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Pursuing Peace When What You Really Want is Revenge

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Have you ever felt like God isn't hearing your prayers? Have you felt like there is a barrier between you and God? Maybe there is. If you're like me, you struggle enough to foster a life of constant prayer and to walk close with Jesus -- I don't need anything else getting in the way. But Scripture tells us that issues like unforgiveness (Mark 11:25), unconfessed sin (Psalm 66:18), and discord with another believer (1 Peter 3:7, Matthew 5:23-24), are some of the heart issues that might hinder our prayers and our Christian walk. 

I want to focus specifically on the issue of discord, or disagreement, with another believer and how we deal with it in a godly way so the hindrances and barriers are removed. 

Facing the Conflict

In Matthew 18:15, we read, "If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won the person back."

I used to be very easily offended. As a strong "J" on the personality assessment tests, any perceived slight, or unfair treatment dug at me like a festering splinter. It has taken a while, but after the Holy Spirit revealed to me my lack of grace for others, I began asking God to replace my judgmental attitude with a heart of mercy. And He answered my prayers. Consequently, I am far less frequently offended. The more I allow the Holy Spirit to fill me up, the less likely I am to be offended. When I empty myself of me and am filled with the Holy Spirit, it's nearly impossible to take things personally. 

So, the first question to ask myself is, "does the wrong I suffered rise to the level that it needs to be addressed or can I just choose to overlook it, forgive, and forget it?" Throughout the course of any day, I mistreat people, say things I wish I could take back, and say them with a spirit I regret. It is my hope that people who know me well will excuse offenses I may commit out of frustration, fatigue, or stress. If I hope to receive that kind of grace, then I must be willing to extend it to others. Simply adopting that mindset will take care of a lot of the issues before they are allowed to ferment into something bigger. 

But what about more serious transgressions we may suffer? What about wrongdoings that might actually point to a bigger issue in another person -- something that may need to be addressed for the good of that person's relationship with Christ? In those cases, it is our obligation to address it in a godly way, as prescribed in Matthew 18:15, "If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back." 

To break the Scripture down:
  • "another believer"
    We are looking at how we respond to conflicts between ourselves and other Christians. 
  • "sins against you"
    Does the offense rise to the level of a sin? Is it reflective of a deeper heart issue in your fellow believer that needs to be addressed? Disagreements, differences of opinion, and personalities that clash do not always rise to the level of a sin. Sometimes, it is more godly to just patiently and quietly forgive.
  • "go privately"
    PRIVATELY. Don't post it on facebook or twitter. Don't gossip to everyone in your small group about how egregiously you have been hurt. Privately means, "IN PRIVATE." Ask the person to meet you somewhere where you can speak. If necessary for safety or to avoid any appearance of impropriety, you might also include a couple of impartial and like-minded (Christian) witnesses. 
  • "point out the offense"
    I am stricken by the "matter-of-fact" tone of this command. Point out the offense. Don't wax on about how deeply it hurt you or how you would never sin so blatantly, etc. Just point out the offense. Remember that sin is an offense against God, and THAT is why it's important to bring it to this person's attention. It's not about you and if you believe that in your heart, it's much easier to take the emotion out of a situation. When I ask the Holy Spirit to search my heart and to "point out the offenses," in my life, it isn't pleasant, but neither is it humiliating or demoralizing. The Holy Spirit points out my shortcomings with love and grace. That is how we are to help others with theirs -- with love and grace, and with a meek spirit. Remember, we are all sinners!
  • "if the person listens"
    IF. He or she may not listen. You can't control anyone but yourself. Any time I have had to approach another person about a difficult situation, I pray that God will open her ears to hear and open her heart to listen, but it's beyond my control. In a situation where a believer doesn't listen, you may have to just choose to forgive in spite of the lack of remorse. Or, if the sin situation is severe or threatens the church community, seek council from an elder or pastor.
  • "you have won that person back."
    That is what it's all about. It isn't about settling the score or being vindicated in your injury. It is about making sure that the other person restores his or her relationship with Christ. 

When it's Easier Said than Done

All of this seems very easy to me until I make it personal. When I apply these principles to situations where I have been deeply hurt by another believer -- situations when my family and reputation have suffered, I have been physically wounded, or when it has cost me financially. That's when it gets hard. It is in those times that we have an opportunity to better understand and appreciate the magnitude of the grace we have received from God our Father. Nobody has wronged me as much or as often as I have sinned against God and without exception, He has forgiven me, restored me, and loved me no less. 

And finally, when it's hard to deal with people who hurt us the way God instructs, try putting yourself in the other position. If you're like me, you read through this entire post thinking of all the times you have been hurt by others. Did you once think of any of the times you have sinned against another believer? 

Read it again, and ask yourself if you would rather be confronted with mercy and grace or judgment and wrath? If you were living in a sin that threatens your walk with Christ and possibly even your salvation, would you hope another loved you enough to step in? Would you rather the person you hurt contact you privately, or tell everyone at the office and on social media what you did? 

