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In this message, Todd completes a two-part series on conflict resolution. He explains that true peace making is not peace faking or peace breaking. Looking at a story in Joshua, we see how God's people can pursue real peace making together. Todd wraps up his time by sharing what we do when brothers or sisters are resistant to peace making, taking us through Matthew 18, and sharing the Arms's story of reconciliation and recovery.
Resolve to Be Anchored in Truth
Resolve to Deal with Your Baggage
Resolve to Deal with Anger
Resolve to Remove the Myths Around Love and Dating
16 Things to Convince Your Children of Before 16
Resolve to Pursue Peace as Much as Possible
Resolve to Be Diligent to Stay Together
Resolve to Be in God's Word
Resolve to Do Life Together
Just a small town girl
Brand new to the corporate world
She's going to GroupLink
Just a city boy
Crunching numbers at Deloitte
He's seeking fellowship
Four couples in a living room
Talk of expectations loom
One girl sharing her life map
She goes on and on and on and on
For someone else to be the first
With the courage
To step into the light
Small groups of people
Signin' up for full devotion
We call this doing life
Working hard to hear from Phil
While trying not to strangle Jill
If Sally says she can't come tonight
Just one more time…
All will win, none will lose
Conflict resolution tools
Oh, this process never ends
It goes on and on and on and on
Hidden hurts create division
Fight the urge to take flight
Small groups of people
Sayin' bye to isolation
Lean in to this community life
We don't stop believin'
Won't you keep on meeting
Be God's people
Don't stop believin'
It sure can be a beating
Be God's people
Don't stop believin'
When things are overheating
Lead God's people
Oh, man. All right! Yeah! Well, Fort Worth and Plano, we're glad that you got to enjoy that with us. That's what you call a bumper , right there, to make a transition to where we're headed. If you've not been with us, we don't usually remake a Journey song to drive home a point, but I'm glad we did today.
That is a little bit of what we did last night when we were in this room with leaders from Plano, Fort Worth, and Dallas, folks that are a point of contact to help love and serve you in the smaller communities that are going to allow us to be everything that God wants us to be. We are committed to being committed to one another.
We know that because we are people that are on our way toward Christlikeness…having been saved, justified by grace through faith…we are being sanctified, and there will be a day that God will finish this good work that he began in us. Until then, it's going to take a lot of grace, a lot of love, and a lot of intentional forgiveness and commitment to one another to make this thing work. That's what we talked about last night, and that's what we're in the middle of talking about right now.
We're so glad you're here. It is fun to laugh, make fun of ourselves about how difficult it can be to do life with one another, but I'm going to tell you something. It is great to be in a community of grace, in a community with people that know they need grace, have received grace, and are ready to extend it for others.
If you're here and don't know who we are or what we're about, you need to know something. We're a group of people that desire to honor Christ by the enabling of his Spirit, by conformity to his will and way, that we would love one another as he has loved us. We're on a journey toward that.
We hope that today can remind you of God's love toward you by what I teach and by what you experience as you start to gather with each other. We have to be "diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." So may God teach us today. Let's pray with each other, and then we'll dive in.
Father, we thank you for creative people. We thank you for the gift of the arts. We thank you for music. We thank you, most of all, for the sweet sound to our hearts and ears that is the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus himself has brought. We thank you, Father, for your kindness and your goodness.
We thank you that that song that was sung on the cross is repeated daily as people who love you and follow after you desire to pick up their cross, deny themselves, and follow you. Part of denying ourselves, Lord, is not expecting everybody to be just like us and to want what we want, other than to honor and to glorify you.
So we thank you, God, for your kindness. I pray that it would be evident in the way that we care for and love one another. We thank you that we get to be a part of this community that is your body, people of the faith. Help us to live in a way that would suggest that we understand who you are. For the glory of God, for the good of other people, and for the joy of our souls. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
Well, if you were here last week, you remember that I read a pretty extensive excerpt from something called The Screwtape Letters, where I talked about Screwtape's letters to his young nephew, Wormwood, who was assigned a particular individual whom he was supposed to keep from knowing God and then being faithful and fruitful in his service of God.
When I got back to my office between the service that we all enjoyed together and the next time I gathered with a group of friends, there was a text waiting for me from JP. The text said this, "Wormwood is tempting me to be annoyed by your two watches." I thought that was pretty funny.
I also tweeted a response to a few people and posted a few things that we had talked about, as a way of keeping truth and ideas out there before them. There was actually somebody that tweeted this during the service. They tweeted, "It's @wordsfromwags wearing two watches." I thought I'd respond to that, and I said, "He needs to if he wants to end on time #fitbit #christmas."
Let me explain something to you. This is a Fitbit right there next to my watch, but I'm probably annoying the heck out of you and making you feel like, "What's that brother doing up there?" I'll tell you what I didn't know. I didn't know that my Fitbit had a watch on it. Somebody has told me that.
So there you go, Wormwod. We're all good now. It's 9:38 Central Time. How about that? Who knew? Okay, so that being said, we can look over that little annoyance and persevere. But isn't it funny when sometimes things just bother the heck out of us? Why is that brother wearing two watches?
I thought it was really awesome… Let me just tell you something that really encouraged me. There was a young man that wanted to come into this room with his parents and sit here, and he was encouraged by what we talked about. The next day, he insisted on wearing two watches to school, and I thought to myself, "That really encourages me."
What I want to tell you is that our kids are watching us. They're watching what we do and how we do it, and they're watching if we just love God in name only. They're watching not only how we dress, but how we put on that which Christ tells us to put on. Are we people that are seriously seeking to be who God wants us to be? Are we " diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"? Are we, with "humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love."?
Are we pursuing oneness in our marriage, not just avoiding breaking up our homes in divorce and staying together in what I would call "mutual toleration" or are we running toward each other? Do the kids see that Mom and Dad love each other unconditionally and fight hard to preserve unity?
Do they see us talk poorly about others that we attend this community of faith with or do they see us seek them out, pursue them relationally, admonish them faithfully, counsel them biblically, live authentically with them, and share our issues, all out of an overflow of our individual commitment to devote to Jesus daily as we engage in the mission together?
Those are the core values of what it is that we seek to be as his people. Sometimes when you dive in and try to do that, it can get really, really hard. Last night, as we were admonishing and encouraging leaders of all the smaller communities that we have right here, we were laughing. JP actually shared the story about a friend that showed up in his Community Group one time with a tee shirt on that said, "The pain of isolation cannot be greater than the pain of community."
That's a funny tee shirt, but it's just a lie. It's a fact that I spend a lot of time helping individuals work through the conflict that comes in trying to do human relationship, but I spend a lot more time investing in, comforting, encouraging, counseling, and spurring on people that are experiencing the pain of isolating themselves while they're trying to do war against sin and the corruption that's in their flesh.
God has intended that the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God are the means of grace that you will avail yourself too so that you will not be overcome by the temptation that is common to man that is in your life. What is common to man is that when he isolates himself from others, the Scripture says, he "…seeks his own desire, [and] He quarrels against all sound wisdom." It is also common to man that when you yoke with other men…because we're all on a journey…that we're going to need grace. We're going to hurt each other.
One of the things about that tee shirt that's funny… I sometimes talk to my single friends, and they say, "I don't care who I marry; I just want to get married because it is awful being alone. If a good marriage is a 100 and being single is a zero, then at least a bad marriage will be a one, so it's an improvement." Let me just tell you something. That's a lie from the pit of hell.
You need to stop thinking that being single is a zero and having a great marriage is a 100. You need to think of being single as, if you will, a bit neutral in your story. A great marriage is, in fact, a tremendous blessing and a gift from God, but a marriage that is not the way that God intended you to be married is not a one, it's a negative 100.
You need to know something else about marriage. This is what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 7:28, which is one of the reasons that we are so desperate for you to not act like you have to come in here and just put on airs and act like everything is perfect in your house. I guess there are some people whose community never has unmet expectations, never has personality conflicts, never has some joker show up with two watches. I guess, maybe, your community is one where there are never any annoyances, but I'm going to tell you…
I don't know, maybe that's your marriage. All I'm going to tell you is that if you tell me that you've never struggled pursuing the oneness that God intends with marriage, what I really think you're doing is you're making God out to be a liar. God never said marriage was going to be easy. He said that within marriage, we should learn to love each other as Christ loved the church.
In fact, one of the verses that speak about this in Scripture is 1 Corinthians 7:28. It says, "…if you marry, you have not sinned…" This is great news for a lot of us who have a little extra weight on our left ring finger. All right? But then Paul says that if you marry, you "…will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you."
What Paul is saying is, "Look, it's hard work to do business with another believer." It's hard work to try to do business with God, who is a perfect spouse, and when you get married, you have responsibility to honor God by, first and foremost, making sure that marriage is everything God wants it to be.
And guess what? He calls us, whether we are single or married, to be married to one another, to "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." You will have trouble. It is a lie that if you're Community Group has trouble, then you have a bad Community Group. Part of being in a community is that you will have trouble, and the fact that you have to deal with that is not a problem. How you deal with that determines if you are a person who rebels against God or is going to grow.
Let me just tell you something. There was a great story about a business that, in order to build relationships with one another, they had different things that they would do. One of the things they would do was have an annual softball game between the marketing department and the accounting department. So they played, and this particular year, the accounting department won.
In order to show their wares and that they earn their keep, the marketing department posted something on the company bulletin board that said, "The marketing department just completed an incredibly successful season, having lost only one game. The accounting department, however, didn't do so well, going through their entire season winning just one game."
Now look, when you read it like that, you're like, "Wow, if I'm going to play softball, I'm going to be on the marketing department's team." That's all a bunch of spin. It's all a bunch of word games. This morning, I'm not going to play games with you. I'm not going to give you a bunch of creative dalliances around the truth.
I do want to tell you this: conflict and the need for us to be diligent to have the unity that God intends us to have is something that I don't have to create, I guess, a story that doesn't really exist in order to make you want to face it the way that God wants you to. I'm going to tell you, this is what the Bible says about conflict: conflict is an opportunity to glorify God. It's an opportunity to glorify God because we get to follow his Word, show the wisdom of his way, and to imitate him in the way that he demonstrates his patience toward us. He is kind to evil and ungrateful men.
It's a way to glorify God by saying that his way is the right way. It's an opportunity to serve other people by encouraging them, admonishing them, and modeling for them the love and the goodness and persistence of Jesus Christ. It's a chance to grow yourself as you discipline yourself, as you're reminded of your need for grace. That, friends, is called a win-win-win.
So many of us have this mindset that conflict is something to desperately be avoided. Now look, a good friend of mine, Ken Sande, has done some work on this, and he has talked about the fact that we are called to be peacemakers. In fact, this is what it says in Matthew, chapter 5, verse 9. Right out of the chute, when Jesus is talking to us about who he wants us to be, he says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." That's a pretty amazing statement.
What most of us do, however, is we move away from being"diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"by being humble and gentle and patient and showing forbearance to one another in love. We either fake peace, where we act like there's not a problem but are annoyed to death of each other…we are tolerant of each other, but we don't really spur each other on…or we are peace-breakers, and when someone annoys us we come at them hard. Peace-breaking is not God's way, and peace-faking is not God's way. Peacemaking is God's way.
Ken put a little graph together and called it the "Slippery Slope." I've reworked it a little bit and put some titles in there so the language is more useful to us. Basically, the Slippery Slope is a metaphor for this idea that when you're on a very steep hill that's maybe slick, if you stay in the center, you're going to be fine, but if you get too far in a certain direction, it's not going to be long before you slide to incredible extremes. What you'll see in this particular chart behind me is that there are two ways that most of us go when we're faced with conflict.
In peace-faking, we act like there's not a conflict and begin to act like we're the problem. We focus all on us. So we remove ourselves from the problem and start by denying that there's a problem. After denying we have a problem, we might, in fact, find ourselves running from a problem. Let me just say this. Sometimes, removing yourself from conflict makes sense, in extreme situations.
In the Scripture, you have an example of this one. When Saul was throwing spears at David, David rightly removed himself from that situation. In Matthew, chapter 7, verse 6, Jesus says, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine." There comes a point where you make a decision: "I'm not dealing with a fellow sheep who wants to be shepherded by our good and wise and loving Shepherd, but I'm dealing now with a dog or a pig that wants to return to the mud."
What I'm really focusing on in the extreme peace-faking examples is when people that just say, "Look, I'm denying that it's there. Things have become so hard that I'm not just going to deny that it's there but I'm going to remove myself from it." The extreme form of removing yourself from it is, "I'm going to eliminate the fact that I'm even in this life will all kinds of trouble, pain, isolation, and loneliness that comes."
Do you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents in our country? Do you all know that American is the most medicated, overeating, constantly-looking-for-ways-to-cope-with-our-problems people that have ever lived on the face of the earth? I think it's because we don't know how to work through the natural conflict that arises in life.
One of the reasons that some people drink, one of the reasons that some people medicate, one of the reasons that some people are quick to take prescription drugs is because they don't want to face the reality of the situation that they're in in a way that would bring healing. "It's more painful to do things God's way," they think to themselves, so they take an out and say, "I think I'll just escape from it by numbing myself."
That's not everybody that takes prescription meds, we did a Real Truth. Real Quick. on that, but you'd better make doggone sure that you're not running from something that God wants you to address in a way that will bring real peace to your life…not temporary, momentary peace…before you go that direction.
Now look on the other side. There are just peace-faking responses, there are peace-breaking responses where you'll come up against somebody and say, "Hey, I'm going to litigate against you." By the way, what is litigation? Litigation is professionally-assisted denial. That's what it is. It's saying you don't have a problem; they're the problem, and we need to focus on what they did wrong and be litigious.
You need to know this. Divorce attorneys and anybody that you hire to represent you, their job is not to reconcile you with that person. Their job is to protect you from anything you might have done as wrong so that other person will do what you want them to do. That doesn't mean that all attorneys don't, at times, mediate and arbitrate. I'm just telling you that in a litigious situation, that's their job.
If they're a good attorney, they'll tell you the truth about your situation, but I'm going to tell you. I went and talked to some of my friends who are divorce attorneys, and they said, "Todd, you need to know something. When we get involved, our job is not to move people toward reconciliation. Our job is to represent our client's interests and to help them win."
So not only do we have litigation, but we sometimes have assault. Assault isn't just physical. Sometimes, and typically at first, it's verbal. It is gossip and slander: "Let me tell you why I'm in conflict with this person. It's because that person is unreasonable, illogical, overemotional…" What you see eventually escalates to the point of murder. That would be the extreme response.
The Scripture says that is in Matthew, chapter 5, verses 21 and 22: "Hey, I'm going to tell you that you've heard it said that you shouldn't murder, but anybody that says to his brother, 'You fool,' or, 'You empty-headed go-for-nothing,' has committed murder and is guilty before God." So Jesus just ratchets that bar way up.
There is peace-faking and peace-breaking, but what God wants us to be involved is being peacemakers. I want to walk you through some of that this morning. I'm going to talk about what to do when you get involved with somebody who doesn't want to pursue God's way. There is a time to go, "Hey, look, we have to treat this person no longer like a sheep," but you don't do that in isolation. I'm going to show you that God has given you a road map so that you can love others well, but we have to do it his way.
I'll tell you a story that's kind of fun about the way that too many people think it's appropriate to handle conflict. You decide if this is peace-faking or peace-breaking here in just a moment. It's a story about a guy that owned a ranch. He cared about his ranch and really didn't want folks to hunt on it too much, or if he did, it was just family. Next to him was a guy who leased out his land, and people hunted on it quite a bit.
Now if you know anything about hunting in Texas, animals are allowed to move freely if it's not a high-fenced ranch. They can go wherever they want, but you're not allowed to shoot across the fence line. In fact, if you shoot an animal on your side of the fence and then…as a response to your shot if it was just wounded…if it jumps over that fence and goes into another piece of land, it is no longer your animal and it cannot be reclaimed without permission from that landowner.
Well, it just so happens that on this adjacent ranch to this rancher who really didn't want it hunted except by immediate family members, there was a highfalutin lawyer who had gone hunting. He saw the buck of a lifetime and had shot it, but he didn't quite kill it. This buck actually crossed over the boundary line and was lying just 10 or 15 feet away from where he could legally reclaim it.
He thought, "Look, this is no big deal. Surely this guy would understand." So he jumped over to go get that animal and bring it back where he could field dress it, claim it, and mount it, eat it, or use it wisely…let's just assume…we believe. So at that moment, the old rancher came up and saw him on his property. He looked at him and said, "Hey, man, what are you doing?"
The guy goes, "Oh, hey. Here's the deal. I shot this animal on my side." The rancher goes, "Oh, I'm sure you did. It looks to me like that animal is on my side. I don't know that you shot it over there. There's no blood trail. That animal is just lying here on my side. What are you doing over here?"
The attorney just went right away to this kind of conversation. He said, "Hey, let me tell you something, old man. I told you that I shot it over here. Frankly, I don't really want to have a conversation with you. I'm going to get this animal and bring it back over here. If you want to fight me on it, then you need to know who I am. I'm one of the most successful attorneys in the entire city and will go to war. I won't just have this animal; I'll own your entire ranch."
That farmer climbed up in his truck and put his hands in his pockets, and he said, "Son, I'm sure you're from the city. I'm sure you're an impressive attorney, but that's not the way we handle things out here in East Texas. What we do out here is we have this little thing called the 'three-kick rule.' If you want to talk about how we can resolve this thing, maybe we can give it a shot."
The attorney goes, "Oh, what's that?" The old man said, "Well, here's the deal. Basically, we have a disagreement, so what I do is I kick you three times. You kick me three times. I kick you three times. You kick me three times. Eventually one of us says, 'Man, that's enough!' Then the other person kind of wins the argument and carries the day."
This young attorney was not just a good attorney, he was indicating himself quite healthy and in shape. He looked at the old man and said, "Let's go, bro! Let's do it." So the old man said, "Great, I'll go first." So he walked right up to that attorney, took his little steel-toe boot, and kicked the attorney in the crotch like he had never been kicked.
The guy went, "Whoa!" and fell over like that. While the guy was down, the rancher reared back and kicked him right in the face. He busted his jaw and his lip wide open. Teeth fell out. That attorney was lying on the ground, and the farmer walked up and just kicked him as hard as he could on the face, breaking his nose.
With that, though… I mean, this is a tough young man! This attorney stood up. He kind of gathered himself, and said, "All right, old man. Let's go. It's my turn." The guy said, "No, you can have the animal. That's all right."
Now look, first of all, we go, "All right!" It's called the Texas three-kick rule, but that is not endorsed by Watermark leadership. Let me just make that very clear right here. That is not a peacemaking response. There are some, and we ought to take a look at them. There's negotiation, mediation, and community intervention.
That's Matthew 18:15-17. It's Philippians 2, where you sit down with somebody and don't do anything "from selfishness or empty conceit." It's Proverbs 18:2, where you don't just say, "Here's what I think. Here's what we should do." Instead, you "delight in understanding" and not just in "revealing your own mind."
Let me give you a biblical example of this. Last week, I showed you a couple of slides. I talked about how there's this thing called the confrontational approach, where I think I have all knowledge and want you to come over to my side of knowledge. Or you think you have knowledge over here and you're trying to pull me your way. We argue about where truth is, instead of using what I would call a biblical model, which is the commitment approach.
In this approach, we start with a foundation of love and a sense that, "Hey, both of us want to honor God. Both of us want to be people that "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit." Both of us want to be patient and kind, not arrogant and boastful. We don't want to take into account a wrong suffered. We don't want to be provoked. We want to be people that love as we have been loved. So we say, "Look, I know you want what I want. I know you care about truth like I care about truth. How can we work toward that?"
Let me just walk you through an example in Scripture where you have a group of people that almost severed the unity that God intended by taking a confrontational approach. I'm going to show you what fixed it then I'm going to teach you and walk you through some other truth. Okay? Are you ready? Turn to Joshua 22 with me.
Joshua 22 is a great story about a moment in Israel's history when they had just got through a series of battles where they were very successful in their taking over the land that God had promised them. Now they weren't successful in being obedient in all things, but it was a day of great joy in Israel. They were at a place where they were rejoicing at God's provision.
Now what you need to know is that the Israelites were moving into Canaan, which the Bible tells us that God didn't let them do for centuries because, to use the phrase in Scripture, "…the iniquity of the Amorites [was] not yet full." In other words, there is a day that is fixed for judgment for all of us. The Bible says, "…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."
What is true of all of us is there will be a day when we will die, when we will give an account of our lives before God. But there are also appointed days for nations to be judged. God has told us what will maybe extend some of those appointed days of judgment, if there's repentance and humility and brokenness and a return to his way, but if there's not, there is a day appointed for judgment.
God often uses people or nations to bring judgment from him on other nations. That is what was happening when God raised up the Israelites, moved them through the wilderness, and crossed them over the Jordan to bring about judgment on the child-killing, godless, idol-worshiping, pagan Canaanites. What's scary about that is that you're living in a land that could be described in a very similar way, but that's not my point this morning.
My point this morning is that this nation had been in the land, and for seven years had been warring together. Now before they moved into that land, and God's plan was for them to divide that land among the 12 tribes. There were a couple of tribes…two and a half tribes which were the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh…that said, "Hey, we like this land east of the Jordan. We're just going to say over here.
So the other nine and a half tribes came to them and said, "Hey, we'll tell you what. We're okay if you want this land over here, but you have to go help the rest of us get the land. There's nobody fighting you over here, so we can't just stop, let you have the land, and then go in with a minimized force to accomplish what God wants us to accomplish."
So they left half of the men back to provide for the women and the children that were there, to farm and provide food, and also to protect them against any other attacks that would come from either the further east, the north, or maybe even up from south, from Egypt and Aram and other places.
Seven years later, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were being commissioned to go back. Here are the words: "Then Joshua summoned [them] and said to them, 'You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, and have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you. You have not forsaken your brothers these many days to this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the Lord your God.'"
They were commended for their faithfulness, keeping their Lord front and center, and being a part of the unity that is the family that was there. So these people are being greatly commended. "And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as He spoke to them; therefore turn now and go to your tents…" Joshua continues, "We have the land that God gave us. Judgment has been executed the way God wants it to be executed, almost."
He goes on, " [So return] to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan. Only…" This shows up in verse 5: "Only be very careful to…"
"…observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you…"
"…love the Lord your God…"
"…walk in all His ways…"
"…and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him…"
"…serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul."
Joshua is telling them, "Be obedient, be filled with love, be committed to unity, and serve God. Go home." So he sent them home. Now in verse 9, this is what happened. The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, when they left Shiloh…
Shiloh was the place where the Tent of Meeting was. The Tent of Meeting was the place where the sacrifices were made that allowed Israel to be at peace with God until a full and final sacrifice had come. They were only told that they could offer sacrifices at the Tent of Meeting. There was no other place that God wanted his holiness to be approached by his priests. That was the altar at the time: in the Tent of Meeting in Shiloh. But watch what happens.
"The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home and departed from the sons of Israel at Shiloh which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, to the land of their possession…" Verse 10: "When they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan…"
This is across a valley surrounded by 2,000-plus-feet mountains that are there with a 5- to 13-mile wide valley. They knew that distance and time could eventually separate themselves from their brothers. So they said, "Let's do this. Let's build an altar here by the Jordan, a very large altar in appearance." Now wait a minute. Why are they doing that? Why are they building not just a normal altar that you could sacrifice on, but a huge altar?
Right now, you might look at that and go, "They just got through being encouraged and affirmed by Joshua, and now look what they're doing. They're raising up a place to start pagan worship, and they're doing it in a way that is arrogant, making it bigger than the other altar." Right? Well, you might think so, and so did the other nine and a half tribes. So what happens at that particular point is that the sons of Israel, in verse 11, said,
"'Behold, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan, on the side belonging to the sons of Israel.' When the sons of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh to go up against them in war."
Now watch this. They built the altar on the side of the Jordan that Israel was on. You might ask yourself, "Why is that altar there?" Remember what I told you awhile back, when we were looking at this last week in some form or fashion. In the book of Corinthians, there was a conflict between people who ate meat sacrificed to idols and folks who didn't want to eat meat sacrificed to idols because of stewardship reasons or desires to honor God.
What Paul admonished them was, "Listen, we all have knowledge, but…" and he continued, "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know…" Before you assume that there's a problem, you ought to go and ask about it.
So Israel came up and was ready to go to war with these pagan, godless, alternative, altar-building guys, but then they did something wise. It says right here in verse 13 that they took Phinehas, the son of Eleazar the priest… If you know anything about the Scriptures, in Numbers 25, Phinehas was the guy that was passionate about a right worship of God and had defended the Lord's honor at a time when there were others that had left a desire to honor God in all the ways that they should.
So Phinehas had become a priest and a leader, and they said, "Hey, let's have Phinehas go over there and see what's going on." They sent leaders from each of the tribes to go with him. When they got there, they kind of started poorly. They started with a confrontational approach.
You see it right here in verse 16. "Thus says the whole congregation of the Lord, 'What is this unfaithful act which you have committed against the God of Israel, turning away from following the Lord this day, by building yourselves an altar, to rebel against the Lord this day?'" Now look, this is not the right way to come into a conversation. This is, "We see what you've done, this is the only reason anybody would do that, and we have to get you to repent of that, get over here, and do what we have done over here."
They didn't start by saying, "Hey, guys, just a few weeks ago, we were all with Joshua and all celebrated that you love God, want to worship God only, are committed to the God that we're committed to, and know that it's important to worship God only in the Tent of Meeting through his anointed priests. We know that you know that. Help us understand what's going on?"
They started this way, and now watch. What you're going to see is real humility here by the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. They didn't just fly off the handle and go, "What are you…? I can't… We're going to go to war just because you've insulted us!" What they did is they responded, in verse 21, and said, "Hey, listen. This is why we did this."
In verse 22, they said, "The Mighty One, God, the Lord, the Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows, and may Israel itself know. If it was in rebellion, or if in an unfaithful act against the Lord do not save us…" They're saying, "Judge us! You should judge us." They continue, "If we have built us an altar to turn away from following the Lord…" Then, "Judge us. May the Lord require our lives of us."
Verse 24: "But truly we have done this out of concern, for a reason, saying, 'In time to come your sons may say to our sons, "What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?" They're worried the next generation would say, "You're not part of us. You're over there, and all the godly people are over here."
They go on to explain, "So what we did is we built a memorial. The thing which unifies us is our similar worship of God, and if it wasn't for from the ability to offer sacrifices to God, none of us would be right before his eyes. Go look for yourself. There is no charred wood, no animal bones, no blood spilled on that altar. It's a memorial to say that what unifies us is our similar worship to God."
It's like the Gateway Arch. They're saying, "As you cross over, you're not moving into a land now where there are people who don't know what you know, but we are people of God, called by his name, and we worship who you worship. That's why we built it on your side, to remind you that we are one with you in the God that we worship."
Do you see what happens? There was unity that was restored. There was rejoicing that was done because the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh didn't get prideful when they were wrongly accused. They showed patience, gentleness, humility, and forbearance. They said, "We want to be diligent to preserve the unity. That's why we did it."
Now let me just say something. Up there on the "Slippery Slope" chart I put the idea that sometimes you should overlook an offense. When should you overlook an offense? If you look at a chart like that, you might say, "Well, Todd, when do I overlook an offense?" Here's the answer. In Proverbs, chapter 19, verse 11, it says it is a man's "glory to overlook an offense." You should overlook an offense whenever it's just something that is just a matter of conscience. It's not central to the character and nature of God or the way and the will of God.
Here's the simple answer, okay? I'll give you four reasons that you cannot overlook an offense. Let me just remind you that when you see something that looks like it might do one of these four things, you're wise to go to them and say, "I know that you're not a person that wants to offend God or hurt other people. I know you're a person that's committed to the unity of spirit and the holiness and the will and the way of God. So I must not understand something or I know you wouldn't have done that."
Right? Proverbs 18:13 says this, "He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him." So when you start spouting out about why somebody is doing something before understanding why they did it, it's going to lead to trouble. But here are four things that you can never overlook:
1._ If it is dishonoring God._ The Scriptures are clear that love does not rejoice in unrighteousness. It doesn't condone sin; it lovingly confronts it. So if something is dishonoring to God, you have to speak up. That's why the Israelites were right when they thought, "Hey, it looks like that might be dishonoring God." They didn't go about it exactly right, but they were right to go.
One of the things that I skipped was what Israel did say to those two and a half tribes: "Hey, listen, if it's too hard to live faithfully over there, we want you to know…before we destroy you…come back home. Step back into fellowship with us. Live over here." That might even have been the thing that made it possible for the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to say, "Hey, thank you, but we don't need to. Everything is good. We love the same God." But if something is dishonoring God, we have to speak up.
2._ If it is damaging relationships_. If something is damaging relationships, we have to speak up. Why? Because God died to create unity between us and him, and he has called us to unity with one another. So if something is damaging a relationship, we have to speak up.
3._ If it is hurting other people_. If so, you can't overlook it. It's not an option for you to overlook it when it's hurting other people. Why? We are called to speak up for those who don't have a voice for themselves. We're called to save people from injustice and harm. So if there's something that somebody is doing and they say, "Hey, it's just what I want to do," well, if what they're doing is hurting other people, I am charged by God to speak up for the voiceless and the defenseless and the weak among us. Even if it's not hurting me but is hurting somebody else, it's time to speak.
4.If it is damaging that person's (who says they love God) ability to rightly be a witness for him. I'm to spur you on to love and good deeds. I'm not to enable you in decisions that are keeping you from keeping "your behavior excellent among the Gentiles," as it says in 1 Peter 2, verse 12.
You can't overlook an offense in these four situations. You are compelled by God to play the role of a prophet, of a friend, of a lover, a faithful friend who will wound and not give the deceitful kisses of the enemy, like, "Well, as long as what you're doing doesn't bother me…" No. If it's an offense to God, I have to speak. If it's damaging our relationship, I have to speak. If it's hurting other people, I have to speak. If it's hurting your usefulness to God, I have to speak.
Then, gang, there's one more thing we need to visit on this morning, and that is just simply this. What do you do if you come to somebody with a commitment approach… "I'm committed to you, and I believe that you want God's will and way. I believe you want to be God's man, that you want to be God's woman, that you want to be God's people. I see something that's confusing to me.
So it's not going to be a folly and a shame to me, before I speak, I want to seek understanding because I know that you're committed to what I'm committed to. But I'm coming because it looks like there might be something here that's dishonoring God, or at least it's potentially damaging our relationship if I don't understand this. Or it's hurting other people or I think this is hurting you. The Bible says, 'Don't do anything to cause the ministry to be discredited,' in 2 Corinthians 6:3. I think what you're doing is discrediting the ministry, and so we have to talk this out."
What do you do if in the midst of going humbly, acknowledging that the problem might just be with you, your legalistic mindset, and your overly sensitive and insecure sensibilities that have interpreted something that they have done in a negative way when, if you just heard what they meant or what they said, you wouldn't feel that way…
You get the log out of your eye as best as you can, as the Scriptures have admonished you, and you come to them and say, "This might be about me. It has to be about me because I know you're a godly person. I know you love God, but here's the thing. I need understanding." If in the midst of talking to them, they go, "Well, here's the misunderstanding; you think this is true," but their chart looks like this: "Truth is over here. Truth is here."
If they say, "That's not what Scripture says. This isn't dishonoring to God. I don't think it's that big of deal. I don't think this is a discredit to me." What do you do when you go this way and somebody says, "Well, we just disagree about what God's Word says"? Answer: You go, "Great. Listen, here's what the Bible tells us to do. Do you remember that little "Slippery Slope" chart? Let me just go back to it real quick. It says before you right there.
What do you do if, when you talk to somebody and seek mutual understanding, you can't find it? Well, then you go to mediation. You say, "Let's bring somebody in so they can expose to me that maybe this is because I'm an emotional black hole. Maybe it's because I'm legalistic. Maybe it's because I'm being too judgmental and this is, in fact, a grey issue as defined by Romans 14. Or maybe you're drifting toward licentiousness and rebellion, and someone needs to say, 'Hey, what this person is saying to you is the truth, and there does seem to need to be a response from you.'"
Matthew, chapter 18, verse 15 says this: "If your brother sins…" Or if you perceive him to sin. "…go and show him his fault in private…" In other words, don't tell 16 other people about it. Tell him. Say, "Help me to understand this." Send your Phinehas, the godly man that is concerned for what is right and true, affirming who they are and how you perceive them.
"…if he listens to you, you have won your brother." If he leaves the thing that was dishonoring to God or damaging the relationship or hurting other people or causing the ministry of Christ in him to be discredited… You go, "Todd, that's great, but what if that doesn't happen?" Answer: You move from negotiation to mediation and from mediation to community involvement.
The Scripture says, "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed." This gives them chance to say, "Hey, this is truth. We, a community of faith, believe this is what truth says." Well, what do you do if he doesn't like the two or three witnesses? At that point, it says, "…tell it to the church."
Matthew, chapter 18, verse 17 continues, "…if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a [tax-gatherer] ." This is to say that you're no longer dealing with a sheep that just needs so be shepherded. Now you're having somebody who says, "I disagree with all the sheep. I don't really care what the sheep think. I don't really care what the sheep think. I don't think this is a big deal with the shepherd."
At that point, when you've done all you could, then you treat them as a tax-gatherer and a Gentile. Question: How do you treat a tax-gatherer and a Gentile? You love them, you call them to repentance, but you don't act like they're a Jew who loves God and is concerned with his Word.
In our context, that telling it to the church doesn't mean we tell you that there's somebody…that 14,000 of you don't know…just made a decision that's inconsistent. Telling it to the church would be the folks that have a relationship with them, the folks that God has in their lives at that moment.
We just want to say, "Hey, look, we all agree that every one of us has come to this guy. We heard him say that he wants to be God's man. We heard him say that she wants to be God's woman. We all agree that this is truth, and they're saying, 'No, that's not truth. No, I don't want that truth. I think I'm going to return to this slime.'"
At that point, the Bible doesn't even tell us that we are to say, "You're going to hell." The Bible says, "Treat them like a nonbeliever." God says, "I'll sort out at the end of the day whether they're a believer, a son who is living with the pigs for a moment, or if they actually are a pig that is returning to the mud." But don't act like they are a believer who is walking with the shepherd in that moment.
We love them, but we don't leave them in positions of ministry leadership. We don't even break bread with them in that we don't share Communion together, saying that we're concerned with honoring God. We might still have a meal with them and say, "We love you and want to remind you that we miss you and miss doing business with you as people of God. We're still your friends, and because we're your friends, we're going to continue to speak the truth about this."
Gang, when this happens, it's a beautiful thing. James says when you do this you save your brother from all kinds of pain. It happens, and it happens beautifully when it's done well. Watch this.
Rob Barry: The first time I met the Arms, I remember they had come to Watermark. They had become plugged into a Community Group. I got to sit down with them and know their story. They were just really authentic. They were very open about their baggage from the past.
Lisa Arms: We had had a really bad experience at a church back when I had some medical issues back around 2000.
Thad Arms: We were in a really bad dry spell spiritually. A lot of a lies and an affair had come into the light recently, and we were looking for a place where we could go through recovery together.
Lisa: The night I got into my closed group was the night Thad chose to come clean about everything. Rage was just below the surface that entire night, trying to figure out what I was going to do because I had no clue just how deep the struggle went.
Thad: When our recovery group finished, it was shortly after that when I started having memories of being sexually abused as a little boy. I reached out to the church for help. That's when I got connected with a couple of guys, and we started building MENd, the men's sexual abuse ministry.
I was making it look like I was taking some good ground when some stressful things started coming up. I was just getting bombarded with several different things all at once. I started running back to my sin because I was more comfortable.
Rob: Thad was saying that he wanted to follow Jesus, and just over a long period of time, was not doing that. It was just exhausting both his wife and the Community Group around him.
Thad: The husbands brought in John Elmore and Rob Barry to really have a hard conversation with me. Point blank: Are you looking at porn? Point blank: Are you fanaticizing? Point blank: What is it that you're doing with your time?
Rob: They had met several times before I jumped in, but really when I jumped in, I was having the exact same conversation that their group had been having with them all along: "The real issue, Thad, is that you say you want to follow Jesus but you're not following Jesus."
Thad: I was mad coming out of that meeting. I was really upset.
Lisa: He didn't want anybody in his world at that time. I don't think it was really about me, but it made it really, really challenging to live in the same house as him. I was talking to a friend of mine about, "I don't want to cook. I don't want to clean. I don't want to have anything to do with him."
All these things that I knew would be good things to do to serve him or to love him, the ladies, as some of it started coming out from my perspective, they were really encouraging me to love Thad the way Jesus wanted him loved. That was really the first time I felt conviction that no matter what, I had to love Thad. That all got challenged big-time within a couple of weeks.
The text came in, so I assumed it was him texting me something. I picked it up, and it wasn't my phone. What was on the phone was devastating.
Thad: I had been having a relationship with this guy that I had actually met through church. I was trying to be his savior, so when he would text inappropriate messages, when he would ask inappropriate things or say things that were suggestive, I never said, "No, don't talk to me this way. Don't send me messages like this." As a massage therapist… That was part of our relationship. We would trade haircuts for massages. Part of the text string was just going back and forth with, "When can I see you?" and "Can you work on me again?"
Lisa: His job was an avenue to sin, so when this came out, our Community Group immediately widened the circle.
Thad: I'm thinking, "This is totally out of proportion. Your response is bigger than what I did."
Rob: Matthew 18, you know, says, "Look if a brother sins, go and show him his fault just between the two of you." It says, "If he listens to you, you've won your brother over. If he refuses to listen, then take two or three with you." That's what happened. It started off as a one-on-one conversation in the Community Group, and now we were kind of at the last step.
We just said, "Thad, by the end of this week, the things that you've told us that you know Jesus is calling you to do, we have to see some action or else we're going to have to change our relationship with you."
Lisa: I didn't want to stay married. As he's being told, you know, "You need to empty your contacts on your phone. You need to show the guys in the Community Group that you've done that. These are the check-ins that we want. You need to find a new job. You need to be providing for your wife differently," it came full circle with everything in the room: "Lisa, this is what you're going to do in here to support your husband."
Rob: I just remember leaving there being heartbroken. I mean, just heartbroken. I was pleading with God, like, "Lord, please, just get this guy. Wake him up."
Thad: I started telling myself, "Okay, I'll go through these motions. I'll do what they told me to do just to try to avoid coming back here again and again and again." After our re|engage group ended, I was just going through… I was still in my closed group with re:generation, and the blindness was coming off. I could start to see that I wasn't terminally unique.
Lisa: There were very few days that went by when he was not sharing what he had read in his quiet time. He was more transparent than I had ever seen and really chose to live in the light.
Thad: We have a Savior that is bigger than all of this, and I am amazed that we are where we are today. People love us well and have for years, and I didn't see it. I wasn't willing to acknowledge it at the time, but I see it now. I know that I have been loved really well.
[End of video]
Well, friends, that's church. That's the people of God. I think you see that there's some pretty tender stuff, stuff that people go, "Wow, the church doesn't talk about that stuff." No, that's exactly what we talk about. We love each other, live authentically, pursue relationally, admonish faithfully, and counsel biblically out of an overflow of our own devotion so that we can stay on mission.
I talked to Thad and Lisa last night, in fact, standing right here. Lisa said to me, "Todd, I grew up just outside of Disney World. I saw it from the time I was a little girl. My entire life, I dreamed of the relationship that Disney was selling. I don't have that. I have something far better. I have the reality that God rescues little girls like me and lets me live with other people who have been rescued.
She said, "We don't act like our life is beautiful and perfect and fairy tale, but in the midst of the horror of sin, we are continually rescued by the grace available through his Word, his Spirit, and his people. We love each other in our imperfection toward the higher goal of being who God created us to be. I have a man that isn't some Disney creation. I have a man that is being created in the likeness of God."
Thad told me, "Todd, listen, here was my deal. I didn't want to listen to it. I was just blinded by sin and in the grips of sin, and I needed those guys to come alongside me. For a long time, I thought I knew better than everybody else. I thought I knew where truth was, or I thought they were making too big of a deal out of truth.
But the truth was that I thought I was terminally unique. I thought that my situation was different. I just didn't want to deal and do the hard work of heart work. But praise be to God that I'm not still trapped in that lie, and that I made difficult decisions about my career, my playmates, and my playground, so that God could deliver me from that thing that owned me since I was a little boy."
That's beautiful. That's what Jesus does. That's what his church does. That's who we are when we resolve not to overlook minor offenses or major offenses. We don't come judging, like, "There's no way you could ever do that and say you love God," but we come saying, "We know you love God. We know what the grips of sin can be like. Let us remind you of his goodness and grace. Return with us to the King."
Scripture says this, "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Thad said, "I was that man. I was wiser than "seven men who can give a discreet answer," but eventually because of their love and their prevailing, the grace of God broke through, and in me now, the grace of God lives."
We're inviting you into it. We are all Thad Arms who need your arms of love and encouragement around us. My life is what it is today because men and women who love me come alongside of me and spur me on to love and good deeds, and we are inviting you in. The lives that you are in with other people, we are asking you to be bear arms, speak the truth in love, and not be peace-breakers or peace-fakers but be the people of God, sons of God, peacemakers for his glory.
Father, if there is anyone here today who has never made peace with you by running to the One who covers all of our sin, Jesus Christ, I pray this morning that they would. I pray that they would understand your love displayed on the cross that we've sung about this morning and that we've marveled at. I pray that they would say, "I want to know more about having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ that you delivered up for me."
For those of us, Father, who have already come to Christ, I pray that we would live in a way that is consistent with your Word and your way. We give glory to you by not overlooking sin, but approaching one another in love…acknowledging that it might be our perception, but seeking understanding…as we seek to eradicate anything that dishonors you, breaks the relationship that your Spirit created, hurts other people, or causes any one of us to be less than you intend us to be.
Would you make us that people called by your name? Would you allow us to be evermore what you intended us to be? And may the world stand back and marvel at our love for one another. For the glory of Jesus, the hope of the world, and the good of our souls, I pray, amen.
Let's worship him. Have a great week of worship. I'll see you.