Loving Enough to Solve Conflicts

Steve Viars June 5, 2016 Acts 14:26-15:35

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1 Peter 3:15 - …but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…

2 Timothy 2:15 - Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

10 principles to solving conflicts God’s way

I. Be Thankful for Them

1 Thessalonians 5:18 - …in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:14-17 - Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

II. Believe that God is Up to Something

Philippians 1:6 - For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:28-29 - And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren…

III. Expect Conflicts to Come

John 16:33 - These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

John 17:14-17 - I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

IV. Plan Ahead for How to Handle Conflicts Well

Romans 12:17 - Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

V. Make a Distinction Between Conflicts Involving Doctrine and those Involving Preference

Acts 15:1 - Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Philippians 2:3-4 - Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:5 - Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…

VI. Know When You Should be Talking and When You Should be Listening

Acts 15:2 - And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them…

Acts 15:4 - When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.

Acts 15:5 - But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”

Acts 15:7a - After there had been much debate…

Acts 15:7b - After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them…

Acts 15:12 - All the people kept silent, and they were listening…

Acts 15:13 - After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me.”

James 1:19-20 - This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

Proverbs 18:13 - He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.

VII. Seek to Identify the Exact Nature of the Problem Together

Acts 15:7-10 - After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”

VIII. Focus on Finding Solutions that Honor the Lord

Acts 15:19-20 - Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.

IX. Get Help When Necessary

Acts 15:2 - And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.

Acts 15:12 - All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul…

Acts 15:13 - After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me.”

X. Prayerfully Work Toward Maturing Unity and the Joyful Day When the Conflict is Solved

Acts 15:22 - Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas—Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren…

Acts 15:31 - When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.

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This morning, we're beginning a brand-new series, entitled Loving the World Under Your Roof. Loving the World Under Your Roof is part of our overall theme this year of loving our world; so we've been talking a lot about outreach, been talking a lot about missions from many different perspectives so far this year, but as we were planning the preaching schedule back in December we definitely wanted to have an emphasis at some point this year on the family, on Christian friendships, because we understand that one of the most powerful apologetics to the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a changed and changing life. That begins under our own roofs.

Many years ago, some of you may remember this, that Baptist Missions had put together a little sign that you were to place on your door, leading out, that said You're Now Entering the Mission Field, and that point of that sign was just to remind all of us that missions isn't just what's happening in Africa, or Asia, or wherever; it's your neighborhood, it's your workplace, your interactions with the clerk at the store, so remind yourself as you're walking out of your door, you're now entering the mission field; but many eventually commented that that was an important emphasis. Perhaps they should have issued every one of us two of those signs, one for the doorway leading outside of your house, and the other for the doorway leading inside your house, because our first mission field is our family, our friends.

When the Gospel is making a powerful impact there, then we're well-established, well-positioned to share it with others around the office, and around the world. One place we see that in the Scriptures is First Peter, 3:15; But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. You might say why in the world would anyone ever ask? If you look at that verse in its context, it's all about marriage, it's all about the family, and other aspects of practical Christian living. One of the ways that we love our world, if we're going to talk about that all year, one of the ways that we love our world, and position ourselves for effective ministry, is by learning to love those who live under our roofs, so Loving the World Under Your Roof.

Our goal is to be very creative in this particular series, so we're going to be using a lot of different speakers, a lot of different presentation styles, to try to make this as helpful, and practical, and challenging as possible. For example, this morning we're going to talk about being loving enough to solve conflicts. I'll say more about that in just a few minutes. Then, next Sunday, Lord willing, Brett and Janet Oakman are going to be leading us in a discussion about loving your spouse. At some point, Pastor Green is going to be interviewing several couples about loving your children. We're looking for ways for us as a church family to benefit from what God has been teaching, and continues to teach, other men and women in this church.

