your neighbour has sinned against you, don’t hate him!  If you hate him, you’ve now sinned.  Right?  That’s what he says, ‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart.  You shall surely go to him,’ it can be translated “reprove” or “correct” or “explain to him”.  You’re to go  him and explain to him his sin, and not bear sin because of him.  You know, there’s times when someone’s done something so terrible, you can’t let it go.  There’s some things you just can’t let go.  But if you don’t deal with it, that’s what you will do, you will hate him in your heart.  Which means what?  You are now sinning.  You’ve just piled sin upon sin.  So when Jesus here says ‘Go to your brother,’ he’s just quoting Leviticus.  He’s just taking the Law, and saying, ‘Now let’s learn how to apply the Law in the Church [Body of Christ], among the little children, my followers, my disciples.’  Remember what the Messiah was supposed to do, magnify the Law?  So he says ‘Let me explain now how this is magnified, let me explain how the Law works now.  So this is what you do.’ 

 

Before You Confront Your Brother Or Sister, Review What We’ve Covered

 

OK, now I’m going to go to my brother.  But remember, before you go to your brother or your sister, go back to through the entire instruction that I gave on how to deal with somebody if you’re offended.  Do that first!  You don’t say ‘Oh my brother really hurt me, load up the shotgun, and I’m going over to his house,’ the verbal shotgun.  ‘I’m going to kick in the door and pull the trigger.’  That’s not what it’s saying here.  See, you have to go through all that praying to God, finding out how you contributed to the problem.  Remember, we went through this, all these things you need to do.  Make sure this is really a serious issue, and not just a matter of your pride, or not just a matter of your, that you have a problem, or maybe the person really didn’t do anything wrong, you’re just being too sensitive.  And you have to go through the whole process.  As you do, you will not hate your brother.  But there will reach a point where you need to go to your brother, if they’ve really sinned, if the brother really sinned, you will need to go to your brother, because you love your brother.  You will have to, you will be compelled to do so, because the Law of God tells you to do so.  And because if you don’t, and you just sit on that offense, guess what eventually will happen?  You will hate your brother in your heart.  That’s what the Law in Leviticus says will happen here if you don’t.  So we have to go.  So we go to our brother.    

 

Five Points To Apply When Confronting A Brother or Sister

 

Now, let me give you very quickly, because I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but some of this I actually covered in the Agape sermon series I gave [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/Agape/Agape%20I.htm] back last year.  But some very simple principles about conflict resolution if you’re going to go to your brother.  OK?  Very simple ones, and I’m not going to go through a lot of Scriptures, I’m just going to give you these points, and you can write them down and think about them. 

 

1. Realize Why You Are Going To Your Brother or Sister---To Gain A Brother Or Sister

 

