Leaving Your Children a Legacy

Leaving Your Children a Legacy

One thing I am truly thankful for as I reflect on the fifty-eight years of my life is that my parents had me in a pew every Lord’s Day morning and evening and frequently had me in the weekly prayer meeting. I was a problematic child and a worse teenager. I can say candidly that I did not want to be there most of the time. To this day, I doubt I was listening to much of what was said or preached. Yet, it had an influence on me.

I honestly believe I am where I am today – walking with the Savior, not merely being a pastor – because my parents were faithful in having me in worship on the Lord’s Day. No, it wasn’t the only thing, but an important thing.

It grieves me to see parents today failing in this vital task. It is a part of their responsibility to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. So, please don’t be surprised when your children leave the faith when they are grown because you failed in this area. What you model for them today will have a lasting effect on tomorrow. Please do not neglect the tender hearts of your children. Please bring them to church for the public services. It will have a lasting effect on them. Please do not deceive yourself by thinking it won’t happen to you and that somehow you are the exception. It is a most important legacy you can leave your children. It is one that they will cherish and, perhaps, reflect on when they are fifty-eight years old as they find themselves walking faithfully with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christian parents, what kind of legacy will you leave your children? You can give them many of the good things in this life. You can take them on outings, buy them nice things, take them on important family vacations, and do many other things. Those are good. Those are important. Do you take as much stock in leaving your children the legacy of the faith you believe in and seek to teach? Do you seek to have them in the church’s services each week? Those vacations, while important, will fade into a distant memory. Those things you bought will grow old, break, and must be replaced. Yet, the souls of your children are eternal. Please nurture them well by having them in public worship on the Lord’s Day. No, it isn’t magic. Yes, you will sometimes wonder if it is making a difference. It is. Trust the Lord to use those means of grace in the hearts of your children for their eternal good. Put before your children those treasures that moth, rust, or anything else can destroy.

NOTE: The above is the product of two tweets I made this morning. 

 

New Project: The Pastor’s Pen

New Project: The Pastor’s Pen

 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,which he obtained with his own blood. Acts 20:28

For many years, I have desired to start a website housing a collection of articles written by ordained men who have pastored churches or are currently pastoring. The focus of this new project is to solicit these pastors to write on various aspects of pastoral ministry. The focus is expressly limited to matters related to shepherding God’s people. The goal is to help other pastors as they seek to guide and lead the church. 

The articles submitted will be peer-reviewed by other contributors. You will have access to the website to submit your article. I am not interested in micro-managing the submissions, but I want to see them written carefully and thoughtfully. The number of articles contributors submit is not limited. You can write as many as you desire. All articles you submit remain your property. 

I plan to develop the website and launch this new project by August 15, 2024. The website will be a subdomain of The Parchment (pastorspen.theparchment.net).

My long-term goal is to release a journal containing the articles submitted twice a year. It will be an online journal in PDF format. Depending on the success of this project, I would like to have a board (admins) and editors (contributors). For now, I am merely trying to get this off the ground. 

If you want to be considered as a contributor, please fill out the form below. The only requirement is that you are an ordained minister (or ruling elder). If you know someone who may be interested, please share this announcement with them. I will send information about posting articles once your application is approved. I am the only one approving applications, but that will change as we get more contributors. 

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The Imperfect Church

The Imperfect Church

It’s easy to find all the things you don’t like about your local church. Anyone can come up with a list of things to complain about. Sure, there isn’t a perfect church on earth. Some are more perfect than others, but they are all flawed at one level or another.  Instead of being part of the problem, try being the solution.

In this article, I aim to list how church members can be part of the solution. The list will not be comprehensive. There will be many things left out. However, you can add to this list, create your own, and reflect on them.

First, be diligent in attending the services of your church: worship (morning and evening) and the prayer meeting.

Granted, some churches do not have an evening service (which is a pity). Some do not have a prayer meeting (which is equally sad). However, every church has a service of worship. Prioritize your week in such a way that you are faithfully in attendance. Plan your Lord’s Day mornings so you do not rush in at the last second. To be diligent means more than just arriving at the church. Being diligent means seeing the corporate worship service as vital to your spiritual well-being, and you plan to be there on time and faithfully each week. Refuse to allow other things of this life to crowd out the importance of worship on the Lord’s Day.

Second, be diligent to attend with joy instead of looking like you are being dragged through a torture chamber.

