Peace with One Another

Dr. Neil Anderson’s Blog – November 2013

11/1/13 – Absolute Truth
11/4/13 – Owning the Truth
11/5/13 – Emotional Truth
11/6/13 – Destroyed for Lack of Knowledge
11/7/13 – The Nature of Faith
11/8/13 – The Object of Our Faith
11/11/13 – Growing in Faith
11/12/13 – Faith and Works
11/13/13 – Living by Faith
11/14/13 – Living Under Authority
11/15/13 – The Sin of Rebellion
11/18/13 – Understanding Submission
11/19/13 – The Great Commandment
11/20/13 – The Lordship of Christ
11/21/13 – Relating to One Another
11/22/13 – Discipline and Judgment
11/25/13 – A Proper Defense
11/26/13 – Acceptance and Affirmation
11/27/13 – Overcoming Rejection
11/28/13 – The Ministry of Reconciliation
11/29/13 – Peace with One Another

The Ministry of Reconciliation

November 28 – The Ministry of Reconciliation

The fellowship offering (Lev. 3) was given in voluntary gratitude for past blessing, answered prayer, or a bountiful harvest. It has traditionally been called the peace offering because the root Hebrew word, shalom, means peace. The peace offering pictures the fellowship that we now have with God because of Christ’s death on the cross. We worship with thanksgiving and praise because we have been reconciled to God who has made us new creations in Christ.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:18-20). As members of the body of Christ we have been reconciled to God. Now we are His ambassadors for Christ and ministers of reconciliation. We are witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, because we are new creations in Christ, and we have His resurrected life within us. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we say to all who will listen, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (1 Cor. 5:20). Like God, we don’t count their sins against them, because what they do is just symptomatic of the real problem, which is their separation from God.

The message of reconciliation always begins with God, but it encompasses the relationships we have with others. It begins with God, because any attempt to unite fallen humanity on any basis other than Christ has always failed. When we are reconciled to God, we become brothers and sisters in Christ, and that is the basis for our unity. Trying to unite the body of Christ on any other basis other than our relationship with God has failed. The body of Christ will also remain fragmented as long as we associate purely on the basis of race, tradition, etc. The basis for our unity is our common heritage in Christ. That is why Paul exhorts us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.” (Eph. 4:2-6).

The ministry of reconciliation originates with God. It must be personally experienced by faith, but it is universally inclusive. It is voluntarily accepted and voluntarily shared. The message has been entrusted to mankind to be delivered to all, but it is owned and accredited by God. It achieves what otherwise is impossible and gratefully experienced by all those who have received it. It is the greatest gift that one can receive and yet it is meant to be given away.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Overcoming Rejection

November 27 – Overcoming Rejection

Everyone knows what it feels like to be unduly criticized and rejected, especially when it comes from people we want to please. Nobody can be their best at everything, and sometimes we fail to live up to other people’s expectations. We were born and raised in a worldly system that chooses favorites and rejects seconds. From the earliest age, we strive to please significant others in order to gain their approval. In our natural state, we choose to adapt to this world system in one of three ways. First, there are some who try to beat the system. These people try to earn their acceptance and strive for significance through their appearance, performance, or social status. They feel driven to get to the top because winning is their passport to acceptance, security, and significance. They are characterized by perfectionism and emotional insulation usually leading to anxiety, stress, and burnout. They are prone to controlling and manipulating people and circumstances for their own end, so it is difficult for them to yield control in their lives to God. Eventually their abilities diminish and younger, stronger, and more capable controllers replace them.

Second, others give in to the system. The strongest, prettiest, and most talented are “in,” and they are “out,” because they don’t measure up in those categories. By giving into this worldly system, these people succumb to society’s false judgment of their worth. They often find it difficult to accept themselves, because others haven’t. Some have trouble relating to God, because they blame Him for making them that way.

The third group rebels against the system. They respond to rejection by saying, “I don’t need you and I don’t want your love!” They need love and acceptance like everyone else, but they refuse to acknowledge it. They often underscore their defiance and rebellion by dressing and behaving in ways that are objectionable to the general population. Rebels are marked by self-hatred and bitterness. They are irresponsible and undisciplined. They see God and religious people as someone trying to squeeze them into a socially acceptable mold.

All three responses to the social systems of this world eventually lead to defeat. The kingdom of God is totally different. Nobody wins in the world’s system, but everybody wins in the kingdom of God. We are not in competition with one another. Paul says, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12). We are loved and accepted unconditionally by God. There is a necessary place in the Body of Christ for each one of us. Helping another person succeed enhances our success. The more we build one another up, the more we build ourselves up.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Acceptance and Affirmation

November 26- Acceptance and Affirmation

Romans 15:1-7

Ultimately we are accountable to God, but we also need to be accountable to one another. This ensures proper care and discipline in our churches and homes. As we consider how this can happen amongst ourselves, consider the following four words and ask yourself, “From which end of the list does God come to us?”

