United Church of God

Ministry of Reconciliation, Part 2

You are here

Ministry of Reconciliation, Part 2

MP3 Audio (17.01 MB)


Ministry of Reconciliation, Part 2

MP3 Audio (17.01 MB)

At the base of every conflict that human beings have with one another, the root cause is that every one of us in in conflict with God. Until that conflict is fixed, we will never truly change all of the other conflict we have.


[Gary Petty] For those of you who weren’t here last week, this is the second in a series of sermons that we are going to be going through. It will probably take about four sermons to cover and even then we won’t cover everything that is involved in it. We are talking about the ministry of reconciliation and what that means. It is a core doctrine of the scripture. It is a core understanding of an important aspect of the gospel. And Paul told the church of Corinth that he was sent by Christ to be a minister of the ministry of reconciliation. And he said it was as if God was pleading through him with those people to be reconciled to God.

We talked, last week, about reconciliation. We talked about how reconciliation doesn’t mean that there’s conflict between people and they learn to get along. That’s not what this is talking about. Reconciliation has to do with conflict because it has to do with individuals who are separated. But is has to do with restoration of a relationship. God is not interested in simply forgiving us and then we just sort of get along with God. The core of the understanding of the ministry of reconciliation is God’s desire to restore us to a relationship with Him as His children. We went through last time and showed that we are the children of wrath.

Let’s got to Romans 8:7 because this is our starting point. There are a couple of premises that we established and this is one of them. In fact this is THE starting point. I said we were going to talk about conflict between husband and wife and conflict between children and parents and conflict between employees and employers, conflict between members of the church, conflict between neighbors. We were going to talk about conflict and the concept of reconciliation. And I talked about 5 major causes of dysfunctional conflict. There are always going to be disagreements. God created us all different from each other so there are always going to be disagreements. You and your wife may never agree on what color that couch should be. You may compromise or one of you may get what she wants, that’s the smart thing to do, but you may never agree on that. There are always going to be disagreements.

But we are not talking about that kind of conflict here. We are talking about dysfunctional conflict, conflict that destroys relationships. And out of those five major causes of conflict this is number one. This is at the root of every conflict between you and me and you and each other and all of the conflict. This is how it is going on in the Middle East. This is why there are wars taking place. This is why there is conflict between human beings and until we deal with this one, we will never truly deal with the other ones.

Romans 8:7 “ Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”

In other words, at the base of every conflict that human beings have with one another, the root cause is that every one of us in in conflict with God. Until that conflict is fixed we will never truly change all of the other conflict we have. WE will simply despise each other, hurt each other, tear each other apart. We will gossip about each other. We will never solve those conflicts until this one begins to be solved. I say BEGINS to be solved because one of the things we are going to look at today is that even though the natural mind is enemy of God, you and I are the enemy of God, every human being is the enemy of God. This is hard, sometimes, for people who grow up in the church to accept. They grew up in this way of life, they had this way of life, it just became natural. There is a time we grew up and got baptized and I am sorry for my sins. But I think many times, even at baptism, we never fully recognized that we have an innate hostility toward God and it is in every one of us. “Oh no, I love God!” No, the natural mind is the enemy of God. WE may like some of the things he does. We may even agree with some of the things He does (which is very arrogant to say that “Oh, yeah, I agree with God”). But we are hostile towards Him. And we can’t be subject to His law. We automatically see the wall as something that hurts us, keeps us from what we really want, and it is something bad. It is something evil. That is the way it is for human beings. This is why one of the most common teachings in the Protestant world is that the law has been done away with. Why? Because the carnal natural mind can’t be subject to it. The carnal mind is hostile towards God. That conflict is the basis of all conflict.

Now, I covered that last time. There are some very important premises that we talked about last time. If you missed that, please go online and listen to that sermon. Because there are important premises that we are going to move on with today and the next 2 sermons that is it going to take to cover all of this.

Because we were the enemy of God, by nature, we were the children of wrath. It wasn’t just something we did (Yeah, I’ve done some sins), it wasn’t just something we thought (yeah, I’ve had some wrong thoughts). By our very nature, at the core of who you were and at the core of who I was we were the children of wrath, we were the enemies of God. I went through and showed how God saw us as abominations. And that there is a huge chasm between God and us. We were created to be the children of God. And we were not the children of God; we were, by nature, the children of wrath. Now, being the children of God is not just a relationship. To be the children of God means that we must develop in us the nature of the children of God. And that is why Christianity is more than just the things we do. And it is more than just the doctrines we believe. True Christianity is becoming a child of God. So, behavior is very important in that, doctrine is very important in that, but you can behave a certain way and you can believe a certain way and still not be a child of God because, to truly be a child of God, our nature has to change. You and I were absolutely in a place where we could not get out of. You and I were doomed. God Himself condemned us to death. And we had no way out. The chasm between us was absolutely…there was no way to get across it. As I said, last week, ok, this is like the Grand Canyon. And to get to the other side where God is we think we can just get a running start and jump. We can’t make it. There’s no way for us to reach across that chasm because our nature is corrupt.

And this is the core of all conflict. The core of all conflict is our conflict with God. We were His enemies. We saw Him as an enemy, and He saw us as an enemy. And, brethren, I fear we have never faced that. Many of us have never come to grips with out hostility towards God. And so, spiritually, we are stuck. At the core of who we were: hostile towards God, the enemies of God. So what did God do? Because God had to do something. God had to cross over the chasm.

And we read last time, and we are just recapping what we covered last week, He sent Jesus Christ, with divine nature, into an uncorrupt human nature. He had to reach across the chasm. Mr. Armstrong used to call it the gap. How does God get across the gap to us? How do we cross? We can’t. So, Christ came to earth, He crossed the chasm for us and paid a horrible price to forgive us so that God would forgive us of our sins. Now, we know that. It is all about the Passover. The ministry of reconciliation is all about the Passover. So He crossed the chasm. We went through Philippians, where it says He gave up His divine privileges to become human. He really was human. Now it was an uncorrupted human nature but He was human. A divine nature in a human body. He knew what it was like to get sweaty and dirty and tired and hungry. Just read through the New Testament. He was always in conflict with someone. In fact when we get into the next couple a sermons we will see how He dealt with some conflicts. There’s always a conflict with somebody. Because of corrupt human nature, nobody got Him. Corrupt human nature is always a mixture of good and evil. Pure good, they just didn’t get. And what happened over and over again? You see Christ’s frustration with them. Just human frustration. As God, he had never had an adrenaline rush. He did as a human being. He never experienced the chemical reaction of frustration before, He did as a human being. He became flesh.

And then we went through the scriptures that tell us that not only did He do it for the forgiveness of our sins but while we were yet enemies, before we ever repented, before we ever acknowledges we were wrong, before we ever even understood we were wrong. Before our nature was corrupt He died for us to reconcile us to God. This isn’t just about having our sins forgiven. It is about us being brought back into our original purpose so that we are no longer, by nature, the children of wrath. But we become the children of God. And to do that, the core conflict between us and God has to be healed. And you and I couldn’t do it because we were His enemies. We weren’t going to go to God so God came to us. He came across the chasm. And that is what we will be celebrating in about a month: Jesus Christ coming across the chasm, Jesus Christ becoming physical so that He could begin to heal His enemies. Think about that one. Think about what it means to cross the chasm as I said last week. We think it is so wonderful because it says “for a righteous man someone may die” Paul said, “But for his enemies will someone die?”.  But that is what Christ did. To understand what He did is not to compare to when we see that someone jumped on a hand grenade to save his buddies. No, this in being in a room full of people that hate you, a room full of people who torture you, a room full of people who spit on you, who hate your guts, who are hostile towards you and you drop down on a hand grenade to protect them. Then you understand Jesus Christ. While we were enemies, He did what He did to reconcile us to God. This is at the core of the ministry of reconciliation.
Eventually we explore how this affects how we deal with one another. Because the ministry of reconciliation expands out from what God is doing with Christ to bring us to Him. Now Jesus Christ jumps across that chasm. Isaiah 52. We will read this, some, at the Passover service.

I won’t read all of it, but go to Isaiah 52:13 Here we have one of the most detailed messianic prophecies in the entire Old Testament that talks about the first coming of the Christ and why God was doing it. “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.”

It talks about how He will be beaten to the point and marred to the point that you will not even be able to tell that He is a man. You know, interesting enough, we were made in the image of God. Because we are a mixture of good and evil, because our human nature is corrupted. That is at the core of this…human nature. Because of that, we are marred images of God.

Jesus Christ had a perfect nature…divine nature in a human body. In order for us to understand what has happened to us, He physically was marred to the point (and the word here is marred) that you couldn’t tell He was a human being. Just like you and I, our nature was so marred, twisted, different from what it was designed to be that when God looked at us we were not His children. God did not say “there is my child”, He saw a child of wrath, a child on anger, a child of hatred, a child of war, a child of conflict. Verse 15 says that he sprinkles many nations. When you go through chapter 53 it talks about how He would just look like any other person. There was nothing about Him that would make you think He was anybody special. He just looked like any other Jew of His day.

Verse 3 says “He is despised and rejected by men.”  He was sent to reconcile men to God. The conflict between human beings and God is expemplified by what human beings did to the one who crossed the chasm. He says in verses 3-10 “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Now we may think that Jesus must have been happy all the time, actually He could not be. It is impossible to have a divine nature, live in a sin filled world, and be happy all the time. “And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs.” He has come to take that on Himself. “And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement” Now, notice! I want you to notice this because one of the main premises we set last week was blessed are the peacemakers for they shall become the sons of God. This is about how to be the children of God. And the children of God are peacemakers. The children of wrath are conflict makers. Now, none of us are totally the children of God, yet. This is the problem. We still have corrupt human nature. We are still battling it. But we understand where the core of our issues comes from. You know, husband and wife trying to figure out where to go on vacation and having a disagreement is normal. Screaming and hollering and shouting at each other starts with their conflict with God and ends up with the conflict with each other because of our nature. But, look, it says “The chastisement  for our peace” for our what? Our peace. So there is no longer war between us and God. The punishment for our peace was, what?  “was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” He paid the price of our war with God so that we can learn peace and no longer be at war with God. Notice verse 10 “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,bAnd the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” God said “I am pleased with this”.

Pleased with the way my son suffers for my enemies. When we start to understand the ministry of reconciliation, how it breaks down and how you and I are supposed to live, you and I don’t live this way. But we need to if we wish to be the children of God.  It pleased God for Christ to suffer to reconcile His enemies so that they were no longer the children of wrath. So Jesus crosses this chasm. But, you know what? We are still the children of wrath, aren’t we? He hasn’t changed our nature simply by coming and dying for us. Or even being resurrected. Something has to happen. And the first thing that has to happen is that we have to recognize our hostility towards God. We have to recognize, as we read in another place where Paul wrote, that He died for us while we yet sinners. We are filled with sin, which is rebellion against God. We are filled with our own ways and that has motivated us to live certain lives. We must repent. We must accept that He came across the chasm. We must accept who He is. We must accept the price that was paid so that our hostility can be removed. So, how do we repent? We learn another important point, here, about reconciliation.  Because we will have to get to a place here in the future, where we will discuss how you do this in life towards other people.

Romans 2:4; “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering,” Do you remember God’s approach to things?   “not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Why did we repent? Did we repent because we were such good guys? Did we repent because we said “well, you know, I repented because my nature wasn’t as hostile as this other guy’s.”  Why did we repent? Because God’s goodness led us to repentance. At some point, we saw God, we saw His goodness, His greatness, His love, and we said “that is not what I am, I am hostile towards you. I accept the price you paid and I wish, now, to be brought into a relationship with you.” It is His goodness that brought us to repentance. Remember, as I said, if God’s approach to us was this, I’ll forgive you when you say you are sorry. We would all go to the lake of fire. God’s goodness said “I will do this for you while you are still a sinner. I will do this for you while you are my enemy. I will show you what goodness is, I will show you what righteousness is, I will suffer as the offended party. I will suffer for the good of the offender and He put His hand out. That is God. Repentance was, we reached out and took His hand. But it was His hand that was stretched out. It was His hand that came across the chasm. It was His price to be paid to stop the hostility that we have towards Him. And it was His goodness that brought us to repentance. Now, repentance is still our response. It is required.

Christ’s sacrifice is that enormous sacrifice. To become a human being, going through torture and death and resurrection. All of that. Being hated by His own disciples. In the end, nobody stayed with Him. In the end He was alone. Every human being ran away or hated Him. That is all He had. And that price, what he did, requires us to respond to it to receive it. Forgiveness is offered by the offended person. Relationship requires forgiveness. These two things have to work together. Remember that. Forgiveness is Christ-like behavior from the person that has been offended. Repentance, then, helps restore relationships. The biblical concept of repentance is a reasoned understanding of God’s standards of good and evil coupled with feeling of regret for living in rebellion against those standards and living in rebellion against God. So, it is an understanding of God’s standards and there is an emotional aspect that says “I am sorry I did this”. And it is then an acceptance of the price that Christ paid and a willingness to give up self-determination. We are going to talk about that in a minute because, remember, one of the four great motivations is our need of self determination, our need to control. One of our four great motivations. A change of nature has to mean that our motivations have to change. There are people who obey the law of God with the wrong motivations.

That’s why, in the New Testament it says, the problem with Israel is that they obeyed without faith. They tried to obey but they did it with the wrong motivation. So, we have to understand the motivations here. The change of nature is more than change of behavior. It is change of nature. It is a change at the core of what we are and who we are. And that is what true Christianity is. It goes through layers and layers and layers as we learn, as we grow, until it gets down to the absolute core and heart and those dark rooms of our minds that we don’t let anybody else in. God kicks the doors down. Because that has to change, too. Just Christ got across the chasm doesn’t mean we get across the other way. So, we repent. But, after repentance, we still can’t get back across the chasm. What God has to do is give us His spirit, so that we learn to submit to a new nature. Jesus Christ was a divine nature in an uncorrupted human nature.  Do you know what you and I are? A corrupted nature, in which God puts His nature into. You and I have a corrupted nature and a divine nature inside of us. Wait a minute….A divine nature? Holy spirit, whose spirit is it? It is God’s.