You aren’t. Change your attitude. Ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart. As a pastor, I see this too often. I see people who sit there with this look of doom, as though they were about to have a root canal or some other uncomfortable procedure. Sometimes, they look like they are being tortured. It isn’t that bad. The problem is the heart. Is it really that miserable to publicly worship the God who saved you? Is it really torture? Again, the problem is your heart. That is what must change. The problem is not the service’s order, the sermon’s length, the songs sung, or anything else. Ask the Holy Spirit to change your attitude. As him to give you a heart of joy. Ask him to remind you of all the reasons you should be joyful as you enter the corporate worship of God.

Third, be actively engaged in worship. Sing with joy, and don’t worry about the perfection of your voice.

The reason why the singing is not very good is because people do not understand the reasons they should sing. They have no joy and, therefore, cannot express what they do not possess. Prepare your heart and mind ahead of time with a few reasons why you should be singing. Do it with joy and gladness! Another reason singing is not very good is because God’s people are overly self-conscious about how they sound. Don’t worry about such things. Sing to the best of your ability with all your might. Sing (don’t yell).

Fourth, pray daily for your church and its officers. 

I know you think you have many reasons to gripe about how things get done around the church, but you are not in charge of those things. The Lord is the King and Head of his church. He guides his undershepherds as they seek to guide you. Diligent prayer for the officers of your church will go a long way to alleviate your discontentment. Pray for the leaders! Pray that the Lord will guide and direct their steps and protect them from the wisdom of this age.

Fifth, compile a list of good things about your local church. Focus on those things.

Yes, every church has weaknesses. However, every church has strengths. Instead of spending your energies on the shortcomings of your pastor, elders, deacons, or others, focus on the good things they do. Instead of griping about what you don’t like, reflect often on what is good. Indeed, there must be something (or you wouldn’t be there).

Sixth, resist the urge to expect what you think is better. 

When it comes to running the local church, everyone has their ideas. The church doesn’t run that way. There will be things you would prefer. There will be things you would like to eliminate. That is not up to you. Instead of having a spirit of discontent, learn to be thankful. If I asked one hundred people to list the top three things they would like to see in their church, that list would look very different from person to person. What you think is better might be the thing your neighbor hates. What you think is better might not be better for you. The Lord runs his church. You are not in charge.

Seventh, stop grumbling to others about the failures of your local church.

Undoubtedly, it has them, but grumbling to others won’t help. It is not only a grievous sin; it does no good. Whining to the other members about what you don’t like will not resolve anything. If you have a legitimate concern, take it up with the leadership of the church. Anything else is sinful behavior.

Eighth, serve others and stop worrying about yourself.

There are many hurting people in the pews. Try thinking of them as more important than yourself. Repent of self-centeredness. At the root of griping is a spirit of self-centeredness. The path out of that sin is to start serving others around you. There are myriads of ways you can serve others in the local church. Stretch yourself. Get out of that comfort zone and seek to meet the needs of others. If you are unsure how to do that, I am sure your pastor can point you in the right direction.

No local church is perfect. But if you diligently try to employ these items, you will find less and less to gripe about. I dare you to diligently try these things for the next thirty days and see if your complaint list shortens or disappears.

Devotional: Psalm 5

Devotional: Psalm 5

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
    consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
    my King and my God,
    for to you do I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
    in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you[a] and watch.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
    will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    in the fear of you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies;
    make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouth;
    their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
    they flatter with their tongue.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
    let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
    for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
    you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Introduction

The prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, wrote: “Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused.” It makes one consider if he was thinking about Psalm 5 when he penned those brief words. Though brief, they say much because there are times in the life of a Christian when the words do not come as accurately as the heart seeks to convey. Sometimes, all one can do is “groan out” some prayer, weak and feeble as it may be. Yet, they are groans from the heart. Our Father in Heaven has never heard a perfect prayer from sinful creatures. It isn’t the eloquence of the prayer that moves the heart of our heavenly Father. It is the condition of the heart bathed in the Spirit’s willingness to perfect them and bring them to him.

In this Psalm, David is groaning. Yes, there are words recorded in his prayer book, but they are groans from a heart troubled by the circumstances of his life. We do not have much to go on in context, but whatever it was that troubled the king, it was difficult enough that he struggled to capture the prayer with words – though he does and records in this 5th Psalm. Perhaps the Holy Spirit left it ambiguous for us to allow us to apply this Psalm to a myriad of life struggles. Whatever the struggle, we can learn a few things from it.

First, you must resolve to pray when circumstances in life are difficult. When we read this Psalm, we take note of the references to hardship or difficulty facing the writer. For example, he lists “wickedness,” “evil,” and “evildoers.” He references those who “speak lies” and are “murderous” and “deceitful.” Therefore, David is not writing these words when the circumstances of his life are peachy. The sun is not shining. All seems bleak and dark. Yet, it is in the darkness of the storm that David resolves to pray. Note the tone of his prayer. It is one of urgency and pleading. The structure of the opening verse gives that impression as he functionally commands the God of heaven to listen to him.

What things are you wrestling with these days? They may be minor from the perspective of others, but they are not minor to you or your loving and faithful Father. He cares about those things. He is not a good and loving Father only to those suffering significantly. No. He is faithful daily to all those who fear him and are called by him. (1 Pet. 5:7; Lam. 3:22-25). Therefore, take your struggles to him and plead with him for relief. Pray for grace to sustain you and help you. Sometimes, those prayers will be difficult to express. It isn’t the eloquence that moves your Father’s heart. It is your dependence on him. Perhaps you wonder what to pray. The words don’t seem to come. Admit that to your heavenly Father. He knows your frame. He understands the sorrow.

Second, you must resolve to worship when circumstances of life are difficult. Notice how David references this in Psa. 5:7: “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.”

He is determined to worship the God of heaven. He is not afraid to do that during difficult times, and he is not prevented from doing that due to frightening and hard circumstances. He knows that when he is in worship with God’s people, the Lord ministers to him through the Word and through like-minded saints who love God. I suspect we have some experience on this point. Life is hard. Enemies abound. The trials of this life are sometimes legion. Yet, they seem to fade into the background when we gather with other saints in worship on the Lord’s Day.

Additionally, it is in corporate worship that we sing praises to our redeeming God. Music is a powerful medium. It often lifts the soul of the downcast and discouraged. It is one of the reasons we sing in worship (Col. 3:16). Rarely do we know the struggles of our brothers and sisters in the church. Rarely do we know the things they are facing. Rarely do we know the level of discouragement they are facing. Therefore, sing! Sing with joy, for you do not know how that may encourage others around you and lift their languishing souls (Psa. 5:11).

Third, you must resolve to believe the promises of your heavenly Father. That is not always easy when facing a myriad of issues or struggles. The trials of this life can, sometimes, cause us to forget God’s promises. Sometimes, they get lost behind a dark cloud. Yet, David says, “For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” (Psa. 5:12). It is true. It is a fact stated by your Father in heaven. He will protect you and help you. He will cover you with a shield, an instrument of defense against the efforts of the Evil One and dark and trying circumstances. You are not the shield. No. God is your shield, and he can cover you in ways that no human being could manage or imagine. Therefore, remember the promises your Father gives you when life is hard and things are difficult. Pray through them. Meditate on them. Rest easy in the favor of your God, who loves you, calls you the apple of his eye, and will never leave or forsake you.

Conclusion

Pray with fervency, plead with your heavenly Father. Resolve to set those matters before him.

Praise him in worship each Lord’s Day. Use the means God gives to restore your weary soul and relieve your burdens.

Trust his promises for you. His love extends far beyond any trial of this life.

 

 

 

Next Devotional: Psalm 7 (June 19)

Biblical Conflict Resolution

Biblical Conflict Resolution

Introduction

It’s a common observation that a local church, like any other gathering of people, is not immune to conflict. When a group of individuals, all sinners, come together, it’s only natural that disputes will arise. These conflicts can even occur between people who share the same love for the Lord and Savior as you do.

No one enjoys conflict. It is not a time for rejoicing, and it is not a time to celebrate. There is little joy to be found when you are at odds with someone in the church. Offenses occur, sometimes intentionally or unintentionally. Sin happens because we are sinners. However, if these conflicts are not resolved, they can lead to division and weaken the church community. Thankfully, the Lord Jesus Christ anticipated these problems in his church, and he gave clear instructions about what to do in those cases of discomfort when someone offends you and sins against you.

Let’s focus on the two paths the Lord has given us when someone offends us and sins against us. This article aims to shed light on these two options without delving into all the other aspects of these steps. The whole matter is complex, especially discerning the differences between private and public sin. However, this guide should help in most cases and, Lord willing, serve the peace and purity of Christ’s church.

The first option in the conflict resolution process is crucial, as it sets the foundation for resolving the issue. It involves confronting the person who has sinned against you directly, face to face.

I. Direct Confrontation

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. (Matt. 18:15, ESV).

Allow me to guide you through this step from the scope of God’s Word as you seek to follow these words obediently:

First, as a member of the church community, you must pray when conflicts arise. The first step is to pray for your attitude and the person who offended you. That aligns with Paul’s advice in Gal. 6:1, where he encourages us to restore our brother in a spirit of gentleness. That is not a passive process but an active one that requires participation and commitment. Usually, when offended, you respond with anger at varying levels. It’s important to remember Paul’s instructions and respond with gentleness. Gentleness and patience will not come without concerted prayer. Many of you are parents; sometimes, your child angers you through disobedience. It would be best never to discipline in anger because all you will communicate is anger. Instead, you should respond gently and firmly, seeking to correct the behavior and restore the broken fellowship.

Second, before you consider speaking to your brother, you should remember that you, too, are a creature of dust. It is often easy to find sin in others while forgetting that you, too, sin. Jesus warns about this point in Matt. 7:3-5. You should seek to remove the “beam” in your eye before you seek to do surgery on the eye of another. This ‘beam’ could be pride, anger, or any other sin that clouds your judgment. What patient would allow a blind surgeon to perform a procedure? That would be an absurd expectation which no reasonable person would tolerate.

Third, it is essential to remember that you are not confronting an enemy but a brother. Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you.” You are not dealing with those outside the visible church. You are confronting those who have made the same profession of faith as you. They are part of your family, adopted into the body of the Lord Jesus Christ by the electing love of God the Father (Eph. 1:3-6). Every family has squabbles. Every family has matters that need to be resolved. Every family has sins and offenses that must be corrected. The closest families on earth sometimes offend others in the home. How do you treat them? Do you treat them as family members or strangers who live down the street?

Fourth, you must confront them alone. Sadly, in the church today, gossip is as much a problem as it is in the world. Sometimes, it is worse! What Jesus is telling you to do is to maintain confidentiality about the offense. That means you do not talk about it with others. You do not discuss it with your spouse, children, or other family members, and not with other church members. The church elders are not allowed to be the “gossip center” about your conflicts with others. They should remind you to keep the matter quiet and tell you to go and speak to the person who offended you. Jesus says you go to him alone. You are not to go to him alone after telling others. In his commentary on this verse, Leon Morris says, “There should be no attempt to bring all this out into the open. It is a matter between the offender, the offended, and God, and if the sinner can be persuaded to repent and seek forgiveness, the whole affair is over.” [1] (Emphasis added).

Fifth, you are to go to your brother. That is, you are not to “ghost” them (a modern term akin to the word, ignore). You are not to behave in a way that communicates you are offended (i.e., being passive-aggressive; acting rudely towards the offender, giving them the “cold shoulder.” etc..). You are to go and speak to your brother. Morris comments, “Go means taking the initiative; the person in the clear is not to wait for the sinner to come to him.”[2] It may be the case that the offender doesn’t even know that he has offended you. It may be the case that he is aloof and ignorant of the matter. You must take the initiative because he is your brother, and you are to love him as Christ has loved you. As Jay Adams points out in his book on this subject, the offender must go to his offended brother, but there are times when the offender doesn’t know he has sinned against a brother. The principle of charity, therefore, requires that the offended party seek an audience with the one who sinned against him. (See Matt. 5:23-24; Lk. 17:3).[3]

Remembering to go to the offending brother speedily is also essential. It would be best never to let the sun go down on your wrath (Eph. 4:26). You should never allow multiple Lord’s Days to pass without resolving the offense. Therefore, you should seek to resolve it before the next Lord’s Day. Allowing it to go on unaddressed for an extended period only harms your soul and your brother. Friends, that is not love. To refuse to go lacks love and grace.

Sixth, you are to remember that the goal is reconciliation. The goal is not to highlight the offender’s sin and embarrass them. The goal is restorative. The brotherly relationship is restored if the offending brother listens to you and seeks forgiveness (Jas. 5:19, 20). “Reconciliation is a matter of restoring friendship, so it is not enough to merely bury a matter; both parties must work toward a new and proper relationship for the future,”[4] Jay Adams rightly states.

