The Most Important Relationship in your Relationships

18 Aug

Our relationships with other people are about so much more than our relationships with other people.

The way we relate to other people reflects our attitude towards God. He is the ultimate reference point for all our relationships.

Not our comfort.

Not even the way the other person is acting.

God.

What does He want?

How can I please Him?

If you make another person’s attitude and actions your reference point for how you are going to respond and relate to them, you are going to have a very difficult time moving forward. Because people change. Some days they are going to do the right thing, other days they are not, which means, if they are your reference point, the way you respond to them is going to be constantly going up and down.

But with God.

He doesn’t.

Change.

Whats more, when you only focus on the other person, if that is the only person you are looking at, there are going to be times when you just can’t see doing the right thing because they might be actually evil. If it is only them and you in the relationship, there’s not much hope because they might just not be a good person.

That’s why the Bible doesn’t encourage you love other simply because they deserve it.

For example in 1 Peter, Peter is talking to servants about how they should respond to their masters, and he talks in the second chapter about servants whose masters are morally bankrupt.

If you are only thinking about the other person, then you are going to find many different reasons to give up and to stop doing the right thing. But when Peter counsels servants with unreasonable masters, he won’t let them just think about the other person. Instead, they have to see that their response to that person is connected to their attitude towards God.

He writes,

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.”

It is almost like you have to learn to see Jesus smiling standing behind the person who is screaming in your face.

I had a friend who came under attack and he was describing how painful it was. He just wanted to attack back. He actually was invited to a sit down across the table kind of conference with the people who were attacking him and they were just unleashing on him. How awful! I asked him how was he able to continue to respond with grace and kindness in the middle of that.

He said that he just imagined tape recording the conversation and sitting down afterwards with Jesus and listening, and so he made it his primary goal to speak in a way that would make Jesus happy.

That’s what I am talking about.

If we are going to respond lovingly to others we must focus our attention on Christ even more than we do on how the other person is treating us. Obviously, when we are in difficult relationships, it is tempting to think our response is mostly about the other person, which is why we are getting angry, but our response, is actually first and foremost about our faith.

Do we trust God enough to love people who are hard to love?

Works, every time!

14 Aug

If you want to ruin anything put yourself at the center of it.

Conversations with those who differ

11 Aug

It is tempting when you think someone is overreacting to something to dismiss their concerns altogether and feel like you need to prove to them their response is merely an overreaction.

But it seems wiser to ask yourself what their response tells you about them and while not necessarily affirming everything about that response, making it your goal at least, to let them know you hear them and you hurt alongside of them.

At the same time, it is tempting when you think someone is under reacting to something to write them off as completely cold-hearted and feel like you need to shout your concerns more loudly so they can hear you more clearly.

But, I think it seems wiser to respond to what you see as a lack of compassion with compassion, instead of merely imitating the ones you are disappointed in. How? By making God’s interests your interests. In other words, pursuing their spiritual good. Putting your case in God’s hands. Doing whatever you can not to assume the worst. (And this is harder than it looks!) And thinking of how you can speak in ways that make knowledge acceptable.

Keep on Preaching the Gospel!

10 Aug

“You are not getting distrustful of the use of preaching, are you?

(“No.”)

I hope you do not weary of it, though you certainly sometimes must weary in it. Go on with your preaching. Cobbler, stick to your last; preacher, stick to your preaching. In the great day, when the muster-roll shall be read, of all those who are converted through fine music, and church decoration, and religious exhibitions and entertainments, they will amount to the tenth part of nothing; but it will always please God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Keep to your preaching; and if you do anything beside, do not let it throw your preaching into the background. In the first place preach, and in the second place preach, and in the third place preach. Believe in preaching the love of Christ, believe in preaching the atoning sacrifice, believe in preaching the new birth, believe in preaching the whole counsel of God. The old hammer of the gospel will still break the rock in pieces; the ancient fire of Pentecost will still burn among the multitude. Try nothing new, but go on with preaching, and if we all preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, the results of preaching will astound us.”