For example, on that topic, we have some moms and dads who, by God's grace, have done a great job with their kids. We want to learn everything we possibly can from them during this series, and so a lot of creativity. One Sunday, we're going to focus on loving by avoiding bitterness. It's interesting where that topic actually comes up in some seminal texts on the family; another on loving by practicing forgiveness. Pastor Garner is going to be interviewing Dot Smith on the subject of loving when one is in failing health. There's an issue in the home. Our service pastors are going to be making a presentation on loving when you're by yourself. That's for the marvelous folks in our church who are single. One of our attorneys and deacons, Paul Rapier, is going to teach us about being loving enough to prepare for the future, to help all of us in that particular area. Then, just prior to leaving for the Olympics, faith member and gold medalist, David Boudia, is going to be speaking on loving with your testimony, loving with your testimony.

I want to encourage you to keep your eyes and your ears open regarding the schedule because some of these topics will be taught on one campus, one Sunday, and then repeated live at our other campus the following Sunday. You say that sounds complicated. Wait until we launch our third campus downtown, it's going to be a hot scheduling mess for sure. If you're in the habit of being at one campus one Sunday, then going over to the other one for another reason, you might hear the same message, and so you might want to just pay attention to the website for what's going to be scheduled, and all of that.

I hope, also, you're already, even with me thinking about that, I hope there's two thoughts running through your minds. One, I need this, and I'm ready to hear what the Word of God has to say about this aspect of the way I live under my roof, and I am ready to let the Word of God help me get to a better place. Is that what you're already thinking, I need that? I need that, and I am loving my pastor so much for planning this. Is that what you're thinking? I appreciate that. Why do I have to give you your lines? I hope you're thinking that.

I also hope you're thinking ... what? What do you think I'm about at say? I hope you're thinking about somebody in your life, a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, whatever, somebody they'd come to church with you, if you'd ask, especially on some of these sort of topics; so I want to encourage you to be prayerfully considering that, as well.

A couple of other introductory matters. This is going to be obviously a topical series. Many times, we select a book of the Bible, and we study it verse by verse, and we let whatever particular passage we're dealing with that Sunday drive what the topic is going to be. We just did that, verse by verse, through the book of Jonah, and so the topic was whatever came up next in the passage. Lord willing, this fall we're going to do a verse-by-verse study of the book of Daniel, so we often do that, and that approach has a lot of strengths, but the challenge, if you want to use the word 'challenge', is this, that's the opposite of the way life tends to work. Think about that. Usually we start with some sort of a challenge, or some sort of a difficulty, or some sort of a question first, and then we have to think our way from that back to the scripture. It's really the opposite of what we tend to do on a Sunday morning.

While topical messages, like the ones we're about to present, they can help us see that methodology in action. Here's how you go from a challenge to a problem, to the word of God, and that's very, very important. In case you pay attention to these matters, and I realize that a number of you probably don't, but let me just be sure I say this, both verse-by-verse book studies and topical studies can be done expositionally, they can be done exegetically; in other words, either way we're leading out the meaning of whatever passage of scripture we have before us, whether it's one central text or a whole collection of text; so if you're following any of that, what I just said was a topical message can be given expositionally. It can be given exegetically. You say, "Ethel, what's he talking about?" If you don't know, don't worry about it. Some folks might be a bit wound up about it, so I just wanted to put that to bed right now.

Here's what we don't believe whenever we open the Bible. We don't believe in eisegesis. Say what's that? That's starting with an idea you believe, and then going to the Bible to find a verse that sort of supports it. We don't believe in that. We also call that 'rabbit in the hat' exegesis. You start with an idea, you cram it in the Bible, so then you can go find it whether it fits or not. We don't believe that. Closely associated with that, we don't believe in taking Scripture out of context. We don't believe in that, do we? Like this poor fellow right here, who is twisting the lid off the jar, and saying I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me; Philippians 4:13 is going to help me get this lid off the jar, and his dear, sweet, sweet honey says it's a pickle jar, Tom, twist the lid, and not the scripture. Am I the only one, by the way, who finds that task harder and harder every year? Anyway, let's not get into that.

What I'm saying is something that we take very seriously around here is the pastor's responsibility, again, topically or textually, to be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed; why? Accurately handling the word of truth.

