Ministry of Reconciliation
“You and I live in a world of constant conflict. It’s all the time. I mean, you can’t, can you imagine turning on the news once, and the news people say, ‘You know, all the politicians agreed today.’ We just live in a world where everybody’s in constant conflict. And of course you go to work every day, people there in conflict. You come home, husbands and wives, parents and children in conflict. Where do we go to get away from the conflict, from the constant struggles between human beings? Christians, we kind of follow the Prince of Peace, don’t we? That’s what we say. But you know, many times in lives, whether this be husbands or wives or friends, or inside the Church itself, we have conflict. And many times it’s difficult, because when we look at the Church we will see divorce, we will see people not getting along, we will see people angry and bitter, we will see all the results of conflict. And sometimes inside the Church it’s no different than in the world. And that means there’s something wrong with us, because you and I were called to follow the Prince of Peace, and peace is more than the absence of armed conflict. I mean, the obvious breaking of peace is when you turn on the television and watch all over the world, people rising up, wars taking place, people killing each other, dictators crushing the rights of their people with tanks. We see this armed violent conflict. But you know violence is just the far end of conflict. You could stop all violence today, and we would still be a people on this earth in conflict. We would still live in a world of conflict. We would still have conflict between ourselves and our families, and between each other as Christians. Why are Christians so often embroiled in the same conflicts as the world? Why aren’t we any different? Because we’re supposed to be. The solutions to solving the conflicts that happen between Christians, whether it’s husband and wife, whether it’s inside the family, inside the congregation, with each other, whether it’s how we deal with the world, how we deal with our co-workers, how we deal with our neighbours, this is very important, because to really understand how we should deal with conflicts, we have to deal with the very foundation of what Christianity is---what the very core foundation of our Christianity is. And you think, ‘Oh well, good, this is going to be a sermon about conflict resolution.’ I’m not gong to give you ten steps on conflict resolution. Before we ever get to those kind of discussions we have to deal with other issues. You know, it’s natural for human beings to have differences of opinion. Right? We all have differences of opinion on all kinds of things. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have dysfunctional conflict. In any relationship in which the relationship is healthy, that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of disagreements. Even the most healthiest of relationships, except one that we can talk about, that’s between the Father and Jesus Christ, all other human relationships, we’re talking about human relationships, have issues we disagree with. I can remember early in our marriage my wife and I having a terrible argument. But we don’t argue over this anymore, we found a way to fix this, over where we would go for vacation. But that’s because we had family scattered all over the country, and all of our vacations for years, for twenty-five years, every vacation we went on but one, was to go visit family. And which family are we going to go visit? Which family is going to be upset because we didn’t get to see them on this vacation? So what we would try to do is sometimes take these long vacations, two-week vacations, where all we would do is drive six-thousand miles visiting family. That way everybody was happy. Of course we were exhausted and needed a vacation when we got back. But we would have these difficulties, ‘OK, which family do we see?’ Those are normal. Over time, healthy relationships, we figured out a way to solve the issues. But solving the issues isn’t the reason, or the issues aren’t the reason for conflict. We say, ‘No, no, what we have is a difference of an opinion.’ A difference of an opinion can be worked out. So we have to deal with why there is conflict. What is the basic core of conflict? In the Sermon on the Mount, there’s some things I want you to write down today, because in this series of sermons we’re going to be going back to some core ideas. And one of them is this, on the Sermon on the Mount, one of the Beatitudes mentioned by Jesus Christ says, ‘Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” We’re going to talk about peace-making, we’re going to talk about being the sons of God, children of God. “Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” So when disagreements in our marriages, and our friendships, disagreements among people in a congregation among Christians leads to the same bitterness, the same lack of forgiveness, the same destructive outcomes as the world, then we are not acting as the children of God. When our conflict leads to the same destructive outcomes as the world, then we are not acting as the children of God. You say, ‘How can you say that?’ Because “blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” So write that down, that’s one of the premises that we’re working off of here. How could we be examples to the world, as the children of God, as peace-makers, if we can’t live it ourselves? Peace is not just the actions that happen between people. As we go through this you’re going to begin to realize, peace is something that happens inside of us. Peace is first an internal issue, and then becomes an external issue. What we think is, you know, the argument over what color fabric to have on the living-room couch is the real issue. And it is not. The disagreement over color is just opinion. The anger, the fighting, the bitterness, is a result of something else.
Five Major Reasons We Have Internal Conflict
1. Pride, When we’re driven by pride, we become driven by how others treat us
I’m going to go through some of the major reasons why we have conflict internally. We’re going to start with this. Because there’s five major reasons that we have internal conflict, that we have problems internally that end up in conflict with others. The first four we will cover very briefly. But we should write them down, because we’re going to go back and deal with these next week. It’s the 5th one I really, really want to zero in on, because the 5th reason is the major reason. Now the first reason there is conflict between human beings is because of pride. We could talk a lot about pride, and I’m not going to talk about it. I’m just giving you an example, if you write this down. These are the reasons people have conflict with me and I have conflict with others. Pride is an exaggerated viewpoint of yourself. And so we become deceived by ourselves. The problem with pride is, it’s very deceptive and we deceive ourselves. We have an exaggerated viewpoint of who we are. And because of that pride, we forget that the whole purpose of Christianity is about how we treat others. And instead, our whole viewpoint becomes centered around how others treat us. Christianity is about how we treat others. But when we’re driven by pride, we become driven by how others treat us. And therefore we become totally consumed with negative thoughts and feelings. And we wish to be vindicated no matter what the price. And when we’re driven by pride here’s what happens in conflict. There’s only one way to solve conflict, and that is to win. The only way to solve conflict is to win, so we have pride, that’s an issue. Now, once again, that’s a whole subject in itself. I want to zero in on number 5. So we have a pride issue.
2. Second Reason We Have Conflict: When Hurt, We Want Justice or Healing
A second reason that we have such dysfunctional conflict between each other, and you know, I’m an expert at this, I have done a whole lifetime of dysfunctional conflict, in one way or another, we all have. We all have become experts at bad conflict. The second reason that we have such dysfunctional conflict with each other is because we need the other person to emotionally heal us when we’ve been hurt. I knew a man one time who was hurt by another person, and the other person died. And he lived in such turmoil because there were two things he wanted, he wanted justice or healing. Right? Either the person has to pay, or the person has to say they’re sorry. The person died. The person couldn’t receive justice, he couldn’t be punished for what he had done. And he couldn’t say he was sorry. And this man was in agony all the time. He almost couldn’t have relationships with other people. I’ll never forget what he told me, this was many, many years ago. He said, “It’s as if this man is reaching out of the grave and controlling my life. I need to be healed, and he can’t heal me. I need him to say he’s sorry so I can be healed.” So many times we’re driven by emotional conflict because of a desire and need---right? I need that, we all need to have somebody say they’re sorry. As I’ve said before, the words “I am sorry” are maybe the three most important words in any relationship, even more than the words “I love you.” “I am sorry” when someone actually means it…”Here’s what I’m sorry for, here’s what I did wrong.” “I am sorry,” “Why?” “Well I don’t know, I just hurt you.” Well that’s meaningless. But to be able to say ‘I am sorry’ and to say ‘here’s what I did wrong,’ maybe the most important three words in any relationship. But we have this emotional need to be healed. What happens when two people hurt each other? You think about this, everything we go through, pride brings conflict. You get two people filled with pride, and guess what happens? The conflict goes on and on and on because they [each] have to win. Pride makes you have to win. What happens when people are driven by the need to be emotionally healed, and they both hurt each other? They both are driven to have the other person heal them.
3. 3rd Reason for Conflict: Unfulfilled Needs & Desires
A third reason we get trapped in conflict that never gets resolved, is that we have expectations that others will satisfy our needs and desires. Now, you have to understand, it’s not entirely wrong to have some kind of [need to have others satisfy our needs and desires]. I think, we would never have a relationship if we didn’t get something out of it. I mean, people would never get married unless they expected to feel loved by the other person, to work together with each other, to satisfy each other’s emotional needs. All of these are driven by desires to be happy, to experience pleasure, and to avoid physical and emotional pain. I want you to write that down, too. All of us desire to be happy, experience pleasure, and avoid both physical and emotional pain. Here’s the problem, all of us are expecting everybody else to do that for us. We have these very high expectations for each other. And when other people don’t meet those expectations, we go into conflict with them. I mean, marriage is such an easy example to use. I mean, if you were a person who needs verbal affirmation, and your husband never says “I love you” or says something nice about you, or praises you, or thanks you for anything, you’re miserable. Right? You expect him to do that. When he doesn’t meet those expectations there will be conflict. Not all of this, by the way…pride is one of those things that is very detrimental to relationships. The need to be emotionally healed is part of who we are. But if we don’t understand that, and we don’t deal with that, we will never heal any relationship. [To see the basic needs both men and women have in marriage, see: http://www.HOWMARRIAGEWORKS.com] And this third one, those needs of themselves are not evil. But they can become conflict-driven. “You will meet my expectations, or you will pay.” Once we head down that emotional route we begin to destroy the relationship. We begin to perceive others as blocking our expectations or happiness, we see them as the source of pain, we see them as the source of keeping me from what I want in life. So we put on our battle armour and we go in ready for hand-to-hand conflict, ‘Because you’re keeping me from what I want to be,’ or ‘You’re keeping me from happiness, you’re not meeting my expectations.’
4. 4th Reason for Conflict: The Need To Be In Control
The fourth reason is the need to control. All of us are designed to have in us, when we’re confronted with conflict, a reaction of “fight or flight.” Right? We either run away from conflict, or we rush into it with our sword drawn to fight. And it’s the normal human reaction to conflict. We either run or we fight. Well there’s times to run and there’s times to fight. But if you really want to solve conflict, neither of those will work. Now here’s part of the reason why we either fly away or fight. And I want you to write this down too. We want to protect our rights, we want to protect our self-image, and we want to protect our emotional security. The truth is, in much of life we don’t have a lot of control over those things, you just don’t. We have control over some things. In fact, one of the great aspects of wisdom is figuring out what you have control over and what you don’t have control over.
Reason Number Five For Conflict: We have made ourselves into gods and goddesses
When you and I are fighting to protect our self-image, and when you look at all four of these, and you mix them together, here is what we do. We literally make ourselves an idol. We make ourselves into an idol. We become our own god, or goddess. And we will determine how other people worship us. We will determine how other people will treat us. We will determine, always, it will always be the final arbiter of what is righteous in my relationship. They say ‘That’s a pretty strong statement to make, when we become our own gods,’ when we’re acting as our own god, we’re acting as our own goddesses. Now we’re going to get into the real reason [#5] for conflict. Those emotional human reasons and mental human reasons for conflict. But those are the result of something. All human conflict comes down to one conflict, and how we solve that conflict will determine how we deal with other conflicts with each other. There is one conflict, at the core of all of it. What is it? Romans chapter 8. We have all erected in our own minds a self-image of ourselves as the center of the universe. Every human being makes himself or herself, in their own mind, the way we act, we think, we wouldn’t say this, but it’s what we do, in our own self-image, we are a god, or a goddess. Everybody is supposed to act a certain way when around us. Everybody is supposed to be a certain way when they’re around us. Everybody is supposed to treat us a certain way, we expect it. And when it doesn’t happen, we have conflict with them. Right? Romans chapter 8…Romans 8, verse 7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” This is the natural state of a human being. This was your natural state, and my natural state. And brethren, brethren, brethren, folks, we’re still partly this way. This is why we have so much conflict, because we haven’t dealt with this conflict. ‘the carnal mind, the natural mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ There it is, write that one down. That’s one of the premises we’re going to work off of. You and I are naturally the enemy of God. You know, this Passover season, we are brought back to that. And I fear we really haven’t grasped what that means. In our natural state we are the enemy of God, that’s what that says. And we can’t do his ways, you can’t. You may want to, but you can’t, because you have an innate hostility towards his solutions. I know I’m still that way. There are certain solutions, God has certain things, my initial reaction is still hostility, ‘No, I don’t want to do it that way, I don’t like that way, that’s not the way I want it to work.’ Why? ‘Because I want it to work my way. I want it to meet my graven image that I have in my mind as myself. That’s what I want.’ I’m only speaking from experience, folks. This is our natural state. I mean now, he’s God. We know how it became this way, but let’s go set the basic core premises again. Genesis chapter 3, Genesis chapter 3, we are in conflict with God. We are in conflict with God. There was a time you did not know you were in conflict with God, you just thought ‘God loves me, I love God,’ but you lived your life as an idol. You worshipped yourself, and you were in conflict with God. ‘Oh I was a good person.’ Well, Genesis 3, and verses 1-6, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field” talking about Satan of course, “which the LORD had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 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.” Now, there’s three interesting motivations here. In verse 6, the tree was good for food. It wasn’t poisonous, and it was going to taste good. She said it was desirable and it was pleasant to the eyes. It was something that was good looking, and it would make her wise. In other words, to know the difference between good and evil was a good thing. And she took it. And you know, when you look at those three motivations, of themselves they were not evil. Of itself, to want to learn wisdom is not evil. To want to eat good food is not evil. But those desires, uncontrolled, get twisted. And at that point she became, because now it started in her mind, all sins start in the mind. That sin led to an action, and she became a mixture of good and evil, and at that point she was hostile toward God. If she would have said, ‘No, I love God, I’m going to do what’s right,’ she would have loved God. Now she became hostile towards God. Her nature changed. When Adam followed along, his nature changed. It wasn’t just a matter of ‘Oooh, I’ve committed a sin.’ The very core of who he was and who she was as a person changed. They were no longer in a loving, peaceful relationship with God. They had become at this point, gods in their own eyes. [“and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”] They determined right from wrong, they determined good from evil [and our legislatures do that all the time now, don’t they]. They had become their own gods. And as their own gods, since there’s only one God, they’re now in hostility and conflict with the one God. And the one God said, ‘Fine, you don’t live in my house anymore.’ And you remember, Adam and Eve didn’t walk out of Eden, they were kicked out of Eden. ‘The LORD God said ‘You’re in conflict with me. I am God, you are not. You must leave my house. You are no longer my children.’ And humanity were no longer the children of God, something changed in them, and they became something else. And it’s what you and I were. And it’s what you and I have been called to be, something different. And when we act just like our own gods, when we worship ourselves, when we make idols of who we are, we end up back in conflict with God. Because, remember, you and I still have elements of this hostile nature in us. It’s still there. It’s not the way it used to be, hopefully, but it’s still there. We have to remember, there is only one God, there’s no room, there is no room in God’s house for millions of self-determining gods. It just doesn’t exist. You know, it’s interesting, 1st John 2:16, oh, let’s go and turn there. 1st John 2:16, I wrote down so much information that there’s no way to cover it all today, but we have to set the premise, we have to understand the conflict we have because we are our own gods, we are idol-worshippers, we worship ourselves. And this basic core conflict between us and the True God is why all other conflicts exist. 1st John chapter 2, and the Passover season is supposed to remind us of this. 1st John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, same three motivations that motivated Eve. Originally, you know, the desires were not evil, but they became twisted. And we set out to look at human nature that we’ve talked about so far, and it’s exaggerated, hostile human nature, and what it means, and why we have conflict.
The Conflict Within Each Of Us
Let’s first look at what we’ve covered. 1. We’ve talked about pride as an exaggerated view of self, so that we have to win over others. 2. We have an emotional need to be healed by the people who hurt us. There’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s a powerful driving force. 3. Then we have a desire to be happy, to experience pleasure, and to avoid both physical and emotional pain. And we have expectations that other people will do that [fulfill those things for us]. 4. The natural human reaction to conflict is flight or fight. We want to protect our rights, our self-image, and our emotional security. And we desire to do this. And we become then, something happens to us. I talked about the change in nature. Ephesians chapter 2, we read this Scripture all the time, let's go back to Ephesians chapter 2. Because of this, here’s what happens. We have this conflict with God, we have all these core needs that aren’t being met all the time, and so we come back to this. Here he’s talking about Christians who have changed. Now we’re in the process of changing, just like these people were in the process of changing. But we need to remember what we were, because we’re still carrying part of that in us. Now when we get to the Days of Unleavened Bread next month, we’ll talk about coming out of Egypt, and how we can’t carry Egypt with us. We’ll talk about getting rid of leavening, we can’t take leavening with us, all these symbols. Ephesians 2, verses 1-3, “And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins;” he said, ‘you were dead, you were the enemies of God, God had pronounced the death penalty on you, and you were dead. But he made you alive.’ “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation [conduct] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Showing that sin isn’t just something that we do, it’s something we think. ‘By nature we became children of conflict. By nature we must as god, impose our will on others.’ ‘We must impose our wills on others, because I have expectations of others, and what they must do to fulfill me, to make me happy, to do what I want.’ And so we literally become our own gods. And in doing so we become the children of wrath. Adam and Eve were the children of God. When they ate of that fruit, and determined ‘I will be my own god, I will determine good from evil,’ at that point they became the children of wrath, the children of conflict, the children of bitterness, the children of anger. And they were no longer the children of God. Now that’s what every one of us wants to be, the children of conflict, instead of the children of God. And we bring all of those internal messes, that internal mess is what we bring into our relationships with each other. Fortunately, people are a mixture of God and evil. Because with that internal mess, if we were completely evil, the human race would have killed itself off thousands of years ago. There’s still enough good to keep humanity from simply killing itself off. We know that before Jesus Christ returns, humanity will be on the very brink of self-destruction. Now in the midst of all this, you have something deep inside of you that you have to come to grips with. Every one of us has an inner deep spiritual need that aches to be restored to God. We’re designed to have a relationship with God. We were designed to have a relationship with God, because we were designed to be the children of God. So inside you is a conflict, a conflict between self-determination, which we will protect at all costs, because we made an idol of ourselves, and a relationship with our God which we need and we desire. Now you think about the conflicts you have, if we could just sit down and analyze it beside ourselves, which we’re not very good at, we have a deep desire, need, ache, to be in a relationship with God, who we are also hostile towards at the same time. We’re hostile toward the only one who can give us what we need. We’re a mess, folks. Human nature is an absolute mess. I need God, I want God, I want God to help me and love me and take care of me, as long as I don’t have to do what he says. As long as I can be my own god, you know, like a lesser god. So I’ll worship you [God], but leave my life alone. So we’re in this internal conflict inside of ourselves. And that conflict spills out over into everything. This is why you cannot solve the other conflicts until you solve this one. The problem is, we’re incapable of solving this. God has to do something. Now this brings us to a concept that Paul talks about in 2nd Corinthians 5. Let’s go to 2nd Corinthians 5. So we set the premises that you and I are, at our core, pretty sick messed up people. That before our calling, we were hostile towards God. The natural mind is the enemy of God, and can’t be subject to his ways.
How Do We Become The Children of God From The Children of Wrath?
So how do we get to where we have to go? 2nd Corinthians chapter 5, verse 18, Paul says now “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;” now I really want to stress this idea of reconciliation. When we go through this we will see that God does not want to sort of solve your issues with him. Now this isn’t negotiation, where God says ‘Let us just sort of solve the issues we have between each other and learn to get along.’ Where God talks about reconciliation he is not talking about solving your issues, he’s talking about restoring our relationship, he’s talking about restoring a relationship. He’s talking about changing us from children of wrath to the children of God. So this idea of reconciliation isn’t just, ‘Let’s sort of negotiate a peace,’ and then go away and still be hostile to each other. God wants to change the hostility you and I have towards him. He wants to change the fact that we are his enemy, and we feel towards him as an enemy. So he says, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit [that is] i.e. Paul says, ‘this is the message I’m supposed to give you,’ “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (verses 19-21) Jesus Christ came to this earth to carry out the work of reconciliation, to bring us back into relationship with God, to deal with the primal core reason for all conflict. Because all conflict begins with human beings being the enemy of God. Human beings, if all human beings were reconciled to God, there’d be no war, there’d be no crime. There would be differences of opinion, there would be issues between individuals, issues between peoples, but those issues would be solved. They would be solved because everybody involved was totally reconciled to God. Now there’s no human being walking the face of the earth, even the most converted among us, whose totally reconciled to God yet. We still all have bits and pieces of our hostile human nature. And because of that, we are in conflict with God and we are in conflict with each other. But Passover, Passover is the time we’re brought back into the concept of being reconciled to God. [see: http://www.unityinchrist.com/lamb/exodus1.html] Here’s the problem we face. When we looked at how God saved us, which we just read here, obviously we have an issue with the Law. You and I were all condemned to death by the Law of God. Now what the Protestants come to the conclusion is he [Jesus] abolished the Law. Which is absurd, I won’t go into that, but how do you abolish the Law, then there’s no need for him to be sacrificed. [see: http://www.unityinchrist.com/whatisgrace/whatisgraceintro.htm and http://www.unityinchrist.com/newcovenant/TheNEWCOVENANT.htm and read Matthew 5:17-19.] There’s no need. If there’s no sin, if there’s no Law, then this is all, there’s no need for any of this. But God’s Law still stands. He didn’t abolish God’s Law, so there had to be a substitute. So we talk a lot about Jesus