1 Peter 1:2-3 “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” Now, you notice where he starts. He starts his argument from the people of God are the elect and they are sanctified by the spirit. They are  “cleansed and made holy by the spirit for the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” They have been reconciled. The blood of Jesus Christ allows this to happen. “Grace to you and peace be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” Let’s go to II Peter because this is where I want to be. That was a great section.  I was just going to keep reading because I thought this is some good stuff! But, then I realized that this isn’t what I wanted to read.

2 Peter 1:2-4 “ Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the” Now, listen to this “divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Now, by this very statement you and I are in conflict. We were in conflict with God and everybody else that didn’t do what we wanted. Now you are in conflict with yourself. I know I have told this story before, but many many years ago a person came to me and said that they were not going to see their professional counselor anymore. I asked why. The person said, “well, I have been talking about this anxiety and for months I have been seeing this counselor and this counselor kept asking me to explain, asking me to explain, asking me to explain.” Finally after months and months of therapy the person said that the counselor explained, “I have realized your problem. It is actually very very simple. You are in constant conflict inside yourself because part of you wants to obey the Bible and part of you doesn’t. So, just throw out the Bible, do what you want, and you will be happy.” And the person told me with a big smile, “I realized I wasn’t sick! I am a Christian!”

We’ve entered into an eternal conflict here. Because you and I haven’t given up all that hostility, yet. You and I still have part corrupt human nature. And we don’t want to recognize that. We want to believe that since we have divine nature we can trust ourselves. And you can’t, and I can’t. We can’t trust ourselves. Because that divine nature is changing a corrupted human nature which, at its core, is enemy towards God and cannot be subject to His laws. This is why our initial reaction to almost any correction from God is negative. Almost every time we have instruction or correction from God our reaction is negative. It’s anger. It’s hostility. Why? Because at the core we still have some of that. So now we become partakers of the divine nature. We receive God’s spirit.

This is why we make such a big issue, at the Passover, when you partake of the bread and wine you should be one, have repented and gone through repentance counseling with a minister of God. You should have been baptized and had hands lain on you to receive the holy spirit. You say “why do we make such a big thing out of that?” Because, when we take that bread and wine, what we are saying is “I have received the divine nature. I have done everything that was required of me by Jesus Christ to be reconciled to God.”  To take that lightly is a very serious issue.

1 Corinthians 2. Now, here is where, if God gives us his holy spirit, we begin to see things. We begin to understand things more like He does. So, what do we begin to do? We begin, first of all, keeping the law. So, we begin to not steal. We begin to become honest. We begin honoring our parents. We begin to keep the Sabbath. We begin to do those things because God leads us there. The law is no longer…we can be subject to it. We find that we can obey it. Because the divine nature helps us do that, as we submit.

1 Corinthians 2:11-13 “ For what man knows the things of a man” You’ve heard this read many times. “ except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” Now notice verse 14. “ 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

The idea is that we have to find the hidden god within ourselves, which is the new age movement. The apostle Paul says you will find an inner god within yourself. Remember, I talked about it last week. We all have made ourselves as gods. We live life as gods and goddesses. We determine how other people will treat us. We determine how we will be worshipped. We determine how we will worship God. And we try to enforce that on everybody. And here He says that the natural man cannot even understand what God is talking about. The natural mind gets bits and pieces of it. Bits and pieces. Why? Because we are a mixture of good and evil. Some people are just better than others. There are some people that just have more good than others. And they get bits and pieces of what God teaches. And that is wonderful, because, I tell you what, when anybody figures out what God teaches, they get a blessing from it. But that is not what Christianity is all about.

I had a very long talk with a catholic theologian recently. Mr. Vincent Thompson and I had a long talk with this man. He said that we should search for the commonality between religions. I told him, as I’ve told you before about the time I talked to the Hindu philosopher and he told me about how the three greatest Hindus were Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Mother Teresa. Because they had all discovered the hidden god within themselves. And this Catholic theologian was excited. “See there is the commonality we have!” He said. No! There is no hidden god within each of us. There is this god that we have creating in us. And God said, those natural little gods down there, those little clods of dirt pretending they are gods. That is all we are…chemical beings pretending we are gods. And He says  guess what? You are going to make an absolute mess out of this and then you will die. We say no we will not. But that is what we do. We are little munchkins pretending we are gods. And this is the state of humanity. You have been called out of that. You have been called to have your nature changed.

Verses 15-16  “ But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” The mind of Christ.

The divine nature has been given to us and it is at war with your internal corrupted nature. But, everyone that has been given that divine nature, that not only changes our relationship with God, you have to understand, it changes our relationship with each other. Everybody in this room, whether you have God’s spirit in you or with you (it is either in you or working with you leading you towards baptism, one or the other) once that begins to happen, God goes from being your judge to your father. Jesus Christ becomes your brother. So, if God is my Father and Jesus Christ is my brother. And God is your father, and Jesus Christ is your Brother, and the church is called the household of God, what does that make us in relationship? I will give you a hint, we are brothers and sisters. We are the family of God. We must now, we are required to apply the same standards of conflict resolutions with each other that our father and brother have applied to us. That’s a biggie! That takes the ministry of reconciliation to a whole new place. Romans 8: But that is why, until this one is fixed, you can’t fix anything. You can’t fix your marriage problems. You can change a few things but you can’t fix it at its core. You can’t fix the problems you have with each other in the congregation, you can’t fix anything at its core. See, that is why I told you that we are going to talk about conflict resolution but we are not going to talk about conflict resolution techniques. You can go buy hundreds of books on those and many of them are very good. Because God isn’t interested in us negotiating a peace. God is only interested in you and I giving 100% total surrender. Complete surrender. That is the only peace He will accept. So, this isn’t a negotiated peace between us and God. And this, then, gives us the basis for dealing with conflict with each other. And I am not going to talk about your conflict with the world. Do you know why? You can’t fix that. We can’t fix conflict with people who are not sharing the divine nature. If you want to do conflict resolution techniques, I suggest to you some books. I can recommend books on how to increase your ability to have communication, how to sit down and negotiate problems, there are books on that. And that is how you deal with the world. But that is not how we deal with each other.

Romans 8: 13- “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

So, if we live by the spirit, the old nature dies. You and I still have components of it. I am still shocked, sometimes, at my own hostility towards God. I am still shocked, sometimes, at the way I can treat other people. I am still shocked at what goes on in my head, sometimes. Because it is not divine. It is all part of my corrupt nature that is still there. But God’s spirit is more powerful. You know, a few weeks ago I talked about overcoming. God will give us victory but it is not an easy victory. There is a price to be paid. Why is there a price to be paid?  Because changing corrupt human nature is difficult. Ask Jesus Christ how hard His price was just to be able to open the door for us to have peace with God. And then we have to ask what price am I willing to pay to be reconciled to God? What price am I willing to pay to be reconciled with Jesus Christ?  We don’t ask that question enough. You and I should be asking that question all the time. What price am I willing to pay? Measured not by other people. So we measure our righteousness by other people.  What am I willing to pay by measuring that price? To be reconciled to God. What am I willing to give to be reconciled to God? When I look at that price.

He goes on here in verses 14-19. He says;  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” God becomes our Father. Jesus Christ becomes our brother. We now become a family. “ 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.”

That means we now must, in our conflict with other people in the body of Christ, we must see each other as fellow sons and daughters. If we do not, then we will never deal with the conflict between us. Ever! If we just see other people as people who need to be corrected, or people who are sinners, or people who are a nuisance to us, or whatever. IT all starts with our conflict with God.

What price are you willing to pay to accept the price paid for you? Now, in our reconciliation with God sometimes we can. At Passover time we say “ok, I understand! I am going to be dedicated to you. This coming year I am not going to use your name in vain anymore. And I am going to keep the Sabbath better. And I am going to pray more. And I am going to fast more. And I am going to spend more time in this Bible.” And then God says “ok, but how are you going to be reconciled with your brother?” Oh but, that has nothing to do with this! He’s our father, He’s our brother, we are each other’s brothers and sisters… so, yes, it does. This holy day season let’s be reconciled to God through Christ. IT is the only way we can then deal with other things.

Now, remember, I said last week, that the number one reason for all dysfunction conflict, not disagreement. Disagreement is normal among human beings. We can disagree on things like do you want to eat at McDonalds or Wendy’s. No, that’s not sin. That is just people voicing opinions. People have opinions on all kinds of things that have nothing to do with righteousness. How we deal with differences have to do with righteousness. But, many times, the differences of opinions really have nothing to do with righteousness. But the conflict becomes dysfunctional and the relationships break down.

Reconciliation. What we want to do is deal with the issues. Reconciliation doesn’t deal with the issues first. It does deal with them eventually. Reconciliation deals with the relationship first. And that is why all conflict, I don’t care who you have a conflict with, but it is specifically if it is someone who is a brother or sister in Christ. Then our first requirement is to go to God. And next time I will talk about that and I will show you how we do that.

