double double, toil & trouble: part 4 - chapter 16 - how not to handle conflict

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    Part 6Staying out of a Mess:

    Practicalities and Conclusions

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    Chapter SeventeenHow Notto Handle Theological Conflict

    There were two events in my life during this trial that God used ina strange way. He used these events to shine His glorious light through

    the darkened glass of my mind and heart so that I could see just howmuch dirt was really on it. Id like to share these events in this finalsection for two reasons.

    First, sharing them will illustrate how much theological anddoctrinal controversies reveal more about our heart than our theology.Second, these events clearly teach you how not to handle theologicalconflict in your own heart and mind. In other words, do as I say, not as Idid!

    It continues to astound me that Ive put so much energy in the

    past on being right theologically, yet so little energy in being holy andChrist-like. By Gods grace Ive identified that more clearly than everthroughout the course of this trial, and Im making big changes andtaking great strides to be theologically correct and more than anythingelse, like my Savior.

    1. Dont Let Anger Control Your Response to Your TheologicalFoes

    Its been so long ago now that I dont even recall when this firstevent happened. But Im almost positive it happened before the lawsuit

    was initiated. I had gone to the school that morning to talk with Buddy,our school administrator, as I did every morning. Unfortunately, for bothof us, there were still traces of self-pity that would evidence itself insitting around and talking about the whole situation, analyzing it,criticizing others, etc. You know what Im talking about; youve beenthere before. We were basically wasting our time, beating a dead horse.

    I dont know what happened but something got under my skin thatmorning as I drove home. As I recall it had something to do with the factthat because of Alexs shenanigans I was quite possibly going to lose myjob at the church, and so would Buddy at the school. Further, his

    activity had caused such a major problem at the school that it seemedas if we were unable to move forward in terms of planning for the nextschool year, just a couple of months around the corner!

    I may not remember why I got so ticked off, but I definitelyremember getting ticked off as I drove the two miles home from theschool. Something happened to me inside. It was as if I was turning

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    into the Incredible Hulk, or something. I came inside, snapped at one ofthe kids, told them to go to their room, and then the Hulk came out.

    I entered my bedroom and sat down in the corner on plasticstorage container. We had still not finished unpacking and dared not do

    so. That triggered more anger. My wife was in the bedroom sitting onthe bed, folding laundry. I yelled at the kids for them to go to theirrooms. I closed my bedroom door, and the tirade began.

    My first words were something like this. Sherri, I want you to tellme what you are going to do to stop me from going over to Alexs houseand I cant repeat the rest. This is a Christian book. I rolled out thered carpet for my flesh. I used a few swear words. I yelled, grew red-faced, veins popping out of my neck. I sinned greatly before the Lordand my wife. Secretly, as I was flailing about like a lost man I waspraying that my kids werent hearing any of this.

    What made matters worse was my wife! She allowed a slightsmile to form on her face, and snickered at me. And it was as if she wastelepathically sending me the message, Youre such a big baby! Thatgot me more angry. So I yelled at her, This isnt a laughing matter!She evidently thought it was, and she was probably right! But instead ofagreeing with her I slammed my fist against the bedroom door and wentanother round in my tirade.

    As is often the case with those who express their anger byblowing up or clamming up, an immense amount of energy is

    expended in a such a short period of time so that the body becomesquickly depressed. Add to that the fact that I had sinned greatly, and theguilt of it all immediately began to weigh heavily on me so as to bringabout more depression. Thats how sin works, so beware of it and getcontrol of your anger before it gets control of you. Long story short, Iwas physically, spiritually and severely depressed for the rest of the day.I pretty much stayed in my room, like a baby, away from the rest ofcivilization, moping, pouting and feeling sorry for myself all day long.

    As I look back on it, if this fight was about the doctrines of grace, Isure wasnt showing any grace toward Alex in my heart! In fact, as

    Jesus taught in Matthew 5:21-23, I had in all actuality just murdered himright there in my bedroom. I made threats that I wanted to carry out,even though I didnt have the guts to. I said evil things about him,destroying the image of God in him. I seriously sinned.

    My righteousness as a Christian and pastor at that moment hadslumped to the level of Pharisaic righteousness. Jesus was talking aboutme when He preached,

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    For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpassesthat of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter thekingdom of heaven. You have heard that the ancients weretold, You shall not commit murder and Whoever commits

    murder shall be liable to the court. But I say to you thateveryone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty beforethe court; and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shallbe guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say,You fool, shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell(Matt. 5:20-22).

    Yep, thats me. I did everyone of those things. I was angry withhim. I called him names. I dont know Aramaic, but I would have calledhim Raca and whatever else came to my mind at the time if I couldhave thought of it! And worse than that, I regarded him as a fool in my

    heart.

    Thats really what Jesus was talking about in this passage. Hesnot after the words that we say about someone, for that is therighteousness which the scribes and Pharisees were concerned about.No, He is concerned about the heart. So when someone says, Youfool! that is tantamount to hating them in our hearts, and thus in Jesuseyes, we have murdered them. I was guilty of court, supreme court, andindeed hell itself that day.

    Thats not the way pastors are supposed to act, is it? Hey, thats

    not the way Christians are supposed to act. How could I expect the HolySpirit to move in and among me and my ministry if I was acting thisway? Paul said in Ephesians 4:29-31,

    Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouthAnddo not grieve the Holy Spirit of GodLet all bitterness andwrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away fromyou along with all malice.

    Instead, there was much unwholesomeness proceeding from mymouth. And in so doing I was definitely grieving the Spirit of God. I was

    rolling out the red carpet for my flesh instead of for the Spirit to help mein the midst of my frustration. This is exactly opposite of what Paulcalled the Galatians to do.

    But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify thedesires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are againstthe Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh,for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing

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    the things you want to doNow the works of the flesh areevident:strifefits of anger, rivalries, dissensionsandthings like these (Gal. 5:16-21, ESV).

    I had not walked in the Spirit, and consequently I had grieved Him.

    The Holy Spirit was grieved in my bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor,slander, and malice. The sin of the Plaintiffs had become my own sin. Ihad forgotten James words to his congregation.

    But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slowto anger; for the anger of man does not achieve therighteousness of God (1:19-20).

    To be sure, it is completely okay to be angry as long as two thingsare true. First, our anger must be motivated by an offense against God,not against us. Its amazing how much we allow our own personal

    issues to get in the way of Gods business. And its even moreastounding how we superimpose our personal issues on God, so as tomake our issues His issues. Thats how we rationalize our anger andgive justification to our sin. Its so subtle and tricky. Weve got to be onour toes constantly to avoid this diseased sort of thinking.

    Second, as Paul taught in Ephesians 4:26-27, Be angry and yetdo not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not givethe devil an opportunity. Heres the point I want to get across. We arefallen and depraved. There is nothing good in and of ourselves, withoutChrist. So at best, any personal motivation we have to be angry is

    probably sinful. But if we are angry at something that offends God, thatis okay. In fact, we should be angry, because if we are not, it points to aserious spiritual deficiency in our hearts.

    But thats not what happened with me. Repeatedly, Sunday afterSunday, petition after petition, confrontation after confrontation I hadalready victoriously expressed controlled anger that had arisen from anoffense against God. But what happened that day in the bedroom wasin stark contrast to my behavior in the presence of the Plaintiffs. Inother words, I was a different person in pri

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