Before you go to your brother, study all of Matthew 18.  I mean, the entire chapter.  We just read about how you can’t despise your brother.  The last half of Matthew 18 is the parable of the man who owed a king a lot of money, and was forgiven, and wouldn’t forgive somebody who owed him a little bit of money.  A whole parable about forgiveness.  That’s why all of Matthew 18 fits together, like he gave it all at the same time.  And so he says, you must forgive---why?---because you are forgiven.  We’re back to the ministry of reconciliation.  Remember the price paid for you while you were an enemy, while you were offensive to God, while you were an abomination to God.  So you have somebody who is an abomination to you, offensive to you, they’re your enemy.  You wish to reconcile them.  You know, I want to go back to verse 15 again and read it, because there’s something that’s very important here.  ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone,’ it has to be done alone.  And here’s the problem.  If you’ve gossiped about this person to fifty other people, you may be going alone, but you really aren’t.  You really aren’t going alone, you’ve got an army of fifty people waiting for you to call them and tell them how it went.  ‘Did that person grovel like they should!? Did they cry like they should?  Did you beat them down?’  We don’t realize the terribleness of gossip.  It is a sin.  ‘But yea, the person did something to me.’  There are times when we’re hurt by somebody, there’s somebody to talk to it about.  It’s somebody you can trust that’s going to be open with you, and objective with you, help you through it, yet maybe sympathize with you, but also tell you if you’re wrong.  You sit down and you explain, and that person helps you through the problem.  Gossip is, ‘I’m going to tell everybody I know so that they’re on my side.’  There’s a huge difference between ‘I need to go to my best friend, talk about something that happened to me, and my best friend can help me through it, maybe even tell me I’m wrong,’ and ‘telling everybody you know, because you now have a mob, a lynch-mob.  I’ve got a mob and I’m going after that person.’  You go alone, face to face.  And why do you do this?  ‘Well obviously, so that person will repent, or be punished.’  Remember, I said we have two motivations at this point?  We either want the person to repent, or we want the person to be punished.  And those are our expectations.  And you see the problem is, sometimes people won’t repent right away, sometimes it takes them a long time to figure it out, sometimes the punishment never happens, and so we have these expectations, and when they fail, we get bitter.  So what should be your expectation, according to Matthew 18?  What is your expectation when you now go sit down with someone whose damaged you, whose abused you, who has hurt you, who has lied about you, who took advantage of you?  What do you do?  What is the expectation?  What is your motivation?  Well, ‘You go and tell him his fault between you and him alone, and if he hears you, you have gained your brother.’ (verse 15 says)  Reconciliation, remember I said is about restoring relationship?  You gained your brother.  And at that point, something interesting happens.  You don’t want your brother to suffer the weight of the Law, you want your brother to receive forgiveness, ‘I hope and pray that God does not punish you.  I don’t want to punish you, because we’re brothers again.’  You have gained a brother.  That is what you go into this as your expectation.  Now sometimes that doesn’t work out.  Some people will not repent when they’ve done something wrong, and you live with that.  We all do.  That’s what your purpose is, it is to gain a brother.  And that’s not why most the time we go.  It is to get healed.  Remember we talked about that.  ‘I need to be healed, and brother you’d better heal me, because you did something wrong.’  Now you go to get your brother to repent of his sin, because his sin is damaging him, his sin is damaging him or her, you want them to stop sinning because it’s hurting them.  Why did Jesus Christ cross the chasm, come as a human being, and die for us?  It wasn’t because he needed healing from us.  It’s because he wanted us to stop doing this to ourselves.  We go to our brother because we want our brother to stop doing this to others, ‘You’re hurting me, you’re hurting others, stop it, because you’re hurting yourself.’  It’s a different motivation.  So, read all of Matthew 18 before you go.  So you’ve gone through the whole process, praying, maybe fasting, all the things we talked about, now you say, ‘I’ve gone through the practical application, I’m going to read Matthew 18, set up an appointment, and go talk to the person.’ 

 

2. Don’t Go With A Confrontational Attitude

 

Second thing is do not approach the person with a confrontational attitude, but with the desire to gain a brother, ‘I come here because this relationship means something to me.  I come here because I wish us to be restored.’  And I don’t care who you are, if you’re around anybody long enough, you’re going to have some confrontation.  Right?  If you’re never going to have a confrontation, you have to live by yourself.  Of course then your confrontation is between you and God.  But I mean, as human beings we’re always going to have confrontations with everybody at some point, or just about everybody, or a misunderstanding, or a hurt feeling, that’s going to happen.  That’s just what it is to be human.  So we go and say ‘This relationship means something.  So I desire to restore it.’ 