Seventh, you are to forgive the offending brother from the heart. If a heart of repentance is offered, you are to receive it and restore your brother to the standing with you that they enjoyed before this offense (Matt. 6:14-15; Eph. 4:31-32). Remember, you have often offended your heavenly Father and sinned against him. Yet, he forgives you each time you violate his law (1 Jn. 1:9). Therefore, you must forgive from the heart, or God will not forgive you. Jay Adams writes, “When he [the offended party] says ‘I forgive you,’ he makes a promise (which is what forgiveness is) never to raise the matter again. He promises not to bring it up to you, nor to anyone else, and not sit and brood on it. The matter, he assures you, is closed.”[5] (Emphasis added).

This option is, indeed, a weighty one. It is hard, as it should be. It is hard because if it weren’t, the church would turn into a bunch of sin police, running around confronting everyone over everything.

There is a second path God’s people can take when there is offense or conflict in the church. This road involves allowing love to cover a multitude of sins. It leads to being able, by God’s grace, to let your love for your brother cover that offense or sin as you consider all the known circumstances.

II. Love Covering a Multitude of Sins

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Pet. 4:8, ESV)

Hatred stirs up strife,
     but love covers all offenses. (Prov. 10:12, ESV)

What does allowing “love to cover a multitude of sins” look like?

First, it is an attitude that does not allow you to be easily offended by the actions and sins of others around you. Instead of considering your emotions in the case, you consider that of your brother. Some sins are very difficult to cover with love. Some things should never be covered in that way. Some circumstances should be exposed by following the first road as stated above. However, there are many cases in the life of the church where you can quickly identify as something that can be covered with love by giving the benefit of the doubt and moving on. That is the love the apostle Paul highlights in 1 Cor. 13: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” (Emphasis added). Practice giving others the benefit of the doubt. Our culture is full of people who are offended about everything. God’s people, who have been forgiven and given much, should be less easily offended by others.

Second, it is a willingness to treat the offending brother like it never happened. Consider the work of reconciliation and redemption secured by the work of Christ. Sin was not excused, and it was not ignored. It was handled, but not by you. It was taken by someone else, the Lord Jesus Christ. The love of Christ “covered” your sin, removed it as far as the East is from the West and buried it in the deepest ocean. The love of God covered your sin in the work of Christ, and he remembers it no more and does not treat you as a stranger and opponent of the Kingdom of God. Instead, he welcomes you as a son, invites you into his family, and treats you as one of the family. He covered your sin with the love of Christ. He didn’t ignore it but covered it and cleansed it forever. Covering another’s offense with love may be challenging for some people. If that is you, you must follow the abovementioned road. You risk resentment and bitterness if you cannot allow love to cover many sins and refuse to speak to your brother about the offense. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you are still bothered by the offense and sin of another one day after it happened. If so, you are probably not covering it with love but harboring resentment. If that is the case, seek out your brother and follow the abovementioned steps.

III. Some Questions and Answers

What do you do when the offender will not listen to you?

Although this article seeks to deal with the initial step, which is often enough to resolve most offenses and conflicts, there are situations where there is no repentance or reconciliation. First, this step is not merely a formula to follow but a pastoral exhortation to love your neighbor enough to labor with them to resolve the problem. That may mean going to them more than once. There are cases where that is wise. However, there may be cases in which that is not possible. Therefore, second, seek out a few trusted church members or church officers and approach the offender together. Remember, these trusted members or officers should still be unaware of the exact nature and details of the offense.

What is the purpose of witnesses?

That isn’t easy to answer, but the fundamental purpose is the same as the first step: to aid in repentance and reconciliation. However, at this point, the process needs to be witnessed in keeping with Deut. 19:15. Leon Morris writes,

“[The offended] is to take a small number of others (one or two does not specify the number, but clearly a small group is meant; the matter is to be kept as quiet as possible) …Nobody is to be convicted on the evidence of a single person; everything must be attested by two or, better, three witnesses. Where it is important to have the exact words attested, there must be two or three people who can vouch for what was said. Jesus is not, of course, talking about a trial, and in any case the one or two more are not witnesses of the offense; they can testify only that they have tried to help the offender.”[6]

The help offered is that of compelling the offender to repent and be reconciled to the offended.

How can I know if I am letting love cover many sins?

If you find yourself treating the offender in different ways than you did before, avoiding them, or refusing to engage them within the Christian community, then you are not letting love cover the sin. In that case, you should seek reconciliation through the steps outlined above. You cannot say you are letting love cover sin and offense as merely a way to avoid the hard work of Biblical confrontation.

