Biblical Help for Resolving Human Conflicts

Biblical Help for Resolving Human Conflicts

By BGLVA President (from seminar manual pp 24-27).

            After many years in the ministry, the author concluded that the greatest problem in churches is the inability of Christians to get along with each other. When there is conflict or division in the church, the Holy Spirit is grieved and all the ministries are greatly hindered.

In virtually every human conflict both sides have at least some guilt. One side may be more at fault in the original offense, but the other may react in sinful angry retaliation, or spreading gossip about the offender, etc.  Suppose you have a conflict. You may think it is 90% the other person’s fault and only 10% yours. However, you are still responsible for repenting of your 10% and making it right. Meanwhile, the other person likely thinks it is more your fault than his, so both are waiting for the other to apologize.

Who is responsible to go to the other first? Jesus says both are responsible. In Matthew 5:23-24, He commands the offender to go to the one he offended. However, in Matthew 18:15-17, He also commands the one who is offended to go to the offender. So Jesus says either party in the conflict who first becomes aware of the conflict is to go to the other and humbly seek to effect reconciliation. We will look at these verses in more detail below.

It is helpful to recognize that both parties to a conflict are hurt and angry. They need help to heal. Following are some principles Jesus gave us for dealing with conflict resolution.

First, Urge Both Sides to Practice Unilateral Forgiveness toward the other party in the conflict. “Uni-lateral” means “one-sided.” In a war, sometimes there is a “unilateral cease-fire.” This means one side stops shooting. Unilateral forgiveness is the most helpful Bible principle for conflict resolution, but also the most difficult. It is also important to point out that unilateral forgiveness is only the first step. Very often further dialog between the parties involved will still be needed to bring full reconciliation.

Is unilateral forgiveness Scriptural? Yes. Sadly, most people wrongly think that you do not have to forgive an offender until he apologizes and asks for forgiveness. Consider Mark 11:25-26: Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

There is no mention of an apology. While praying, you remember you have something against someone. Jesus says, “Forgive him.”  He implies here that your prayers are not acceptable until you forgive the one who offended you. Forgive as soon as you can, and then God will receive your prayers.

While it is important for you to apologize when you have offended others, you must not wait for an apology to forgive those who offend you.

Did Jesus practice unilateral forgiveness? Yes! The first words He spoke from the cross were, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).”  Those responsible for crucifying Jesus had not apologized, but He had a unilateral forgiving attitude toward them anyway. No, they were not saved yet, Jesus still loved them and offered unilateral forgiveness. So must we.

In most cases when someone hurts us we either retaliate or bottle it up in bitterness. (Neither is in our best interest).

“Amos and Andy” was a popular mid-twentieth century radio program in America. These two men ran a small country store. In one program a big man named Kingfish would slap Andy across the chest every time they met. It was his manner of greeting, but he underestimated his strength and it became very irritating to Andy. In sharing with Amos, Andy said, “Now I’m ready for Kingfish. I put a stick of dynamite in my vest pocket. Next time he slaps my chest, he will get his hand blown off.”

We smile at such foolishness, knowing that Andy will hurt himself far more than he will hurt the big man; however, we do the same thing when we harbor anger or resentment toward someone who has hurt us. How long will you wait for them to apologize before forgiving them?

Early Christians practiced unilateral forgiveness. Stephen, the first deacon (Acts 6:5) preached a mighty sermon in Acts 7. His hearers were so convicted that they cast him out of the city and began to stone him (Acts 7:59). As they were stoning Stephen, “…he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (Acts 7:60)’”.

With great interest we note in Acts 7:55 that Stephen “…saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.”  Everywhere else in the Scripture, after His ascension, Jesus sat at the right hand of God. Only here does He stand. Many believe Jesus stood to give honor and approval to Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr, who died practicing unilateral forgiveness toward those who stoned him.

Larry Christenson, in his book The Renewed Mind, amplifies this scene imaginatively: “Picture the Lord, standing up, looking over the parapet of heaven, saying, ‘Who is this that My servant is forgiving? I must go to that man, and go to that man He did, -to Saul of Tarsus (Acts 7:58). Could it be that Stephen’s witness and prayer of unilateral forgiveness for his murderers led to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus?’” Paul later prayed a similar prayer of unilateral forgiveness in 2 Timothy 4:16.

For those who just can’t forgive offenders, consider this. For many years there was a syndicated counseling column in many U.S. newspapers called Ann Landers. People would send her questions to answer in her column. She consistently counseled people to forgive and forget offenses from others. Here is one of her columns, used by permission of Field Enterprise, Chicago, Illinois:

DEAR ANN LANDERS:

You must be made of stone. You tell every wronged husband or wife, daughter or son, sweetheart, friend or neighbor to forgive and forget. Did it ever occur to you that some people just can’t? They are too deeply hurt; too badly damaged. Please pull your head out of the sand or the clouds or wherever it is, and use it to think with. It’s preposterous to expect mere mortals to behave like saints.                  –Made the Scene

 

DEAR SCENE:

For those of you who don’t like my advice to forgive and forget, here’s an alternative:

Don’t forgive and forget. Keep alive every agonizing tortuous detail of the past. Talk about it. Cry a lot and feel sorry for yourself. Lose weight and look haggard. Friends will worry about you. Build an ulcer. Get a migraine. Break a leg …anything to create pain and serve as a reminder of what that dirty louse did to you.

If you follow this advice, you are sure to end up miserable, sick, bitter and alone.

-Ann Landers

 Second, Apologize When You Hurt Others. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus says, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” He said leave your gift at the altar, go and resolve the conflict. This could be either a private prayer altar or a public worship service. In either case, Jesus implies your worship, gifts, and prayers are not acceptable if you have a broken relationship you have not tried to resolve. Why else would He command us to leave that prayer or altar, be reconciled and then come back to worship?

Just a word about apologies. When you apologize, do not justify yourself or blame the one you offended for provoking your actions. That might be needed in later dialogs but the purpose of this apology is simply to admit where you were wrong (even 10%) and ask their forgiveness. Consider this kind of wording. “I was wrong in what I said or did (be specific). I have asked God to forgive me. Will you please forgive me as well?”

 

Third, Change Yourself before expecting others to change. In Matthew 7:1, Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged…”  He continues in verse 5, “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

You can rarely change others until you change yourself. If you forgive others without waiting for an apology, sincerely apologize for your wrongs, and make good changes in your life, it will not go unnoticed. Others will notice and best of all, God will notice and bless you.

Proverbs 16:7 says, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” When you humble yourself, God gives you grace to see the problem more honestly.  Suppose you apply these steps above, and the conflict is still not resolved?

Fourth, Humbly Confront Those Who Offend You.

  1. A.    Go to the Offender Alone.  Jesus said in Matthew 18:15, “Moreover if your brother sins

against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”

Notice Jesus says go to the offender alone first; not gossiping to others about it. This works best if you have already dealt with your anger by forgiving the offender unilaterally, confessed your own sins to God, apologized as God leads and prayed much before going to the offender. Your objective must not be to punish the offender, but to effect reconciliation.

Consider this suggested wording: “I really care about our friendship, but there are some problems. Could we talk about it? Did you say …..? or do…..?” (Fill in the blank). Confirm your information. It could be wrong. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Listen carefully without interrupting them or arguing. If you have already forgiven them and your true motive is reconciliation, you will not be angry.
If they admit it and apologize, you have gained your brother. If they bring up something you did to provoke them, apologize. In any event, approach them in humility, not anger, and pray you can avoid more argument.

B. Take One or Two With You. If he refuses to be reconciled, Jesus gives a second step in verse 16, “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”  The author suggests these witnesses be peacemakers, respected by the offender. Remember, your motive must be reconciliation, not punishment.

C. Take It to the Church. If they still refuse reconciliation Jesus gives a third step in verse 17, “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

Jesus is saying broken relationships in the church are unacceptable. If a clearly identified offender is unwilling to repent, Jesus said he to be excluded from the church. This is not so much to punish him as it is to protect the church from harmful division. Hopefully, the offender will repent, be forgiven, and help resolve the conflict for the sake of the health and effectiveness of the church.

Remember, whoever becomes aware there is a broken relationship is to take the initiative to resolve it. Neither is justified to wait for the other to initiate the reconciliation. Apply these principles of conflict resolution in the spirit of humility. They will work because they were given by Jesus. He will bless them with His Spirit.            

                      Take Conflicts to the Cross. The author has used the figure at left in marriage counseling. The “H” = the Husband and the “W” = the wife. The stars are conflicts between them. The counselor guides them to focus on Jesus and the cross. Talk about His suffering for our sins. Urge each person to temporarily stop focusing on the conflicts in the marriage and focus on his own sins and drawing as near to Jesus as he can. The closer both people get to Jesus and His cross, the closer they will be to each other.

This also can help with conflicts in your church.  Preach more about the sacrificial death of Jesus and call people to draw near to Him. God may use this to help bring your people together and give them power to resolve conflicts. Again, the closer they get to Jesus and His cross, the closer they will be to each other.  John 12:32-33 can also be applied here.

 

Assurance of Salvation

Assurance of Salvation -Brief half-page of Scriptures & Questions
(More on pg 2-7 below)

Believe the Gospel: I Cor. 15:3-4: “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day…”
Q #1 Do you believe Jesus died for you and arose from the dead?
  ___ Yes, No___

Matthew 4:17: “…Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Q#2 Have you repented of your sins and asked Jesus to forgive you?
___Yes,   No___

John 1:12“… as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Q#3 Have you received Jesus as your Savior?
__Y, N__

1 John 5:11 “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
#4 Do you have Jesus in your soul?     Jesus said if you received Him, He would come in (John 6:37; Rev. 3:20). Would He lie to you? Then where is He now with regard to you? ____________

 1 John 5:13 “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you HAVE  eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

Q#6 Do you believe He came into your heart & saved you?
__Y, N__

Q#7 Do you believe you HAVE ETERNAL LIFE and that eternal life can’t end? __Yes,  No___ ­­­

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”     Unconfessed continuing sin robs us of our assurance and peace.

Q#8 Have you confessed and forsaken known sin?
__Y, N__

NOTE: Print this page 1 only; cut the top part to tape in the back of your Bible for Assurance Counseling If counselee still lacks assurance?  Re-affirm “Yes” answers to each question above.  Don’t depend on the past.  Just do it again.  Pray with someone. Assurance comes as one believes and acts on God’s word. Read the Gospel of John, 1 John, and the full assurance article on pages 2 -7 below.
—————————————————————————————————————-

(Cut along dotted-line and tape top of page into the back of your Bible to help others with assurance)

 

For much more help with Assurance, skip bottom half of this page to next page, pages 2 – 7 below.
Permission granted to print and distribute these materials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

MORE COMPLETE HELP FOR ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

By Dr. J. Clyde Turner

(From His book, Soul-Winning Doctrines, Chapter VI, pp. 82-95,

Published by Sunday School Board of the SBC. Nashville, TN, 1948, Public domain).

In John 20:31, the writer tells us why he wrote the book which we call the Gospel of John- “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name”.  He wrote this book to point out the way of salvation.  In 1 John 5:13 he tells us why he wrote the first epistle of John-“these things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God”.  He wrote this epistle that Christians might have the assurance of their salvation.

Two things are made plain in the Word of God about Christian assurance.

First, God wants his children to have the assurance of their

salvation.  It is not his will that they should be filled with doubts and fears.  That is the work of the devil.  The evil one does all within his power to keep Christians from having assurance, because he knows that a doubting Christian can never be a powerful Christian.   It was a wise reply which a lad, who had recently become a Christian, gave to his pastor who asked him if the devil ever told him he was not a Christian.  “Yes,” said the lad, “he sometimes tells me that.” “Well, what do you say?” asked his pastor.  “I tell him,” replied the boy, “whether I am a Christian or not is none of his business.”

Second, God has made it possible for Christians to have assurance.  He has provided the means by which that assurance may be secured and kept. Paul had no doubts about his salvation.   He could say, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).  Many Christians today have that assurance.  All Christians may have it.

Let us consider four things about Christian assurance

I. THE LACK OF CHRISTIAN ASSURANCE

While many Christians know for a certainty that they are saved, there are many who do not have that assurance.  They are troubled with doubts.  There are several reasons for this lack of assurance.

l. False Ideas of the Christian Life

There are those who think that because their lives do not measure up to certain standards they are not Christians at all.  Certainly, Christians ought to have the very highest standards of conduct.  Too many have been satisfied with low standards.  But failure to reach high standards is not to be interpreted as meaning that one is not a Christian.  There are no perfect men on earth.  The fact that a person sometimes fails, or even falls, does not necessarily mean that he is not a Christian.  It is what he does after he has failed, or fallen, that reveals his standing.

2. Lack of the Consciousness of a Definite Experience some Christians listen to others tell about

their conversion, pointing back to the exact time and place of their salvation, and, because they can recall no such definite experience, they have doubts about their own salvation.  While it may be a source of satisfaction for one to know just when and where he was converted, that is by no means the only assurance of salvation.  It is not even a certain assurance, for one may misinterpret the experience which he has had. This question has been discussed at some length in the chapter on conversion.

3.  Neglect of Christian Duty Many Christians do not have the full assurance of their salvation

because they are neglecting the things that help to make strong Christians.  They do not read and study the Bible; they have failed in prayer; they have dropped out of Christian service; they have neglected their obligations to the church.  One who is guilty of such neglect of Christian duties and privileges is not likely to have full assurance of salvation.  And one who is faithful in all of these things is not likely to fall into doubts.

A young man was happily converted and became a faithful member of the church.  He attended the services and took a leading part in Christian work.  But after awhile he drifted away.  He was no longer regular in his church attendance, and dropped out of service.  One Sunday morning he decided to attend the services of his church.  The pastor preached a searching sermon.  The young man went to him at the close and said, “When the conference meets, have me turned out of the church, for I am not a Christian.”  The pastor reminded him of his conversion and his faithful service in the church.  He replied, “Yes, I thought I was converted, but I am mistaken; I am not a Christian; have me turned out of the church.”  The wise pastor said to him, “Well, before we do that, will you do me a favor?”  “Certainly,” said the young man.  “You know our old blind member,” said the pastor.  “He loves to have the Bible read to him. I will not be able to go around this evening.  Won’t you go and read God’s Word to him?” “Why should I read God’s Word to him?” asked the young man, “I am not a Christian.”  “Well, anybody can read the Bible,” replied the pastor.  “You just go around and read to him.”  He gave some special passages to read.  That night the young man came back with a beaming face.  He said, “Pastor, don’t say anything about having me turned out of the church.  It is all right.  I went around and read to the old blind man, and he kept me reading.  Then he asked me if I wouldn’t pray.  I prayed with him, and he shouted, and I don’t know but that I shouted.  It is alright now.”

4. Unworthy Living

Some do not have Christian assurance because they have allowed the world to get too strong a hold on their lives, and have fallen into sin.  They have entered into worldly association, and have yielded to the temptations of the worldly life.  There can be no Christian assurance for them until they repent of their sins and turn back to God.  Christian assurance and sin cannot abide in the same heart.  David lost the joy of his salvation when he fell into sin.  Any Christian who goes into sin will lose the joy and the assurance of his salvation, and he will never get it back until he turns from his sins to God.

 

II..THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTIAN ASSURANCE

Some Christian teachers have gone so far as to say that, unless a person has certain assurance of his salvation, he is not a Christian at all.  That is not true.  One cannot be the best Christian so long as he is filled with doubts, but one may be a Christian and still not have full assurance of his salvation.   For several reasons, it is important that one should have Christian assurance.

l.    Lack of It Makes Full Peace and Joy Impossible

One who does not have the assurance of his salvation cannot have the full peace and joy of the Christian life.  He may have a faith and hope with which he would not part for all the world, but so long as he carries doubts and fears in his heart, the fullness of peace and joy is shut out.  God wants his people to be happy.  His promise is, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil 4:7).  But when the heart is filled with doubt, there is no place for the peace of God.

Mr. Sankey, in his book My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns, tells of a meeting in Exeter Hall, London.   A gentleman arose and gave this testimony,:” During the recent war in the Transvaal, when the soldiers going to the front passed another body of soldiers whom they recognized, their greeting used to be, ‘Four-nine-four, boys;  four-nine-four’; and the salute would invariably be answered with ‘Six further on, boys; six further on.’  The significance of this was that, in Sacred Songs and Solos a number of copies of the small edition had been sent to the front, number 494 was ‘God Be with You Till We Meet Again’; and six further on, or number 500, was “Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine.’”

It is that assurance that gives peace and joy.  So long as one can sing from his heart the words,

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God,

Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

He can sing with feeling the chorus,

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Saviour all the day long.

It means much to have that assurance in these trying days through which we are passing.  Last week I received a letter from a young man who has gone out from this church to serve his country.   His address was given as “Somewhere in England.”  He had left a wife and baby behind when he sailed away.  He closed his letter with these words:  “My every prayer has been that I might serve God by serving my fellow man, and I believe that it is through his guidance that I am here.  My life is in his hands, and I care not where he leads me.”  Thank God for the peace that comes to the heart from the assurance of being God’s child and “trusting all to his tender care.”

  1. One Who Lacks Assurance Cannot Do      Effective Christian

Work.  He may faithfully perform certain duties, and observe certain rites, but he cannot bring forth much fruit so long as he carries doubt in his heart as to his salvation.  The holy of holies in Christian service is leading others to Christ.  Our Lord placed that first, and we dare not put it in a secondary place.  But how can one speak with conviction and enthusiasm to a lost soul, and point the way to Christ as Saviour, if he is in doubt about his own salvation?  It would be a poor guide who would say to one who was looking to him for leadership, “I hope I know the way, but I am not sure.”  And the Christian who says, “I hope I am a Christian, but I am not sure,” will not be very successful in leading others to Christ.  In fact, he will have little desire to lead others to Christ, so long as he is not sure about his own standing.  Lack of assurance makes effective Christian service impossible.

  1. Lack of Assurance Dishonors God

     God has given his word, his sacred promise, that if one will repent of his sins and put his trust in Christ, he will save him.  For one to put his trust in Christ, and then go on doubting, is to raise a question concerning the veracity of God.  Will God do what he says?  Will God keep his promises?  Then why not cast all doubts aside and trust him?  Lack of assurance dishonors God by raising doubts concerning his word.

  1. Lack of Assurance Clouds the Pathway      Ahead

Lack of assurance clouds the pathway ahead with fear.

Either death or the return of our Lord is in the pathway ahead.  Men and women must stand before the judgment bar of God.   Doubt about their standing with God fills them with fear.

Assurance enables them to go on unafraid.  Our souls are stirred within us as we listen to that triumphant shout of Paul as he stood within the shadow of death, “For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, and I have kept the faith:  henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day.”  The assurance that was in his soul drove all fears away, and made the gateway of death a triumphal arch.

Sometime ago the story was published about a storm onLake Erie.  An aged woman had leftBuffaloby boat to visit her daughter inCleveland.  A terrible storm arose, and the passengers, fearing death, gathered for prayer.  The old lady seemed quite unconcerned.  She sat praising the Lord while the storm raged.  When the storm was over, some of the passengers asked her how she could sit so calmly when death seemed imminent.  She said:   “Well, children, it is like this.  I have two daughters.  One died and went home to heaven; the other moved toCleveland.  When the storm was raging I wondered which daughter I might visit first, the one inClevelandor the one in heaven, and I was quite unconcerned as to which.”

III…THE GROUNDS OF CHRISTIAN ASSURANCE

Upon what may one base his assurance?  A mistake here may be fatal.  Sometimes people think they are Christians when they are not.  It is a false assurance which they   have.  Unless one has met the conditions of salvation-“repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ,” he is not a Christian, no matter what else he may have done.  Any assurance which he may have is a false assurance.  Upon what grounds may one who is a Christian base his assurance?

  1. Not Feelings

Some people have doubts about their salvation because they do not have the feeling which they think a Christian ought to have.  This feeling may be desirable, but it is hardly a ground of assurance.  Feeling is fickle.  It ebbs and flows.  One’s feeling is often governed by circumstances and conditions.  He may feel one way today, and may have an entirely different feeling tomorrow.   Feeling is deceptive.  One may feel that he is a Christian when he is not, and one may be a Christian when he does not feel that he is.  If one depends on his feeling, he may be in doubt much of the time.