Christ as the substitute, and we should. Because that’s where we start, he’s the Passover Lamb, he is the substitute for us, so that our sins can be covered up and blotted out. Now, after they’re covered up and blotted out, what’s supposed to happen next? What’s supposed to happen, after the Law of God is satisfied, I say the Law of God, it’s God’s justice. God is satisfied, God is satisfied, you know, and we’ll go through Isaiah 52 and 53 sometime during this Passover season. It satisfied him, to sacrifice his Son. [see: http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/1stcoming.htm] His justice was satisfied. Jesus Christ sacrificed himself in order to satisfy his own sense of justice. Because we’re all still held accountable for our sins. And either we die, or we have a substitute for us. Now that’s the Law aspect. The question is, what happens next? If the Law of God, God’s sense of justice has been satisfied, and you’re forgiven, you’re forgiven. But by nature, understand, you can be forgiven of your sins, but by nature you’re still what?---the enemy of God. You’re still hostile toward God. If you want to do an interesting word-study, go through the Bible [using a Strong’s Concordance] and study the word “abomination” or “abominations” sometimes it’s called. Because “abomination” is sometimes used many times in reference to God’s interaction with human beings. Abomination is God’s reaction to hostile enemies. “Abomination,” it means detestable. It is hard to even put into words the depth of what an abomination is. An abomination is detestable to God, it is disgusting to God. It is something that he finds absolutely repulsive. So what is a human being in relationship to God, hostile toward God, an enemy towards God? What is God’s reaction to corrupt human nature? He finds it detestable. When we go through this we’re going to see, what’s fascinating here is, what motivates God to do what he does. He finds human beings in their corrupt state to be abominations. Now what we like to do is we like to pick out in there, ok, homosexuality is an abomination, idolatry is an abomination. We like those, as we go ‘Oh yeah,’ we like to attack those things. But if you go through and look up all the places where abomination is used [in the Bible], you’re going to find that your life, at times, is an abomination to God. While you were his enemy he found you quite disgusting, he found me quite disgusting. Abomination is used for dishonesty, it’s used for pride, it’s used even for a person’s thoughts. There’s a place in Proverbs where he says a person becomes so wicked ‘that their prayers are an abomination to me.’ Now we think, well anybody praying, God will listen to their prayers. God says ‘there are times when there are people so disgusting to me, that I find their prayers disgusting.’ You have to understand the level of hostility that we have as human beings towards God, because we’re all, there’s six [now seven] billion gods running around on this earth. We’ve all made ourselves gods. And we’re the enemies of God, and he finds the whole thing rather disgusting. ‘Oh no, he love us.’ I’m not talking about whether he loves us or not, I’m talking about what he says, not me, what he says his reaction is to children who have become his enemies, which is everybody, until he changes us. Read Proverbs 6:16, let’s look there. Proverbs 6:16, you say, ‘Wow, this is getting pretty depressing,’ Whoa, whoa, whoa, this ministry of reconciliation is amazing. But we have to understand the depths of the price paid, we have to understand who we were if we’re to understand who we’re becoming, if we’re going to understand how to deal with conflict. What do we receive when Jesus Christ comes back [to earth]? A reward of helping him do what? Reconciling humanity to him and stopping all the conflict between human beings. So we’d better learn it now. Because that’s what we’re called to do. Now there’s always going to be conflict, as long as we’re human beings. We have to understand the reasons and core problems beneath it, and why we end up so much of the time with anger, and bitterness, and hatred, and dysfunctional and destroyed relationships. Because this is where it starts. Look at Proverbs 6:16, “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that diviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” You will find place after place in the Bible, and you say, ‘Yea, I’ve done some of those things.’ See, we pick out the ones like homosexuality or others because it’s so easy then to go after those people. Yes, that’s an abomination to God, so is it when you sit around devising wicked plans. So is it when you bear false witness. So is it when you sow discord among brethren. So is it when we do any of these things, when we’re proud. So here we have this dysfunctional human nature in conflict with itself, in need of God and wanting to be a god at the same time. And yet we realize that we are called to return to being the children of God. But to return to being the children of God, that means we have to have a basic change in our nature. We have to go from being the children of wrath to being the children of God.
How Does The Gulf Between Us And God Get Bridged?