What if the offense continues to come?

That is always a possibility. The church is full of sinners. The answer is the same: if you cannot allow love to cover it, you must confront it. There may come a time when you must confront a brother out of great love for them. They may be carrying a blind spot in their life. They may be struggling with that sin; perhaps the Lord will use you to help them overcome it. They may be wrestling with many things. Whatever the case, you must always be willing to forgive from the heart to an infinite degree (Matt. 18:21-35).

What if the offense is between you and one of the officers in the church?

Those conflicts are difficult and painful at times. Yet, the solution is the same as outlined above. The apostle Paul tells his young pastor to resist charges against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19). You will note that the same bar is set as that of those differences and conflicts between members. The elders or pastors of the church are your brothers. They are afforded the same expectations as those issues that arise between members. You should go to them alone and discuss your grievance and offense with them.

Does going to the offender require doing it in person?

This is an excellent question and one that deserves a response in a world of email and text messaging. It is easier to confront a person over email or text messages. However, there is an element missing. It is two-dimensional. It is one-way communication. The medium controls the message, as Neil Postman rightly points out in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. Therefore, it is better to confront an offender in person. There may be times when that is not possible due to distance or other circumstances beyond your control. In that case, using a medium that emulates an in-person experience as much as possible is preferable.

How many times am I required to forgive my brother?

The Lord Jesus answers this question in Matt. 18:21-22 when Peter asks, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” The point is not in the math answer. The point is that you should forgive each time it is offered to you. That can be difficult, especially when it is the same person about the same offense. However, you are to forgive them, regardless.

What about those offenses that appear to be public versus those that are private?

These circumstances are not easy to discern. Of course, there are obvious cases in which a public offense is simple to assign. For example, a member of the church loses their temper and begins to act out against you in front of numerous people. Yet, in most cases, offenses are private. Sadly, many people in the church avoid the Biblical process because they determine that the issue is public. With that said, just because a matter is deemed public does not mean that you should make it known publicly. You are free and encouraged to follow the steps outlined above.

Conclusion

Conflict will occur in the church. It happens between members and members, members and officers, and members and pastors. God expects his people to resolve it in a way that seeks the peace and purity of the church. Many conflicts are misunderstandings. Many conflicts are not that significant or severe. Many offenses are committed without intent or ill will. Many times, there are pieces of information missing in the conflict that, when discussed, shed light on the matter. Yes, there are also serious sins and offenses committed. If love cannot cover it, you must confront it. There is never a time when you can simply wave it off, treat the offender as dead, ignore them, or behave in a way that is inconsistent with the Gospel. Each of you has been granted much from your Lord. He has dealt with the infinite conflict between you and your heavenly Father. As such, you must emulate the Savior and deal kindly with those who offend you. Conflict is difficult, but it does happen. Loving, biblical confrontation is equally difficult. It is neither loving nor good to avoid it. It does not show love to your neighbor. After all, love is the hallmark quality of the professing Christian (1 Jn. 3:11-18). God’s people ought not to be pedantic about everything. However, if an offense is made and a sin committed, it honors the Lord to follow one of the two roads mentioned as you seek to strive for the unity and peace of the church.

[1] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 467.

[2] Morris, 467.

[3] Jay E. Adams, Handbook of Church Discipline, Jay Adams Library (Grand Rapids, Mich: Ministry Resources Library, 1986), 48.

[4] Adams, 54.

[5] Adams, 53.

[6] Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, 467–68.

Devotional: Psalm 3

Devotional: Psalm 3

O Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
    “There is no salvation for him in God.”
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
   who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord!
   Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
   you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
  your blessing be on your people! Selah

“Few men of this century have understood better the inevitability of suffering than Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He seems never to have wavered in his Christian antagonism to the Nazi regime, although it meant for him imprisonment, the threat of torture, danger to his own family, and finally death. He was executed by the direct order of Heinrich Himmler in April 1945, in the Flossenburg concentration camp, only a few days before it was liberated. It was the fulfillment of what he had always believed and taught: ‘Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master. Following Christ means passio passiva suffering because we have to suffer. That is why Luther reckoned suffering among the marks of the true Church, and one of the memoranda drawn up in preparation for the Augsburg Confession similarly defines the Church as the community of those ‘who are persecuted and martyred for the gospel’s sake.’ Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer.’” (John R.W. Stott, Christian Counter Culture)

The context of this psalm is one of suffering. The inspired words that head most English translations say, “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.” Those words are chilling because they move us to review the history of a significant trial in King David’s life. His own flesh and blood threatened to usurp the throne. David feared for his life throughout that trial and witnessed many people turn against him. Therefore, this Psalm is useful today as we face opposition, suffering, and significant trials as we pilgrim through this sin-wrecked world.

Suffering for the sake of Christ is inevitable. As disciples of Christ, we should expect opposition from those who deny the Lord or demonstrate their hatred for the Lord and his people by their actions. Absalom was a professing Christian. That is, he was a circumcised Jew and a member of the visible church. Yet, he rebelled against the man of God’s choosing. His behavior demonstrated his heart. Yet, David, in his prayer journal recorded in this Psalm, consoles himself with words that should also console us as we face hard days and opposition.

First, the entire psalm is one of prayer. That teaches us that when we are opposed or face trials of varying types, we should turn speedily to prayer. I know that can be awfully difficult at times. I know that during times of severe pain and suffering, the flesh may be willing, but the spirit is weak. We don’t know all that David wrestled with during those days when his son opposed him, but we do know that he prayed.

Second, opposition comes in many forms, but often, it comes through the use of words. In this case, it is a slanderous attack against the king (3:2). They mock his trust in the Lord while they run over him, seeking to overthrow the throne of David. Words can be very painful. The old saying that “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie. Words sometimes hurt far more than blows. Bruises heal. Broken bones mend. Words, however, can cause great damage and leave one hurting for a long time. We have all experienced those things. They can come from friends and foes. Sometimes, they come accidentally or without thought. Sometimes, they do not intend to do damage. We should be patient and gracious in those times. Sometimes, they come with a heart that intends to do as much damage as possible. Recently, I have received letters highlighting the very nature of the words David heard. They were vitriolic, hurtful, and designed to destroy. Words offered in that matter can hurt, and they do.

Third, the opposition should not paralyze you. That is easy to say. It is hard to do. I know the struggle in that area. I know how you feel if you find yourself despondent and despairing during times of opposition or attack. I suspect David wrestled with his own attitudes and emotions during those dark days. Yet, he consoles him by reminding himself of the goodness of the Lord for him. He reminds himself that the Lord is a shield for him (3:3). A shield has one function: to defend. Notice that he is not the shield. The Lord and God of heaven, who is almighty, is his shield. It is the Lord who will defend you. It is the Lord who will ward off the attacks of the Evil One and evil people. We are called to love our enemies and pray for them. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. During the Middle Ages crusades, a shield was essential in battle. To engage in a battle with a shield in hand was foolish. To live this life without the Lord as your shield is infinitely foolish. Yet, as a child of God, we have him as your shield, and you can console yourself with this truth. It isn’t subject to our feelings. It is true, regardless of how we feel. He also reminds himself that he is heard and answered when he prays and cries out to the Lord (3:4). Sometimes, we are so burdened by our suffering and opposition that we want to scream out with pleading tears to someone. As we do so to our heavenly Father, we are heard. I think we know that. What is often hard to do is wait for the answer. I admit that there have been times when I cried out to the Lord and wondered if he would ever answer me. No, I was waiting for a voice from the sky. I was waiting for relief. Sometimes we are made to wait. Sometimes, waiting is long and hard. Yet, the Lord uses those times to perfect us and cause us to trust wholly in him. Our heavenly Father is not interested in raising spoiled children. He does not always give us what we want when we ask. He often makes us wait.

Fourth, the opposition should not bring anxiety. Again, this is easy to write, and it is easy to say to yourself and others. The reality is that we do get anxious when times are hard. We are sinners. Sometimes, when tribulation comes, we tribulate indeed. As we learn to cry out to the Lord, we can find peace and contentment (3:5-6)

Finally, the opposition may be long, but your God is for you. He will vindicate his people. It may not happen in this life, though most would like to see that happen. It will definitely come in the life to come. God will vindicate his people and his church.

Remember, the Lord Jesus suffered in untold ways. We have a very small record of the things he suffered. I suspect if we stacked all the suffering and opposition received in life on top of one another, it would not compare to the sufferings endured by the Savior. He cried out to his Father and was heard, comforted, and sustained. Your Father will do the same. He will hear you and uphold you throughout the trial. He will never let you go. Salvation belongs to him, and he cannot fail.