Authority

Accountability

Affirmation

Acceptance

Your answer to that question will reveal what kind of a parent you are and how you do ministry. There is little question from Scripture that God first came to us with acceptance through Jesus Christ. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Then came the affirmation. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Rom. 8:16). Those who are accepted and affirmed will voluntarily be accountable to authority figures, but if authority figures demand accountability without acceptance and affirmation, they will never get full disclosure. That is why Paul admonished us to, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (vs. 7).

There are no statements recorded in the gospels where Jesus demanded respect and accountability. He never said, “Listen people shape up because I am God.” Jesus had no human or earthly position of authority and yet “The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matt. 7:28,29). People recognized His authority because it was based on His character. Jesus dined with sinners so they knew they were accepted even when their religious leaders wouldn’t. The Gospels reveal that sinners loved to be around Jesus and Jesus waged war against hypocritical religious leaders. Sinners who desperately need Jesus often stay away from churches, because of what they perceive to be religious hypocrisy.

Notice how the Apostle Paul related to the people. “As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:6-8). Acceptance and affirmation are two of the most basic needs that we all have. Observe little children who unashamedly ask for both. “Did I do good mommy?” Do you like the picture I drew?” We don’t grow out of those needs, but we all too often stop extending it to adults and to our children as they grow older.

Listen to the dialogue between an authoritarian parent and a tardy child. “Where were you?” “Out!” “What were you doing?” “Nothing!” Does that sound familiar? It is all too common in our homes, churches, and schools. People do not inwardly respond to intimidation. True accountability cannot be demanded; it is voluntarily given. You can force some external accountability through threats and intimidation, but nobody will be vulnerable to an authority figure unless they know they are loved, accepted, and affirmed. As Christian leaders and parents we may not always be able to control those under our authority, but we can always love them.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

A Proper Defense

November 25 – A Proper Defense

What should we do when someone wrongly judges us and attacks our character? Should we be defensive, or follow Christ’s example? “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps; He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Chapter 53 of Isaiah is one of the clearest prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament. He suffered in silence for our sins and never once opened His mouth to defend Himself (vs. 7). Our situation is somewhat different, because we are not sinless. However, we still shouldn’t defend ourselves for two reasons. First, if their judgments are right, we don’t have a defense. Christ is our defense. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (vs. 5). Even though they are wrong in judging you, it would do no good to defend yourself. Attempts to defend your character often intensifies the efforts of those judging you. Follow Christ’s example by not retaliating and trust Him who judges justly. We should thank God that our sins are forgiven, accept the fact that we are a work in progress, and learn from the experience. The wise man said, “Rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge” (Prov. 19:25). Our response to attacks on our character reveal how secure, or insecure we are in Christ.

Second, if their judgments are wrong, you don’t need a defense. Should someone personally attack your character, just sit and listen. After they have finished pointing out every little character defect, their gun is empty. The last thing you want to do is hand them some more ammunition. If you attempted to defend yourself, they will likely become even more convinced that it is their duty to convince you of your imperfections.

Suppose you responded by saying, “I’m sorry you are upset with me, what do you suggest I do?” That may create an opportunity for ministry for two reasons. First, by not trying to play the role of God in their lives, as they were trying to do in yours, it leaves room for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction in their lives. When we play the role of the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life, it misdirects their battle with God unto ourselves. Second, nobody tears down another person’s character from a position of strength. It is more profitable for you to discover the reason they are angry and upset, than to try defending yourself.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Discipline and Judgment

November 22 – Discipline and Judgment

In our relationships with others we are commanded not to judge one another, but we are instructed to discipline one another when appropriate. Knowing the difference between the two has serious implications for how we relate to others. Judgment is related to a person’s character and discipline is related to a person’s behavior. Suppose you catch your son telling a lie and you say to him, “Son what you just said right now isn’t true.” You are not judging him. You are confronting him for the purpose of discipline. If you said, “Son, you are a liar,” that would be judging him.

Some attempts at discipline are nothing more than character assassination. If you called me dumb, or stupid, or arrogant, what could I do about it? I couldn’t instantly change my character. Making a negative judgment of another person’s character is a form of rejection and it causes one to be at odds with the other. But if you pointed out a behavior problem, I could own up to my sin, confess it, repent, and seek forgiveness from those I offended. I may have to live with the consequences of the sin, make restitution if warranted, but I would be reconciled with God and others.

Character is what we build up in one another, and we are not to tear it down. If all God’s children would memorize the following verse and never violate it, at least half of our church and family problems would disappear. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29). According to the next verse, it grieves the Holy Spirit when we use our speech to tear down others rather than build them up. Let us do no evil to our neighbor. Let us speak the truth in love. In civil matters, let the judges in our courts decide our guilt or innocence based on witnesses, and let God be the judge of our character.