For our subject this morning, I guess you could say we're coming out swinging, here, because we want to start this series by proposing that we should be loving enough to solve conflicts, loving enough to solve conflicts, and with that in mind I want to invite you to open your Bible to Acts, chapter 15. That's going to be our central text this morning. Acts, chapter 15; that's on page 105 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. Acts chapter 15, or page 105 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. If we are serious about our annual theme of loving our world, I really think the book of Acts will become a close friend. Why would you say that? Because it explains the way our resurrected Savior worked through his disciples to impact the known world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

You may know that the book of Acts ends at chapter 28, rather abruptly. It does, and that's motivated a lot of groups, and we would put ourselves in this, but groups like the Acts 29 Network, for an example, to, even with that name, make the emphasis that this is the joyful position that the church of Jesus Christ finds ourselves in today, where we're just continuing to walk out the worldwide redemptive strategy of our loving, powerful savior. We're still walking out what we read in the book of Acts.

Now, Acts 15. If you know your Bible, you know this is a very pivotal chapter. Thread your way, logically, up to Acts chapter 15. The resurrected Christ told his disciples in chapter 1 that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit had come upon them, and that they would be witnesses in where? Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the outermost part of the Earth. Acts 1:8, crucial verse in this text, for sure; that promise was fulfilled how many days later? Ten days later, in chapter 2, with the birth of the Church, on the day of Pentecost, where 3000 people ... think about that day, it's a good day, 3000 people became baptized members of the church on its very first day, but the book of Acts is really clear about this, too, the church had a lot of conflict, a lot of conflict. Peter and John are arrested for preaching the Gospel, in chapter 4. They didn't even get 2 chapters a piece. By the time you get to chapter 4, they're being arrested and threatened by the religious leaders to stop.

Then you go to the next chapter. Ananias, Sapphira, the lying about their financial giving, and their attempted deception resulted in their lives being taken on the spot. I suppose that would qualify as a conflict. Then in chapter 6, the Hellenistic Jews were grumping against the native Hebrews in the church because their widows were being neglected in the serving of food. Can you imagine that? We've got ethnic problems in the church, people grumping at the church potluck, for crying out loud. More conflict. By the way, that chapter, I could have as easily used that chapter as a model for what we're going to talk about this morning because a great example of the church solving conflicts, even though they came up. Then chapter 7, there's the murder of one of the church's first deacons; then the story of the madman named Saul of Tarsus, who's hunting down followers of Christ, and persecuting him, and his subsequent conversion. I'm saying conflict after conflict, after conflict.

Then the story that Captain Mark Morel taught about last Sunday. Didn't you appreciate having Chaplain Morel here? Wow, that was so marvelous. Regarding the conversion of the centurion named Cornelius, and how that illustrated the Gospel was also going to be proclaimed to the Gentiles. What I'm asking, on the one hand, chapter after chapter after chapter in the book of Acts, do we see God at work? Absolutely. Absolutely. Apart from conflict? No. No. The polar opposite. Now let's pick up the story in Acts chapter 14, verse 26. What's happened now? We're now at the end of the first missionary journey, and Paul and Barnabas are in the city of Antioch. Verse 26 of chapter 14, From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that had been accomplished. When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. That's going to be the conflict, and they spent a long time with the disciples.

Some men came down from Judea, and began teaching the brethren. Unless you're circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. In other words, we're not bringing those Gentiles into the church unless they follow the Old Testament law. That was the issue, verse 2. When Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas, and some others of them, should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and the elders, concerning this issue. Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, and describing in detail the conversion of the gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren.

When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church. Now, just watch how conflict is going to be addressed. That's the point. They were received by the church, and the apostles, and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them, but some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying it's necessary to circumcise them, and direct them to observe the law of Moses. The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said, Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel, and believe, and God who knows the heart testified to them, giving them he Holy Spirit, just as he also did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith, by faith. Therefore, why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? We believe that we are saved through the Grace of the Lord, Jesus Christ, in the same way that they also are.

All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas. There's a real important lesson, right there. They kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what science and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they had stopped speaking, James, who was the pastor of the church, James answered, saying, "Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for his name. With this, the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, after these things, I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen. I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it so that the wrath of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles, who are called by my name, says the lord, who make these things known from long ago. Therefore," this is the pastor speaking, "it's my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols, and from fornication, and from that which is strangled, and from blood."

"For Moses, from ancient generations, says in every city, for those who preach him, since he's read in the synagogues every Sabbath, that it seem good to the apostles, and the elders, with the whole church to choose men from among them to send to Antioch, with Paul and Barnabas, Judas called Barabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren," and they sent this letter to them. "The apostles and the brethren who are elders to the brethren in Antioch, and Syria and Cilicia, who are from the Gentiles, greetings. Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, seem good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ; therefore we've sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth, but seem good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials, that you abstain from these things, sacrifice to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication."

"If you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell." They sent away, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together they delivered the letter. When they read it they rejoiced because of its encouragement. Judas and Silas also being prophets themselves encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. That's the way it ought to be. After they had spent time there, they were sent away from the brethren, and placed those who they had sent them out, but it seemed good to Silas to remain there, that Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch, teaching and preaching with others also the word of the Lord.

I want to ask you to think about that story, and also think about some of the conflicts that you might be facing right now, along with some other passages of the scripture we're going to bring to the table, and look for ten principles to solving conflicts God's way. Did you see that? Ten. Oh, Ethel, our pot roast is in serious jeopardy. I'm on a very tight travel schedule today, friends, so I promise we're going to get them all done on time, relatively speaking. How's that? The ten principles to solving conflicts God's way.

I. Be Thankful for Them

First of all, be thankful for them. I'm not saying that's emphasized in this particular passage, but it's certainly a theme in the word of God. I mean how hard would that be to prove?

For example, First Thessalonians 5:18, in what? In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ, Jesus. Anything unclear about that? I would encourage you to consider your response to the average conflict that arises in your home, and simply ask is thanksgiving, in everything give thanks, is thanksgiving part of what you give to the table?

Here's another great, practical Christian-love-in-the-family text, to pick out how often thanksgiving is mentioned in this passage. It's Colossians 3, Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which, indeed, you were called in one body, and be what? Be thankful, even when a conflict arises. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with Psalms, and Hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord, Jesus, giving ... three times, giving thanks through him and to God, the father. You might want to start keeping a list of areas you need to work on during a time of conflict. Are you doing that? You could make a conflict checklist, this morning, or a list of items you need to ask forgiveness for regarding times of conflict in the past, but that's the first one. Do you bring a heart of thanksgiving to the table? Thank you, Lord, for this conflict.

Thank you, Lord, for this wife, who is doing what she's doing right now; thank you, Lord, for these children; thank you, Lord, for this boss; thank you, Lord, for bringing this conflict into my life.

II. Believe that God is Up to Something

Then, secondly, believe that God is up to something. Do you believe that God was up to something in Acts 15? That would have been a good time for a yes. Do you? It was this conflict, along with all the other ones I already enumerated in this book, was that sovereignly ordained by the Lord of the church. Do you believe that? You may say wait a minute. Some of these events, some of these discussions included clear sin on the part of one or more of the participants, or even wrong theology. You're right about that. Now, here's my question. Can God use sinful choices on the part of other people for your good, and his glory? Yes. You meant it for evil, and Joseph said to his brothers ... what are the next two words? Yes, but God meant it for good.

Paul said to the Philippians, "I'm confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ." Is that true? Did it happen in your life last week? Will it happen in your life next week? Yes, yes, yes, including a time of conflict, is God at work? Yes. We know that God causes ... how many things? All things to work together for good, if you love him, if you're called according to His purpose, for those who he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, and God can use conflicts, even the failures of other people in your life, as a sovereign opportunity to help you become more like Christ. Not that what that person did is good, but God can turn it into good in your life, and I would just ask you are you in the habit during a time of conflict of looking for what God may be up to? In fact, let me ask you this. Do you really believe that God even cares about just the seemingly small details, just the little conflicts? Do you think God even cares a lick about the seemingly small details in your life? Do you?

Our dear son, Andrew, 23-years-old, if you know Andrew you know he loves to be called "the bear." That young man loves bears. He loves talking about bears, he loves receiving bears; he just loves bears. Bears, bears, bears. There is never a day that goes by in that young man's life that we're not talking about bears. Well, that's fine. God created bears, right? We have a bear-themed house, in a whole lot of ways. I mentioned a week or so ago that I was going to be at Word of Life Bible Institute in Schroon Lake. I had the opportunity of going up. I have been going up there for over 20 years, teaching there, love it. Right down the road from Schroon Lake, there's a guy who carves bears out of trees with a chainsaw. Seriously, you've got to love a guy like that. Everything a man needs, trees, chainsaws, bears, what else do you need. Those are the three food groups. I've driven by that place a lot of times, I'd love to bring one of these back for the bear, but how in the world am I going to get that thing in my suitcase, but always thought about that, and even thought, talked about maybe driving out to Word of Life on one of those trips just for the purpose of bringing a bear back for the bear.

I was out with some students on Tuesday night, and they wanted to go to a particular restaurant that actually took me by this place, again, and I dropped the students off, and I went back to just kind of look at those bears. They're outside, I just love it. How in the world can I get one of these things home? How in the world can I get one of these things home? Then, I came back to the cabin where I was staying, and, lo and behold, you know who are there? Kenny and Shirley Rowe. Kenny and Shirley Rowe, members of this church, are at my cabin at Word of Life in Schroon Lake, and I say what in the world are you two people doing here? They said, "Well, we come out from time to time, and volunteer at Word of Life, and some of their maintenance projects, and they had a building where they needed some replacement windows, so we got 22 replacement windows in Lafayette, hauled those things all the way out to Schroon Lake, and just installed those things, and we're getting ready to go back home." I said are you serious?

Are you telling me you're about to go back to Lafayette, Indiana, with an empty pickup truck? I said, hey, how would you like to take a bear home? How would you like to take a bear home? So there is the bear with his new wooden bear. Don't you love that? Don't you love the sweet sovereignty of God? Then I was telling that story to the students at Word of Life, just to encourage them. God cares about the little details in your life. I was telling them about the bear, and I had two young ladies, after class, show up with their big, old bears. They said, "You know, we came to school with these bears. We were in high school. We don't really need these bears anymore. We're all grown up now after a year of college, but would you take these bears to the bear?" Normally, obviously, I'd have to say no because how am I going to stuff those big old bears in my suitcase, but now I've got a pickup truck; so Kenny will tell you I called him up, again, said hey, Kenny, you got any more room for some more bears? And he said absolutely, load them up.

Now the bear ... I mean it was a bear jamboree around the Viars' house. I should have thought to take a picture of poor Kenny because what they did, they strapped them in the passenger's seats, in the back seat of the truck, driving down the road with three bears strapped in their seat belts. Now, I'm just asking you does God care? Do you think God knew that? Do you think God orchestrated that detail for my dear son? Do you believe that? If he would do that for us, would he do that for you? I would just ask all of us do we really believe that God is sovereignly working out even the seemingly small details in our lives, including the conflicts that he would allow to come? Thoroughly expect them. Expect them.

We saw that throughout the book of Acts, a moment ago, sinning and suffering and their resulting conflicts are part of what it means to live in sin-cursed bodies, with sin-cursed hearts, in a sin-cursed world. Jesus said as much, in John 16. He said these things I've spoken to you so that in me you'll have peace. In the world, you're going to have what? You're going to have tribulation. You might say well, why doesn't Jesus then just automatically take us out of the world? What's the answer to that? Because he don't want to. That's the theological answer to that, and he prayed as much in the very next chapter, in the high-priestly prayer. He said I've given them, and my disciples, I've given them your word, father, and the world has hated them because they're not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I don't ask you to take them out of the world, but keep them from the evil one.

III. Expect Conflicts to Come

They're not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth. I'm saying do you expect conflicts to come, and the reason I bring that up some people seem to live as though their hope is to achieve the point in life when they no longer have any conflicts. I have to manipulate and manipulate, and I have to figure out a way that I'm going to live without any. Listen, here's today's newsflash, and take it from an old guy, that day is never coming. It's never going to come, and if you're living for that day you're going to be one frustrated puppy, for sure. Just think about it. You can live your life that way. I'll be happy when I'm out of Pampers, and so you start with that whole thing. Then I'll be happy when I get my first tooth so I don't have to eat this mush and gruel anymore. Then I'll be happy when I can get out of this stroller, and do you realize I could walk through your entire life until you're back in the stroller. That's just the bottom [inaudible 00:30:04].

I'm just simply saying, with some other things I could say, but I'm just not going to, but I'm just simply saying that if you're living your life, I have to have a conflict-free marriage, good luck with that; have to have conflict-free kids, good luck with that; I have to have a conflict-free job, conflict-free neighborhood, church, it's just not going to happen. Expect them to come; also plan ahead for how to handle those conflicts well.

IV. Plan Ahead for How to Handle Conflicts Well

That's essentially what we're doing in this message. We're attempting to make a plan ahead of time. By the way, a great passage on that particular point is Romans, chapter 12. Do you know that chapter, where we're taught not to return good for evil? Well, dozens of principles in that text, but one that might help us in this point of the discussion is Romans 12:17, Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Focus on this, respect what is right in the sight of all men. Focus just for a minute on 'respect what is right.' It's a Greek word, [Pranaletto 00:31:12]. It's from a word group that means have in mind to do, or practice foresight. Think this through ahead of time, and I'm saying that one of the reasons we may not handle conflict well is because they catch us off guard.

We had not planned ahead of time to handle conflicts well. It's like a pop quiz. Those are only a problem for students who have been sleeping in class, or haven't been going over their notes ahead of time. Plan. When is the last ... you plan for all sorts of stuff, right? I got to plan to see the ball game; I got to plan to get those dandelions out of my yard; you plan all kinds of stuff. Do you plan ahead of time for how you’re going to handle conflict? Let's focus more specifically on Acts 15.

V. Make a Distinction Between Conflicts Involving Doctrine and those Involving Preference

Make a distinction between conflicts involving doctrine, and those involving preference. By the way, which one is this? In Acts 15, which one is this? It's clearly a doctrinal issue. Some men came down from Judea, began teaching the brethren unless you're circumcised according to the custom ... that is a doctrinal issue, the purity of the Gospel is at stake, whether or not a person is saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. If that's the case then the solution cannot be to find some sort of compromise.

I want to be sure I said that. Not if Biblical truth has to be sacrificed, that's why to some degree the Church of Christ is always going to be in conflict with the unbelieving culture in which we've been placed, not because we're trying to impose our beliefs on anybody else, but because we have to have the freedom to live in a way that we consider consistent with our own beliefs, so there's always going to be some nature of conflict with our unbelieving world over doctrine. Now, however, however, however, however, are most conflicts in the family doctrinal? Are even most conflicts in a church doctrinal? No. They almost always involve what? Your preferences. Just preferences.

I realize some people inscripturate their preferences, but when you peel it away it's just a preference. Well, when there's some sort of a conflict over preference, I want to go eat here, no, I want to go eat there; I want to do this, I want to do that, when it comes to preference, what do we do? We do something like this, do nothing from selfishness or empty deceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others, and I'm simply saying a lot of conflict under your roof could be alleviated if you would simply be willing to sacrifice, and give for the other person's preference. It doesn't really matter where we eat, baby, wherever you want to eat. Let's talk about how you would like this day to go, and I'm more than happy to serve you today. If it's not a doctrinal issue, why argue about it?

In fact, you might want to think about the last 5 conflicts in your home. Did they really involve doctrine? Seriously, a blue wall or a green wall; who cares? Did it involve doctrine, and could that have been a God-ordained opportunity for you just to give in to the other person's preference? By the way, we're coming up on vacation season, which can be a time of great conflict for some families. Imagine packing along with the sunscreen, and along with the flip flops, a healthy dose of Philippians 2:3-4, and I'm especially talking to you kids right now. Listen, when you go on vacation you decide right now that you're going to have a positive impact on your family during the vacation. You got that? That means getting along with your kid brother. Say I don't like him. You don't have to like him, you have to love him, and during vacation you have to work hard to get along together as an opportunity to grow in your relationship with Christ, and don't make the vacation all about you. You got to spend a whole lot of time being thankful for your mom and dad working so hard in order for you to have a vacation.

By the way, they don't need to be packing your suitcase. They don't need to be pacing your suitcase. Here's the way it ought to work. You ought to have mom and dad on their two thrones, in the living room. One of the kids ought to be pointing mama's toenails, and rubbing her feet, and the other one ought to be getting a pillow for dad so he can take a nap. Mom ought to say to Joey time to get the laundry done, and Joey ought to go down and get the laundry done. Johnny, it's time to mow the grass for daddy, and he ought to be out there. Go clean up the bathrooms. Why do we have to clean up the bathrooms before vacation? Because that's what grandma always said. The kids ought to be serving the family, and then taking that same kind of servant heart right into vacation time, and a vacation is filled with silly conflicts. Where is the love and joy of Christ in all of that? Make a distinction between conflicts involving doctrine, and those involving preference.

VI. Know When You Should be Talking and When You Should be Listening

Also, this, know when you should be talking, and when you should be listening.

Did you see that played out in this text? It went Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, so a lot of people were talking. Nothing wrong with that. When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church, the apostles and the elders, and they reported; so now Paul and Barnabas were talking, and everybody else was listening. Verse 5, when the sect of the Pharisees that believe stood up, they said it's necessary to circumcise them. What's interesting about that, it appears that even though there was a conflict, people were speaking respectfully to one another. They added their view. It was a heretical view, but it appears they put their ideas on the table appropriately, after there had been much debate. Again, nothing necessarily wrong with having a vigorous, Christ-centered conversation about the issue, but after there had been much debate, Peter stood up, and what verse 12 reveals about that is fascinating. All the people did what? Now it's time to be quiet. It was time for me to talk, now it's time for me to be quiet, and after they had stopped speaking, James answered, and said, "Brethren, lesson to me."

James, as I said, was the pastor of the church. He had listened to the conversation, and now he asked them to listen to him, and they did. Here's the point, here's the point, some people can never arrive at a solution because they won't be quiet, and they won't listen. It's a sin of over talk. It's pride. It is a relational killer. This ought to be the life verse for some people who will hear this message. This you know my beloved brethren, but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Proverbs says he who gives an answer before he hears it is foully, and shame to him; and I would ask every one of us to give very careful attention to this point. You also might want to do some special study on this subject, this summer. Here's a couple great books that I would recommend. One of them is Strengthening Your Marriage, by Wayne Mac. It has an extended Biblical study on the topic of communication.

If you're struggling there, there's some great information for you. War of Words, by Paul Trip, two great, great books. You might even want to get in the habit of reviewing the four rules of communications from Ephesians chapter 4, holding hands with your spouse, and saying, honey, let's pray, and ask God to give us strength so that we can communicate about this conflict at a Biblical fashion, and know when you ought to be talking, and when you ought to be listening.

VII. Seek to Identify the Exact Nature of the Problem Together

Seven, seek to identify the exact nature of the problem together. I cannot overemphasize the importance of that principle, and Paul does a fabulous job here of staying on message. He's not attacking the Judiaizers, he's not making this personal, he focuses on the core issue of whether a Gentile can be saved apart from the Old Testament law. That's what you read. He's on the problem. After there had been much debate, he stood up and said, Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel, and believe God who knows the heart testifies to them, giving them the holy spirit, just as he also did to us. He made no distinction between us and them.

He's finding out the problem. He is identifying the exact nature of that problem, and I really believe that's where many of us falter. Attacking the other person, and ignoring the problem; being defensive, and ignoring the problem; all of that drives us apart. Listen, this is true. It's possible to join arms, and try to define exactly what the problem is anyway, and that, too, may be another opportunity to join hands and ask for God's help. There also may be some wisdom in getting out a legal pad and saying here's what we're going to do right now; we're not going to fight each other. Let's join arms, and let's write out what we believe the problem is, together. Let's make it as specific as we can, just like Peter did. Let's make it precise, and let's identify that together; and then, this, focus on finding solutions that honor the Lord.