Our first requirement is that we go to God because we must be reconciled to God. And we understand the price that God paid for (1) You and I to be reconciled to God and (2) the price Jesus Christ paid for the other person to be reconciled to God. What price did Christ pay for that other person to be reconciled to God? Do you see what we do? We discount the other person and the price that Christ paid for them. And that puts us down a really bad road.
Now the other 4 areas of conflict, I want to show how, once we become reconciled to God and He gives us…you know, Christ crosses the chasm, dies for us, is resurrected, now the holy spirit is given to us, we jump across the chasm, we now have a relationship with God, we have the divine nature, but battling inside us is our corrupt human nature. Let’s look at the other 4 primary motivations we have in conflict. (1) Our need to control.  Let’s look at God’s answer to your need to control. Remember, I said we have a natural desire to protect our rights, our self-image, and emotional security. WE will do most anything to protect our rights, self-image, and emotional security. And I really stress self-image because that means we have made ourselves into a god. It’s about how we want ourselves to appear instead of being authentic, who we are. So, we all want to appear a certain way and we will protect that at all costs. We will also protect our emotional security at all costs. And, in doing this, what we do is make ourselves gods. We are independent of God, we determine goodness, we determine our sense of justice, we determine how each circumstance should end up. Responding to God’s offer of reconciliation means giving up worshipping your self image and allowing God to recreate who you are. But, the moment He starts that recreation, part of you says, Oh, no no no, I don’t  want to look like that, I will look weak. Or I will look stupid. Or I will be not liked by people. Or, if you do that, I won’t be able to make the kind of money I wanted to make. If you do that, some of my friends will leave me. If you make me look like that, my cousins will all think that I am an idiot. I don’t want to look like that. What I want to do is look sort of divine to everybody else but keep part of my corrupt human nature. I want to have both. And that is not the way this goes. We have to give up control to God. We must understand the uselessness of trying to control everything in life and you and I have to accept our dependency on God.

Now, go ask for that, but I have to warn you what that means. When you go and ask God to help you to understand your dependency on Him, you may end up like Job. It just depends on how hard it will be for God to deconstruct the image you have created… the image that we create of ourselves. You say, how do you know this? I say, I know this because I am an expert at it. I have worshipped myself all my life. I am an expert at this. I am an expert at conflict. I am expert at selfishness. This isn’t hard for me to figure out. I am not saying it is easy to do. Now, accepting your dependency on God doesn’t mean you give up your personal responsibility for making decisions. God does hold us accountable. But it does mean that you have you have to give up your hostility towards God and you have to accept your spiritual poverty before God. And you have to hunger for God. We will talk about that some more in just a minute.

The second point, of the four, number five was our conflict with God. When we look at the human things that motivate us, it is in James. We talked about our need to satisfy our desires, how not all desires are wrong. But they become wrong. And we went through Genesis, Adam and Eve and how their desires were wrong. They weren’t wrong but they became twisted. Their human nature became a mixture of good and evil and, at that point, they defended their own desires. Our desires seem so right, even when they are destroying us, it is amazing. Our own desires can be absolutely destroying us and we will think they are good. We will have this automatic hostility towards God. Have you ever been sitting in a sermon and this scripture is being read and it just makes you mad? You don’t even know why. That is your hostility towards God. If the scripture is being read and the scripture is coming out to you (not the preacher, but the scripture) and the scripture makes you angry, what is that?  That is that very core issue of…I am the enemy of God. He can’t really tell me what to do because I have made my own image.

James 4:1-4. James says “Where to fights and wars come from among you?”  So, where do conflicts come from? Now, He is talking to the church, here, He is not talking to the world. So, why is there conflict, still, among us?  “Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?”

He says that you have a conflict within yourself. We want to do things our way. We have five senses. We are supposed to use those senses. God says that they are given to us to experience. But they have to be within a context. You can taste food and it tastes really good. You can eat a nice mean with a steak and a baked potato and a nice dessert and a little bit of wine, some salad and a vegetable and it is actually good for you and it is fine. But got to one of these places where you eat the 72 oz. steak in an hour with the baked potato and the salad and everything and you get it for free…that is a total misuse of your senses. There is a war within you. See, He starts with that there are wars and fights among you but they come from our desires within ourselves.

Verses 2-3 “ You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss,”

We don’t go to God; we don’t trust God to supply our needs. Remember, one of the things I said about desires, last time, was that we have expectations of other people. And when other people don’t meet our expectations we feel absolutely justified in hurting them. We have expectations of everybody. And when people don’t meet our expectations, when situations don’t meet our expectations we feel like hurting them or despising them because they haven’t met MY expectations of God so we don’t look for God’s answer.

And then, verse 3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss that you may spend it on your pleasures” So, he says, when you finally do go to god, Your so selfish because you are so motivated by your selfishness that God won’t answser the prayer. Verse 4Adulterers and adulteresses!” Now this is what I find very interesting here in verse 4 because James takes this, works this problem through in a very short period time, here. Brings it down to the core issue. He says in the next verse “ Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

He is talking to the church. And He asks; you know what your problem is? The problem is the war inside yourself is going on because part of you is still an enemy of God. You haven’t recognized that. This Passover season, when we examine ourselves, it is not to examine ourselves and say OH! I might as well give up because I am worthless and can’t make it. It is to examine yourself and say YES, part of me still resists God; part of me still is the enemy to God. Part of me still doesn’t want to submit towards God and you go throw yourself at God and tell Him to reconcile yourself to Him because you can’t do it. I can’t change my nature, you can. You can give me Your spirit. Now we have to submit to it, we have to play our part, but we have no part to play if He doesn’t give us His spirit…If He doesn’t take us across the canyon, across the chasm. And this is our once a year reminder. But this reminder should be going on throughout the year. Unfortunately it doesn’t and we end up in so much trouble but we have to stop and say “I can’t do this! You must help me. It is your goodness that brings me to repentance. I am dependent. I am impoverished without you. And, therefore, I come and seek YOUR reconciliation. I ask for your price to be paid for me. And we start to give up control. We start to let God give us our desires. How does God do that? I am going to just touch on that because this is important. I may give a whole other sermon on this some other time in the next few months. How do we let God satisfy our desires? That means our desires, our attitudes have to change. What are the attitudes we have to have? How do we make the jump?

I was reading a very interesting book recently from a man, a doctor that calls himself a Christian psychologist. He was trying to figure out…He was this perfect, brilliant understanding of how corrupt human nature is. He had a brilliant understanding of Jesus Christ and what we are supposed to be like. And he said, “ I know, as a psychologist, that Gods spirit is supposed to help connect that.  But, he said, there has to be actual thought processes in human beings that make the connection and he says, “I can’t figure out what they are.” So, there was a frustration. How do you get from here to here? He can see both of them. And he knew that, somehow, God’s spirit was involved. And from counseling hundreds of people he said “how do you get from here to there?” Not just, ok, I get power. But what are the thought processes? What are the attitudes that must be there? The attitudes are in Matthew 5.

You know, almost every sermon over the last 2 years I almost always give you a little homework to do at the end….go home and do, this week, Matthew 5:3-10. Read it and study it and think about it. And, throughout the day, write it down on a 3x5 card. Keep it with you.  Throughout the day, whenever there is an issue that comes up, temptation, persecution, conflict…you say “what is my attitude here?. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”  

Until you and I recognize the absolute poverty we have without God we will always do it out of pride. Our actions will always be out of pride. But, remember, those who are poor in spirit get the kingdom of God. These are the attitudes of a child of God.

Matthew 5:3-10Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.” The mourning, there, has to do with our recognition of sin, our recognition of ourselves, that’s another whole subject. “ Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.” What is the earth? It’s when Jesus Christ comes to set the kingdom. These are all kingdom ideas here. These are all gospel ideas. Just like last week when I read from Romans and he said we are given the gospel of peace in the terms of reconciliation. These are all gospel ideas. This is the attitudes of the children of God, this is how they approach life. “ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” Hunger and thirsting is uncomfortable place to be. Christianity isn’t about learning to be happy 100% of the time because Jesus Christ wasn’t happy 100% of the time. Divine nature in a corrupt world. He mourned, he hungered, he thirsted…I mean on a spiritual level. Jesus Christ, the son of God, never hungered or thirsted spiritually before He became a human being. Just like He never hungered or thirsted physically. He never had to feel that. He never mourned the way He did as a human being. “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

We want to be in the Kingdom of Heaven, we want to be in the Kingdom of God, we want to be the children of God? Then we have to become these things. This is all about the ministry of reconciliation. This is nature change. This is just as important as keeping the 10 commandments. Maybe more so. You have to keep the 10 commandments first, so I can’t say it is more important. But you can keep the 10 commandments, not go here, and not be the child of God. We have to go here. This is what we must become. This is the change of nature.
The third point was: we have this need to be emotionally healed. Remember, I said that one of the great problems we have with conflict is that what do we do when the other person won’t say they are sorry? Or what do we do when the other person won’t heal us? Or when they finally say they are sorry but we really don’t get any justice for it. So we go around angry and upset and constantly obsessed with what the other person did to us. What do we do? It is very interesting that God doesn’t need to be healed by us.

Now, remember that we are the offender in the relationship with God. We are the enemy. We are the abomination. God’s the righteous. God’s the good. God’s the victim, if you will. God’s forgiveness is active. Our forgiveness is passive. I want you to really think about this. It is His goodness that leads us to repentance. You and I, when we are in conflict with somebody, you know, if I am upset with my wife because she did some little thing, and I am sitting around waiting for her to come say she is sorry. I am waiting for her to come heal me because I am the man of the house. Right? And I have my own little image of myself. And I am my own little god walking around waiting for her to come heal me. Now, when she does come and say hey, I am sorry I said that, the thing about that is I should have been a lot bigger than that. I always tell people that when they are upset with their wife or husband… Do something! Take 30 seconds and make a mental list where you can only think about good traits. Make a list of good traits. It is amazing how if you do that for 30 seconds, you are the one that goes and says I’m sorry.

But, see, our concept of forgiveness is passive. We require the other person to come repent so I can be healed. Because God is pure love He seeks to reconcile with His enemies because He can seek and heal them. Aren’t you glad? Aren’t you glad God isn’t walking around with hurt feelings waiting for you to come say you are sorry? Instead God took his enemies, reached out to us, while we were still enemies, reached out to us in order to heal His enemies. This isn’t the way we think, folks. The divine nature is so different than what we are. And when He does that through the power of…I am here to heal you, you abomination. That is so powerful that it leads us to repent. It is amazing…the power in paying that price for enemies is so powerful, it leads the enemies to repent.
That is reconciliation. That is God’s methods of reconciliation. Our problem is it is hard for us to do because when we are hurt by somebody we need them to heal us.

We will talk about, next time, how you deal with that. It has to be healed by God. We have to let God do the healing in us then we have the power to deal with the person who has offended us. We are not pure love. We can’t do this, yet, the way God does it. But it shows us Him. It gives us a vision of the purity of the mind of God. And then God’s answer to pride, remember that 4th reason, is pride. We just have an exaggerated viewpoint of ourselves and we are just not going to submit ourselves to somebody under any circumstances. It just doesn’t matter. The person did me wrong and I won’t submit. The person did me wrong and I am not going to do anything until I get my pound of flesh. That person is chastised or hurt or whatever until justice is served. We want to win, right? That is the thing about pride.

I know a lot about pride, too; I am good at it. I am an expert at pride. I am ashamed to say it, but I am. You know what? I’ve been here 13 years and that is not a surprising statement to anybody in this room. Not one of you is surprised, right? We want to win. We want others to recognize the image we have created of ourselves. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Being poor in spirit doesn’t mean walking around depressed. Being poor in spirit means understanding your absolute poverty. Spiritual poverty without God. It means understanding your spiritual worthlessness without God. That’s what it means. That’s God’s answer to your price. To be stripped of your pride? Don’t go asking for that one. Go ask God help me to see and help me to deal with my pride. Don’t ask to be stripped of your pride. IT is a price that is too high to pay, you can’t do it. IT’s too high. We can’t handle it. So, go ask God to help you see your pride, to help you understand your poverty. Absolute spiritual poverty, without Him. Our absolute dependency on Him. We are like a little child. You see this little child trying to tie their shoes and they can’t do it. And you go to help them and they get mad, push you away, and say ME DO IT!. Right? ME DO IT! Until they are frustrated and crying and upset. And you say “I could have helped you all along!” But I am independent. I don’t need you. Yeah, we do! We need God at the core of our being. We were all created with that need. We have to recognize it. At the core of who you are is the absolute need for and dependence on God. And we don’t want to accept it. We don’t want to accept it because we aren’t reconciled to God. WE are still fighting. We still have hostility. We still resist. And, I tell you, you won’t accept that total dependency, that total poverty. You can hide, you can work hard, you can play hard, you can pretend, you can be very religious but at the end of the day, deep inside, there is that core emptiness that only God can fill. At the end of the day, we have to understand how short and ultimately meaningless life is. Without God. Without Him filling that void. Only when you experience the utter poverty of life without God, fully accept and understand His way of reconciling you , as His enemy, and recognize your own inability to cross that chasm, can you begin to be reconciled to God. But, I have to tell you something, in conclusion here. When you do this, when we actually to this, when we understand how corrupt our own human nature is…we still have parts of it. I don’t care how long you’ve had God’s spirit, there is still part of you that has that corrupt human spirit.

When you understand what it took for God to send Christ across the void. When you understand God’s spirit in you that takes you across that void into a relationship with God, and you understand that conflict, and you understand how you still resist God, and you understand how you still feel hostile towards Him and see that He hangs in there with you anyway, When you understand how these core motives have to be changed, what it really means to understand the beatitudes. When that happens something else is going to change in you. And this is not what we are prepared for. This may be what we resist the most. When that actually happens to you, you begin to look at other people and you begin to see them instead of as enemies (specifically talking about the church) but you begin to see them as wayward, hostile children to God. Spiritually weak, spiritually impoverished, just like you are. Just like you are. And when you see that, only then do you begin to understand that the ministry of reconciliation is how God brings us to Him. And then it is how God requires you and me to treat each other.