Discipline has to be based on observed behavior. You would have to personally see or hear what another person has said or done before you could rightfully confront them. The Mosaic law required two or three witnesses in order to carry out a capital punishment. The church is likewise instructed to have two or three witnesses before a sinning person is brought before the church (Matt. 18:15-20). If you caught a person in sin, confront them with the purpose of winning them back. If they don’t repent and there are no other witnesses the matter ends there. Discipline is not the same as punishment. Punishment is retroactive. Discipline is future oriented. God doesn’t punish us when we sin. He disciplines us so we don’t do it again. The punishment we deserved has already fallen on Christ.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Relating to One Another

November 21 – Relating to One Another

The greatest challenge in life is learning to love one another in a fallen world. The Lord exhorted us to love our enemies (Lu. 6:27-36), and restrain from judging one another (vss. 37-42). It takes the grace of God to love those who hate us. Consider the dynamics going on between two people who are at each other’s throats. Chances are they will be attacking the other person’s character while looking out for their own needs, which is exactly opposite of what we are commanded to do. Before God we are responsible for our own character and the needs of those around us. Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” And Philippians 2:3-5 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

What would life be like if everybody assumed their responsibility for their own character and committed themselves to love one another? Becoming like Jesus leads to meeting one another’s needs. Too often we are waiting for the other person to love us, and fail to see our own character flaws. We must take the plank out of our own eye before we even consider looking at the speck in someone else’s eye.

How should we respond to those who aren’t Jesus followers? The Lord said, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Lu. 6:27). In other words, respond to their bad attitude with deeds of kindness, and speak well of those who speak bad of you. Should their bad attitude and speech digress to bad behavior then all you can do is pray for them. The point is, nobody can keep you from being the person God created you to be, so don’t let immature people determine who you are. When treated poorly by others, do not respond in kind. Instead, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (vs. 31).

You get out of life what you put into it. If you want a friend, then be a friend. If you want someone to love you, then love someone. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you” (vss.37, 38). It is one of life’s great compensations to know that you cannot help another without helping yourself in the process. Whatever life asks of you, give a little more and it will come measuring back to you. “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (vs. 38).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

The Lordship of Christ

November 20 – The Lordship of Christ

The number one obstacle that is keeping us from being all that God created us to be is ourselves. Self-sufficient and self-centered living keeps us from finding our sufficiency in Christ. To deny ourselves is to deny self-rule. The flesh scrambles for the throne and wants to play God.

The cross we pick up is the cross of Christ. His cross provided forgiveness from what we have done and deliverance from who we were. We are forgiven because He died in our place; we are delivered because we have died with Him. Seeking to overcome self by self-effort is futile. Self will never cast out self, because an independent self that is motivated by the flesh still wants to be God. When we follow Christ, the Holy Spirit will lead us down the path of death to self-rule. “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Cor. 4:11). Denying yourself, picking up your cross daily and following Jesus may sound like a dismal path to take, but it most assuredly isn’t for the following three reasons:

First, you are sacrificing the lower life to gain the higher life. If you want to save your natural life (i.e., find your identity and sense of worth in positions, titles, accomplishments, and possessions, and seek only worldly well-being), you will lose it. You may have some of it for a time, but not for eternity. Furthermore, efforts to possess temporal blessing, takes away what you could have in Christ. If you shoot for this world, that is all you will get and only for a short time. Shoot for the next world and you get it plus the benefits of knowing Christ now.

Second, you are sacrificing the pleasure of things to gain the pleasures of life. What would you accept in trade for the fruit of the Spirit in your life? What material possession, what amount of money, what man-made position or title would you exchange for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Believing that temporal possessions will give us love, joy, peace, etc. is the fool’s lie. For some deceptive reason we strive to be happy as animals instead of being blessed as children of God.

Third, you are sacrificing the temporal to gain the eternal. One of the great signs of spiritual maturity is the ability to postpone rewards. Look at the example of Moses. “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Heb. 11:25,26). There may be some hardships in following Christ, but “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:16,17). Making Jesus the Lord of your life also makes Him the Lord of your problems. Heaven is where we say to God, “Thy will be done.” Hell is where God says to us, “Thy will be done.”

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

The Great Commandment

November 19 – The Great Commandment

Jesus silenced the Sadducees who questioned Him about the resurrection, which they didn’t believe in (Matt. 22:23-33). Hearing this, the Pharisees wanted to test Jesus. “An expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law’” (vs. 36)? “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (vss. 37-40).

They didn’t ask Jesus for the second greatest commandment, but He gave it to them anyway. These two commandments define the whole purpose for the Word of God. We are to love God with our entire being. The second commandment necessarily flows from the first. If we loved God with our whole being, we would also love our neighbor as ourselves. The Pharisees knew that Jesus was right, but they struggled with the second part and asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor” (Lu. 10:29)? Jesus answered by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30-37). The Samaritans were foreigners and hated by the Jews, but in the parable the Samaritan proved to be the good neighbor by his deeds.

Loving our neighbor has no national boundaries, nor does it recognize any sectarian or religious differences. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For everyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn. 4:20,21). Our relationship with God is inextricably bound up with our relationships with others. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:43-45).

Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12). At the time the Jews practiced a negative form of the “golden rule.” “Whatever you would not wish done to you, do not yourself to another.” It was the law of retaliation. The golden rule is based on the law of grace. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lu. 6:35,36). We are to relate to others as Christ has related to us. Essentially that means, show mercy by not giving people what they deserve. But that doesn’t go far enough. We are to give people what they don’t deserve, i.e. love one another.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog