Tongue

IT MAY BE WHAT YOU THINK, BUT IS IT NECESSARY?

I have been corrected (rightly so) for sins I have committed.

I have been corrected (rightly so) for careless words or actions that were unintended.

I have also been criticized to my face (and more often behind my back), for actions that were treated as sins, when in reality, my critic simply had a different opinion.

I have been criticized in people’s hearts and to others (without me being present) for reasons that were misinformed, misunderstood, or simply arrived upon by speculation.

None of these situations were pleasant.

Some of these situations were necessary.

But many of these situations were unbiblical.

If there is any lesson we should learn from the aftermath of the recent Presidential Election, it is that there are bad ways to express our disagreement and our disappointment.

As people of the gospel, Christians should have a clear grasp of what is an appropriate expression of disagreement, and what is an inappropriate – or even sinful outflowing of our heart.

What are the guidelines to how you express your disagreement?

Are you careful to make sure you came by your opinions and attitudes by a biblical process?

Has it occurred to you that holding negative opinions about people without valid information is slanderous? Even if you have not spread your opinion, you have slandered that person in your heart.

The famous “Love” passage in 1 Corinthians 13 ends with this description of how love acts:

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”

It would be worth spending a few minutes to consider how this declaration about love should affect the way we think about other people. The Bible is not telling us to ignore the truth about people, but it is instructing us to think the best we can about them. This is “Treating people the way you want to be treated 101″

Accountability is good for the soul, but so is being gracious

For more thoughts on “confrontation”, read this excellent article by Tim Challies as he describes an incident when someone aggressively confronted him after a speaking engagement.

 

“I’M NOT DEFENSIVE!”

calvin-and-hobbes

“I’m Not Being Defensive!”

This is one of the most common statements made by people who are in the midst of being defensive. It’s like people who angrily say, “I’m not angry!”

Being defensive is a common problem, because it comes out of self-centeredness, an area in which most of us are well gifted. Yes, that was a wee bit sarcastic.

When we are defensive, it not only leads to unnecessary conflict with people, it also makes it much harder to resolve conflict with people.

As people of the gospel, the only agenda we have been given for people is that of gospel reconciliation. We will not be able to fulfill that agenda with everyone, but it remains our goal at all times.

We see this truth of Christian living clearly laid before us by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20:

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

If we are to be seriously engaged in Great Commission and Great Commandment living, then we must labor at identifying and rooting out our expressions of defensiveness. Otherwise we are operating in the world perhaps with morality, but not out of the gospel.

Gavin Ortlund helps in this difficult task, with his article “Repentance vs. Defensiveness”. Gavin begins by clarifying what defensiveness looks like.

•  A defensive heart says, “But look at what I did right!” (diversion)
•  A defensive heart says, “But look at what was done to me!” (distraction)
•  A defensive heart says, “It wasn’t that bad” (downplaying)

I will add, to Gavin’s list, that a defensive heart says, “I am not defensive, so this article doesn’t apply to me” (denial)

LET’S TALK

conversation-timrb-55444602@N00-217448857-flcikr-ccbyncnd2

 

It may seem awkward at first.

How do you bring it up?

God that is. In conversation. With other believers.

We should also be bringing up God in conversation with unbelievers, but that’s a different article.

When we are with fellow believers, our conversation should never be far from God.

This might include a question we had while reading the Bible, a conviction that encouraged us in small group, something that struck us in a recent sermon, an attitude we struggle with at work, or what we felt while singing worship songs in the car this afternoon.

We will bring up some subject matter, is there anything more worthy or helpful to discuss with brothers and sisters in Christ? Developing this habit will help us to fulfill many of the “one another” passages that are so vital for biblical community:

“Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19)

“Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16)

“Encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

“Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:130

“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24)

 

There are many benefits when we frequently talk about God

It will help us cultivate biblical thinking

Our actions will become increasing influenced by what we believe

It will help the truths that we are reading and hearing about God to take root in our mind

Other believers will be influenced to be more God-centric in their thinking

Our children will learn that God really is the biggest person in our life

It replaces wasteful and self-centered conversation

Sin will find it harder to find a resting place in our minds

Our faith is built up as we remember our God stories, and hear them from others

Gospel conversation with people who don’t know Christ might become more natural

God will be pleased

I must confess, I am writing this out of need rather than out of strength. There have been many times when I have realized after a conversation that I wasted an opportunity to be engaged in meaningful God talk with someone.

 

This is a habit worth cultivating.

Let’s help each other improve at it.

We can start by simply asking one another, “What thoughts have you had about God this week?”

This is a habit that has to benefit us. How wonderful will be the affects.

WISDOM TO STAY UNITED

divided-church

Have you ever disagreed with something done by the leadership of your church?

If you have attended Greentree Church for more than a few weeks, we have probably done something that you questioned, didn’t understand, didn’t like or simply left you scratching your head!

Even though we love our church and we try to be serious about being biblically directed, as leaders we remain flawed and insufficient instruments.

Even when we are acting with correct wisdom, that doesn’t guarantee that every church member is processing their reactions with biblical wisdom.

The church is a gathering of “saints”, but we are all flawed in what we do and how we respond.

For these reasons it is important that in Greentree and every other church, we have a biblical perspective for how to handle questions, conflicts and honest concerns.

Fortunately God “remembers that we are dust”. He gives us grace to work through the struggles we have with one another.

A helpful place to find wisdom for ourselves and life with one another is the Old Testament book of Proverbs.

David Murray offers what he calls two “church transforming” proverbs in this article from the Head, Heart, Hand Blog.

Since we will struggle with one another, it is a wise to know the wisdom God has provided precisely for those moments

GRUMBLE FREE

Phil 2,14

by Debbie Huber

 

For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vainPhilippians 2:13-16a

My growth group recently dealt with the question, “Is it feasible to be able to never grumble?” We all chuckled and quickly answered, “No!” Sure does not feel like it is possible, at least in our own strength. We all realize that we can grumble about so many little things we do not even think twice about. Things like the weather, the slow person in the grocery line ahead of you, the service at a restaurant, the coworker who doesn’t seem to be pulling her weight, and the list goes on.

But Paul in Philippians instructs us to do ALL things without grumbling. Then he goes on to say, “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation”. How can we be blameless and innocent in this area? It is not in our own strength. The Bible tells us it is God who works in us to accomplish this for His good pleasure. He supernaturally enables us to refrain from grumbling. “Holding fast to the word of life” keeps us focused on Christ and not how we are affected by circumstances.

Why does it matter if we grumble a little? Everyone complains about the weather, the traffic, etc. Is there a day that goes by where you do not hear anyone grumbling about anything? It is probably rare.

If we live a “grumble-free” life, we will shine a light in a dark world filled with lots of grumbling. It is not so the crooked and twisted world will think that we are great but that they will know that Christ is great.

 

ALWAYS ON DUTY

 

As Christians, we are never off duty in our responsibility to Great Commandment Living.

In all situations and with all people, we are to act, think, respond and speak in ways that express love for God and love for neighbor.

This is not a burden that God places upon us; it is a great privilege that the Holy Spirit makes possible for us.

Through Great Commandment Living,

. . . We declare to God the sincerity of our love

. . . We reveal the beauty of life in Christ’s Kingdom

. . . We present to the world what righteousness looks like

. . . We demonstrate the transforming power of God is a reality

. . . We influence the people God has put in our life

. . . We bring into this bitter world the sweet taste of heaven

 

An area of daily life where we need to give attention to what Great Commandment Living looks like is how we communicate online and in social media.

For many of us, social media is our primary (or close to it) means of communication. It is how the world sees us and understands us.

And sometimes what they hear and see – has little to do with Great Commandment Living (even when we are communicating about biblical matters).

I strongly urge you to read this article by Jon Bloom on the Desiring God blog, “How Should Christians Comment Online?” Jon’s article is brief, but packed with truths we need to consider.

If we are serious about our love for God, then let’s get this area of Great Commandment Living under control.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.13.15

‘Judging People and Ourselves’

Matthew 7:1-5

We Are Not To Judge Each Other

1. v2 reminds us, God already holds that role

This is his right as Creator – all the world’s kicking and screaming won’t change it

As the just God, he will judge the world (Acts 17:30-31)

This is not just about being nicer; it’s about God’s role (James 4:11-12)

2. We don’t have the capacity to judge hearts and actions well

At the center of Jesus’ argument is that we do a lousy job of judging (v3)

Our perspectives are too limited to judge well (Job’s friends are a good example)

God alone knows all truth and can judge with perfect justice

3. When we become judgmental, we have forsaken Great Commandment living

When we are judgmental, we forsake godly character

Jesus illustration of the “log and the speck” points out how hypocritical our judging can be (v5)

Being judgmental sweeps aside what we are meant to be (Ephesians 4:1-3)

When we are judgmental, we forsake what it means to be the Church (Romans 14:10)

It pushes fellow believers down and away – which is the opposite of biblical community

Instead, God gives us the responsibility to care for one another (Ro 15:1)

When we are judgmental, we leave the gospel behind

We create moral or social lepers that are ‘undeserving’ of our attention

Do we truly think that anyone is too undesirable for us to keep the gospel’s agenda with them?

This includes after people become believers. We are often the harshest toward fellow Christians!

Yet, as God’s representatives, we must make judgments

Examples where judgments are required of us:

To exercise church discipline (1 Corinth 5:1-13)

Who is appropriate to marry

Affirming who can be baptized

Choosing deacons and elders (judging their character)

Guarding against false teachers by examining their fruit (Matt 7:15-20)

It is part of how we care for one another (Eph 4 “speaking the truth in love”)

Are you getting confused?

There is a clear rule about biblical or unbiblical judging:

Are we echoing God’s Word or imposing our opinions?

If we are simply repeating what God has said, then we are not judging – God is

Other principles to help us disagree without disharmony

1. Our lack of comfort with someone’s actions is not God’s standard for judging them

2. We must always judge fruit (actions), but we must beware of judging the root (heart)

3. Distinguish moral discernment from personal condemnation

Maturity should increase our discernment in what we observe

Responsibility requires we exercise that discernment

But we jump the tracks when we are critical instead of discerning

Indications we may have a critical spirit:

1.  When our first thoughts are usually about where we disagree, or what we don’t like

2.  When disagreement keeps us from seeing any good in other believers

3.  When we refuse fellowship with other believers because of their position or opinions

4.  When we keep a list of what we don’t like about them

Jesus lets us know that sinful judging is a serious matter

We risk bringing judgment upon ourselves (v2)

If we have no grace for people, what does it say about our possession of grace?

Start With Ourselves

We like to correct sin in others and be offended by their failures

Jesus redirects our perspective and actions in (v5)

1. Notice the log in our eye

2. Be offended by our sin

3. Take action and remove it

Examining ourselves must be biblically driven, because we cannot judge our own heart (1 Corinth 4:3)

As we examine our own heart, we are better prepared to gracefully help others

v5 ends with the person who removes the log, being able to help remove a speck from their brother’s eye

Jesus is not directing us in how to be meddlesome churches; he is directing us in how to “speak the truth with love”

How should we respond when someone judges us?

Don’t ask yourself – was it done properly, ask yourself – was it needed?

We should love God enough to accept and apply correction whether or not it is done graciously

Be thankful for God’s grace in whatever reveals the ‘specks’ in our eye