How does that gap get bridged? How does that meeting take place? Think about the gap between us and God. There’s this huge gap between us and God. We are his enemies, and he’s the righteous Creator. You and I can’t bridge the gap. We can’t get from here to there. You know we talk about God’s grace, some of us are afraid to talk about it because the Protestants use it so much, but the bottom line is, you and I can’t get from here to there. The Passover lamb must be slain, the blood must be put on the doorposts, and the death angel must pass over us. You can’t go out and play cards with the death angel and say ‘I tell you what, let’s just cut cards for this.’ You and I can’t go to God and force him to bridge the gap. You cannot ever get there on your own. This is what grace is. But we have a responsibility. If we don’t fulfill that responsibility, yes, you can loose eternal salvation. But I’m talking about here, how do we get from being the enemies of God, this is the ministry of reconciliation, how do we get from being the enemies of God to being the children of God? How do we get from being by nature the children of wrath to by nature being the children of God? How is that gap, that gulf, the huge endless gulf, how do we bridge that? You and I can’t do it. Romans chapter 10, I’m going to go through a number of Scriptures here very quickly, because I’m going to read them, and just expound on them a little, because they say it themselves. Romans chapter 10, [I believe he started quoting Matthew 5:9 here, and then he goes to Romans chapter 10] “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) Let’s go to verse 14, [of Romans 10] “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Paul says, ‘How does this happen, how does someone call on God, how does someone come into a relationship with God and be restored to God?’ How can they do that? He says, ‘How do people get to God?’ How do people get to God? And then verse 15, “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Now he quotes the Old Testament. Contained in the Gospel message is peace, peace between nations, peace between families, peace between brothers and sisters, peace between members of a congregation, peace between neighbours. And it all starts with peace between us and God. The Gospel of peace, how does God bridge that gap? Hebrews chapter 2. Now we’re going to go through a series of Scriptures here, just going through them, and looking how the Scripture says that gap is bridged. Hebrews chapter 2, because there’s two things that must happen. First of all, God must reach across the gap to us. And then he must do something to bring us across the gap to him. See what I mean? There’s this huge gulf between us and God, and we are his enemies. He must reach across that gap, he must reach across to us, then he has to do something to bring us across the gap to him. There’s two things he has to do. Hebrews chapter 2, verses 14-15, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” You know one of the reasons we try to control everything? I know why I try to control everything. Fear. If I could just get everything right in my life, all the time, I could be happy, have a right self-image, I could be emotionally secure, and all my expectations would be met. It doesn’t work that way. We fear all the time. He says ‘to release those who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.’ “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” (verse 16) In other words he’s talking about Jesus Christ came though, of course, Abraham. “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” (verse 17) He had to be made like us. How did he bridge the gap? You and I couldn’t go become God, so God sent his Son to become like us! He sent him across the gap. Jesus Christ, according to Philippians, willingly did that. There Paul says he gave up his divinity, his privileges of divinity. He literally became flesh, he literally became flesh, so “that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” (verses 17b-18) He literally became that way. After a hard day’s work of hammering out, there’s a carpenter, his muscles ached just like ours do. There were days when he was hungry, just like we get hungry. There were days that he didn’t feel good, just like we don’t feel good. There were days when the disciples got on his nerves. There were days when he was surrounded by conflict, and went to the Father and said, you read some of his…’This is bizarre how these people live.’ He sat and cried over Jerusalem and said, ‘I could fix this, if you would let me.’ We have to, at the core of who we are, we have to understand what it means, that Jesus Christ became flesh. Remember that old man telling us John 1:1 over and over again till we got sick of it? Mr. Armstrong saying “You people don’t get it.” And he would take us to John 1:1-2,14, “In the beginning was Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And we’d say, ‘Why is he doing this?’ This is why he was doing it. At the core of our being, we have to understand the price that God and his Son paid to cross over that gap, to stop our conflict with them. When we get this, it changes how we deal with conflict with each other. If we don’t get this, we will treat each other the same way the world treats each other. Jesus Christ got dirty, and had to take a bath. Jesus Christ, you know, went through all kinds of things, and his whole life was filled with conflict. His own brothers and sisters didn’t accept him as the Messiah until after he died. His own disciples, his own best friends, abandoned him. He was mocked in public, he was unjustly tried, he was brutally murdered. His whole life was filled with people trying to kill him, just for telling the truth. His whole life was conflict. He went across that gulf, became like his brethren, to do what? To be made fun of, put down, ostracized, and give up all the greatness of being divine, of never having to sleep, never feeling pain, he gave all that up to cross over. Colossians 1, verse 19, So let’s look at how Paul now describes the ministry of reconciliation. Colossians 1:19-22, “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight…” Now we understand the reconciliation that he had to die to pay our penalty against the Law. But it’s more than that. It is so that we can enter into a relationship, it’s because the gulf can be breached, he breached it. You and I can’t. You and I can’t. “having made peace through the blood of his cross”, peace, notice what he says? Peace can happen between us and God because of this, because our sins are forgiven, because our hostility towards him is forgiven, because we can change so that we are not his enemies anymore, we can become at peace with God. And notice what verse 21 says, “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled…” The ministry of reconciliation isn’t a set of good communication rules so that you and your buddies can solve a problem. Or you at work can sit down and, you know, get together in the board room and solve a problem. Those are simply ways of dealing with issues. When we talk about the ministry of reconciliation, we’re talking about the very core of what a human being is. And the death of Jesus Christ and his resurrection was God’s way of jumping across the gulf, to bring us back into relationship, by first forgiving us of our sins. Because he won’t accept us in sin. The idea that Jesus just accepts you as you are is one of the greatest false lies ever told by modern Christianity. God doesn’t accept us as enemies. God says ‘Come here, come here, let me forgive you, come here, let me do something with your life so you and I aren’t enemies anymore, so that we’re at peace. Come here and let me do this. Come here and let me do this, I have to jump the gulf to do it, because you can’t do. You can’t get across the chasm.’ “Verse 22, “in the body of his flesh through death,” Why? “in the body of his flesh through death,” You know, I’ve got allergies today, Jesus walked around with the sniffles once in a while. What a price to pay, what a price to pay, to have to be made that low to be like your brethren, to be like the other children, what a price to pay. “in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight.” See, once peace is made between us and God and our nature can be changed, he presents you holy and blameless and above reproach in his sight. Peace is made between you and God, because Christ jumped the void, he jumped the chasm. Romans chapter 5, verse 6, here’s what’s really amazing about this, you know, we need to be healed, don’t we. We’ll talk about this more next time, but we need to be healed. God’s approach to healing of conflict is the exact opposite of ours, exact opposite. Romans chapter 5, verse 6, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Christ didn’t die for us once we became godly. You know, it’s like the idea ‘I’m unworthy of baptism.’ Yes. So what do I have to do to become worthy of baptism? Recognize that you’re unworthy of baptism. Let’s go back to the beginning, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commended [demonstrated] his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (verses 6-8) While we were his enemies, because, there is no way for us to get across the chasm. There’s no way for us to come to God and change ourselves, we can’t do it…[tape switchover, some text lost]…Some soldiers throw themselves on the hand grenade to save their buddies. OK, we say, ‘Well that’s like what Christ did.’ No, what Christ did, was being tortured and hated by the enemy, and then throwing himself on the hand grenade to save the people who were torturing him. OK, now there’s the context. He took the abominations, that’s what he calls us, he took the little finite human beings running around and saying ‘I’m god, I’m god, I’m god, I’m god,’ and he jumped on the hand grenade while we were torturing him. That’s what he did. When we understand this, whatever conflict you have between your husband, or between you and your wife, or you and your children gets pretty minor, most of it, gets pretty minor. He says, now remember, he did it because he loved us. He looked at us not as what we were, but what we could become. God didn’t see in us just what we were, he saw in us what we could become, and he loved us. That was the motivation. He loved his enemies. God didn’t love us because we were lovable. He loved us while we were enemies, understand that, while we were hostile towards him. “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (verse 9) Jesus Christ didn’t stay dead. Jesus Christ was resurrected, and Jesus Christ now does a work of reconciliation in people. He does a work of reconciliation. So we were forgiven. But in bridging that gap, jumping across that gap, he is still on the other side of that gap, he’s still with us. He’s still with us, reconciling us to God, through God’s Spirit, bringing us to God through his Spirit, acting as a High Priest, acting as an older brother, all these terms that are used in the Scripture. This is how we bridge the gap. This is what Passover is all about. Now, he bridged the gap by jumping over to us. How does God take us to the other side? Because there’s two steps to this, two steps. Next time, we will discuss the ministry of reconciliation, and how Christ crossed the gulf for us, to become flesh, the mind of God in a human being. And what he’s doing now to reconcile us, so that we come back across that gulf, and we have a relationship with God that can last for eternity. [Transcript of the first sermon in the six part series on Reconciliation, given by Gary Petty, Pastor the United Church of God, San Antonio, Texas. Copyright © The United Church of God. Source UCG site: http://san-antonio.ucg.org/sermons ]
end part I
To download the whole “Ministry of Reconciliation” series on mp3, (6 mp3’s) see: http://mediafire.com/?dm82ak6v1c82m
What is Law & Grace? See:
What is the new covenant? See:
Understanding what Jesus did for us. Who is Jesus Christ? See:
What is Passover? See:
To Learn the genuine needs of men and women in marriage, see: