Reconciliation defined based on God's way of reconciling us to him.
[Gary Petty] I had started a series of sermons on the Ministry of Reconciliation, and we did four sermons, and then over the last three weeks, there were other things that needed to be covered, and so we took a little hiatus from that. I want to go back to that. And, I really believe this is a core issue of the scripture in our relationship with God and in our relationship with each other.
In the first two sermons – and just to review it a little bit – we talked about how we are reconciled to God and what that means – what it means to be an abomination to God. We were created in the image of God, but when Adam and Eve decided that they were going to live life their way, immediately, their nature changed. We went through how they had a corrupted human nature. They were no longer in the image of God. And so they felt guilt. They felt shame. They had all kinds of problems that they'd never had up until that moment. And then, after their nature changed, the way they thought changed, the way they felt changed. And God drove them out of the Garden of Eden. And ever since then, human beings, somewhere early in our development, our nature gets corrupted. Satan influences us. We become corrupted – somewhere in the womb, somewhere right after birth – but every one of us becomes a corrupted image of God. And then when we talk about sin – when we talk about individual sins – we need to – we need to deal with individual sin – and we need to understand the things that we do and say and feel that are sin. And yet, when we deal with conversion, we have to deal with more than individual sin. We have to deal with the fact that every one of us has a corrupt nature. And even for us, sometimes, we do the things that make us feel religious or look religious, but we haven't dealt with the core that has to be changed. The very core of who we are has to be changed. We have to take on a new nature.
In going through that, we went through how we are an abomination to God. We are His enemies. Those are the terms that He uses. We are the enemies of God – that, by nature, we are hostile towards God and can't be subject to His law. We are the children of wrath. That's what we are – at our core of our being. We're the children of wrath – the children of anger, the children of rebellion. And God sent Jesus Christ here to begin this reconciliation process. He wanted to reconcile us into a relationship – to bring us into a relationship with Him. And this is where the great problem lies in so much of Christianity. I've been thinking about this a lot lately – that basically, most Christians, if you really get down to it – I'm not making just a blanket statement – but many Christians in this country are Christian agnostics. There's a God, and they go to church, but in their daily lives, there's no proof of God. There's no proof of God in their daily lives. And so they're really/they're sort of a Christian agnostic. And I know that seems like a contradictory term, but it is! There's the problem. And so, we have to realize that this isn't just accepting God. It isn't just believing in God – somehow accepting Jesus Christ. True Christianity is having our nature changed. And so, in order to do that, there's this huge chasm between us and God. And remember, I said it's like the Grand Canyon, and we're on one side and God's on the other. And what we think is, “If I can just get enough of a running start, I can jump that chasm and I can get to God.” The widest part of the Grand Canyon is only about five miles long and a mile deep. What kind of running start do you need to jump that?
So, we have to realize God had to come across the chasm – that's Jesus Christ. He became like His brethren. We read that in the book of Hebrews, remember? In order to do what? To reconcile us while we were yet enemies. We couldn't get across the chasm, so He came across for us. He became like us – lived a sinless life, and died for our sins – died because we are children of wrath. And then He returned back to His Father. The problem is, of course, that still leaves us on the other side of the chasm. So He had to give us – God had to give us – His Holy Spirit. Now, He brings us to Him. He takes us where we cannot go, so we can have a relationship. That relationship totally depends now – God's done all this – on our submitting to that Holy Spirit – we'll probably talk about this during Pentecost next week – our submitting to that Holy Spirit – so that we are changed from being these flawed images of God – the children of wrath – to where we are changed to becoming the children of God, which is what we were originally designed to be anyway. It's the problem with free will – once He gave it to us, we were going to go bad. He knew it. That's why Jesus Christ was slain from the foundation of the earth. He knew we were going to rebel, and He knew He was going to have to reconcile us, so He had a whole plan to do it. And so, that's how God reconciles us to Him. It's through our understanding and repentance. We have to come to an understanding of how corrupt we are, and how worthless we are. As we are abominations – we are His enemies – but He wants us to become His children. And that's why we read in Romans, where it said, even our repentance is because of the goodness of God. You didn't repent because one day you woke up and said, “You know, I think I'll go tell God I'm sorry.” We repented because we saw the goodness of God and then said, “Wow, I'm not that way! I'm not a child of God. I wish to be a child of God. I wish to follow, I wish to obey, and I wish to have my sins forgiven. I want to be cleansed.” And it was that goodness that drew us toward Him to begin with.
So that's what the ministry of reconciliation is. We took two whole sermons talking about how we are reconciled to God – how that must be a core belief. That has to be a core motivation for every one of us. That isn't just a nice doctrine that is good to know – you know, “Well, good. We know that doctrine so we can intellectually discuss it.” To intellectually know that doctrine and it not be a motivation is to deny it. Its power is what it does in us. And so that's where we start. It starts with God reconciling us to Him, and the fact that He wants to reconcile all human beings to Him.