  1. Not Attainments

One’s assurance of salvation is not based on what he has accomplished, either in character or conduct.  A true Christian will build the best character possible, and will render the best service he can, but these accomplishments do not furnish true grounds of assurance.  A person may have a good character; he may be a church member and take an active part in all the work of the church, and still not be a Christian.  His salvation rests, not on what he has done, or can do, but on what Christ has done for him.

  1. The Word of God

The one sure and lasting ground of assurance is the Word of God.  God has said, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,”  “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life”;  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”  These and many other promises God has given to those who accept the atoning work of Christ in their behalf and trust their all to him.  God will surely keep his Word.  Not a promise he has given will ever be broken.  “The word of the Lord abideth forever.”  If one has repented of his sins, and put his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour, he has the promise of God that he is saved.

When Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman was a college student, he was sorely perplexed about his own salvation.  He came under the influence of D. L. Moody.  He told the great evangelist his difficulties.  He said, “Sometimes I feel that I am a Christian, and at other times I question whether or not I have ever been saved.”  Mr. Moody asked him to read John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life.”  “Do you believe that Scripture?” asked Mr. Moody.  The young man assured him that he did.  “Do you believe in Christ?” queried the evangelist.  Chapman told him he certainly did.  “Then are you a Christian?” he asked.  Again the young man told him about his doubts.  Mr. Moody told him to read the verse again, and again he asked him if he accepted Christ and believed his Word.  Mr. Chapman assured him that he did.  Mr. Moody asked him if he was a Christian, and again he began to tell him he was not sure.  Then the great evangelist turned upon him and said, “See here, whom are you doubting?”  In that moment the truth flashed upon the troubled young man.  He had accepted Christ, and believed in his Word, and yet he had been doubting whether or not God would keep his Word.  “In a moment,” he said, “I knew that I was a Christian because of his promise.”

One may hold on to the promises of God when feelings fail.  Illustration of this is found in a story which came out ofIrelandyears ago.  Major Whittle was conducting evangelistic services, and a little boy was converted.  Through the influence of this lad the mother came and made a confession of faith in Christ.  But it was hard for her to believe that through simple faith in Christ she could have eternal life.  The evangelist pointed her to the same verse which Mr. Moody used in his conversation with Chapman, calling special attention to the word “hath.”  “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life.”  The woman accepted the precious truth and went home with a happy heart.  But the next morning the feelings were all gone.  The lad, seeing the look of despair on her face, asked her what was troubling her.  She replied, “Oh son, the feeling is all gone.”  The boy went and got his Bible and opened it to the verse and said,” Mother, the verse is still in the Book.”

A few years ago, The Globe, one of the leading daily papers ofCanada, published inToronto, gave a beautiful story about QueenVictoria.  The Queen had attended service inSt. Paul’s Cathedral and listened to a sermon that greatly interested her.  Later, in a conversation with the chaplain, she asked if one could be absolutely sure about his salvation.  The chaplain replied that he knew of no way that one could be absolutely sure.  Hearing of this conversation between the Queen and her chaplain, John Townsend, a humble minister of the gospel, wrote the following letter to the Queen:

 

TO HER GRACIOUS MAJESTY, OUR BELOVED QUEENVICTORIA, FROM ONE OF HER MOST HUMBLE SERVANTS:

With trembling hands, but heart-filled love, and because I  know that we can be absolutely sure even now of our eternal home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask your Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture:  John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10?

These passages prove there is full assurance of salvation by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ for those who believe and accept his finished work.  I sign myself, your servant for Jesus’ sake,

In a few days he received the following reply:

 

TO JOHN TOWNSEND:

Your letter of recent date received, and in reply would state that I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to.  I believed in the finished work of Christ for me, and trust by God’s grace to meet you in that home of which he said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

VICTORIA GUELPH

 

  1. Additional Grounds in Christian      Experience

Additional grounds may be found in human experience.  In this epistle, which was written “that ye may know that ye have eternal life,” John points out some of these additional grounds of assurance which one may find in his own life.

(1) Joyful obedience, – “And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.  He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected:  hereby we know that we are in him” (1 John 2:3-5).  One does not want to obey God and keep his commandments unless he is a Christian. He may obey certain commandments through fear, but there is no willing and joyous obedience unless one is a Christian.

In a meeting conducted by the late Dr. James M. Gray a little girl of twelve years was converted.  In a testimony meeting she arose and bore witness to the Saviour.  “When were you saved?”  Dr. Gray asked her.  “Last Sunday,” she replied, “but I didn’t know it until Friday.”  “How did you come to know it then?”  He asked.  “Because then,” she said, “I told my mother.”  The assurance of her salvation came when she obeyed her Lord in open confession.

         (2) Christian love,- “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.  He that loveth not abideth in death.  Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer:  and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1John 3:14-15).  One of the outstanding characteristics of the Christian life is Christian love.  If the heart be filled with hate, one may well have doubts about his standing with God.

This love is, first of all, a love for fellow Christians.  “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.”  The true Christian loves the fellowship of other Christians, and desires to promote their welfare.  If one prefers the companionship of unbelievers to that of Christians, he has little assurance that he is on God’s side.  James says, “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).  Compare 1 John 2:15

But this love of the true Christian extends beyond the bounds of the Christian fellowship and embraces all mankind.  One may love his fellow Christians with a different feeling from that which he has toward others, but if he is a child of God, he loves all men.  He may not like some of them, but deep down in his heart he has a desire for their welfare.  There is a passion for their salvation.

