Gospel Shaped Redemptive Conflict

I.     INTRO

A.   We are back to our series: Gospel Chronicles: How God shapes and Builds the Church.  Today I would like us to consider Gospel Shaped Redemptive Conflict.

1.     First of all, what does it mean to be “Gospel Shaped”?

a.     The Gospel – In the simplest of terms the gospel is the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ (Christ Event), which accomplishes redemption and restoration for all who believe and all of creation.  Jesus fulfilled the whole Law and accomplished all righteousness on behalf of sinners who have broken God’s law by nature and choice. In his death Jesus atones[1] for our sins, satisfying God’s wrath (longing too?) and obtaining forgiveness for all who believe.  Jesus’ saving work redeems sinners and unites us to God.  This is the gospel, the “good news,” — God redeems a fallen world by his grace alone.

b.     Gospel Shaped/Centered

  • To be gospel-shaped (or centered) means that that the gospel – Jesus Christ himself – is our greatest hope and boast, our deepest longing and delight, and our most passionate song and message. It means that the gospel defines us as followers of Christ, unites us as brothers and sisters, changes us as sinner/saints, and sends us as God’s people on mission.
  • The gospel-centered life is a life where an active, intentional follower of Christ experiences a growing personal reliance on the gospel that protects him or her from depending on our own religious performance (i.e., moralism[2]) and being seduced and overwhelmed by “functional saviors” (i.e., idols).

2.     With these ideas of what it means to be Gospel-Shaped (or -Centered), I’d like for us to take a look today at gospel Shaped Redemptive Conflict?

a.     Conflict is an instrument God uses to develop qualities in our lives that aren’t developed any other way.

b.  Today we will be looking at various passages in Acts that are related to conflict – both from within the church and without.

c. The notes will be available at: southsideblog.wordpress.com

d.  But first of all, if we’re going to overcome conflict in our lives, it will help us to understand the reason that it’s there.

  • The Bible is very clear about this – in fact it’s almost TOO blunt.
  • James 4:1 (NCV) “Do you know where your fights and arguments come from?  They come from the selfish desires that war within you.”  

e. When faced with ANY conflict it is helpful to ask,

  • “What is God trying to tell me?”
  • “What can I own in this current conflict?”  (That’s where we need to start at SBF.)

f.  It’s quite rare for any of us to encounter a conflict and not bare ANY responsibility whatsoever.

g.     (If that’s the case then conflict falls under the category of persecution.  The Bible is clear – as we follow Christ we will be subject to persecution.  But here’s my experience…persecution almost always comes from religious people.  We see that quite clearly in the Book of Acts…

  • Religious people, initially Jews in Jerusalem, and the Jewish believers who wanted to impose their brand of legalism.
  • The marketplace – or commerce – shopkeepers selling idols in Ephesus (see Acts 19).

II.   BODY

A.   Acts is a book full of conflict.  The early church faced and endured many conflicts from within AND without – and they flourished.

B.    There’s a book titled, Every Congregation Needs a Little Conflict, the author says the following:

“Conflict is necessary. We could not live in a world without it. A church staff member in a congregation in which no conflict exists is probably in a congregation without strong Kingdom commitments. The book of Acts details how conflict was a necessary ingredient in the spread of the gospel.

Conflict is a necessary part of the Christian experience, as the old [depraved] self comes in conflict with the new self. Daily we are in conflict to become more Christlike.

Therefore, we [don’t need to] be afraid of healthy conflict. Rather, we [can] welcome it as an opportunity to bring forth positive spiritual and social change.” (p. 12).

C.    (And I would add emotional change.  Can I give you some vision?  Eph 5:14 identifies the epitome of emotional health:  “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up…”  As a church, let’s read The Emotionally Healthy Church, by Peter Scazzero this summer.)

D.   What I’d like to do today is point out some of the initial conflicts – and then I’d like to close with 7 points regarding Gospel Shaped Conflict Resolution.

1.  The cross [shorthand for Christ Event] of Jesus Christ overcomes the greatest conflict of all time (Mother of all conflicts?)

“…This is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation[3] for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

2.  Acts 4:1-22 — Peter and John arrested, questioned, and threatened by the Council (vs. 1-22).  “But many of those who heard the word believed” (v.4)

3.  Acts 5

a.     5:1-11 — Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit and are struck dead. MOTIVES MATTER!

b.     5:17-40 — Apostles again imprisoned, questioned and beaten. “Must obey God rather than man” (v. 29).

4.  Acts 6

a.     6:1-7: The Hellenist (Greek) widows were being neglected (v. 1).  There was organizational dysfunction and bigotry.

b.     6:8-15: Stephen opposed and arrested – “false witnesses were set-up against him” (v 13).

5.  Acts 7 — Stephen’s defense and stoning.

6.  Acts 8 – Saul, before his conversion, acting as a terrorist –“Saul just went wild, devastating the church…” (v3, MSG).  (He was the Osama bin Lauden of his day.)  The disciples were scattered of the disciples (vv. 1-4) due to great persecution against the church (vs. 1-3), with the result being they went everywhere preaching the word (v. 4).

7.  Acts 9 – Saul’s, or Paul’s, conversion.

8.  Acts 10 — Joining together of Jews and Gentiles into one body after the conversion of Cornelius and his family.  Including the ongoing conflict over whether or not to circumcise gentile converts.

9.  Acts 15 –

a.     The Council at Jerusalem

Vs. 1-2 — “Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according tothe custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them.”

Doctrinal confusion. In consequence to this, the Jerusalem council met and decided, “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved” (15:11).

b.     Second Missionary Journey

Conflict between Paul and Barnabas… Vs 39-41 – 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.”

E.    In the midst of all the conflict – within and without: Acts 13:52 – “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”  Our joy is not to be dependent on our circumstance.

III.  CONCLUSION

A.   There are practical steps that the Bible speaks about that will help us to resolve the conflicts in our lives…

1.  Become a sincere follower of Jesus Christ.

a.     Begin by resolving your conflict with God.  Before we come to Jesus Christ we’re in conflict with God.  You may feel it or not feel it but we’re all in conflict with God.

b.     If you want to resolve conflict in your relationships, if you want to know true peace – begin your relationship with Jesus Christ.

c.     You are more depraved than you ever realized and simultaneously more loved than you ever imagined.

2.  Own your own issues first.  (Read The Emotionally Healthy Church this summer).

a.     Mat 7:3, 5: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? …You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

3.  Talk to God about the conflict.

a.     Pray.  Before you react to the other person, talk to God about it.

b.     In fact, that may resolve it right there!  You may find it’s mostly your problem anyway.

c.     James 1:5 “If you want to know what God wants you to do ask Him and He will gladly tell you.”

d.     There’s a warning light that alerts us to those times in our lives when we’re asking others to meet needs that only God can meet.  The warning light is anger.  When you find yourself constantly angry with another person, ask yourself, “Am I asking them to do things that only God can do?  Am I asking a human being to be like God to me?”  (Expectation is the root of ALL hurt.)

4.  Change your focus from your own needs to the other persons needs.

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

b.     The Greek word for the phrase “look out” is “scopos.”  It’s the same word we get the words microscope or telescope from — focus in on the needs that they have in their lives.

c.     We are invited to seek first to understand – and then to be understood (St. Francis).

5.  Establish Rules of Engagement – bulletin insert.

6.  Go and make peace – reconcile.

a.     Matthew 5,  “So when you offer your gift to God at the altar and you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go and make peace with that person and then come and offer your gift.”

b.     Not go and make excuses or go and make your point.  Go and make peace.  Jesus shows us that the only way to resolve a conflict is to face a conflict.  That’s tough but that’s the way to get it resolved.

c.     The point is — Jesus said you can’t worship in a God pleasing way when you have a conflict with others.   It’s vital to solve that.

d.     Have any of you ever had a fight in the car on the way to church? Linda and I, some of our worst conflicts have been on the way to church in the car.  We have found a way finally to resolve that conflict.  We take separate cars to church.

7.  Ask for help if necessary.

a.     Some of you may feel stuck and you might be thinking, “I don’t know how to get through this wall.”  If that’s true, it’s OK to bring in a third person.  It’s more than OK to ask for advice – sometimes it’s essential.  Talk to God about it, then find someone, a “wise counselor” who can help you.

b.     Proverbs 13:10, “Pride leads to arguments.  Be humble take advice and become wise.”  Advice is the path to wisdom.

B.    “Your sins may be as mountains before you; but if you humble your heart and confess your sins, trusting in the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour, He will forgive and will cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”[4]


[1] The word atonement is constructed from at and one, means “to set at one” or “to reconcile.” Atonement is the doctrine of the reconciliation of God and man accomplished by the Christ Event.

[2] Moralism is a false gospel that seeks to achieve growth or “Christian maturity” through behavior modification.

[3] “Propitiation” appears four times in the NT (Rom 3:23-25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10) and means “the turning away” or “appeasement” of wrath; therefore, by definition, the Father has no more wrath against those whose sins have been propitiated.  Consider also, imputation, which refers to the righteousness of Christ being transferred to those who believe on him for salvation.” Rom 4:11 – “righteousness (or right standing with God) was imputed to them (or credited to their account.”

[4] Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 566.

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