So then we did two more sermons on what is our attitude toward each other – specifically, as Christians – when we have conflict with each other? Remember, I went through five reasons for conflict – four reasons – there's lots of reasons, but they usually boil down into those five categories. Number one reason that we have conflict between each other as Christians is we have conflict with God. We have to solve the conflict with God, then we can solve the conflict with each other. But, it's our personal conflict with God that is the center of all other conflicts. So we have to deal with that one first. We talked about how then, as the person who is offended, and the person who has committed the offense – who has committed a sin against another person – how they are to deal with that. And whenever we don't know how to deal with it, we always go back – scripture after scripture – what we're reminded – “You do this, because this is how God did it for you.” It's amazing how much of the responsibility lies on the person who is offended – to be proactive – why? Because that's a God-like character. We offended God. We were His enemies. And He reached out to us. We didn't reach out to Him. As the sinner, He reached out to us as the One who is sinned against.
So, we went through two sermons and dealt with those issues between each other. But now we have to go through the concept of how do we do that? We went through what you must do and how you must pray – the attitude you must have – and how you must look at the other person – all these scriptures. But now it comes down to, “Okay, we're squared off like two gunfighters…now what are we supposed to do?”
And now we get into some core issues of conflict resolution. That's a big subject; I'm not going to, you know, go through all the things we could go through. But, I do want to go through Matthew 18, because Matthew 18 supplies us the beginning – practical steps. Now remember, you really can't do this until you've done all the things that you must do first when we covered what you must do if you're the offended person. And then, if you are the offender, you must do all those other things. So, when you take this first step – and there's three stages of conflict resolution that's talked about here – when you take that step, you must have already prepared by doing the other things. If you haven't, you will probably fail in what you do. So you have to do the homework first. Remember, there were questions that were asked – I mean, it was this huge thing that we must do. So let's start in Matthew 18 – Matthew, chapter 18. We've got a lot to cover today. And let's start in verse 1. Now, we've already read, actually – in the series of four sermons – we've read much of Matthew 18. But now I want to look at Matthew 18 in the context of putting all of it together. So let's start and look at how this whole discussion by Jesus began – verse 1:
Matthew 18:1 – At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said…. (Now, Mr. Henderson gave us a sermonette on this recently - How Can We Be Like a Child? How can we be like a child? Remember – he's not here today, so I can talk about him – no, you can tell him I said this. He said…he called me and said, “I want to talk about how we become like a little child.” He says, “I have a little child, and sometimes I love her and she's so responsive, and sometimes she's a little brat. So I don't understand how that fits into here.” He must have been having a bad day. And we talked about that. That's true.) The point he's making here is Jesus takes up a little child, who was very docile at that moment – and we've all seen that in a child – where there's a moment where they're totally dependent on the adult – totally, completely. “I'm yours. You can do with me what you want. I love you, and all I want from you is to love me.” And He picked up this child, and He says, “At this moment, what you see in this child, that's the way we're supposed to be with God.”
Now the question was, “Okay, the kingdom's coming, and you're the Messiah, and you're going to set up the kingdom, and you're going to reign over the entire world. And since we're disciples, and we're the inner circle, what jobs do we get? Who are we going to rule over? How much power do we get?” That's the question here. “We're going to be kings and priests. Hey, I want to be a king! And I want Rome. I'm going to pay those guys back!” Remember, they were under the Roman thumb at the time. Their thinking is, “What power are we going to get?” And His answer is, “Look at this little child. You have to become like this little child – this docile child – to God – this willing, this innocent child to God.” And He said, “Assuredly, I say to you” – verse 3 – “unless you are converted…” – so we're back to the change in human nature. Conversion is the change of the core of who we are. Sometimes people will come into the church, keep the letter of the law, and that's as far as their conversion goes. That's not complete. The letter of the law is not enough – never was, never will be. It is the change of nature that is required.
V-3 – “…unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Verse 5 is very important: “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.”
Now, at this point – and what we see through the rest of this – He's using this child that is there – He picks up this child – He's using this child – and saying, “This is now a Christian. This is what a Christian is supposed to be like.” So, from this point on, when He talks about little children, He's talking about Christians. We're brothers and sisters. We're all little children in the same family. And verse 5 is very important, because this is what launches into the next thing that Christ is going to talk about. Jesus says, “Your relationships are important.” When you receive another Christian in this kind of humble relationship, then you receive Me,” Jesus said. And this is why I said, unresolved conflict between us as Christians – when it goes on and on and becomes toxic and hurts us and hurts others – it's actually a problem between each of us and God. It's actually a problem between each of us and God, because He says here, these relationships are so important, that when we don't work this out…. He says, “You have, you know, you receive this person, you receive Me.” And of course, the core area of that is, “If you don't receive this person, you don't receive Me.” So we have to understand the gravity of what He's saying here. And that's why He says in verse 6:
V-6 – “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” He then says – verse 8 – “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off.” In other words, He says, “If something is causing you to sin in your life, get it out!” If something is causing you, you know – and if we can apply then, verses 8 and 9 to all kinds of personal sins too – if something is causing you to not be honest, if something is causing you to break the Sabbath, if something is causing you to drink too much, if something is causing you to just…you know, fill in the blank…He says, “Get rid of it.” But, verses 6 and 7 deal with how we deal with other people. And He says – verse 6 – …if you cause...one of these little ones...to sin.”
Now, how do we cause each other to sin? You know, I can say that nobody here has ever caused me to – I can't think of any sin – none of you has ever caused me to envy, none of you has ever caused me to steal. There's been times you've almost driven me to drink, but that's another thing! No, I'm...see, I've got to see if you're awake once in a while! You haven't…. How do we cause each other to sin? Now, obviously, we can. I mean, if someone's in a business deal, and two of you are in a business deal, and you lie to each other, you've caused…you know, there's a sin. How do we do this? The main way that Christians cause other Christians to sin is we do something bad to them. We do something mean to them. And their response is a sin – uncontrolled anger, bitterness, hatred, right? So He says, if you cause somebody to sin, that's terrible. You have done an offense, which is probably sin on our part – the person who is the offender – we have sinned. And the other person's response was sin. And He says, when you do that, the person who originated it – is really held by God – responsible for that person. We talked about that when we talked the message to the offender.
Now, remember here, though, the offended person has also sinned now. It doesn't wipe away the offended person's sin – that's not what happens here. Well, it's okay because you caused me to do that. That's not an argument here you could do. All of us are responsible for our own sins. But, He's giving the real responsibility here and an extra warning to those who cause somebody to sin. He says, because when you do that…. And we've all offended others by doing something wrong against them, and all of us have been offended. We've all been on both sides of this coin. But, I find it very interesting here that – and you'll find this throughout the scriptures we saw – there's this huge responsibility also on the person who was sinned against. Because, if we respond in sin, why are we any different than the person who did the first sin?
So then He goes on in verse10. And I find verse 10 very interesting in the midst of this discussion that Jesus is having, for it seems like all of Matthew 18 was connected – it was all said at the same time. It's hard to tell sometimes, because the writers of the gospels…of course, they're taking a long period of history, and sometimes they're just pulling different things and putting them together. I mean, you see that in Luke 15 – he takes three parables on the same subject and sticks them together. Probably, Jesus didn't give all three parables at the same time – it's a related subject. So, it's hard to tell, but it looks like Matthew 18 is all said at the same time. There's nothing in here that indicates a break. It's like the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount has a beginning and an end. You know that was all said at the same time in Matthew's account. So this appears to be all said at the same time. So we have a context in which He now says something very interesting. He says in verse 10:
Matthew 18:10 – “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones.” Now, He's not just talking about children here. Remember, He picks up a child and says, “You must be like this child. This is what you should be as My follower.” So He says now, “Be very careful that you don't despise one of these – My followers. He's talking to who? Fellow followers. He's talking to disciples about disciples. “Take heed” – be very careful – “that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” What that means is the whole discussion…we won't go there, because I want to stay on the point that Jesus is making.
V-11 – “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
How do we despise each other? I’ve thought a lot about that. How do we despise each other? And remember, the whole context here is: Christian against Christian, brother against brother, sister against sister – that's the context here. How do we as Christians, despise each other? I've been thinking about all the ways we do this to each other, and you can take most of the ways we despise each other, and bring it down into two categories. First of all, we despise each other because we feel superior to the other person. You know, that's the problem when we have a church with three and four generations of people in it. “I remember you when...” and it never goes away. You're 60-years-old and the 80-year-old says, “I remember you when you were 15. Remember, when you wrecked the car and they found out you were drinking?” They still remember it, right? Now, that's not always despising, but we have to be careful. We despise each other because we've known each other long enough that we know each other's sins! You don't have to be around each other to figure out….
Guess what? If you don't know this, I don't want to make you feel bad…. And if you're a new person, I don't want to make you feel bad, but every person in this room is a sinner. Now, we're forgiven, but there's still part of our nature that's messed up real bad – every one of us! We're still struggling with that. And we know that about each other. And we can despise each other because, “Your sins are worse than my sins.” I'm going to give a sermon on that here sometime this summer. It's so easy for us to look at homosexuality, and say, “That's an abomination.” And it is an abomination! God says this. Should we just stand up and say, “This is an abomination?” Yes, we should, but, you know, He also said that pride is an abomination? He also says, “There's a lot of things, there's a lot of things….” So we have to recognize there are certain sins – we say, “Well, yeah, but my sins aren't an abomination like your sins.” And we actually despise each other.
The other way that we despise each other is that we get mistreated by somebody and then we won't forgive the person, so we literally despise the person because they did something mean to us. So that's the two ways that you can take most of the ways – you know, not every way – but most of the ways we have of despising each other as Christians, is because of those two things. In fact, both of them can happen at the same time. Someone looks down on somebody else because they consider them spiritually inferior, so they despise them, so this person is offended, so they despise them back, because why? You've offended me. Both of those things have happened to them. So, “Take heed,” He says, “be very careful that you don't despise each other.” And then He launches into the four stages – or three stages – of the conflict resolution – three stages of conflict resolution. Matthew 18:15 then – first stage:
Matthew 18:15 – “Moreover if your brother sins against you” – you know, despise each other – your brother has sinned against you – your brother's done something to you. I don't mean, just hurt your feelings. Remember when I went through how we have to sort through and say, “It's amazing how many offenses in life really aren't that important – just let them go.” You know, the best marriages aren't the marriages that the people never do something they shouldn't do towards each other. Most of the cases are where they just forgive each other. And they've learned not to do it more and more and more. As time goes on, they don't do mean things to each other. And as time goes on, they forgive each other easier and easier. But now we're dealing with something that's really a sin – that is so damaging you must say something – so damaging you must say something. Now I want you to understand: this is a command. Sometimes we'll say, “No, no, no, I'm not going to go talk to that person. That person did this to me and I'm not going to go talk to that person. That person has to come say they're sorry.” This is a command. This is part of the law of God. Go to Leviticus chapter 19. Remember, last week I talked about the holiness code – that in Leviticus, there's whole sections of this – it's about holiness – and how we need to study and realize that whole sections of Leviticus still apply to us as Christians, in terms of our holiness before God? Leviticus 19:17. In Matthew 18, Jesus is using the Old Testament to make His point. He's using the law to make His point. Leviticus 19 verse 17:
Leviticus 19:17 – You shall not hate your brother in your heart.... People say, “Well, the Old Testament had nothing to do with laws and these kinds of things.” Where do you think love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might comes from? And love your neighbor as yourself? It comes from the Old Testament. Here is a command not to hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.... In other words, when your neighbor has sinned against you, don't hate him. If you hate him, you've now sinned, right? I mean, that's what He says: You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely go to him...sometimes it's called – it can be translated reprove or correct or explain to him his sin. You're to go to him and explain to him his sin and not bear sin because of him. He says, there's times when someone says something so terrible, you can't let it go. There's just some things you can't let go. But, if you don't deal with it, guess what you will do? You will hate him in your heart, which means what? You are now sinning. You've just piled sin upon sin. So when Jesus here says, “Go to your brother,” He's just quoting Leviticus. He's just taking the law and saying, “Now let's learn how to apply the law in the Church among the little children – My followers, My disciples. Remember what the Messiah was supposed to do – magnify the law? He says, “Let Me explain how this is magnified. Let Me explain how the law works now.” So this is what you do.
Okay, now I'm going to go to my brother. But remember, before you go to your brother or your sister, go back through the entire instruction that I gave, on how to deal with somebody if you're offended. Do that first. You don't say, “Oh, my brother really hurt me. Load up the shotgun, and I'm going over to his house” - the verbal shotgun. – “So I'm going to kick in the door and pull the trigger.” That's not what it's saying here. See, you have to go through all that praying to God, finding out how you contributed to the problem – remember, we went through all these things you need to do – make sure there really is a serious issue and it's not just a matter of your pride, or not just a matter of you’re... – you know, that really you have a problem, or maybe the person really didn't do anything wrong – you're just being too sensitive. I mean, you have to go through that whole process. As you do, you will not hate your brother, but that will reach a point where you need to go to your brother, if they've really sinned. If the brother really sinned, you will need to go to your brother, because you love your brother. You will have to. You will be compelled to do so, because the law of God tells you to do so. And because, if you don't, and you just sit on that offense, guess what eventually will happen? You will hate your brother in your heart. That's what the law in Leviticus says will happen, if you don't. So we have to go. So we go to our brother.
Now, let me give you – very quickly, because I don't want to spend a lot of time on this, but some of this I actually covered in the Agape sermon series I gave back last year – but, some very simple principles of conflict resolution that, if you're going to go to your brother – very simple ones – and I'm not going to go through a lot of scriptures. I'm just going to give you these points, and you can write them down and think about them. Before you go to your brothers, study all of Matthew 18 – I mean, the entire chapter. We just read about how you can't despise your brother. The last half of Matthew 18 is the parable of the man who owed a king a lot of money and was forgiven, but wouldn't forgive somebody who owed him a little bit of money – a whole parable of forgiveness. That's why all of Matthew 18 fits together like He gave it all at the same time. And so He says, “This is how you must forgive. Why? Because you are forgiven. We're back to the ministry of reconciliation. Remember the price paid for you while you were an enemy – when you were offensive to God, when you were an abomination to God? So you have somebody who is an abomination to you. They're offensive to you. They are your enemy. You wish to reconcile them. You know, I want to go back to verse 15 (Matthew 18:15) again and read this, because there's something that's very important here:
Matthew 18:15 – “…if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone” – it has to be done alone. Now here's the problem: If you've gossiped about this person to fifty other people, you may be going alone, but you really aren't. You're really not going alone. You've got an army of fifty people waiting for you to call them and tell them how it went. Did that person grovel like they should? Did they cry like they should? Did you beat them down? We don't realize the terribleness of gossip. It is a sin. Oh yeah, but the person did something to me. There are times where you are hurt by somebody. There's somebody to talk to about it. It's somebody you can trust that's going to be open with you and objective with you, help you through it – yes, maybe sympathize with you – but also tell you if you're wrong. You sit down and explain and that person helps you through the problem.
Gossip is: “I'm going to tell everybody I know, so that they're on my side.” There's a huge difference between, “I need to go to my best friend, talk about something that happened to me, and my best friend can help me through it – maybe even tell me I'm wrong – than telling everybody you know, because you now have a mob – a lynch mob. “I get a mob and I'm going after that person.” You go alone, face to face. And why do you do this? Well, obviously, so that person will repent, or be punished. Remember, I said we have two motivations at this point? We either want the person to repent, or we want the person to be punished. And those are our expectations. And I said, the problem is: Sometimes people won’t repent right away. Sometimes it takes them a long time to figure it out. Sometimes the punishment never happens. And so we have these expectations, and when they fail, we get bitter. So what should be your expectation, according to Matthew 18? What is your expectation when you now go sit down with someone who has damaged you, who has abused you, who has hurt you, who has lied about you, who took advantage of you? What do you do? What is the expectation? What is your motivation? Well, you go and tell him his fault between you and him alone, and if he hears you, you have gained your brother.
Reconciliation, remember I said, is about restoring relationship? You gain your brother. And at that point, something interesting happens. You don't want your brother to suffer the weight of the law. You want your brother to receive forgiveness. You actually want the weight of the “I hope – I will pray – that God does not punish you. I don't want to punish you, because we're brothers again.” You have gained a brother. That is what you go in with as your expectation. Now sometimes that doesn't work out, does it? Some people will not repent when they've done something wrong, and you live with that. We all live with that. But that's what your purpose is – it's to gain a brother. And that's not why most of the time we go. It's to get healed. Remember, we talked about that? “I need to be healed, and brother, you better heal me, because you did something wrong.” No, you go to get your brother to repent of his sin, because his sin is damaging him. His sin is damaging him or her. You want them to stop sinning because it's hurting them. Why does Jesus Christ cross the chasm, come as a human being and die for us? It wasn't because He needed healing from us. It's because He wanted us to stop doing this to ourselves. We go to our brother because we want our brother to stop doing this to yourself – you're hurting me, you're hurting others – stop it, because you're hurting yourself. Different motivation.
So, read all of Matthew 18 before you go. So you've gone through the whole process – praying, maybe fasting – all the things we've talked about. Now you feel, “Okay, I'm down to the practical application. I'm going to read Matthew 18, set up an appointment and go talk to the person.
The second thing is: do not approach the person with a confrontational attitude, but with a desire to gain a brother. “I come here because this relationship means something to me. I come here because I wish us to be restored.” And, I don't care who you are, if you're around anybody long enough, you're going to have some confrontation, right? If you never are going to have a confrontation, you have to live by yourself. Of course, then, your confrontation is between you and God. But as human beings, we're always going to have confrontations with everybody at some point, or just about everybody – or a misunderstanding, or a hurt feeling – that's going to happen. That's just what it is to be human. So we go and say, “This relationship means something, so I desire to restore it.”
The third point: pick the time, place and choice of words very carefully. You don't want to confront somebody in a crowd, right? I'll never forget, years ago, a deacon was upset with me about something, and had run up to me, and was just, you know, really going on and on and on. And I'm standing there thinking, “Well, I'll just let him get it out” – and neither of us, because we're close friends, thought about it, because I had no problem with him telling me what was on his mind – that he was upset over something, okay? – until one of the elder's wives walked over and said, ‘Everybody's looking at you.’” And I looked, and half the congregation was staring at us. And he looked at me, and I looked at him, and I said, “We'll get together Monday morning, okay?” We did. I went over Monday morning and it was all fixed. You know Bill Seelig. Remember how confrontational he could be? I love that man. And he was upset over something. He was yelling at me and going on and on. “Okay, Bill, get it off your shoulders.” But it wasn't the time to do it. I didn't think about it. He didn't think about it. Right? And everybody's watching. So we walked away, shook hands, and walked away, so everybody would think, you know, “Okay, there's no problem here.”
And I showed up Monday morning, walked in the house, and Mrs. Seelig had chewed him out. And I walked in the house and, you know, I had thought about it, and okay, I need to listen to him – figure out what's wrong here – because I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I walked in the house; he ran across the room, grabbed my hand and said, “I'm so sorry for that happening in front of all the church people. I'll never do that again.” And I looked over and she was standing in the back smiling. “It's okay, Bill. Just what is it? Sit down and tell me what it is.” Well, by that time, he actually had worked most of it out by himself. It had to do with something…I forget what it was…I don't know, something some elder had done or something. I don't even remember what it was. But you know, he had worked it out himself for the most part. So we had some coffee and a couple of cookies, and, you know, half an hour later it was all fixed. And so we spent the rest of the time swapping stories. But, you've got to pick those times in life carefully, because it could affect other people.
Remember, I talked about collateral damage? Why is it that Jesus said, “Sometimes there are tares in the wheat and you leave the tares?” Why would you sometimes leave a sinful person in the congregation? Because, sometimes pulling up the tare pulls up wheat, too. Now, there's other times you get it out, and there's times you don't. It depends on the collateral damage a lot of times. You don't want other people to be hurt by it. So pick that time and place and choice of words carefully.
The fourth point: in order to resolve conflict situations, remember, you first try to understand the other person's viewpoint. Sometimes I'm amazed when I sit and make myself listen to another person's viewpoint. And then, suddenly, you see it from their viewpoint, and you think, “Oh wow, that must be terrible. I understand how you feel. If I saw it that way too, I'd feel terrible too.” When you enter any situation, say, “Let me understand you. I'm not saying to agree with you. Let me understand you.” So, even when you go to your brother, sometimes you say, “You did this, and it really hurt me, and I just want to understand why. Have I done something wrong? Are you upset with me? Why?” And you let the person talk. And every once in a while you'll see – I get it from their viewpoint. Do that.
And then, always remember to praise before you criticize. When you sit down with somebody you're about to tell them their sin, tell them, “I need to talk to you,” but tell them, “because you mean something to me. I'm not here to correct you because I think you're worthless. It's the exact opposite. I'm here because there's a problem between us, and you mean that much to me.” Let them know it – which means, they better mean that much to you. We better be that close that we're willing to go to somebody and point out a sin, because we love them that much. When there's a conflict, we want to go find out what I've done wrong. “What have I done wrong so that I can stop it, because you mean that much to me.” That's a little different than the books you get on conflict resolution at Barnes & Noble, isn't it? Because this isn't a corporation, this is a family. This isn't a business. Believe me, if this was a business, it would go bankrupt. Churches never run very efficiently, no matter how much they try – they never do. It's a family. That's what a congregation is. That's what a church is. And this is how families do things. And this is what we must do.
There's one last point here to just bring out in this context of going to your brother. There's another issue here: if the person doesn't repent right away. What if the person doesn't repent? That's when we have the concept of intercessory prayer. Because, if the person isn't repenting, then they have a hindrance between them and God. Remember when I went through repentance and said, when we don't repent, there's a barrier between us and God? All sin – when we sin against a brother – we've sinned against God. When we sin against each other, we sin against God. When you sin against your wife, you're sinning against God. So all sin puts a barrier between us and God. So what we have to do is, if the person won't repent, and you say, “Okay, let's go to step number two.” Before you go to step number two – if we're going to follow Christ's example in this, and the ministry of reconciliation is all about Christ, and how He reconciles us to the Father – if we're going to follow His example, what do we do? Hebrews 7. Remember, intercessory prayer means you go plead for another person. You go plead for another person before God. Hebrews 7:25 – it's talking about Jesus Christ here. We're breaking into the middle of a concept, and I just want to get this one sentence:
Hebrews 7:25 – Therefore He – Jesus Christ – is also able to save to the uttermost – that's translated a lot of different ways: some mean to completion, or for eternity – in other words, salvation here is complete at some point. And He's able to do this absolutely complete. There's a point where those who respond to God are changed and stand before God, as His children – eternal children – holy before Him. He says He's able to do this to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
He is driven – Jesus Christ is driven – He is motivated to what? Stand at the right hand of God and say, “Let Me plead for this person. God, I know that they've fallen again. But it's so hard to be a human being. It is so hard. Let's work with them.” He intercedes. Now, do you think God needs an intercessor between you and Him? So why does He do this? Because it's what He expects us to become. God actually models out all the behavior He wants us to do. So Jesus Christ intercedes for us. He goes through these actions of intercession to teach us how to go through actions of intercession. So when you go to that person and they don't repent – when you go through that very first stage – you don't walk away and wipe your hands, and say, “That's it. You're not my brother anymore.” You're supposed to go intercede for your brother. We're supposed to go ask God, “Please help this person to repent.” In the sermonette today, if we're going to go preach the gospel, we have to repent. We are reflections of the gospel, and if we are bad reflections of the gospel, we're not going to please God.
You know, on September the 10th, around 100 congregations – including this one right here – is going to have a Kingdom seminar, where we invite – well, there will be a full-page ad in the Good News, inviting people (two pages) – inviting people to come to these seminars, and they'll mention all 100 places. So for two months, every time someone opens a Good News magazine, they're going to be telling them in San Antonio, Texas, on September the 10th, there's a Kingdom seminar at Baruch Hashem, and you're invited to come. It's going to be advertised on Beyond Today for two months. As we get close to the time, there will be a pre-registration. If the pre-registration doesn't meet some kind of expectations – we have no idea if they will or not – and we've done Good News seminars here and had five people show up, and had 38 people show up. And I don't know why five people showed up one time, and 38 another. We did one, if you remember – some of you were involved in the south side of town – we only invited 200 people. Remember, we picked out a community and we invited 200 people. One guy showed up and we did a Good News seminar for two days in a row for one guy. We did it in another part of town where six people showed up, you remember? But we only invited a couple hundred.
Well, as we get close to that date, then what we'll do is take our outreach money that we have – cause we have quite a bit in the outreach committee right now – and we will send out reminders to those very same people who get the Good News, postcards or letters. All of you would invite any friends or relatives you think are interested. Now, we're not going to go beat the bushes. We're not going to invite everybody. We're not proselyting, but, you know what? If we don't live the gospel, if our lives are no different than the world, why would God ever bless our preaching the gospel? Now, I will tell you – at some point, you know, we all know this – you and I can't convert anybody. And we may do all this and nobody shows up. That will be God's decision, right? Or, 20 people might show up. That will be God's decision. But the point is, we have to be living that. We have to be living that whether nobody shows up or not. So people come in and know, “This may not be a perfect group of people, but they're sure going someplace.”
I think I've told you that before, when I talk to new people, a lot of times I tell them, this isn't a perfect congregation, and if you're looking for a perfect congregation, you probably should go someplace else. We're just a bunch of people trying to follow God. We're always stumbling and falling and picking each other up, and that's all we are. And I don't know how many times I've heard people say, “Well, I may not come to your church, but that sure was refreshing.” But we're trying to go there. We're moving in a direction.
Intercessory prayer. Now, what do we do after we pray? What do we do after, you know, they reject it – we've gone the first time and it didn't work out. What do we? Matthew 18. Go back to Matthew 18 here. You say, he's not going to get all through Matthew 18. Well, you know, I said we have to confess our sins, and when I told you last time I had one more sermon left? There's two. I didn't know it would take two, Okay? So I have to confess my sin. Matthew 18:16. So next week, we'll get through this subject. And I promise you, sometime – unless I die, so I can't promise anything – sometime we'll get through the book of Judges, Okay? We'll get through it sometime in the Bible studies. So let's go now to verse 16:
Matthew 18:16 – “But if he will not hear,” you can't write him off; you can't write her off. You go back and you intercede for that person. “God, please, help this person to understand. Help this person to come to repentance.” You might wait awhile. You may repeat number one, or you know, verse 15 a couple of times. Now, this isn't like cut in stone. I do this, I do this, I do this. You know, I used to work – you've all done this, if you've ever been in a supervisory position – you know, you have the file on the person, and you talk to them the first time, and then you write up the report. The second time you give them a written reprimand. So the third time, you take in the boss above you and they fire the person. That's not what this is. That's not what this is. This is restoring a brother. That's the whole purpose. So if you think of this in the business world, that's not what this is. I've been through that. I've done that with people when I used to work in radio. That's not what this is. You may repeat verse 15 as many times as you want to – as many times as you feel it's worth it – to try to reach that person. Then you get to verse 16: “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”
One or two more what? One or two more people that you've convinced that this person is rotten, and they will go and say, “I know this person's good and you are rotten.” No, Jesus here is quoting a law from the Old Testament. Go to Deuteronomy 19. He is magnifying the law – Deuteronomy 19, verse 15:
Deuteronomy 19:15 – One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.
You cannot convict anybody on one person's statement, which makes me wonder about the terms of how we will make these declarations about somebody or somebody will make a declaration; we'll take one person's opinion, and we will use that as our basis for how to treat somebody else. Even if that person is right, do you know we're not allowed to convict somebody on one person's statement? Now, I don't mean in a private manner, I mean in a public manner. So, He says you have to take two or three witnesses. These are people who know the situation, because they saw the situation. Now, there is a problem sometimes when the issue happened between you and a brother. I'll just make up something here: You're a young woman and you went out on a date with a Christian man, and he made some advances toward you that he shouldn't. So, you're very uncomfortable. The date ended. You go back, you know, at first, “Well, I'll have nothing more to do with him.” And you think, “Well, you know, he is a Christian brother. He needs to learn to not do that, so I'm going to go to him and talk to him.” And you go talk to him. And you try to talk to him, but he won't listen to you. He says, “Aah, you know, that's no big deal.” And so you go back and think, “Okay, I prayed for him, but I can't just let this go, because he might do this with other women.” So now what do you do? “I don't have any witnesses, so what do I do?” A witness usually is somebody who sees something, but it doesn't have to be somebody who saw it. It has to be somebody who is respected enough by both parties to act as a mediator.
And I want to give you an example. I won't go there and read it, but we all know the story of Abigail and David, right? Nabal was a rotten husband. You couldn't get a worse husband than Nabal. His very name meant he was a fool. Abigail is a very bright woman – she's probably much younger than him – very intelligent. It talks about – she's a very beautiful woman, and she knows what is right and what is right that she was married to – probably an arranged marriage – knowing the way things were done back there. He was probably much older. She was younger, and she did what she was supposed to do in serving God and trying to love her husband in a very difficult situation. David goes out and defends Nabal's property against marauders – nomadic marauders that would come through and steal sheep and kill workers – that kind of thing. And he defends it. So then David says, “Look, I've got 600 men out here. I could use some food. So he sends someone to tell Nabal, “I protected your flocks. I protected your land for all these months and been a good neighbor. I could use some food. Is there some way you could maybe give some food to my men? You're a very rich man.” He didn't ask a poor man. He asked a very rich man, that he had done a great favor for, if he could just give him some food. He didn't ask how much you could give – maybe a little, it didn't matter – “Could you just help me?” Of course, Nabal fires off a response that says, “You're no better than the marauders that are out there. And you know, you're not getting a thing from me.”
And David loses his temper. A great injustice had been done. Nabal committed a sin against David. He could have said, “No, I don't have enough to give you,” and he would have accepted that. But he said he was no different than the pagans. So he insulted him. He committed a sin against him. Now David, being David, who tended to think first and act – I mean, do first and think later – he decides that he's going to take 400 of his men, and he's going to ride right into Nabal's town – because you know he would have had a huge ranch – it would be like a small town – and he's going to kill every man that's there. And so, one of the servants comes to Abigail and says, “Our master is the stupidest man on the face of the earth. He took a man who has been very good to him and publicly insulted him. A man who we know that God says is going to be king someday. He did this terrible sin to David, and you know David can't let that go. He can't be slapped around by somebody. He's going to ride in here and kill every one of us.”
So Abigail says, “Okay, let me take care of this.” Now she's standing between a husband who's going to arm his men – “I'm going to show that David who he is” – and 400 guys that are coming in with one mindset – “We're killing every man in that place.” She hauls up all these animals – they just bring all this food, I mean, he was so wealthy – all this food. She takes this whole caravan out, and here David is coming. And on the road he stops, because there's this woman leading a caravan, and she comes out and bows down in front of David. Now – I always like to tell this story – there's one good woman and 400 angry men. One good woman and 400 angry men! These are warriors! She didn't know what David could do. In fact, David even said, “I could have killed you,” in the story. He implied that. He says, “I could have killed you.” In other words, he was saying, “That was a lot of courage you had.” This is mediator. This is a witness. This is intercession. What amazes me: she is interceding, not only for the men who are the servants, she's interceding for her bad husband. And she tells David, “My husband is a fool, but for you to kill him is a great sin. It's wrong. You should not do this. You'll be king someday, and God will not reward you for this.” And in this voice of reason – and she says, “Oh, by the way, I brought some food for your men, which my husband should have done, but he didn't” – and in this voice of reason, David says, “Thank you. You kept me from sinning.”
See, when we think of a witness, we think of – we're going to bring another prosecutor in here and get you. But, what the witnesses are supposed to do is help the two people come to an understanding. Now, if you've seen the sin, you can say, “Look, I know where this person's coming from. When you lied about them, and I saw you lie about them, you shouldn't have said that. That was mean. And I just want to see you two as brothers again.” But, if you didn't see it, you can still come as a witness, but if you pick your witnesses, you better pick them very, very carefully, because as witnesses, you must do the same thing as that person does. You must pick your time and place carefully. You can't come in with an accusatory spirit. You have to do all the same things as a witness, because you are there to help do what? Restore relationship! If you're there to get a pound of flesh, you're there for the wrong reasons.
So, let's go back to the young woman. She gets some other women, she gets a man, maybe, that this young man respects, and she sits down and says, “Okay, this other person that I brought with me – this woman has been on dates with men that acted like you acted – and she's very concerned about you. And this man who you respect very much said he believes you did that and he wants to talk to you also.” See, so where's there no witnesses, you can still have a witness, but they have to have a certain mindset, and they have to be there as negotiator, not prosecutor – just like Abigail. So, I've always admired Abigail's story simply because, I mean, she risked everything to negotiate peace. She could have said, “Pack up the bag girls, we're leaving. We're going to let these two men wipe each other out, right? Maybe they'll kill my husband – the old fool – and my life will be better.” Now, she could have done a lot of things. What she did was put her life at stake to mediate, to witness between two angry men. That's amazing. Just an amazing act of courage and understanding witnessing – understanding mediation.
So what do you say if you do that and it doesn't work? You go on to stage two. Stage two is a big step. Stage three is even a bigger step. But to understand that verse, we have to go clear back into the Old Testament; study how things were done, and these kinds of situations in the Old Testament, and how it was done in the New Testament. So before we can get to stage three there, we have to spend a lot of time explaining how that's worked in the history of both Israel and the Church, in the Bible. Unfortunately, I will just honestly say, “In the Church, we haven't always done that.” We haven't always done, as we go through and see what stage three is. But to tell you the truth, we've almost never done stage one or stage two, let alone stage three. So we don't do stage three very well in the Church, because we don't do the first two. So we have to learn the first two and we have to learn number three, and what that means when it says, if he will not hear you now, you go to the Church.
So, as I've said before, this was supposed to be the last sermon in this series, but I do want to spend time next time going through that concept of taking it to the Church – what that means, how we are to do that, why it's good not to do that – it's better to solve it in stage one or two first – much, much, much, much better. Stage three is – you don't want to go there if you don't have to, but sometimes we have to. And this is all part of the little word/a little phrase we started with two months ago when I said we were going to start this study – a doctrine we don't know very well – called the ministry of reconciliation.