Charles Spurgeon

Subtraction stories

13 Jul

“…if someone tells you that he or she has converted to unbelief because of science, don’t believe them. Because what’s usually captured the person is not scientific evidence per se, but the form of science: ‘Even where the conclusions of science seem to be doing the work of conversion, it is very often not the detailed findings so much as the form.’ Indeed, the ‘appeal of scientific materialism is not so much the cogency of its detailed findings as that of the underlying epistemological stance, and that for ethical reasons. It is seen as the stance of maturity, of courage, of manliness, over against childish fears and sentimentality.’ But you can also understand how on the retelling, the convert to unbelief will want to give the impression that it was scientific evidence that was doing the work. Converts to unbelief always tell subtraction stories.

And the belief such persons have converted from has usually been an immature, Sunday schoolish faith that could easily be toppled. So while such converts to unbelief tell themselves stories about ‘growing up’ and ‘facing reality’ – and thus paint belief as essentially immature and childish – their ‘testimony’ betrays the simplistic shape of the faith they’ve abandoned. ‘If our faith has remained at the stage of the immature images, then the story that materialism equals maturity can seem plausible.’ But in fact their conversion to unbelief was also conversion to a new faith…”

James K.A. Smith, How (Not) To Be Secular, p.76,77.

Sin and the local church, part 3

12 Jul

In Matthew 18, Jesus gives us some steps which we must follow as church members when we personally know another member of the church is disobeying God’s Word and isn’t doing anything about it.

In this post, we’ll just look at step number one.

You go to him, and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.

The whole verse,

“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.”

Now you can see obviously the goal is to gain your brother.  If we think back to the story of the sheep who wanders, the goal is not to go find that sheep, and then make fun of it for leaving the flock, or just to like beat it up, and leave it there, lost.

The goal is to get the sheep back where it’s supposed to be.

And that’s got be driving us, to even talk to other believers about their sin.

Before we go, we’ve got to be, why do I want to even do this? What am I hoping to get out of this? Because honestly sometimes what we want to get out of it for that other person to acknowledge that we are awesome and they are not.

We want humiliation.

We want pay back.

And given the way God loves that other believer, we don’t have a right to that.

At all.

It’s got to be a sincere desire for that person’s good that drives us. And really, that’s why we do it the way Jesus says here and go alone.

In other words, if someone sins you don’t go and talk to a million different people about it. Did you see what he did? Let me tell you about what kind of sinner he is. Instead, you want to keep the knowledge of that person’s sin as small as possible.

You don’t want everybody knowing about it.

Because you love them, you want to actually protect his reputation, not damage it.

And maybe I can say, so you can get a feel for how important this is, if you have ever been confronted about your sin, you know how hard it is to believe that the person who is confronting you, loves you.

It is weird.

But when someone comes and tells you you are sinning against them, there’s something in most of us, that’s like, hey, this person must really hate me.

And that’s crazy.

Can I say that’s crazy?

If someone confronts you and you automatically say they told me this because they hate me, that’s crazy, because confronting someone like this, is a demonstration of love.

But still, that’s the way we are.

So often.

Which means if you are going to someone and you know they are most likely going to be tempted to think you don’t love them, because you are talking to them about their sin, you want to do whatever you can to prove to them that it has nothing to do with you not liking them, or anything silly like that and it’s going to be very hard for you to prove that if they know that before you came to them to talk to them about their sin, you told all kinds of other people about what they did.

No.

You know your brother’s sinned.

And you’ve examined your own heart, you are clear on what the Scripture teaches, then it’s your responsibility to pray, and to go.

To them.

Alone.

And tell him his fault.

Not talking about with all kinds of other people first.

Jesus says.

Now you’ll notice, Jesus doesn’t add a lot of commentary about how you do that. He just says do that.

Open your mouth and show them what they have done wrong.

That’s what he says.

But maybe we can throw in some other passages of Scripture to help us know how you do that. The big one from Galatians 6, again, which says, you have to go and tell him his fault in a spirit of gentleness.

And another, Ephesians 4, says speak the truth in love.

Which means.