 

3. Pick The Time, Place and Your Choice of Words Very Carefully

 

The third point, pick the time, place and choice of words very carefully.  You don’t want to confront somebody in a crowd.  Right?  I’ll never forget, years ago a deacon, and he was upset with me about something, and had run up to me, and was just, you know, going on and on and on.  And I’m standing there thinking, ‘Well, I’ll just let him get it out.’  And neither of us, because we were close friends, thought about it.  Because I had no problem with him telling me what was on his mind, and he was upset over something.  ‘Well, ok.’  Until one of the elder’s wives walked over and said, ‘Everybody’s looking at you [in a whisper].’  And I looked and half the congregation was staring at us.  And he looked at me, and I looked at him, and I said, ‘We’ll get together Monday morning.’   He said, ‘ok.’  We did.  I went over Monday morning and it was all fixed.  You know Bill, remember how confrontational he can be?  I love that man….and he was yelling at me, going on and on.  ‘OK Bill, get it off your shoulders.’  But it wasn’t the time to do it.  I didn’t think about it, he didn’t think about it. Right?  And everybody’s watching.  So we walked away, shook hands, walked away, so everybody would think ‘OK, there’s no problem here.’  And I showed up Monday morning, walked in the house, and his wife had already chewed him out [laughter], and I walked in the house, and I’d thought about it, ‘OK, I need to listen to him, figure out what’s wrong, I couldn’t figure out what’s wrong.’  I walked in the house, he ran across the room, grabbed my hand and said ‘I’m so sorry for that happening in front of all the church people, I’ll never do that again.’  And I looked over and she was standing in the back smiling.  [laughter]  I said, ‘It’s OK Bill, what is it, sit down and tell me what it is.’  Well by that time he had worked it all out himself, it had to do with something, I can’t remember what it was, I don’t know, something some elder had done, I don’t ever remember what it was.  But, he worked it out himself, for the most part.  So we had some coffee, couple cookies, half hour later it was all fixed, and I spent the rest of the time swapping stories.  But you’ve got to pick those times carefully, because it could affect other people.  Remember I talked about collateral damage?  Why is it that Jesus said sometimes there’s tares in the wheat, and you leave the tares?  Why would you sometimes leave a sinful person in the congregation?  Because sometimes pulling up the tare pulls up wheat too.  Now there’s times, other times you can get it out.  And there’s times you don’t.  It depends on the collateral damage a lot of times.  You don’t want other people to be hurt by it.  So pick that time and place and choice of words carefully. 

 

4. First Try To Understand The Other Person’s Viewpoint

 

Fourth point, in order to resolve conflict situations, remember you first try to understand the other person’s viewpoint.  Sometimes I’m amazed when I sit and make myself listen to another person’s viewpoint.  And then suddenly you see it from their viewpoint, and you think, ‘Oh wow, that must be terrible, I understand how you feel, if I saw it that way too, I’d feel terrible too.’  When you enter into any situation, say, ‘Let me understand you.  I don’t have to agree with you, but let me understand you.’  So even when you go to your brother, sometimes you say, ‘You did this, and it really hurt me.  And I just want to understand why?  Have I done something wrong, or are you upset with me?  Why?’  And you let the person talk.  And every once in awhile you’ll say ‘I get it,’ from their viewpoint.  Do that.  And then always remember to praise before you criticize.  When you sit down with somebody and you’re about to tell them about their sin, tell them, ‘I need to talk to you, but because you mean something to me, I’m not here to correct you because I think you’re worthless.  It’s the exact opposite, I’m here because there is a problem between us, and you mean that much to me.’  Let them know it.  Which means, they’d better mean that much to you.  We’d better be that close, that we’re willing to go to somebody and point out a sin because we love them that much.  Or if there’s a conflict, we want to go find out what I’ve done wrong.  ‘What have I done wrong so that I can stop it?  Because you mean that much to me.’  That’s a little different from the books you get on conflict resolution in Barnes & Noble, isn’t it?  Because this isn’t a corporation, this is a family.  This isn’t a business.  Believe me if this was a business it’d go bankrupt.  Churches never run very efficiently, no matter how much they try, they never do.  It’s a family, that’s what a congregation is, it’s what a church is.  And this is how families do things, and this is what we must do.  [You know, even with ancient Israel, that’s the way it started out, the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob grown into one nation, then two, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  Then look in the Book of Acts, from the birth of the Church, all the way through the Epistles, the account of God’s growing spiritual family of the first century.  See also:  http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm.] 

 

5. If The Person Doesn’t Repent, Pray:  Intercessory Prayer

 

There’s one last point last point I want to bring out here in the context of going to your brother.  There’s another issue here, if the person doesn’t repent right away.  What if the person doesn’t repent?  That’s when we have the concept of intercessory prayer.  Because if the person isn’t repenting, then they have a hindrance between them and God.  Remember when I went through repentance and said when we don’t repent, there’s a barrier between us and God?  We all sin,  and when we sin against a brother, we sin against God.  [To read about one highly effective concept of intercessory prayer, see: http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/Prayer-groupGuidelines.htm  for some ideas about powerful intercessory prayer.]  When we sin against each other we sin against God.  When you sin against your wife you’re sinning against God.  So all sin puts a barrier between us and God.  So what we have to do, is when the person won’t repent, you say, ‘OK, we go to step # 2,’ but before # 2, if we’re going to follow Christ’s example in this, and the Ministry of Reconciliation is all about Christ and how he reconciles us to the Father, if we’re going to follow his example, what do we do?  Hebrews 7.  Remember intercessory prayer means you go plead for another person, you go plead for another person before God.  It’s talking about Jesus Christ here, we’re breaking into the middle of a concept, I just want to get this one sentence.  Hebrews 7:25, “Wherefore he” Jesus Christ, “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”  “to the uttermost”, I mean, to completion, or for eternity.  In other words, salvation here is complete at some point.  And he’s able to do this absolutely complete, there’s a point where those who respond to God are changed and stand before God as his children, eternal children, holy before him.  Because he’s able to do this.  ‘to the utmost, those who come to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.’  He is driven, Jesus Christ is driven, he is motivated to what?---stand at the right hand of God and say, ‘let me plead for this person, God I know that they’ve fallen again, but it’s so hard to be a human being, it is so hard.  Let’s work with him.’  He intercedes.  Now, do you think God needs an intercessor between you and him?  So why does he do this?  Because it’s what he expects us to become.  God actually models out all the behavior he wants us to do.  So Jesus Christ intercedes for us.  He goes through the actions of intercession to teach us how to go through actions of intercession.  So when you go to that person, and they don’t repent, when you go through that first stage, you don’t walk away and wipe your hands and say, ‘That’s it, you’re not my brother anymore,’ you’re supposed to go intercede for your brother.  We’re supposed to go ask God ‘Please help this person to repent.’  In the sermonette today, if we’re going to go preach the Gospel, we have to repent.  We are reflections of the Gospel.  [Comment:  What is the Gospel, by the way?  See: http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel%20.htm]

And if we are bad reflections of the Gospel, we’re not going to please God.  Now on September the 10th, around 100 congregations, including this one right here, are going to have a Kingdom seminar, where we invite, well, there will be a full-page ad in the Good News inviting people, two pages, inviting people to come to these seminars, and they’ll mention all 100 places.  So for two months, every time someone opens a Good News magazine they’re going to be telling them in San Antonio, Texas, on September the 10th there’s a Kingdom seminar at Baruch Hashem, and you’re invited to come.  It’s going to be advertised on Beyond Today for two months.  As we get close to the time, there will be a pre-registration.  If the pre-registration doesn’t meet some kind of expectations, we have  no idea if they will or not, and we’ve done Good News seminars and have had five people show up, and have had thirty-eight people show up, and I don’t know why five people showed up one time and thirty-eight in another.  We did one, if you remember, some of you were involved in the south side of town, we only invited 200 people.  Remember, we picked out a community, and we invited 200 people.  One guy showed up, and we did a Good News seminar for two days in a row for one guy.  We did it in another part of town, where six people showed up.  Remember?  But we only invited a couple hundred.  Well as we get close to that date, then what we’ll do is take our outreach money that we have, we have quite a bit in the outreach committee right now, and we will send out reminders to those very same people that get the Good News, post cards or letters.  All of you can invite any friends and relatives you think are interested, we’re not going to beat the bushes and go invite everybody, proselyte.  But you know what?  If we don’t live the Gospel, if our lives are no different than the world, why would God ever bless our preaching the Gospel?  Now I will tell you something, we all know this, you and I can’t convert anybody, and we may do all this and nobody shows up.  That will be God’s decision.  Right?  Or twenty people might show up.  That will be God’s decision.  But the point is, we have to be living that, we have to be living it whether anybody shows up or not.  So people come in and know, ‘This may not be a perfect group of people, but they’re sure going someplace.’  I think I told you that before, when I talk to new people, a lot of times I tell them, “This isn’t a perfect congregation, if you’re looking for a perfect congregation you probably should go someplace else.  We’re just a bunch of people trying to follow God.  We’re always stumbling and falling and picking each other up, and that’s all we are.”  And I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say, ‘Well I may not come to your church, but that sure looks refreshing.’   But we’re trying to go there, we’re moving in a direction, intercessory prayer.  [Comment:  It’s often been stated that the Gospel walks on two legs, the preached and printed word being one leg, and our silent good works to the hurting and lost of the world done in the name of Jesus Christ being the other leg the Gospel walks on, all done without necessarily preaching to them, just reaching out to them in good works where we become aware of a need.  And we all know when you try to walk on one leg, you just sort of hop along, it’s kind of ineffective.  For an interesting article on that subject, see:  http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/wearesalt.htm.  Try having those in a congregation and as individuals do this, and then send out invitations to those you help, and see what kind of response you get.  Just an idea whose time may have come.]

 

Stage II of Conflict Resolution

 

Now what do we do after we pray?  We’ve gone the first time, and it didn’t work out.  What do we do?  Matthew 18, go back to Matthew 18 here.  You say, ‘He’s not going to get through all of Matthew 18.’  Well, you know I said we have to confess our sins, and when I told you last time I had one more sermon left?  There’s two.  I didn’t know it would take two.  OK?  So I have to confess my sin.  Matthew 18:16, so next week we’ll get through this subject.  And I promise you sometime, unless I die, can’t promise anything, some time we’ll get through the book of Judges.  OK?  We’ll get through it sometime in the Bible study.  So let’s go now to verse 16, “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”  If he will not hear, you can’t write him off, you go back and you intercede for that person.  ‘God, please, help this person understand, help this person to come to repentance.’  You might wait awhile.  You may repeat verse 15 a couple of times.  Now this isn’t like cut in stone, I do this, I do this.  You know, I used to work, you all know this, if you’ve ever been in a supervisory position, you have the file on the person, and you talk to them the first time, and then you write up the report.  The second time you give them a written reprimand.  So the third time, you take in the boss above you, and they fire the person.  That’s not what this is.  That’s not what this is.  This is about restoring a brother.  That’s the whole purpose.  So, you know, if you think of this in the business world, that’s not what this is.  I’ve been through that, I’ve done that with people when I used to work in radio, that’s not what this is.  You may repeat verse 15 as many times as you want to, as many times as you feel it’s worth it, to try to reach that person.  Then you get to verse 16, ‘If they will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”  One or two more what?  ‘One or two more people that you’ve convinced that this person is rotten, and they will go and say, ‘I know this person is good, and you are rotten.’  No, Jesus here is quoting a law from the Old Testament.  Go to Deuteronomy 19, Deuteronomy 19.  He is magnifying the Law.  Deuteronomy 19, verse 15, “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth:  at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.”  You cannot convict anybody on one person’s statement.  Which makes me wonder about times when we will make these declarations about somebody, or somebody will make a declaration, we’ll take one person’s opinion, and we will use that as our basis for how to treat somebody else.  And you know, even if that person is right, you know we’re not allowed to convict somebody on one person’s testimony.  Now, I don’t mean in a private manner, I mean in a public manner.  So he says you have to take two or three witnesses.  These are people who know the situation, because they saw the situation.  Now there is a problem sometimes when the issue happened between you and a brother…I’ll just make up something here, say you’re a young woman, and you went out on a date with a Christian man, and he made some advances to you that he shouldn’t have.  So, you know, you’re very uncomfortable, the date ended.  You go back, at first you say ‘Well, I’ll have nothing more to do with him.’  Then you think, ‘You know, he is a Christian brother, he needs to learn to not do that, so I’m going to go talk to him,’ and you go talk to him.  And you try to talk to him, but he won’t listen to you.  He says, ‘Oh, it’s no big deal,’ and you go back and say ‘OK, I’ll pray for him.  But I can’t just let this go, because he might do this with other women.’  So now what do you do?  [I know where this happened, and it was brought to the attention of the church eventually, after several incidents, and because the church was male-biased the minister just blew it off.  I suspect the man involved, as a result, continued to have problems for the rest of his life.]  So you say, ‘I don’t have any witnesses.  So what do I do?’  A witness is usually somebody who sees something, but it doesn’t have to be somebody who saw it.  It has to be somebody who is respected enough by both parties to act as a mediator.  And I’m going to give you an example, and that is, I won’t go there and read it, but we all know the story of Abigail and David.  Nabal was a rotten husband.  You couldn’t get a worse husband than Nabal.  His very name meant he was a fool.  Abigail is a very bright woman, she’s probably much younger than him, very intelligent, it talks about she’s a very beautiful woman.  And she knows what is right.  She is probably in an arranged marriage.  Knowing the way things were done back there, he was probably much older, she was much younger, and she did what she was supposed to do in serving God, and trying to love her husband, in a very difficult situation.  David goes out and he defends Nabal’s property against marauders, nomadic marauders that would come through, kill sheep, kill workers, that kind of thing.  And he defends it.  So then David says, ‘Look, I’ve got 600 men out here, I could use some food.’  So he sends someone to tell Nabal, ‘I protected your flocks, and protected your land for all these months, been a good neighbour, I could use some food.  Is there some way you could maybe give some food to my men.  You’re a very rich man.’  He didn’t ask a poor man, he asked a very rich man, that he had done a great favor for, if he could just give him some food.  He didn’t ask how much he could give, maybe a little, it didn’t matter, ‘Could you just help me?’   Of course Nabal fires off a response and says, ‘You’re no better than the marauders that are out there, and you’re not getting a thing from me.’  And David looses his temper.  A great injustice had been done.  Nabal committed a sin against David.  He could have said, ‘No, I don’t have enough to give you,’ and he would have accepted that.  But he said David was no different than the pagans.  So he insulted him.  He committed a sin against him.  Now David being David, who tended to do first and think later, he decides that he’s going to take 400 of his men, and he’s going to ride right into Nabal’s town, because he would have a huge ranch, something like a small town, and he’s going to kill every man that’s there.  And so one of the servants comes to Abigail and says, ‘Our master is the stupidest man on the face of the earth.  He took a man who has been very good to him and publicly insulted him, a man that we know that God said is going to be king someday.  He did this terrible sin to David and you know that David can’t let that go.  He can’t be slapped around by somebody.  He’s going to ride in here and kill every one of us.’  And Abigail says, ‘OK, let me take care of this.’  Now she’s standing between a husband whose going to arm his men, ‘We’ll show that David who he is,’ and 400 guys that are coming in with one mindset, ‘We’re killing every man in that place.’  She hauls up all these animals, she just brings all this food, I mean, he was so wealthy, all this food, she takes this whole caravan out.  And here David is coming, and on the road he stops because there’s this woman leading a caravan. And she comes out and bows down in front of David.  Now, I always like to tell this story, it’s one good woman and four hundred angry men, one good woman and four hundred angry men.  These are warriors.  She didn’t know what David would do.  David even said, ‘I could have killed you,’ in the story.  He implied that, he said ‘I could have killed you.’   In other words, he was saying ‘That was a lot of courage you had.’  This is a mediator, this was a witness, this is intercession…she’s interceding, not only for the men who were her servants, she’s interceding for her bad husband.  And she tells David, ‘My husband is a fool, but for you to kill him is a great sin, it’s wrong.  You should not do this.  You will be king someday, and God will not reward you for this.’  And in this voice of reason, and she says, ‘Oh, by the way, I brought some food for your men, which my husband should have done, but he didn’t.’  And in this voice of reason, David says, ‘Thank you, you kept me from sinning.’  See, when we think of witness, we think of, ‘We’re going to bring in other…[tape switchover, some text lost]…two people come to an understanding.  Now if you see the sin, you could say, ‘OK, look I know where this person is coming from, when you lied about them, and I saw you lie about them, you shouldn’t have said that.  That was mean.  I just want to see you two as brothers again.’  But if you didn’t see it, you can still come as a witness, if you pick your witnesses, you’d better pick them very, very carefully.  Because as witnesses, you must do the same thing as that person does, you must pick your time and place carefully, you can’t come in with an accusatory spirit, you have to do all the same things as a witness.  Because you are there to help do what?  Restore relationship.  If you’re there to get a pound of flesh, you’re there for the wrong reason.  So, let’s go back to the young woman, she gets some other women.  She gets a man, maybe, this young man he respects, and she sits down and says, ‘OK, this other person that I brought with me, this woman has been on dates with men who acted like you acted, and she’s very concerned about you.  And this man who you respect very much said he believes you did that, he wants to talk to you also.’  So you say, ‘Well there’s no witnesses,’ you become a witness.  But they have to have a certain mindset, and they [you, if you’re going to be a witness] have to be there as negotiators, not prosecutors…So I’ve always admired Abigail going to David, because she lists everything, to negotiate peace.  She could have said, ‘Pack up the bags girls, we’re leaving, and we’re going to let these two men fight it out.’  Right?  ‘Maybe they’ll kill my husband, the old fool, and my life will be better.’  She could have done a lot of things.  What she did was put her life at stake to mediate, to witness between two angry men.  That’s amazing, just an amazing act of courage and understanding, witnessing, understanding, mediation. 

 

Next Time, Stage III

 

So what do you say if you do that, and it doesn’t work?  You go on to stage two which we just discussed.  Stage two is a big step.  Stage three is even a bigger step.  But to understand that verse, we have to go clear back into the Old Testament, study how things were done in these kinds of situations in the Old Testament, and how it was done in the New Testament.  So before we can get to stage three there, we have to spend a lot of time explaining how that’s worked in the history of both Israel and the Church, in the Bible.  Unfortunately, I must honestly say, in the Church, we haven’t always done that.  We haven’t always done that, as we go through and see what stage three is.  But to tell you the truth, we’ve almost never done stage one or stage two, let alone stage three.  So we don’t do stage three very well in the Church because we don’t do the first two.  So we have to learn the first two, and we have to learn number three, and what that means, when it says, ‘if he will not hear you now, you go to the Church.’  So, as I said before, this was supposed to be the last sermon in this series, but I do want to spend time next time, going through that concept of taking it to the Church, what that means, how we are to do that, and why it’s good not to do that.  It’s better to solve it in stage one or two first, much, much, much, much better.  Stage three, you don’t want to go there if you don’t have to.  But sometimes we have to.  This is all part of the little phrase we started with two months ago, when I said we were going to start this study, a doctrine we don’t know very well, called the ministry of reconciliation.  [Transcript of the fifth sermon in the six part series on The Ministry of Reconciliation given by Gary Petty, Pastor the United Church of God, San Antonio, Texas.  Source site: http://san-antonio.ucg.org/sermons 

 

related links:     

 

http://mediafire.com/?dm82ak6v1c82m

 

To see how the Gospel walks on two legs, and what one of those two legs is, see:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/wearesalt.htm

              

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