Lucia's Blog: 2020-04-05
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Saturday, April 11, 2020

THOUGH HE SLAY ME

"Though He slay me, I will hope in Him."
Job 13:15


"Though He slay me, I will hope in Him."  What powerful words Job speaks!  Who would hope so much and still proclaim such trust after thinking that God had stabbed him?  This is absolutely what Job models for us.  This is exactly what God has instructed us to do through His Word.  He wants us to trust Him even when we think He has stabbed us in the back.  He wants us to receive our trials and suffering with faith and hope.   There are so many blessings in our sufferings!  Suffering perfects our faith.
"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,  so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls"  (I Peter 1:6-9).

So often, we question ourselves in our own hearts, but then others also doubt us when they see us suffering as in the case of Job.  They wonder why this is happening to us?  We are overwhelmed with many questions! Why won't God let me get pregnant?  Why won't God heal my child?  Why did my loved one die?  Why did my spouse leave me for someone else?  Why did my friend marry so much better than I did?  Why am I lingering in so much loneliness and pain?  What is wrong with me?  Is it disobedience in me or some hidden sin that I need to repent of?  Is there a lesson I need to learn?   The questions are numerous.  Job's example reveals to us that these kinds of questions miss the point of what truly is going on.  Of course, when we find ourselves amid our long term suffering, we tend to react this way, missing out on the importance of our suffering.

Job did not need to learn any lesson when he was chosen to suffer, though he surely learned some valuable lessons along the way.  God was not trying to correct any flaw or sin leading Job to repent. It was God's testimony about His heavenly rule.  It was about silencing Satan.


 I.   GOD'S PURPOSE IN OUR SUFFERINGS:

Job's suffering seems a bit unfair, maybe even wrong.  For God to let Satan stretch out his hand against all that belonged to Job does not seem right.  But, we must remember that God restrains Satan in what he might do in our lives.  We must see Satan's limitations.  Although it may seem that God was unfair to Job, there are many things that we do not understand.  Nevertheless, we must cling to the God of all Scripture.  He is good, righteous, loving, longsuffering, steadfast.  We must always remember God's ways are not our ways.  If God allows Satan to tempt us, all Satan does will be calculated for our own good.  It will work out for our good.
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

We must learn like Job to know our own insignificance compared to God, the Great I AM.  Remember, God never answers Job's questions.  Instead, He questions Job.  But Job does not complain.  He repents.  Job admits his failure in speaking of things he could not know or understand.  In the same way, we must acknowledge and accept that God is God, and we are not.  We must learn with God's help that we cannot fathom all of His ways, but we can trust Him!

Consider God's purposes in our sufferings:  
  • Suffering increases our consciousness of the power, sovereignty, and sustenance of our Almighty God, Psalm 68:10.  
  • Suffering is used by God for our refining, perfection, strength, and to keep us from falling, Psa. 66:8-9; Heb. 2:10.  
  • Suffering allows Jesus to be manifested in our mortal flesh, 2 Cor. 4:7-11
  • Suffering weakens us, making us dependent upon God, 2 Cor. 12:9.  
  • Suffering teaches us humility, 2 Cor. 12:7.  
  • Suffering makes known to us the mind of Christ, Philippians 2:1-11.
  • Suffering teaches us character and Christlikeness, Rom. 5:3-4; Heb. 12:10-11; 2 Cor. 4:8-10; Rom. 8:28-29.  
  • Suffering teaches God's discipline for us, for our good, so that we may share in His holiness, Hebrews 12:1-11.  
  • Suffering can help us learn obedience and self-control, Heb. 5:8; Ps. 119-67; Rom. 5:1-5; James 1:2-8; Phil. 3:10.  
  • Suffering for others can demonstrate the abundance of joy and love, 2 Cor. 8:1-2,9.  
  • Suffering is part of the struggle against evil men, Psalm 27:12; 37:14-15.  
  • Suffering is part of being worthy of the kingdom of God, 2 Thes. 1:4-5.  
  • Suffering is the struggle against injustice, I Peter 2:19.  
  • Suffering is sharing in the sufferings of Christ, 2 Cor. 15; I Peter 4:12-13.  
  • Suffering teaches us endurance so that we may win our crown, eternal life, 2 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 2:12.
  • Suffering binds Christians in sharing with the needs of the saints with a common purpose, Philippians 4:12-15.  
  • Suffering teaches us God's statutes and brings us back to the way of God when we go astray, Psalm 119:66-67,71.  
  • Though we suffer for our sins, our broken and contrite spirit pleases God, Psalm 51:16-17.  
  • Suffering helps us to focus on our hope, the salvation of our souls, the grace that will be brought to us when Jesus is revealed, I Peter 1:6, 13.  
  • Suffering produces humility in us, I Peter 5:6-7.  
  • Suffering helps us to number our days,  Psalm 90:7-12.  
  • Suffering is necessary to win the lost, 2 Tim. 2:8-10; 4:5-6.
  • Suffering strengthens us by allowing us to comfort others, 2 Cor. 1:3-11
  • Suffering is nothing compared to the value of knowing Christ, Phil. 3:8.  
  • Through suffering, we can know God's Truth, Psalm 51:6; 119:17. 
  • Suffering is part of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus, 2 Tim. 1:7-8, 4:16-18.
  • Suffering teaches us thanksgiving and joy, I Thes. 5:18; 2 Cor. 1:11.
  • Suffering gives us hope, Jeremiah. 29:11; Job 13:14-15. 
  • Suffering reveals God's care for us, Psalm  56:8.

With all these lessons learned from suffering, let us never forget that Jesus, the Man of sorrows, was very acquainted with grief and suffering.  Our Lord Jesus modeled for us endurance in suffering. Most importantly, His perfect suffering made it possible for us to have redemption through Him.  He endured the cross and the curse for us.  For the joy that was set before him, Jesus despised the shame, but He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:2So we must share in His sufferings, Matt. 26:36-46. Jesus trusted His Father in the garden of Gethsemane.  He had to finish and face His worst fears becoming the Man of sorrows for the salvation of our souls.  Let us purpose in our heart, soul, and mind with all of our strength to walk like Jesus and Job, who trusted completely in God in times of deep suffering and despair.  

It is remarkable to me that although Job was stripped of everything in this life, he still trusted in God.  Job held unto his faith!  He put his hope only in God!  God gives, and God takes away. Blessed be the name of God!  Anyone who has had to endure deep suffering like Job and Jesus can recognize these moments in their journey.

Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!