Such a love must manifest itself, not merely in words, but in deeds as well.  The genuineness of one’s love is tested, not by what he says, but by what he does.  In 1 John 3:17-19 the apostle says:  “But whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abideth in him?  My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth.  Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth.”  Christian love is the love of the open hand as well as the open heart.  If one is mastered by greed, and selfishness, and stinginess, he may well question his relation to God.

(3) The testimony of the Holy Spirit.-“And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he gave us” (1 John 3:24).  In Romans 8:16, Paul says, “The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God.”  And John says again, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him” (1 John 5:10).  If one is a true Christian, and seeks to do his Master’s will, he will have the assurance in his own heart that he is a child of God, an assurance planted there by the divine Spirit.

In his little book Path and Pathos of Frontier Missions, Dr. Bruce Kinney tells the story of the conversion of an Indian Chief, White Arm.  After he had made his        public confession, someone asked him how he knew he was a Christian.  He said, “I have always known that I was a wicked man.  I tried to appease the spirits of my own religion, but I was never sure or satisfied.  When the missionary came I tried to investigate the new way.  He told me that if I would pray to Christ and accept him as my Saviour he would forgive my sins and I would know it.  For a long time I prayed.  No peace came, but I kept on praying.  Still I was just as one in a dark room with no particle of light.  Even then I kept praying, and then, all at once, it was as though someone was in the room and had struck a match, and it was light and I could see, and peace came into my heart.  That is how I know that I am a Christian.”

NO FEAR #5 in Series on Psalm 23

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me;” (Psalm 23:4a).

Have you noticed the bumper and window sticker on cars and trucks, “No Fear?” Recently I asked a guy who had one what it meant. He didn’t know what it meant or how it got started. He just liked it. I suspect that it may be someone’s idea of being “macho” and “self-sufficient.” Some of those same guys in a foxhole, a hurricane or facing heart surgery might have second thoughts. If it is based on self-confidence, it is arrogant to say, “I’m not afraid of anything.”

When David said, “I will fear no evil”, he was not expressing self-confidence. He went on to say, “for Thou art with me” It was utter confidence in his Lord’s care and protection like a good shepherd’s care for his sheep.

There is actually a Valley of the Shadow of Death. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho goes through part of it. It is a deep dark valley with caves along the way. Thieves  and wild animals were known to be in those caves and it was very dangerous. Some Bible commentators think Jesus was speaking of that valley when He said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30). This could have been  
the valley David was speaking of. The picture above was taken of such a valley near Jericho. Shepherds took their sheep through such valleys on their way to grassy plains.

 There are two kinds of fear in the Bible; one is a reverential fear of God. Solomon says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). It is a good kind of fear that includes trust and obedience. It is taking God’s side against evil and believing in God’s ultimate victory.

The other kind of fear is a fear of death or evil. David was referring to this kind of fear when he said, “I will fear no evil.” John was referring to this kind of fear when he said, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment” (I John 4:18).

Sheep without a shepherd are terrified, and well they should be. They have virtually no self-defense if attacked by a wolf or a lion. They can’t run fast, and even if they escape the wild animals, most of them cannot see well and will fall in a deep ravine or over a cliff.

My friend, if you have not received Jesus as your shepherd, you cannot say, “I will fear no evil…” You ought to be afraid. As an unforgiven sinner, you are headed for hell. You are helpless against the devil. Peter warns, “…the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Jesus is your only hope. He came to “…release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:15).

Are you afraid to die? If you are not a Christian, you should be. Hell is hot and judgment certain. But God loves you. He sent His only Son, Jesus, to save you. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus gave His life on the cross for your sins. He came “…that He might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8b).

When you realize you are a sinner and believe in Jesus Christ enough to receive Him as your Savior, He comes into your life, forgives your sin and becomes your shepherd. Not only does He save you from your sin; He promises, “…I will never leave you, nor forsake you. So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

So, if you put your trust in Jesus, you can say, “NO FEAR!” He will guide you and protect you in this world and be your defense attorney at the judgment. Amen!

Following Jesus As Our Shepherd

  • #4 in series on Psalm 23

 “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3b).

David confidently says of the Lord, “He leads me…” Does He lead you? Here are some guidelines for following Jesus as your Shepherd:

 BY FAITH IN THE LORD. David began this Psalm with “The Lord is My Shepherd…” God will not lead those who do not have a faith commitment to Him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him for he who cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.” Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the Lord and your thoughts will be established.” This means you spend time in prayer, asking the Lord to guide you

 BY OUR SHEPHERD’S EXAMPLE.  David says, “He leadeth me…” Cowboys drive cows and horses, but a skilled shepherd leads his sheep. Jesus, speaking of Himself says, “He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice” (John 10:4). Jesus has gone before us, setting a perfect example. “…He has done all things well…” (Mark 7:37). He went before us through His cross and resurrection. He opened heaven for us, ascending to the right hand of God. Charles Sheldon’s classic, In His Steps, challenges us to ask, “What would Jesus do?” in following Him.

BY HIS WORD. “…IN PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS…” The Bible is our standard for righteous paths. You don’t have to pray about robbing banks, telling lies, or sex outside of marriage. The Bible has already said, “Don’t!” Even things that are not mentioned in the Bible are dealt with in principle. Read the Bible and follow it.

 BY SEEKING GODLY COUNSELORS.  Solomon says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).  After prayer and Bible study, talk to Godly counselors. Start with your parents if they are still available. No one on earth cares for you more than your parents; even if you are grown. They still have more experience than you. Their counsel is especially helpful if they are living Godly lives; however, even if they aren’t Christians, they care and can share what they have learned. Talk to your pastor, your bible class teacher, a Godly elder or deacon, or other Godly relatives and friends, particularly those who are older than you and have struggled with the issues you are wrestling with.

BY HIS NAME.  “For His name’s sake.” When we walk in right paths, our Lord’s name is glorified. Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).  He also says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6b). We usually interpret this for salvation but it is equally true in prayer. Jesus is our access in prayer to the Father. This is far more than closing our prayer “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” His name includes His cross and resurrection. It should mean we are one with Him like a wife signing her husband’s name to a check.

BY HIS PEACE. This Psalm reflects God’s peace throughout. Paul said, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts….” (Colossians 3:15).  Finally, write down the various options and ask which will glorify our Lord’s name most. When you walk in God’s will, you will have God’s peace. When you stray from God’s paths, you will have heaviness. Prayerfully make that decision, writing it down in pencil. Sleep on it. If you have God’s peace about it in the morning, go with it. If you have heaviness, go through the prayer steps again. Let Him lead you in those “…paths of righteousness…” They are paths of safety, fruitfulness and happiness. Amen!

Restoration from Depression

#3 in Series on Psalm 23

“He restoreth my soul” (Psalm 23:3a).
Has depression invaded your life? Some hurt, failure, or sorrow you have been unable to successfully deal with? Depression usually results from a wrong response to trouble, though it may be caused by chemical imbalance. Regardless of the cause, there’s hope. Don’t give up. David says the Lord as his shepherd restored his soul. God can also restore your life even in the midst of trouble.

The Hebrew word translated “restoreth” was used by shepherds  for turning a “cast” sheep right side up. A “cast” sheep was on its back, unable to get up without help. It would vainly kick the air and bleat desperately for a while and then give up.

Growing up on the farm, my brother and I kept sheep. Dad said, “If you find a cast sheep, get it on its feet as soon as you can.” He explained that a cast sheep left overnight would not survive. The sheep would either die while cast, or lose it’s will to live and refuse to eat or drink if righted too late.

David makes a human application to “restoring cast sheep” in Psalm 42:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God…”

He knew that he was sometimes “cast down” like those pitiful sheep. Just as he as a faithful shepherd had been able to restore his cast sheep to their feet, the Lord, his shepherd, restored him to his feet when he was cast down in discouragement. Like sheep, our soul can be “cast down.”
Sometimes you may feel turned upside down, unable to get on your feet again. The Lord wants to shepherd you by lifting you out of the mire of depression and restoring joy and hope to your soul.
Depression can even happen to great Christians like Martin Luther, the leader of the reformation. On one occasion when he was in a period of deep depression, his wife, Katie, dressed in her black funeral apparel and came in where he was. He was startled and asked her who died. “God,” she replied. “The way you are acting, I am sure your God must have died.” Her act and words brought Luther to his senses. He saw his depression as a faithless reflection on the providential care of God and as such it was sin. He confessed his sin, prayed for a fresh supply of God’s grace and was soon back in good spirits again.

What can you do to recover from depression? Here are some suggestions:
(1) See your doctor to rule out any physical causes,
(2) Get sufficient food, water, exercise and rest,
(3) Count your blessings and praise God for them,
(4) Read the Bible, e.g. Psalms and the Gospel of John,
(5) Meditate on the cross & resurrection of Jesus for you,
(6) Ask God’s forgiveness for known sin, especially for your wrong response to trouble,
(7) Forgive those who hurt you (without an apology),
(8) Seek the fellowship of other Christians,
(9) Listen to good Christian music,
(10) Do something for someone else in need,
(11) Ask God to help you do what you ought to do, whether you want to or not. Right actions bring right emotions,
(12) Finally, believe and affirm, “Jesus is my shepherd. He restores my soul.” With God’s help, you can pull out of depression. Amen!

Still Waters of Satisfaction and Peace

#2 in Series on Psalm 23   “He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalm 23:2b).

What is your greatest physical need? You probably know, it is to breathe oxygen. You can not go without breathing much more than a minute without brain damage. Four to five minutes without oxygen is always fatal. Of course, oxygen is so plentiful in the air that the shepherd rarely has to be concerned about providing that for his sheep. However, the second greatest physical need for both sheep and people is for water. Two days without water can begin to result in very harmful dehydration, and three days or more can be fatal.

The Psalmist here in Psalm 23:2b deals with our need for water.  “He leadeth me beside the still waters.”  A shepherd has to see that his sheep get water or they will die. Christian shepherd, Phil Keller, in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, says sheep routinely rise very early, even before dawn to graze the green grass. Very often they get much of their water from the dew on the grass. This meets their need for food and much of their need for water

However, they need more water than that. Water is a special problem to sheep. Most have very poor eyesight and rapid brooks frighten them. Keller goes on to say, “sheep will sometimes die of thirst before they will drink from a noisy stream.” “Still waters” here suggest deep pools of placid waters. It refers not only to abundant supply, but also to easy access without danger. This does not happen accidentally. The shepherd would probably dig a well, build a reservoir by a spring, or dam up a stream to provide these “still waters.”.