Yeah. Me, too.

Are You Prepared for Eternity?

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Are you prepared for Eternity?

That was the question posed to me for this post. Before answering it in a blog post, I had to answer it personally. In doing that, I want to rephrase the question in two parts, which I will then address individually:

  1. Are you prepared for eternity?
  2. Are you preparing for eternity?

Are you prepared for eternity?

The first question, "Are you prepared for eternity," is to ask, "Do you know where your soul will go when you die?"

Are you going to spend eternity separated from God because you never took the steps required to restore that relationship? Those who have not taken those steps have a severed relationship with God and unless that is fixed in this life, that relationship will remain severed for all eternity. 

How do you restore that relationship in this life? How do you prepare to spend your eternity with God in heaven instead of separated from Him? You can do so by following obediently in the steps detailed for us in the Bible, God's Holy Word.

  1. Believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
    Jesus said, in John 8:24, "unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins."
  2. Confess that belief. In Matthew 10:32, Jesus assures us, "Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven." Essentially, Jesus Christ will be our advocate after we die -- He will tell God the Father, "Yes, this soul restored the relationship."
  3. Repent.
    In 2 Peter 3:9, we read, "He (the LORD) does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent."
  4. Be baptized. 
    If it weren't enough that Jesus did it (so it's good enough for me), we are also commanded to be baptized. In Acts 2:38, "Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

The relationship with God is restored by grace -- nothing more. These are the steps we are instructed to take in order to receive that gift. It is not forced upon us so we must demonstrate our acceptance. 

I have received God's free gift of grace. I have confessed my sin, professed my belief in God and His Son, repented for my sin, and I was baptized on April 16, 1989. I can answer the first question with, "Yes. I am prepared for eternity. I am confident that my soul will live forever with my God in heaven."

What a blessed assurance. If you aren't sure of your answer to that question, please do not wait! Consider God's gift of grace and don't delay. This weekend, WRCC is having a baptism celebration -- why not follow Christ's example and be sure of your answer as well?

Are you preparing for eternity? 

The second question, as I would like to address it, refers more to how I live my life since having accepted the gift of grace. It saved me, but did it change me

If it changed me, then it should show in how I live my life. The book of James expands on how, once we have Christ in our life, it affects not only our eternity, but these aspects of our life on earth:

  • how we handle our challenges and pain (James 1:2-12)
  • how we respond to temptation (James 1:13-18; 4;7-8)
  • how we respond to social injustices and need -- by putting our faith into action. (James 2:1-9; 5:1-6)
  • how we speak. (James 1:19-20; 26; 3:2-12)
  • how we pray. (James 4:2; 5:13-17)

It is in living out our faith as prescribed above that  we also, as instructed in Matthew 6:19-21, "lay up treasures in heaven."

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. 

If we place value on the things of God and His eternal kingdom instead of on the temporary things of this world, we will have those treasures forever. We work hard in this world to provide a home for our family, clothes, food, etc, and there is nothing wrong with that. But when you look at this lifetime relative to eternity, we are faced with how unimportant those things become. 

Imagine you are on an extended vacation and you arrive at your hotel before they have prepared your room for check-in. They take you to a temporary lounge to wait for your room. While there, you unpack, redecorate, and make yourself at home. In no time, they come to take you to your permanent room. Why did you waste so much energy on something so fleeting?

This world is a temporary. When we use our time, talents, and treasures to accumulate earthly treasures, those are temporary as well. But when we give our resources for Christ's sake, we demonstrate that we value Christ and that we consider other people worth more than our own comfort and preservation.

Another example that somewhat illustrates the concept of laying up treasure in heaven is compound interest. I started contributing to a 401k retirement account when I was only 19 years old and have rolled it from account to account ever since. Choosing to set aside a portion of my income for the future rather than spending it on something I wanted in the moment will pay off. 

Say, for example, I saved, or set aside, a mere $300 from a month's pay when I was 20 years old. At that time, it as worth only $300. (Actually less, after taxes.) I might have been able to buy a VCR  since I was 20 in 1995. Google it, kids.

But by investing it instead, even at a conservative interest rate of 5% , when I am 70 years old, that $300 would be worth $9,127.93, having been multiplied by compound interest over time. The VCR I could have bought in 1995 would be worthless by comparison. 

I see the work and sacrifices we make for Christ and to serve other people instead of accumulating things for our own creature comforts are compounded over time and when we get to heaven, we will find their value is immeasurable. 

Do you want to waste your effort sprucing up a temporary lounge or do you want to live in a mansion in heaven for all eternity? Do you want a VCR today or unfathomable treasures in glory?

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)

So, are you prepared for eternity? If not, you can fix that immediately. Confess, repent, and be baptized.

And are you preparing for eternity? If yes, keep it up! Could you do even more?

If you are not yet laying up treasures in heaven, what are you waiting for? Get connected and find a place to help and people to serve. Start investing in your eternity today.