May our Lord help us to meditate with wisdom on God's purpose in our sufferings and various trials. May we consider them all joy, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance to be complete, lacking in nothing.  May our Lord help us to persevere under sufferings and trials.  May we be approved of God and receive our reward in heaven, our crown of life, which our Lord has promised to those who love, believe, trust, and obey Him.  To Him be the glory.  Amen


Luci

Thursday, April 9, 2020

"GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU"

"Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" 
Isaiah 41:10



It is so wonderful to be able to see my church family through zoom, to sing, worship, and study God's Word.  I miss them so much!  It pains me not to see them and interact with them.  No, I will never be happy to just see and worship with my church family through a video!  But for now, we must put others above ourselves, and it is okay with me until we can meet safely again.  May God be with us as we weather the storm with this COVID-19 virus.  May He protect and shield us from all harm and evil.  Until then, I will miss my church family profoundly.  Yesterday, we sang this beautiful song, "God Will Take Care of You."  It lifted me up and reminded me about our God's steadfast love, promises, and providential care toward His children.  This song is one of my all-time favorite songs.  Indeed, God will take care of us, and we need not worry or doubt that. 

This beautiful song expresses God's care and steadfast love for us when troubles and problems manifest in our lives to distress (dismay) us.


I.  GOD'S CARE AND STEADFAST LOVE:
"And Jehovah, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed"' (Deut. 31:8).  

  • First Stanza:  
"Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you;  Beneath His wings of love abide, God will take care of you."  

Since God loves us and is always watching after us, we have nothing to be afraid of or dismayed about.   God wants us to abide beneath His wings of love.  He will love and take care of us as baby birds gather under their mother's wings, looking for protection and safety.  He has promised us that He will protect us, and we must believe Him and trust Him! 
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"  (Matt. 23:37).  

His love and care are beyond words!

  • Second Stanza:
"Through days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you; When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you."

 Stanza 2 reassures us about God's care for us when days of toil and danger assail our path.  Indeed, our lives are filled with days of toil and hardship that cause our hearts to be weary and to fail.
"And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, which cometh because of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed" (Gen. 5:29).
"And Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh: For, said he, God hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house" (Gen. 41:51).

In this life, we face many fierce dangers that often terrify us.
 "You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday" (Psa. 91:5-6).  

But amid our fears and doubts, God wants us to cast our cares and fears on Him.
"Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved" (Psa. 55:22).  
"Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:7).

  • Third Stanza:
"All you may need He will provide, God will take care of you; Nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you."

 Since God cares and loves, He will provide what we need. He has promised His faithful children to provide for their material needs, for He will not abandon us.
"Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? 26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto [a]the measure of his life? 28 And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:25-33).  

God has promised His children that He will provide for their spiritual needs also.  They are His blessings from the heavenly places.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:3).
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3). 

 As a matter of fact, He has promised not to deny His faithful children anything that they ask Him for.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"  (Matt. 7:7-11).  

  • Fourth Stanza:
"No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you; Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you."

God cares when we face temptations that would test our faith.  And though He cares and loves us, He allows our faith to go through the fire to purify and help us grow in our faith.
"After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am"  (Gen. 22:1ff)

However, we can confidently lean on Him for strength, comfort, and guidance in our temptations.  He will surely come to our rescue as we endure our test.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it"  (1 Cor. 10.13).

God has provided in His Word so many wonderful examples of faithful heroes who looked to God for help amid their trials, difficulties, and afflictions.
"And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.  39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:32-40).

 CONCLUSION:

Our loving and merciful God cares for us His children in all circumstances of life.  He will take care of us through every day, o'er all the way.  He will take care of us, for He has promised to help us that we may be able to endure our trials and sufferings.  God has promised to take care of us as baby birds gather under their mother's wings, looking for protection and safety.  He has promised us that He will protect us, and we must believe Him and trust Him!  God has committed Himself to providing for His children who sincerely trust and obey Him.  Thus we must believe in God's promise that He will take care of us, come what may.  What a loving and merciful God we serve!  A God who keeps all His promises!

May we trust and obey God in all circumstances of life, for He who has promised is faithful to all His promises.

Luci


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

TO JUDGE OR NOT TO JUDGE?

“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.  6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”
Matthew 7:1-6



Still half-drunk and still staggering down the street, a filthy excuse of a man sees a primly dressed grandmother looking at him and shaking her head. He says what most sinners have learned to say, “Judge not that ye be not judged!” The aging long-haired hippy still toking his weed says, “Don’t judge me, man!” What aberrant behavior has not been shielded from examination by Jesus’ words? Yet how can we have mercy on the alcoholic and help him while he hides himself in denial? “I don’t have a problem! I’m just fine. Mind your own business!”  What did Jesus really mean by "judging"?

Jesus seems to be giving the sinner an excuse to continue in sin. At the same time, He seems to be rebuking the caring Christian who attempts to enlighten the sinner about his immoral or sinful behavior. The stubborn worldly person often defends himself against the Gospel exhorter by saying that all Christians are hypocrites or that he is not so big a sinner as many of them are. You and I know that Jesus called on all men to repent. He called on His disciples to also relay that message to a world full of sinners. That is called evangelism. Tell them the good news that there is pardon and new life for those who will turn away from their sins. With this in mind, what did Jesus mean by saying, “Judge not…”?  Are we, Christians, not supposed to judge one another?  

Matthew 7:1-6 is one of the most well known, misquoted, and abused Scriptures in the Bible. So, is it right to teach that we Christians should never make any judgment about others? Is that what Jesus implied? Does He want us to keep silent and do nothing and make no judgments when others are doing wrong and walking in rebellion? Must we not rebuke sin? Is it wrong to correct sin? When any follower of Jesus corrects someone and rebukes sin in their life, they quickly get angry and lose self-control. But the Bible commands that we warn others about sin.

So the question is:  How does one judge righteous judgment rather than godless judgment? Should we judge at all?  YES, but we must use good judgment or discernment as taught in Scripture, taking into consideration what the Word of God, the Bible, has to say on all matters. This, of course, requires us to study what Matthew 7:1-5 says in context.

As Christians, we must exercise righteous judgment within the local congregation.  All mature Christians must discern or judge both good and evil. We must discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not.


 I.   HOW TO JUDGE:  (Matthew 7:1-6)
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.  6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” 

Jesus, the meek and lowly, rebuked sin and commanded His disciples to rebuke it as well. We see this clearly throughout the New Testament when they condemned sin with Jesus’ approval. Many think that one cannot rebuke or correct sin unless he has never sinned. But is that correct? No! Why? Because Jesus Himself commanded His disciples to rebuke sin even though they had committed sin, which they had repented of. We have many Scriptures that teach us to judge all things. Obviously, we don’t need to have a sinless life to rebuke sin, for if we fail to do it, we will have sinned because we disobeyed those passages that command us to do it! We must understand that the Bible does not prohibit judging sin but even demands that we do so. Take, for instance, John 7:24.

 "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."


Jesus says that we must judge not according to appearance but with righteous judgment. Clearly, not all judging is wrong. We are commanded to judge with righteous judgment. So let us not violate Jesus' command.

  • “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1
Let us not take this verse out of context.  Isn’t it something how many people use this Scripture when they know so few other Scriptures, but this one they use when a child of God must correct their sinful behavior!  Their favorite response is, “The Bible says to not judge me.” “How dare you question me or suggest that I am wrong?!”  Thus they use Matthew 7:1 as a weapon to teach that zero judgment must be made about others.  But, really, is this what Jesus taught? Did Jesus teach that we must leave one another alone without making any judgments about sin in our lives? What do you think?  Jesus never intended for His words to be misinterpreted. So why not study the Scriptures and discern what they are teaching us about judging others?  Christians are commanded to judge all things (1 Corinthians 2:15).  The following are some Scriptures that speak about judging.
  1. "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside" (1 Corinthians 5:12–13).
  2. "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8).
  3. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
  4. "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned"  (Galatians 2:11).
  5. "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother" (Matthew 18:15).
  6. "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment" (John 7:24).
  7. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:15–16).
  8. "Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him" (Luke 17:3).
  9. "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" (Ephesians 5:11).
  10. "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" (2 Tim. 2-4).
  11. "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.  10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth"  (Titus 1:9-14).
  12. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
  13. "As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear" (1 Tim. 5:20).
  14. "And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all" (1 Thess. 5:14).
  15. "As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him" (Titus 3:10).
  16. "Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you" (Titus 2:15).
  17. "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned" (Gal. 2:11).
  18. "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Gal. 6:1).
  19. "Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue" (Prov. 28:23).
  20. "Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,”  will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, 25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,  and a good blessing will come upon them" (Prov. 24:24-25).

Clearly, the Scriptures are clear enough about making judgments. In fact, Jesus commands us to judge in Matthew 7:1-6 to determine whether or not a Christian has a speck in his eye.  He in no way implies that we may never make any judgment.  If we want to please the Lord, we must rightly divide the Scriptures to determine just what exactly Jesus does not want us to do.  Why not we read the rest of the paragraph to draw the proper inference or interpretation of this command? 


II.  THE REASON NOT TO JUDGE:  (Matthew 7:2-4)
"For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?"

When Jesus taught to not judge others because “with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you,” He was not speaking about making right and godly judgments.  Why?  Simply because He was talking about making human, unrighteous, and unreasonable judgments. Jesus’ command was to help us make sound and fair judgments about others.  Since God judges us justly and mercifully, we must do the same with others.  Jesus commands that we judge others justly and mercifully.

Now in verses 3-4,
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?"

We begin to see how Jesus is dealing with the problem of judging. Jesus uses the example of someone who eagerly wants to see and point out everyone else’s faults but is unable to see his own. Jesus is trying to make us see and understand that the person who is unable to see his own faults and shortcomings will not be able to judge others fairly. How about that!  How easy it is to judge others but refuse to judge or examine ourselves by the same measurement!  How easy it is to judge others but refuse to judge ourselves by the same standard! Jesus’ illustration is a hyperbole. When we can see the speck (a splinter of wood or chaff) in the eye of another person, but we are examining their lives in such detail that we fail to see the log (a large beam of wood) in our own eye, Jesus wants us to know that is outrageous! How convenient it is to notice the splinter in the other person’s eye but not be aware of the log protruding from our own eye! What hypocrisy!

How can it be easier to see the speck in someone else’s eye than to see a beam such as is used in building the roof of a house or to bar the door against the dangers of the night?  We have eagle eyes when it comes to the faults of our neighbors, and miss not the slightest detail. Why do we do that? 

Let’s consider how this happens.  How do we manage to miss the glaring faults that honest people all around us can easily see? The reason is that we fail to examine ourselves and take a good look at ourselves in the mirror of Jesus Christ. We are so focused on looking at the faults, flaws, failures, problems, and issues of others that we fail to see our own enormous failures and the glaring shortcomings in our own lives.  How awful that must be!  This is self-righteousnessHow awful it is to condemn others but justify ourselves when we do the same things or worse!  How terrible it is to pass judgment on someone else for doing the same thing that we are doing, but when it is we who are doing it, we justify ourselves!  ”That is altogether different.”  How easy it is for us to find an excuse for our actions, claiming that it is okay for us and not for others!  How easy it is to demand that others do what we are not willing to apply to ourselves!   How easy it is to judge others without any understanding or compassion whatsoever!  But James gave us a warning about failing to see ourselves for who we really are.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:22–24).

Why is it so difficult for many to look in the mirror to see themselves for who they really are and what they have done? This is self-righteousness and arrogance. How sad and awful it is when we do look into the spiritual mirror and still cannot see ourselves for who we really are! How sad it is to judge others but refuse or fail to examine and judge ourselves!  Let this sink deeply into our hearts! 

We must examine ourselves and pay attention to the enormous failures, flaws, and shortcomings in our own lives! The log in the eye dramatizes an attitude of heart that is self-righteousness in full bloom! Why? Because we find it easier to condemn others while we justify ourselves for doing the same thing. Have you ever done that? Have you ever passed judgment on another person, when you are justifying yourself while doing the same thing? How easy it is to pass judgment or condemn others when we’re unwilling to apply the same measure of judgment to ourselves! We must not condemn others while practicing similar sins. How can we help another get the mote out of his eye when we have a big beam in our own eye? 

In James 1:22-24, we have a severe warning about this attitude of the heart. So we must look at ourselves in the mirror, the perfect law of liberty, and honestly examine ourselves for what we have done in our lives, for if we fail to do so, we are self-righteous and arrogant. How sad it is to fail to see ourselves for who we really are in God’s spiritual mirror! Why not judge ourselves first so that we can judge others? God is provoked and angry by hypocrites who earnestly condemn everyone’s sins but fail to see their own (Romans 2:1-3, 17-24)!  Thus, this is the kind of judging that the Lord condemns in Matthew 7:1-5. Jesus calls us hypocrites when we judge others unfairly, and hold others to a different standard than we do ourselves.

  • So What Is The Solution?   (Matthew 7:5)
"5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

When we judge others but refuse or fail to examine and judge ourselves, Jesus calls us hypocrites. When we hold others to a different standard than we would hold ourselves to, we are hypocrites. So what is the solution to this shameful behavior?

  1. To first start looking at ourselves, examining our own actions carefully before we look at others to judge them. 
  2. We must first examine our own hearts to see our own sins and failings before we dare to judge and confront others with their failure and shortcomings.  
  3. Thus we must first judge our lives with the same judgment we judge others.  

By doing this, we can properly understand the first two verses of this chapter.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”  

Do not judge with hypocritical judgment! 
  1. Do you appreciate fault finders when they come to you and bring every single flaw and mistake you make? 
  2. Do you like to be nitpicked for everything you do? Of course not! 
  3. So why not look at yourself first, for you don’t want others to do the same thing to you? 
  4. Why do you do it then? Do you want someone bringing up every mistake? 
  5. Do you want to be nitpicked for every shortcoming in your life? Of course not!  
  6. So why not first look at yourself if you don’t want others doing that to you.  
  7. Why do you enjoy doing that with others?  
  8. Why not first measure yourself by the same judgment with which you will measure others? 
  9. Why be so quick about making wrong, false, unfair, and unrighteous judgments about others?
  10. Why be so hypocritical, seeing and pointing out the sins of others but failing to see our own?  
  11. Why not follow the Master’s words and example of compassion and humility when judging the sins of others?  
Think about that! 


III.   MAKING PROPER JUDGMENTS:  (Matthew 7:6)
“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” 

We might think that verse 6 does not fit Jesus’ teaching about hypocritical judgment.  We have already observed that Jesus was not talking about never making judgments about others. Jesus is pointing out that we must make proper, godly, and fair judgments or evaluations about others (Matthew 7:6).  Jesus is warning us about not wasting our time on those who do not show any interest in the Gospel or in His discipleship. You see, in the Law of Moses, pigs were counted as unclean, and dogs were wild and nasty savages. In Jesus’ illustration, the pigs and dogs want the scraps of food but do not want what is good.  We are called to recognize who the dogs and pigs are. It does not characterize a person but rather gives us an understanding of how others treat the Gospel Message.  It describes their spiritual condition. They will not receive and appreciate the Gospel Message.  They reject the Message, for they are antagonistic to it and refuse to respond to it.  They refuse to appreciate what they are receiving. In the Scriptures, we often see this kind of warning.
“Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words” (Proverbs 23:9).

The apostle Paul followed Jesus’ teaching in the field of evangelism.
 “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:44-46).

When our efforts in teaching the Gospel Message are not bearing fruit at all, we must, at some point, make a judgment. There is a point when we must determine if we want to continue in our efforts of casting the pearls of the Gospel to those who will reject it and have none of it.  We have done all that we know to do! Thus, when men are filled with jealousy and insult the holy things of God, there is no use in continuing to plead with them to repent and calling their hearts to God.  Sadly, they are casting off that which is holy as foolishness and garbage.  How sad! 


CONCLUSION:

Let us keep in mind what Jesus said about judging with righteous judgment to maintain harmony and get along with one another. We must stop using godless judgment.   Let us not violate our Lord's command of Matthew 7:1-5; John 5:30 and John 7:24.  Let us not fail our Lord by ignoring His great counsel and neglecting His commands.

In Romans 14:10,
"Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God."  

We are reminded about judging our brother. Lest we forget, one day we are going to all stand before the Judge of ALL men, both great and small.
 "So then each of us will give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12).  

The Almighty is going to measure you and me, and we are going to give an account of everything that we have done before Him. He will judge us the way we have judged others! He is going to measure you and me by the standard by which we have measured others.
 "For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment"  (James 2:13). 

In the end, this is the judgment that really matters!

We must not be self-righteous, judging others inappropriately.  Before we judge, we must first judge using the same judgment that we would want others to apply to us.  We must not be hypocritical in our teaching or application of God’s Word to others. We must first allow God’s Word to penetrate and prick our own hearts before we abuse God’s Word, passing ungodly judgments on others.  So why not look at yourself first, for you don’t want others to do the same thing to you?  Why do you do it then? Let us pray to God that He may help us to measure ourselves by the same judgment by which we’re going to measure others. I assure you, it will help us be more fair and reasonable with others and not so quick to judge.

Of course, it does not mean that we are forbidden to make any spiritual judgments. We are commanded to make righteous judgments (John 7:24). We must not be naive about what we are doing. We must be aware that there are people who will reject and refuse to listen to the Gospel Message and sadly will not respond. No matter how well we present the Gospel Message, many will show contempt. And though we might correct and judge the way God commands that we do it, there will be some who will refuse to listen when we correct them and show contempt to God, like the unclean dogs and pigs. Thus we must shake the dust off our feet and save our treasures for those who will respond to the Gospel Message of repentance and salvation with a better attitude. Jesus wants us to correct our lives before we judge others, for we must always act out of love according to God’s Word to please Him and be saved (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

Let us start pointing the finger at ourselves first before we point out the failings of others.  Let us start attending to the weightier issues of our own.  Ultimately, both they and we will stand before the Judge of ALL, and He will make His final judgments.  Let us then purpose in our hearts to grant mercy, kindness, and long-suffering in our dealing with others.  Let us judge righteously and not be condemned for using godless judgment! 

May God help us to put these principles into practice that we may not be judged.

Luci

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

RESOLVING CONFLICTS IN CHRIST

" I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers."
1 Corinthians 1:10-11



My heart is broken over beloved brethren stumbling into oblivion because of conflicts over personal matters and matters of judgment. Such matters ought not to destroy our love one for another, nor should it quench the zeal of our faith. Churches are broken up and splintered. Sometimes they do not survive.  The Lord is, of course, infinitely wiser than we are. He knows us so well. If we would just be true and faithful to Him and His counsel, we would find joy in "the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace." Let us take a look at God's point of view.

We, as soldiers of Christ, are on the same team, facing an enemy that is set for our defeat.  It is essential that we remind ourselves of our spiritual war and that in this war or fight, we must, as Christians, be allies and not enemies.  We must remember Jesus’ words to us, 
"Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand"  (Matt. 12:25).  

Can't we see this application when it comes to our differences?  Like soldiers on the battlefield of our souls, we cannot afford to be distracted by ongoing disputes.  Such distractions will put us at risk.  We must remember that our enemy is Satan and not our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Don't ever forget that!

It is my fervent prayer that this lesson may prosper you and me by letting the Word of God change us in the way we handle conflict among ourselves.  May the Lord help us to be peacemakers rather than troublemakers.  May He help us to become gentle in heart rather than abrasive. May we always remember that the world is watching us and that we must resolve our conflicts so that the Gospel might not be hindered.



I.   WHERE DO CONFLICTS ORIGINATE?

It is unavoidable: conflicts will happen.  Take, for instance, Eudoia and Syntyche, who were faithful followers of Christ.  Paul speaks highly of them as those who labored with him in the Gospel.  They contended at his side.  And although these two sisters were faithful in Christ, they still had some old ways about them.  Their personalities clashed.  They still let their feelings hurt and provoke each other.
"I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life."  (Philippians 4:2-3)

Aren't we all guilty at times of being easily irritated and getting our feelings hurt?  The truth is that even among Christians, there will be times when some are wrong and need to be addressed. Often, this leads to hard feelings, “rubbing each other the wrong way.”  But Christians must learn to resolve their conflicts and differences without parading their dirty laundry before a watching world.  We must learn to resolve our differences or disputes in a Christ-like and godly manner.
"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:13-18).

In James 3:13-18, we learn that earthly wisdom is self-seeking and lacking in meekness.  On the other hand, heavenly wisdom shows kindness toward others and good works.  In chapter 4, we see the consequences when one is led by earthly wisdom.  This chapter starts out by saying, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?"  In this Scripture, James is talking about strife and quarreling as well as the origin or source of verbal conflicts and arguments among us.  Notice how he answers this question with another question.
"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?" (James 4:1-2)

You see, bickering and quarreling originate in our own physical desire for pleasure, that is, getting and having things our own way!  The truth is that selfishness is the cause or source of all conflicts.  Although the word "selfishness" is not in this verse, the concept definitely is.  When someone desires to have something, they will try to get it at any cost, and thus conflict is unavoidable.  There will be conflict unless everyone surrenders to that person's desires.  Indeed, this is a powerful truth!

  • Those Who Divide Brethren:
God has not been silent on this matter.  God has repeatedly warned His children about sowing discord, strife, quarrels, hatred and contention among brethren (Prov. 16:28; 6:12, 14; 6:16,19; 10:12; 26:26; 20:3; 13:10; 17:14, 19; 26:21; 28:25).  Our godless culture loves to manufacture and provoke endless controversy, argument, and divisive issues.  Men take pleasure in starting strife and stirring the pot.  Even when we teach the Gospel in all gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24) and love (Eph. 4:15), it is still received with overwhelming disagreement and vituperation.  Sadly, there is division instead of love and unity among brethren.  Instead of fighting and devouring one another with divisive quarrelswhy not work out our differences for the furthering of the Gospel and for the salvation of the souls of so many that are traveling the path of eternal tragedy?!

Jesus condemned the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of the Law:  justice, mercy, righteousness, and faithfulness.  They focused on minor and trivial matters (Matt. 23:23).  We must be the salt of the earth and help build up God's kingdom of righteousness through evangelism, edification, and benevolence for the saints.  We must pray to God for wisdom to be builders and not brawlers (John 6:27“labor for the food that endures to eternal life”).

Division in the Lord's church is a terrible crime.  Those who are guilty of sowing discord, conflict, controversy, and division will be abhorred and rejected by God (Prov. 6:16-19).  God has always wanted His children to get along and be united (Psalm 133:1; John 17:21; 1 Cor. 1:10).  God is not the author of confusion and division (1 Cor. 14:33).  Division results when men cease to walk in the Light and choose to walk in darkness (1 John 1:7).  Disrespect for all divine authority causes division among men (Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 5:24).  Envy, jealousy, greed, and carnality cause division (Acts 20:30; 2 Peter 2:3; 1 Cor. 3:3-4).

Many souls are lost when there is division.  Since many refuse to walk in the Light, they cannot have communion with Christ.  Therefore, His blood cannot cleanse them from their sins (1 John 1:7).  All division is of the flesh and results in death, but the mind that is set on the Spirit is life and peace (1 Cor. 3:3; Rom. 8:6).  Indeed, the church is crippled when there is division and strife.  Those who belittle all divine authority cause division because they lack love for God, His Word, and His church.  

Division, strife, and conflict have always been around.  The church which the Lord purchased with His own blood has not been immune to this.  Just look around and notice the religious confusion today.  Although Jesus established only one church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4; 1:22-23), man has created many today and all this because of division, strife, and disagreement.  This religious confusion has brought such change since the earliest times when the church of Christ was built. It continues until today when we have hundreds of churches that started as the product of selfishness.  How?  Through men and women wanting to do and have things their own way without respecting the authority and Lordship of Christ.

So, when they didn't get things done their way, they chose to leave their original group to start a new one.  Does that sound familiar?  We still have this problem today!  Everyone seems to be drifting like sheep every time someone disagrees with them or every time that they don't like the way things are done in the church.  Often these have conflicts with others over personal matters, and instead of solving them the way Jesus demands, they leave and start a new group.  We forget that since the beginning of the church, there has always been only one church whose followers were merely Christians, striving to do the will of their Father.  Jesus prayed for unity among all Christians (John 17:20-21).

The apostle Paul also prayed and preached that there be no divisions, but that all Christians should be of the same mind and the same judgment in Christ (1 Cor. 1:10).  Unfortunately, nothing has changed, and there are still divisions among the followers of Christ.  And why?  Because men refuse to firmly follow Jesus and His apostles' teachings.  Little by little, men begin thwarting God's plan for the church and start bringing in new ideas and changes that God did not authorize.  That's exactly where all religious error begins.  Man rejects what God has authorized in the New Testament and chooses to please himself in whatever form of religion, doing whatever he wants to do in worship.  As a result, conflicts arise, division results, and thus many of today's denominations were born and continue to emerge. 

Man's selfishness and desires to please himself have been the cause of today's religious confusion and the formation of many churches instead of one true church.  And though we all have the same Bible and Gospel that can be understood clearly, there is a lot of chaos and confusion.  God is not a God of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).  God has declared to us all His counsel about how to be saved, how to walk the right way, do things the right way in general, and worship.  But men have not been fully satisfied with God's Word, plan of salvation, and worship.  They reject God's will.  So, we have hundreds of churches instead of one.

Indeed, there can never be any unity whatsoever unless all men are willing to abandon their own selfish desires, wrong and sinful practices and start doing and obeying the Lord Christ and submit to His rule.  Men must learn to be content to preach and put into practice the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.

We must continue to fight tooth and claw and continue to preach and teach the sound and pure doctrine, the Gospel of Christ.  We must keep preaching and teaching what the New Testament authorizes.  The Lord's church has suffered tremendously because of the many conflicts and selfish desires of stubborn men (in many cases, one or two men).  This ought not to be!  We must learn to submit to one another with love in matters of indifference.  You can rest assured this will avoid all strife and unnecessary conflict!
  1. We must learn to get along and work out our differences in the spirit of love!  God demands that we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light to have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7). 
  2. That we agree with one another and have the same mind and judgment (1 Cor. 1:10).  
  3. Finally, that we speak the same thing as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11).  

Therefore, we must lay aside all prejudicesstop behaving like children (1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:13) and strive to show tolerance, humility, and patience for one another in love; being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  (Eph. 4:1-6)

  • Conflicts Are Costly:
We have already seen the devastating consequences of conflict and disagreements among Christians and the refusal to submit to one another in the fear of the Lord.  Somehow, many followers of Christ believe that since we're all Christians, follow the Word of God and obey the command to love one another, there will be no conflicts among us.  It is pure idealism and is not realistic.  We have already read the letter to the Philippians in chapter 4that the church was made up of people from a variety of backgrounds.  Lydia was a businesswoman from Asia, with a Jewish background.  We also read of two women in that church that they had conflicts and differences.  As one reads what Paul is writing in this letter, he will immediately notice that Christians must learn to get along with one another.  We must do it, not only to be at peace with each other but for the sake of the Gospel.  Christians must learn to resolve and work out all differences and conflicts among themselves, since refusing to do so will be costly to the welfare of the church and their souls.  Conflict will indeed harm the Lord's work in each individual church.  Take heed!

When Christians fight and quarrel with each other, many terrible things happen as a consequence.  Consider them.
  1. The Lord's reputation is harmed.
  2. The Lord's work (the work of each church to further the Gospel) is hampered.
  3. The body of Christ is hindered and thus is handicapped.
  4. All peace (personal) is disturbed.
  5. Conflict takes away love and moves us further from the heart of God.

In the letter to the Corinthians Paul rebuked the brethren saying,
"Does anyone of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? 4 So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, 6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren."  (1 Cor. 6:1-8)

Evidently, Paul is acknowledging that there will be disputes among brethren.  However, he commands all Christians to resolve their conflicts without having to reveal each other's dirty laundry before a watching world.  Brethren, we must be lights that shine amid so much darkness.  We must learn to work out each other's conflicts, thus seeking peace with one another.  If that doesn't work, then we must try to find an arbitrator, peacemaker in the church to help us resolve our differences in a godly manner.  When we make our conflict public, we're shaming our Lord and bringing reproach to His church (the one He purchased with His own blood).  He demands that we seek peace for His sake and the Gospel as well as our own.


II.   RESOLVING CONFLICTS AMONG BRETHREN: 

In the early days of the Lord's church in Jerusalem, the church grew in number (believers), and the apostles continued preaching and teaching the Gospel of Jesus in the temple and from house to house daily.  The church multiplied because those who heard the Gospel Message believed that Jesus was the Son of God who was sent from heaven and whom they had crucified.  As we read the Book of Acts (especially chapter 6), we notice that the Jerusalem church obviously had conflicts.  As more and more people were added to the church, problems (growing pains) began to arise.  The Bible did not keep their failures hidden but gave us details about their failures.

You see, the Jewish widows with a Hellenistic background, who spoke Greek, were being neglected in their daily distribution.  So, guess what happened?  They complained that their widows were being discriminated against, while the Hebrew speaking widows were given preference in the daily ministry.  It is undeniable that even the apostles were affected by church conflicts, even though they were inspired by God and who spoke for Him.  And no matter how hard we try to keep peace and harmony in the church, strife will come.

Often, disagreements arise over matters of opinion rather than doctrine.  So, how can one tell the difference between the two and treat others with respect and dignity?  To answer this question, we must examine Romans 14 because it is our solid foundation Romans 14 is one of those chapters in the Bible that are often misunderstood and misapplied.  This chapter is the continuation of Paul's discussion of righteous and practical living for all Christians.  The primary focus of Romans 14 is the attitude that brethren must have toward one another when conflicts arise because of opinions or matters of indifference.  Sooner or later, there will be differences of opinion on various issues among Christians.  You see, differences and divisions were not new in the first century and are not new today for us.

Our goal must be that of behaving in such a way as to please God and bring glory and honor to His name.  All Christians must learn and understand how to act or behave in such circumstances.  To do that, we must develop the proper attitude and mindset toward the Word of God and other Christians.  Each Christian must learn to distinguish between matters of indifference and matters of doctrine.  He must determine the proper attitude toward others.

God thought it to be extremely important for all Christians to be aware that disagreements will arise on many various issues.  The inability to get along with others can undoubtedly cause broken homes, broken friendships, and strife. It has torn many churches apart and has set many brethren against each other.  Most of these conflicts often arise because of personal differences and matters of opinion and judgment rather than principles of Truth and righteousness. Perhaps over some minor irritation or difficulty with someone.  Paul stated,
"If possible, as much as in you lieth, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 12:18).  

Christ also declared,
"Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another"  (Mark 9:50).  

So, it is God's will that we be in harmony and at peace with one another.  It is our duty to God!  
  • Resolving Conflicts is Hard Work, But We Must Be Determined to Find a Solution:
Do you suppose it is possible to come to a solution to our conflicts?  I am completely confident it is possible to find solutions and answers amid our problems and differences.  Maybe I'm just too idealistic!   But if we're all trying to be Christlike and do our Father's will, I believe 100% that we can find a solution for every major controversy and division that might take place.  But everyone must be involved in resolving whatever conflict or disagreement we might have.  With the right attitude of heart and the fear of the Lord, anything is possible.  Christians must work at resolving conflicts so that the church can focus on the Gospel and evangelism.  However, conflict is not easy to avoid.  Many have the tendency to shrink from confrontation.  Due to many conflicts, we sometimes shrink from resolving them, and many Christians leave and find another church.

In the first century, our brethren did not have that option since there was only one church in each city.  We must learn to accept that it is hard work to commit ourselves to work out our problems before choosing to separate from one another.  Those involved in the conflict must learn to resolve them among themselves! 
  • Those Involved in Conflict Must Resolve The Conflict Among Themselves:
Remember, what Paul commanded Eudoia and Syntyche.
"I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord" (Phil. 4:2-3).  

Matthew 18:15 states,
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother."  

However, in Matthew 5:23-24, the situation is reversed.
"So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."  

In both circumstances, one must take the initiative to go to his brother.  I wonder how many relational problems among brethren would be quickly resolved if each one of them were to follow this simple rule:  to take the initiative of going to the other person to resolve the conflict or differences among them!  Many choose to gossip to others about the person that wronged them rather than going directly to that person.  It is not right to talk to others!  It is gossip and slander and makes the conflict much worse!  

Most conflicts among Christians can be grouped as follows:
  1. A personal wrong (someone sinned against us or did something to offend us).
  2.  A personal clash (someone just rubs us the wrong way).
  3. A methodology difference (someone does not agree with how we are doing something).
  4. A doctrinal difference.  
  5. Often it is a combination of the above.

Sadly, many Christians are prone to label their differences of opinions as doctrinal differences because they believe they're defending the Truth.  Often, such doctrinal differences are just a cover-up for personal problems and sin (which does not make me look so good!).  Holding sound doctrine in an insensitive way and a proud manner will result in relational conflict.  One can be doctrinally right, yet sin, by the way he sees himself as correct, believing he is better than his brother.  Others will use the Truth to put another brother down for being wrong rather than correcting him gently and building him up.  To sum it up:
  1. We must be careful not to compromise the Truth, but at the same time, be sensitive and gentle as we lead others to the Truth (2 Tim. 2:24-26).  
  2. We must learn to be patient (1 Thess. 5:14).  
  3. We must humble ourselves and be open to what God is teaching us through conflicts and learn to identify the real source of the conflict.  
  4. We must be of the same mind in the Lord, maintaining the same love, united in spirit and purpose.  
  5. However, we must not set aside God's Truth for the sake of unity.  
  6. Instead, we must have our minds geared toward brotherly love, seeking the good of others so that we can grow in the mind or Spirit of Christ, revealed to us in His Gospel (1 Cor. 2:16). 
  7. Our goal in any relational conflict is not to put our brother in his place or to win, but rather to honor Christ by growing in maturity and helping our brother to grow as well with the Truth.  

We must go to the other person with whom we have conflict, in a spirit of gentleness and humility, seeking to restore the relationship.  If the other has sinned against us, we don't have to give him a piece of our mind.  We must make sure we are in submission to the Holy Spirit, Gal. 6:1.  Our primary motive must be that of restoring one another rather than blowing each other away.  We must take away any anger and bitterness. Spend time in prayer. Be cautious about our words that we may not communicate arrogance or self-righteousness.  Remember, our manner and attitude must be gentle and not abrasive.  We must be careful not to accuse someone, exaggerating how sinful he is, and above all, try to understand the whole situation with sound and righteous judgment.  The most important thing in trying to resolve any conflict is for those involved to resolve it in a spirit of love, in total submission to God, seeking to work things out for the mutual good of their souls.  But when that fails, it may require the help of an outside party, a "peacemaker."  
  • Resolving Conflicts is Vital to The Work of The Gospel:
These two women in Philippians 4:2-3 have shared in Paul's struggle in the Gospel.  He said they worked together as a team.  Team members must work together.  We must remember the enemy (the prince of darkness) is out there wanting nothing more than to divide God's children into quarreling factions so that the lost cannot hear the good news, the Gospel that can save them.  We must remember we're on the same team striving to further the Gospel that saves the lost.  Thus we must focus on the cause of Christ, His Gospel.
  • Looking to Ourselves:
It is much easier to point out the mistakes, flaws, failures, and shortcomings of others than to look to ourselves.  To get alongwe must search our hearts and examine our lives to cultivate those qualities that make for peace.  It will be impossible to have peace with one another when we're looking to find fault, being always irritable, hypercritical, looking for the evil in others, never seeing the good in them.  We Christians are the salt of the earth.  Salt seasons.  Without salt in our food, it will be hard to do it.  And just as salt is necessary to season our food, so the spirit of Christ in us sweetens and purifies us.  It develops in us a righteous attitude that others can see in us, even when they disagree with us.  We can disagree without being disagreeable.  We can differ without being antagonistic and hateful.  We can point out others' faults and shortcomings with gentleness and love rather than aggressiveness.
  • Taking Responsibility For Our Own Behavior:
Aren't we often good at spotting the faults of others but very poor at accepting our own faults, failures, and shortcomings?  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned the people not to judge others when they cannot see their own blatant sin. They have a log in their own eyes.  Would it not be simple just to ask ourselves, "what responsibility do I have in this conflict?”

Paul urged these two sisters in Philippians 4:2-3 to work out their conflicts and differences so they might reconcile.  Both were at fault.  And it does not matter what kind of conflict we're in, we certainly may be guilty.  Why not ask yourself the following questions when you find yourself in a conflicting situation?
  1. Have I provoked this conflict because of my pride, stubbornness, and defensiveness?
  2. Have I contributed to this conflict using hurtful words, aggressive tactics, or twisting the truth of what really happened?
  3. Have I refused to give someone the benefit of the doubt and instead have concluded that I know the other person's motives?
  4. Have I hindered any reconciliation because of my bitterness, evil thoughts, or stubbornness?
  5. Am I behaving as if I had no responsibility for the conflict that exists?
  6. Am I guilty of resisting God by refusing to extend forgiveness and seek reconciliation?
  7. Am I guilty of prolonging this conflict because of my indifference?
  8. Am I waiting for the other party to make the first move and thus violate God's command to do everything to reconcile and be at peace with the other?
Then,
  1. Be honest and address your responsibility in the conflict.  
  2. Examine your heart and attitudes and make sure you're moving forward toward reconciliation. 
  3. Remove all barriers that impede you from reconciling.  
  4. Commit the matter to God in honest prayer, addressing your responsibility in the conflict.  
  5. Let it go, that you might be able to forgive and talk to the person in the conflict.  
  6. Apologize or ask forgiveness for your wrongdoing, that you might be at peace with God and men.  
  7. Extend grace where possible and be a peacemaker (Prov. 19:11; 12:16; 17:14; Col. 3:12-13). 
  8. Focus on the positive (Phil. 4:8).  
  9. Lower the temperature.  
  10. Remember, "a soft answer turns away wrath."  
  11. Calmness and gentleness lead to reconciliation.  
  12. Aggressiveness and harshness lead to more entrenched battles.  Being more assertive, more aggressive, more antagonistic is not of God but rather of Satan.  Remember that aggressiveness causes others to be defensive rather than open.  It puts us in the attack mode rather than the reconciling mode.  Words can wound the heart rather than healing it.  
  13. Refrain your words and be gentle with your words.  No one can get along with others unless he is watchful with his words.  Words are powerful!!

CONCLUSION:

In Acts 6:7, we notice that the church grew in number. She multiplied because the saints were working together in harmony to resolve conflicts among themselves.  The Word of God, the Gospel would have never spread the way it did were it not for the continuing effort of the apostles and the brethren to look out to their community to save souls.  These brethren were more concerned about spreading the Gospel and being the light to a world of darkness, than winning quarrels.  Can you grasp the intensity of this?  You should!  So why not act more like Christ and be the light of this world when problems, conflicts, and arguments arise among ourselves?

Remember, we have been given the Gospel to impact this world of darkness, and bring it to repentance that they may be saved from the wrath of God.  We must be mindful of how we treat one another when problems or conflicts arise.  Be like Christ at all times and always look for solutions and be willing to surrender your rights for the sake of harmony or unity.  Remember, we can remain sound to the doctrine of Christ without pushing our liberties on others.  May the Lord help us all to live like Jesus, our Lord, and Savior.  Let this sink deeply into your hearts!

So, to have Biblical unity, there must be doctrinal harmony and oneness of spirit, attitude, goal, and purpose.  The spirit of unity is only manifest when all members are working, sharing, and serving together in the Gospel.  All members must desire to share in the work of the church.  Likewise, the members must desire to serve one another.  Attitudes and proper conduct are vital for the church to practice unity and peace.  Many churches have been destroyed through division and strife among members because they refused to work for unity.  It is sad to see brethren who cannot even worship together any longer.  It is tragic!  Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:20-21).

In the beginning of the church in Jerusalem, the disciples were praised for having unity (Acts 5:12).  Peace and unity can be accomplished only when all Christians are the salt of the earth (Mark 9:50).  That is, each member is committed to the Truth, to work and serve one another, is patient and forbearing, and loving one another.  Love promotes peace and unity because it compels us to treat one another the way God demands.  Can there be unity when we must have our own way and pursue our own selfish interests?  There is nothing more tragic for the church than to have Christians who are selfish and self-centered.  It will destroy all unity in the church.

When a church puts into practice humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and love for the Truth, unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace can exist.  Unity does not compromise with doctrinal error, but we can compromise our personal preferences, differences, and opinions for the good of the church.  Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable (James 3:17).  We must seek unity based on Truth.  Peace and unity can exist when each member serves, works, and shares in the Lord's work.  The Lord wants Christians to work diligently, cooperating, and working with one another to please Him and to have the unity that He wants.  Patience and forbearance promote peace and unity. There is no other way to resolve conflicts and differences among us.

We must rely on God's Word as our only standard of unity, rather than human doctrines and doctrinal compromise.  We must be willing to sacrifice our personal desires and preferences to maintain unity.  We must seek peace in matters of personal conscience without forcing it on others.  The Lord has admonished us saying,
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others"  (Phil. 2:3-4).  

The keyword here is "humility." It is key to getting along with others.  When one values others, putting their needs above ours, all relationships will prosper:  our friends, family, church, and business.  We've also been warned by Christ not to "bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another"  (Gal. 5:15).  To put others first and above our own interests and needs, we must learn to develop the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5ff).  Jesus did not promote Himself but rather "emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men... Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name"  (Phil. 2:7-9).  A life of service will keep our self-worth in the right place and in a proper perspective.  Getting along with others does not mean to compromise the purity of the Truth, but it does require humble servitude (Rom. 12:3, 18).

Brotherly love is crucial to peace and unity.  It is the foundation from which other things grow.  It will manifest itself in longsuffering, kindness, sympathy, compassion, respect, courtesy, gentleness, forgiveness, hospitality, and such like.  Jesus said,
"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).  

When we stop brotherly love (Heb. 13:1), we are allowing the world to criticize and put down the Lord's church.  We allow sinners to blaspheme the Lord's church, and we will be held accountable for that.

Sadly, there are many Diotrephes in the church whose primary desire is to have the preeminence among all (3 John 9) and hinder brotherly love.  Anyone who gets in their way becomes his enemy.  They even defend themselves as having brotherly love, but we know it is not genuine love (1 Peter 1:22).  Often this so-called love for the brethren is nothing more than love for power.  It shows a lack of brotherly love.  The church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11-12) is described as lacking brotherly love and unity.  Their lack of unity and brotherly love led to a vast number of serious divisions within the church. No wonder chapter 13 of this same letter talks about love!  This letter was written with the sole purpose of healing the many wounds and fractures that arose from such destructive factions, divisions.   These brethren were impatient, jealous, braggadocious, arrogant, slanderers, etc.  They utterly lacked brotherly love.  They exalted themselves to a higher level than others.  Their factions left no room for brotherly love, peace, and unity.  Does this not sound familiar in the Lord's church today?  Often, when there is controversy, great swelling words are produced.

Picking up and moving on to another church, when we are at odds with others will not resolve conflicts among us.  It will not get the problem solved or fixed.  It will not please God and will bring reproach to the church.  The right thing to do is to work hard. Do some painful self-confrontation. Accept some help from an outside party to resolve conflicts and be at peace with one another.  This also applies to all conflicts or disputes with family members!  We must learn to accept, welcome, receive one another, and love each other, despite our differences over minor matters where the Bible does not give specific commands. 

We must also remember that every time there are quarrels among brethren, there are many souls affected, and God is not well pleased. We have been encouraged by the Master of loveto love one another and keep all things from getting nasty.  Remember, that discord reflects upon the Lord and His church, the church that He purchased with His own blood.  Wouldn't it be tragic if the Lord returned and found us with such disunity among ourselves?  The church cannot prosper and grow when there is division, strife, quarrels, and discord.

My fervent prayer is that we put into practice these principles of righteousness to avoid the turmoil that exists among us over matters of personal judgment.  One of the ways we shine our light to the world is by the way we handle trouble among God's people.  God can change us if we let Him.  The Gospel can make us peacemakers rather than troublemakers.  We can learn to be gentle rather than abrasive.  The world is watching us.  Therefore, we must be lights that shine in so much darkness.  We must learn to work hard at resolving our conflicts until there is nothing more we can do.

So, examine your heart and the situations that keep you churning.  Examine your heart and see if there is any bitterness, or fires of resentment and take responsibility at once.  Examine your heart to see if you are at fault in some way and guilty of making a mountain out of a molehill.  Why not start mending all broken and damaged relationships? Confess your own responsibility honestly.  Explain rather than attack.  Cool your anger.  Refrain your words.  Focus on solving the conflict.  And work together toward reconciliation rather than blame. God wants us to be one in Him, work together in harmony, and help each other.  And though you may not care about your relationships with others, God does.  Take heed!

May our Lord help us to resolve our differences and conflicts kindly without quarreling so that we may please Him.  May we love each other amid our differences.  May we edify one another rather than destroy each other.  May we walk worthy of our Lord and His Gospel with all humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and brotherly love.  May we bear with one another in love and maintain the unity of the Spirit as we have been called. May we grant the same grace that has been given to each one of us and according to the measure of Christ's gift. 

Please give this study a wider use by sharing it with someone who might benefit from it. May the Lord continue to bless you in Him.

Luci