VIII. Focus on Finding Solutions that Honor the Lord

I think what we see happening next on this text may be one of the most important emphasis that we make this morning because it demonstrates a skill that is just so elusive. What did James do? He immediately connected the properly defined problem with what? With the sufficient word of God. Did you see that in verse 14, and following? Then he presents a very straightforward, simple, practical application of the Word. Here is a solution. It's my judgement we don't trouble those who are returning to God from among the Gentiles. We write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols, from fornication, and from what is strangled, and from blood. Bam, that was easy. Hit the easy button, right there. We identified the problem together, and then we came up with a precise solution. By the way, that's what happened back in Acts, chapter 6. People were fussing over their widows being neglected. Bam, let's find a solution. Let's institute the office of deacon.

I would just ask you how skilled are you at solution-oriented communication in your family? By the way, if I could extrapolate that out to our church for a moment, I really would appreciate your prayers. I'm leaving today for a world summit at Harvest Bible, in Chicago. If you would like to see those presentations for the next couple of days, they're available online. I'm really thankful for what the Biblical Counseling Coalition is doing, but it was the same problem. We had as a result of 40-plus years of the Biblical Counseling Movement a number of institutions that God had blessed in some rather significant ways, but there wasn't a whole lot of proactive friendship building, just because we were all so busy, and it got to the place because of that that some of the minor differences were being exaggerated; there was a little bit of tension. People who were receiving training then didn't know am I of Paul, am I of Paulus, am I of Cephas; am I of this group, am I of this group, or that group; so there was a problem that was beginning to erupt in our movement. We decided, in part, because of faithful giving of this church, to start a Biblical Counseling Coalition.

We've been working very, very hard, and I would encourage you if you want to learn more about that go to that website, and learn about that organization, and you can read our confessional statement. It's actually available on our website today, as well, the confessional statement and the doctrinal statement, but the bottom line is we've been working very, very hard over the last 6 years to build friendships. That's why I go to that leadership retreat along with several others from our staff every December. We've been writing books together, and now I'm happy to tell you that after 6 years the relationships in that movement are stronger than they have ever been, and now what we're seeing is people in other countries are saying I want to start a coalition, too, and so we're bringing people from around the world to Chicago, the next several days, just to talk about that to other principles, and we'll be done. One is get help when necessary.

IX. Get Help When Necessary

You noticed that when the problem arose, they got help, and so they went to the apostles, and the elders; they listened to Barnabas, and Paul, they were willing to listen to pastor James, and I would just say to anyone here this morning if you are struggling with some conflict in your family, why not get help? Don't just assume we're going to have to have unsolved conflicts the rest of our days, or I'm just going to bolt from this situation. God may be sovereignly using these conflicts as a means of drawing you closer to Christ this summer, and I want to urge you, I want to challenge you to do what we see in this text of getting the help that God wants you to have, and then work toward maturing unity, and the joyful day when that conflict is solved.

X. Prayerfully Work Toward Maturing Unity and the Joyful Day When the Conflict is Solved

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders with the whole church to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and the brethren, and when you get to verse 31, when they ratted, they rejoiced. See, they didn't split up the church, and they didn't just ignore the doctrinal problem.

They identified it together. They solved it together. They grew closer to Christ together, and the result was maturity, and the result was joy. Hey, how did God want what we've been talking about this morning to impact you? Was there anything in that list of 10 that you need to work on? Yes, I imagine so. Aren't you glad for a savior who makes that possible. Friend, let's stand together for prayer. Father, father, thank you that even under our roofs there will be conflict, but it's possible for those conflicts to be identified, and it's possible for those conflicts to be solved. Lord, I pray that we would allow them to draw us closer to Christ. Lord, may we not squander them, may we not ignore them, may we not run from them, may we handle them Biblically, in your power. Father, I pray that because of the way that we solve conflicts in our homes, I pray that that would be a powerful apologetic to the power of Christ to those in our world who are watching. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video