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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 12, 2005
I had desired to continue on with the message on music in worship this
morning, but of necessity I need to address a different topic. There are a
couple of issues the church has been dealing with for quite sometime that are
finally being brought to a conclusion, and because of that, I have also learned
that there is confusion on the Biblical nature of admonition, confrontation,
forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. I want to address those topics this
morning especially in light of the fellowship that is supposed to exist in the
church and the shepherding role that belongs to the church leaders.
One of the first things that each one of us must realize and come to grips
with is that our future is full of spiritual danger, and even more so if we are
not walking properly with our Lord. That is why Paul gives such strong warnings
and commands to be prepared for it in Ephesians 6 by putting on the full armor
of God. We are in a spiritual battle and must learn to stand firm against the
schemes of the devil. Though Satan often uses people to carry out his schemes,
the battle is not one of flesh and blood, but rather with what is behind it
which are the rulers, powers, world forces of darkness and spiritual wickedness.
We must have on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes
of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the
sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. If any of these are missing, then
we are a vulnerable target for the devil’s lies, unrighteousness, discord,
unbelief, doubt and empty philosophies.
All of us who have walked with the Lord any length of time are aware that
these dangers come through our own sinful desires, the enticements of the world,
and the temptations of our adversary. Like Paul in Romans 7, we know the
struggle with our flesh and its desires as well as those of our eyes and our
pride (1 John 2:16). We know the struggle to resist the pressure of the world to
conform us into its image (Romans 12:2), and that our adversary, the devil, goes
about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Because of these dangers humble believers, wise Christians, will seek out
other believers who can help them in their walk with Christ. They heed the many
admonitions in Scripture to "Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That
you may be wise the rest of your days" (Prov. 19:20). They resist the
temptation to go it alone or based just on their own thoughts, opinions and
emotions for they know that "the way of a fool is right in his own eyes"
(Prov. 12:15). Within the body of Christ, the church, Christians work together
so that the whole body will mature. Believers patiently help those who are weak
while encouraging the fainthearted and admonishing the unruly (1 Thess 5).
It is that last part that many will resist. We all like patience, help and
encouragement, but most people do not like to be told they are wrong. The wise
respond to rebuke with love for the one that corrected them while the proud
respond with hate (Prov. 9:8). The wise know that those that heed instruction
and give serious regard to correction will benefit, grow and eventually attain
honor (Prov. 13:18). The proud fool despises wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7),
and instead goes their own way reaping trouble for himself and causing harm to
others (Prov. 1:32; 10:1,8,14,21; 13:20; 14:1; etc). Because such people are so
resistive to admonition and react so badly to it, most people will not rebuke
them. That is why I refer to the Scriptural commands to "admonish one another"
(Romans 15:14; Colossians 1:28; 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:14) as the "difficult one
another." It is something that should be part of common life among Christians,
but more often than not, it is left for the leaders to do.
But that brings up another danger. For church leaders not only do have a
responsibility in correcting those who sin so that they might walk in
righteousness, they also have a responsibility to protect the rest of the flock
from those that show themselves to be dangerous. Warnings of this danger are
also seen throughout the New Testament. In Acts 20:28-30 Paul warned the
Ephesian Elders "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among
which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God
which He purchased with His own blood. 29 "I know that after my departure savage
wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own
selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples
after them." 2 Peter 2:1-3 warns about false prophets and false teachers
that will secretly introduce destructive heresies, would cause the way of truth
to be maligned, and would exploit others. 1 John 2:18-19 warns about
"antichrists" that went out from them because they were not really of them.
While wolves, false teachers and antichrists are the extremes, they are
present and real dangers to the church. They are not hard to find on so called
"Christian TV and radio" (there are good teachers out there, but there are also
heretics), and we have had to deal with wolves that arose from our own elders in
the past. But there are also others that may not quite get those titles, but
they are a danger none the less, and shepherds must protect the flock from them.
In Titus 3:9-11 Paul instructed Titus to "shun foolish controversies and
genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and
worthless. 10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing
that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned." Paul
warned in Romans 16:17,18, "Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those
who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned,
and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but
of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive
the hearts of the unsuspecting." These men are to be "marked" (KJV & YLT) or
These are important instructions to consider and heed, and even more so in
our society in which not just tolerance, but acceptance of others has become the
supreme virtue. Discernment is thrown out and such dangerous people are welcomed
instead of rebuked, warned against and avoided. How well our age fits Paul’s
warning in 2 Tim. 4:3,4 that "the time will come when they will not endure
sound doctrine; but [wanting] to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate
for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away
their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths"
In our own time, it seems like it is not the wolves, false teachers,
antichrists or the factious that are rebuked and admonished, but rather the
shepherds who are doing the warning. The church leaders are the ones criticized
and denounced for being "insensitive," "intolerant," "unloving" and
"unforgiving." Such are the accusations that have been made against myself and
the other church leaders. Insensitive? Perhaps. I am sure there are always more
tactful ways to say things, but our real insensitivity has been not to more
quickly perceive the danger certain people have been. Intolerant? No, if there
is a failure in this area it has been in being too tolerant and not raising the
shepherd’s crook sooner to protect the sheep. Unloving? Only in the sense that
our rebukes did not come sooner with more strength. Chastening is a sign of
love, not hate (Hebrews 12:6; Prov. 13:24). Unforgiving? Not at all, but there
seems to be a lot of confusion about the nature of forgiveness and its results.
For that reason I want to spend the rest of this morning talking with you about
forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.
We need to learn to forgive one another because conflicts are inevitable in
this life, and without forgiveness those conflicts will hinder, damage and
destroy the loving relationships we are to have with one another. Conflicts are
inevitable because even simple differences of opinion and purpose cause
frustration, hindrance or even blockage of the goals or desires of others. Paul
and Barnabas got into a conflict that split their missions team over a
difference of opinion about taking John Mark with them (Acts 15:38,39). Add sin
to this mix and conflicts can become explosive. James 4:1-3 tells us that the
root of quarreling and conflict is our selfishness and envy. The Corinthian
church was even fractured over how people were using their spiritual gifts.
Conflicts can even come from simple misunderstandings. How many of us have not
had an argument with someone only to find out we actually both agreed, but had
misunderstood what the other person was trying to say.
Forgiveness arises from love. A love for God, and a love for other people.
Only love seeks the good of the other person and values the relationship because
of that. Without love, relationships are only something to be manipulated in
order to achieve your own selfish desires. There is no basis of true forgiveness
Because of the Christian’s love for God, they seek out a relationship with
Him and desire to remove any obstacle to that relationship. Since God is always
right, any conflict with Him requires us to confess our sins to Him and thereby
receive His forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9). Forgiveness "signifies
the remission of the punishment due to sinful conduct" (Vines), and God
grants forgiveness because of His love for us, a love proven in that God Himself
paid the price needed to satisfy His justice, so that we could be adopted as His
sons. That is why Jesus, God the Son, became a man, lived a sinless life, then
willingly died on the cross as a substitute payment for our sin. His
resurrection from the dead proved the acceptance of the sacrifice and the truth
of His promises to forgive those that place their faith in Him. In Christ we can
When it comes to people, there is plenty of sin for all parties involved, and
for that reason, forgiveness also requires humility. Jesus addressed this in
Matthew 7:3-5 when He commanded us to take the log out of our own eye before we
tried to take the speck out of our brother’s eye. Paul expands on this in
Galatians 6:1-5 saying that in seeking to restore an erring brother it is to be
done in a spirit of gentleness while also looking to yourself, lest you be
tempted. That humility allows more give and take between humans in the quest to
find a resolution to the conflict that will glorify our Lord. Christians are to
walk in humility (Phil. 2; 1 Peter 5:5) and be willing to forgive (Luke 17:3,4).
The goal of love, and the forgiveness that arises out of it, is not just the
end of the conflict, but the reconciliation of the relationships damaged by the
conflict. The quest is for true peace and unity, not just the end of current
hostilities. Peace is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), and we are to
pursue peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22).
Believers are to be of one mind and live in peace (2 Cor. 13:11).
That is another reason that humility is required. Paul explains in
Philippians 2:3,4 that we are to have the same attitude of humility that existed
in Christ Jesus who set aside the glories of Heaven in order to become a man and
redeem us at Calvary. If Jesus did that, then we can certainly follow His
example and "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility
of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do
not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the
interests of others." It is this humility of mind resulting in caring for
others more than self that allows believers to live in peace and harmony.
Without this humility, any forgiveness offered or received will only be the
peace of a truce and not the peace of reconciliation and unity. It should be
emphasized that God wants Christians to be reconciled to one another (Matt.
5:24), and live in unity and peace (Eph. 4:3; Col. 3:14).
One of the great fallacies currently in vogue, is that the Christian is to
forgive unconditionally and unilaterally. This is the idea that the one offended
in a conflict is to forgive the offender without requiring anything from him and
that this done even without the offenders participation. This idea takes root
because it is partly true in the sense that all Christians are commanded in
numerous Scriptures to forgive, and there can be an unconditional and unilateral
aspect to forgiveness in certain respects and situations. However, it is also of
necessity conditional and bilateral in other respects and situations.
On the unilateral side, Christians are to individually be willing to forgive.
Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question about how many times he should forgive someone
was "seventy times seventy" (Matt. 18:21-35). If we are unwilling to forgive
others, then our Heavenly Father will not forgive us (Matt. 6:15; 18:35). Those
who are merciful receive mercy (Matt. 5:7), but those who are not, do not
receive it themselves (James 2:13). Are you willing to forgive?
On the unilateral side, an individual can choose to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11 states, "A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is
his glory to overlook a transgression." Sometimes that is done to avoid
something worse happening as Proverbs 17:14 warns, "The beginning of strife
is [like] letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out."
Hopefully, for the Christian at least, it is because it is the application of
love to the situation. 1 Peter 4:8 tells us, "Above all, keep fervent in your
love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Cor. 13:5
describes this aspect of love as "not taking into account a wrong suffered"
(NAS). This is how we deal with people with all the minor irritations of daily
life. This is easier for those who are less sensitive to personal offences.
Those who are sensitive to such offenses work harder at it, for they must
consciously set aside the transgression.
As the nature of the offense increases, the ability to unilaterally handle it
decreases. The necessity for the offender to be involved in the forgiveness
increases. If the conflict is causing your relationship to be strained and it is
uncomfortable to be around the person, then you probably need to talk with them
and try to work things out. Just discussing it may quickly resolve any issues or
misunderstandings, or you may find though your relationship was strained, it is
actually of such a minor nature that you choose to unilaterally overlook the
offense without any action on the part of the offender.
However, you may find that it is of a more serious nature in which there is a
breakage of some kind in the relationship. From this point on, forgiveness is no
longer unilateral. It will take work on the part of both parties to repair the
relationship. Ideally, the matters are resolved so that the needed apologies,
forgiveness and reconciliation take place between both parties. However, though
the Christian is to be willing to forgive, unless that forgiveness is accepted,
the relationship remains broken with its subsequent consequences.
Many years ago before I was a pastor, I loaned some money to an ill
co-worker. Her illness continued and so her financial condition got even worse.
I finally told her told her to forget about it and that I forgave the debt, but
she continued to insist she had to pay it back. However, her guilt over not
being able to do so caused her to start avoiding me, then later shunning me. I
forgave her, but she did not accept it, and so the relationship was destroyed. A
broken relationship requires forgiveness to be a transaction between both
Tragically, some issues and disagreements may only be able to resolved to the
point of a mutually agreeable settlement of the differences through an exchange
of promises. That is what occurred with Jacob and Laban in Genesis 31 and the
setting up of a pillar as a reminder to them both not pass it to cause harm to
the other one. That was not true reconciliation, but it did remove the quest for
revenge and bring civility back into their relationship with each other. At the
end of Acts 15 we find that the only agreement Paul and Barnabas could end up
with over Barnabas’ cousin, Mark, was to go their separate ways, but later we
find that there had to be a reconciliation, for Paul asks for Mark to be brought
to him because he was of useful service (2 Tim. 4:11).
As the conflict moves into the areas of sin against you (Mt. 18:15) or
another (1 Cor. 5:1-8), or you catch the person in a trespass (Gal. 6:1), which
could include any sin, then confrontation becomes necessary. It can no longer be
just overlooked. There are steps to this confrontation. Ideally this should be
personal (Mt. 18:15), but Paul had to do this by letter in 1 Cor. 5. If there is
no resolution, then it escalates and others are also brought in to establish the
facts (Mt. 18:16), and since the goal here is to "win the brother," it is
bringing others who will help resolve the issues and bring about reconciliation.
There is a mediatorial aspect to what they should be doing. Paul asked Clement
and an unnamed comrade in Philippi to help Euodia and Syntyche resolve their
conflict (Phil. 4:2,3). Galatians 6:1 uses the plural pronoun to describe who
should be involved in restoring someone caught in a trespass. This should not be
just a couple of your buddies going to back you up in your confrontation. Here
at Grace Bible Church we ask that one or more of our church leaders be involved
at this step and require that if it moves to the next step, which is telling the
church so that even more people can be involved in trying to bring about a
resolution and reconciliation (Mt. 18:17). If the person refuses to listen to
the church, then they are to be as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer. They are no
longer treated as fellow Christians. That is the final step of what is commonly
known as church discipline, but church discipline starts with a simple
confrontation over a conflict of some type. It only precedes to the next step
when there no resolution. It is done out of love for the one in sin in the same
way that it is out of love that we discipline our children.
There are those that advocate that even at this level that forgiveness is to
be unconditional. That is simply not true. While we are to be willing to
forgive, there are conditions that must be met for it to be offered and
accepted. Jesus said in Luke 17:2, 3 "Be on your guard! If your brother sins,
rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 "And if he sins against you seven
times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him."
Repentance is not a popular topic in modern American Christianity, but it is
still a Biblical one. Repentance, metanoevw /
metanoeÃ¯Â¿Â½, is a change in one’s mind or
purpose with the mind referring to the seat of moral reflection. A change in
mind that does not result in a change in action is not really a change of mind.
In the New Testament the word is always used as a change for the better in
reference from sin. Repentance is a recognition of and turning away from sin.
Some have cited Ephesians 4:32 as proof that forgiveness is to be
unconditional – "And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each
other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Well, let’s consider
how God in Christ has forgiven you? Was it unilateral and unconditional?
Certainly it was unilateral from the stand point of its offer, for man does not
seek it on his own, for apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, no man seeks
after God at all (Rom. 3:11,12). It is also unconditional in the sense that the
cost required for it to be offered has been paid by Jesus Himself on the cross.
It was Jesus blood poured out that paid the price needed for the forgiveness of
sin (Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14). We cannot earn God’s forgiveness in any
manner. Not through works, not through penance, not through restitution.
However, forgiveness is certainly not unilateral or unconditional in its
application, otherwise all people are forgiven and Hell will be empty except for
the devil and his demons. But 2 Thess. 8,9 says the Lord will "deal out
retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel
of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away
from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." Or as
Hebrews 2:3 rhetorically asks, "how shall we escape if we neglect so great a
salvation?" The offer of forgiveness of sins, which is universal, and
receiving forgiveness of sins, which is not, are two different things. In
addition, we find that there are conditions on receiving forgiveness from God.
Salvation is conditional, not universal.
In Luke 24:46,47 Jesus said, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should
suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for
forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations,
beginning from Jerusalem." Repentance, as we saw earlier, is a condition of
forgiveness. There must be a change of mind in regards to sin and the Savior.
There also should be fruit in keeping with that repentance (Mt. 3:8; Acts 2:38).
In Acts 10:43 Peter proclaims of Jesus that "all the prophets bear witness
that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of
sins." God’s forgiveness demands a belief in the truth about person and work
of Jesus Christ. This includes His deity, humanity, sinlessness, substitutionary
sacrifice, and resurrection
1 John 1:9 – "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to
forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This verse
also applies to Christians. We must agree with God that He is right and we are
When conflict causes a breakage in a relationship, then that relationship
cannot be reconciled without proper forgiveness, and that forgiveness requires
both parties to come to agreement. Sin and selfishness may preclude that from
happening, but we are to strive to be at peace with all men so far as it depends
on us (Rom. 12:8).
It should also be pointed out that forgiveness is to be sought in every
direction. By that I mean that both parties in a conflict are responsible before
God to seek a reconciliation. The one who is offended should seek out the one
who caused the offense (Mt. 18:15, Gal. 6:1; etc), and when you know someone has
taken offense by you, you are to seek them out, for your worship is hindered
until you do (Matt. 5:23-24).
This has not been an exhaustive study on forgiveness and reconciliation, but
it has presented some of the basics while trying to correct some of the current
major false teachings.
The goal for the Christian is to resolve conflicts and bring about
reconciliation. It is a sad fact that in this sinful world, that will not always
be possible even among fellow believers, but we are to strive for it
never-the-less as much as it depends on us. The two key elements for forgiveness
and reconciliation to happen are 1) A focus on the glory of God, and 2) Personal
When the central question is "How can I show my love for the Lord and
glorify Him in this situation?" most conflicts will quickly resolve, because
most conflicts arise out of selfishness.
When both parties are personally humble, it is much easier to work through
conflict. The one offended should not seek revenge, for that belongs to the Lord
(Rom. 12:16-21). They should examine themselves to see how they added to the
conflict and quickly confess those things and seek forgiveness for them. They
should be ready to forgive, but also clear and honest about what will be needed
to reconcile (restore trust). They should be prayerful, and they should remember
that the enemy is Satan, not the offender.
Humility in the offender is seen by the marks of contrition. An open
(non-defensive) and honest attitude about what they have done. Accepting full
responsibility for what they have done. Does not continue in what they have done
(or at least works hard not to repeat it). Willingly works through any steps
needed to restore trust. Makes restitution where necessary. Accepts
accountability from others as needed.
Follow David’s example in Psalm 51, the classic passage of true repentance
May each of us, whether the offender or the offended, learn to quickly
reconcile when there is a conflict that our God may be glorified by this
practical demonstration of love and humility. That is what the heart that truly
wants to worship God will do.
Sermon Notes – 6/12/05 a.m.
Forgiveness – Selected Scriptures
Battle against the flesh, pride, world (Rom.7:14-25; 12:2;
1 Jn 2:15,16)
We need the body, accountability ( Prov. 19:20; 9:8; 13:18)
Fools reject wisdom, rebuke (Prov.1:7,32; 10:1,8,14,21;
Admonish one another (Rom.15:14; Col.1:28; 3:16; 1 Thess.
Dangerous leaders & People
Wolves – Acts 20:28-30;
False teachers – 2 Peter 2:1-3
Anti-Christs – 1 John 2:18-19
Ear ticklers & Fickle People – 2 Tim. 4:3,4 –
Conflicts are inevitable
Forgiveness arises from love
Forgiveness "signifies the remission of the punishment due to sinful
Always willing – Luke 17:3,4
Matt. 18:21-35; Matt. 6:15; 18:35; Matt. 5:7; James 2:13
Unilateral & Unconditional – Minor offences
Bilateral when relationships broken
Mediator involved; establish facts – Matt. 18:16; Gal. 6:1 Example –
Tell the Church – Matthew 18:17
Let them be as a Gentile and tax-gatherer- Matthew 18:17
Repentance – Luke 17:2,3
As God has forgiven us – Ephesians 4:32
Repentance – Luke 24:46,47
Proper belief – Acts 10:43
Confession – 1 John 1:9
Seek Peace – Rom. 12:8
Focus on God’s Glory – "How can I show my love for the Lord
and glorify Him in this situation?"
Do not seek revenge – Romans 12:16-21
Examine yourself – Matt. 7:5; Gal. 6:1-4
Be clear and honest
Be contrite / repentant
Accept responsibility, accountability, consequences
Remember that Satan is the enemy.
Follow David’s example – Psalm 51