It’s more than just going and saying the right thing, you also need to say it with the right attitude, and that can be hard when you are talking to someone else about their sin. So don’t just go in there, with your fingers pointing and your mouth rolling, instead, you know, make it your goal to talk to this person about their sin in a way that makes it clear.

A couple things.

One.

That.

You don’t think you are better than them.

The way you speak.

They should know you know you are a sinner.

Saved by grace.

And.

Two.

That your authority is not you and your preferences but the Word of God.

This is not you trying to impose your will on them.

This is about what God wants.

You should almost be able to just read a verse and show them your concern, and they should be able to understand how it connects to their lives, from a simple explanation of what the text means.

Third.

It should be clear.

You love them.

And if they are going to know that.

You actually have to tell them.

Even with Paul when he was talking to people who he knew were a mess, if they were believers, he would find a million different ways to encourage them, and when your confronting someone about their sin, you need to find specific ways to express with your mouth how for them, you actually are.

It’s not just about their sin.

It’s that.

You really truly want their best.

And then four.

That.

You understand it’s hard for sin to be pointed out.

Because.

I think sometimes we are unrealistic. You know how it is when someone confronts you and you are sinning. If you are not expecting it. It usually hits you by surprise and your first instinct is to defend yourself.

Now, that’s not a good instinct.

We shouldn’t do that.

If someone confronts us, we should want to listen and learn. But, that’s incredibly hard for most of us, and so if you go in there and you talk to someone about their sin, and the first time you do that they don’t seem to be listening, they are mostly defending themselves, while that’s disappointing, you should be careful not to give up on them, right away.

Instead.

Be patient and give them some time to process. And then, maybe go back and hear how they think.

A great way to go about it.

Actually.

Is to begin by laying out your concerns and asking if you are understanding things correctly, like, is this right, what do you think, because you might actually be misunderstanding what is going on and since you are talking to another believer, who has the Holy Spirit, you want to at least give them the opportunity to help you understand a little better how they are thinking.

Because.

Really.

No matter how sure you are about the problem you think you are seeing in that other person’s life.

You still could be wrong, and you are going to make it hard for them to listen, if they don’t see that you are at least aware of that.

And I mean.

That’s the goal.

Not just for you to say what you want to say.

But.

For them to actually listen.

And if it’s clear they have sinned, I think listen means, that they actually repent. That’s why you are talking to them.

So.

They see it as sin, they recognize that it is serious, and they acknowledge with their mouths that they have sinned, they ask for forgiveness from you and from God, and from anyone else they’ve sinned against, and that you help them, think about how they can change their behavior.

That’s what it means to have gained your brother.

And at that point.

If they respond like that.

It’s pretty much done.

I guess, if it’s a life-dominating kind of sin, and it seems like one that would be difficult to overcome without some help, you might encourage them to get some counseling or something, but besides, that, it’s over, the process ends.

But if they don’t listen to you.

Jesus goes on.

The process continues.

You are not done, if they are defending themselves and making excuses.

Sometimes, obviously, you’ll go and speak to someone about a sin, and they’ll flat out deny that it ever happened.

And.

That’s honestly.

Confusing.

But I think if someone’s unwilling to admit they even done what you are talking about, your responsibility is to warn them and to wait, because there is not much more you can do than that.

If you think they are lying.

It’s hard to do much more than talk to them, pray, continue to love them, and trust that the truth will come out.

But, the person, though, who acknowledges they’ve done what you said, and yet, they are minimizing it, and making excuses, and getting angry at you, and maybe even threatening you because you brought it up.

That is the person you have to continue to pursue.

 

 

Reasonable Faith

7 Jul

It takes a lot of faith to believe you have the ability to figure out what is true based solely on your own personal evaluation of the evidence.

In other words, if someone acts like some people take things by faith and others don’t, they aren’t really being honest. While there are many definitions of faith, one simple definition, is taking something as true on the basis of the testimony of others, and the fact is, we all do that and we do that all the time.

The question is not whether we rely not the testimony of others, the question is, whose testimony are we willing to trust?

 

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