We also need Spiritual water. This Scripture speaks not only of our physical need for water but implies our need for Spiritual water. Both provide satisfaction and peace.  A sheep or a human being who is separated from his water supply begins to be anxious and fearful. However, when the water is provided, the fear is taken away and there is satisfaction and contentment. When sheep have this food and water, they lie down in the green pastures, satisfied, and content.

Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39).

Jesus asks, “Are you thirsty? Come to me and drink.   He is speaking of thirst for Spiritual water..  Are you thirsty to know God?  Come to Jesus and believe in Him. Read His Word and drink of His Spirit. You can have satisfaction and peace both now and forever!  Amen!

Amazing Security

#1 in Series on Psalm  23

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;”  (Psalm 23:1-2a).

David, having been a shepherd in his youth, sees himself as a sheep under the care of the Lord as his Shepherd. “want” here means to lack something he needs. David said that would not happen to him because the Lord, as his Shepherd, would provide all his needs. Here is absolute security.

This is amazing to me because I grew up on a farm with sheep and know how helpless they are without a shepherd; half blind, they would starve without a shepherd. When threatened by wild animals, their only defense is their legs, and they can’t run that fast. Clearly it is not self-confidence, but confidence in a shepherd who loves and cares for them.

Some think David may have written this Psalm as a shepherd boy and sang it to his satisfied sheep. However, most Bible teachers think David wrote it in his maturity, after he had seen proof the Lord cares for all who trust Him. In any event, all agree thatDavid wrote this Psalm to explain the Lord’s perfect shepherding of those who follow Him. That’s security.

How does one get this kind of security? For a sheep, it means having a good shepherd. For us it means finding the good Shepherd to care for us. David said, “The Lord is my  shepherd;” (vs. 1a).  He had made a choice to follow the Lord as his shepherd.

Jesus clearly fulfilled David’s shepherd vision when He said, “I am the good shepherd, the good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep” (John 10:11).

Sheep naturally tend to go astray. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6).

Phil Keller, a Christian shepherd and author of, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, wrote: “Sheep without a shepherd will either stay in the same field, grazing down to roots and dirt, or wander aimlessly to barren fields or danger. A good shepherd sees to it that is sheep always have enough good grass to eat. He goes ahead of his sheep and removes harmful plants and danger.” Sheep without a shepherd cannot survive. Neither can we. We must realize that and trust Jesus as our Shepherd.

However, only those who clearly decide to turn from their own way and follow the Lord Jesus may truly say “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” All who trust in Jesus as their Shepherd will “not want” or lack anything they need.  Kenneth Taylor’s Living Bible paraphrases this verse, “Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need.”  Would you like to have that kind of security?

Consider this beautiful illustration of security in Jesus as your Shepherd.David says, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” (vs. 1b). Keller continues, “…sheep routinely rise before dawn and graze until they are satisfied.David saw himself as a sheep lying down in a green pasture, satisfied and secure. The shepherd has led His sheep to lush green pastures, which satisfied their need. They ate all they needed and lay down safely in the soft greengrass to rest in the shade. These sheep who have a good shepherd were not worried about their next meal. Neither were they afraid of wild animals attacking them. They were secure in the Shepherd’s care. You also can have that kind of security!

How Jesus gives us security in life and in eternity. Not only was Jesus the good Shepherd, He was also “the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). How did He do that? By being the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins on the cross.This means we can be forgiven and have eternal security. As the Lamb of God, Jesus “gave His life for his sheep” (John 10:11). This refers to the cross where Jesus died for you and me.  On the third day after His death, Jesus arose from the dead and is alive today and available to be your Shepherd. He also said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish,” (John 10:27- 28a). May God help you trust and follow Jesus as your Shepherd forever! Amen.

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

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Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Our subject today, “Is Jesus the Only way to Heaven?

Many years ago in my first pastorate we were having a series of evangelistic meetings. The guest preacher from out of town said as he was leaving home he went by the Post Office to check his mail. While there he saw a lady from one of the other more broadminded churches in town.

She said to him. “I’ve heard you on the radio, and you are very narrow-minded. You say that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. I don’t agree with you. Consider this example. You live on one side of our town and I live on the other. We came by different routes but we both got to the post office. It’s that way about going to Heaven. If a person is sincere in their religion they can get to heaven by different routes. What do your think of that?”

My friend answered, “Well, for one thing, I don’t want to go the Post Office when I die. For another we can’t answer such an important question by logic and our opinion, but by what the Bible says.”

He then took his pocket New Testament and shared what the Bible says about how to go to Heaven.  In John 14:6 Jesus said…, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Was Jesus telling the truth or not?

Who is Jesus? He was born of the Virgin Mary, but God was His Father. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus is God in the flesh. He could not lie. In the days of His flesh He was fully human but at the same time, fully God. He is the only human being who ever lived on this earth who never sinned. Since He had no sin, He could bear our sins on the cross making full payment for all our sins. On the third day He arose from the dead and was seen in His glorified body for some forty days. Then He ascended back to Heaven and is making intercession for us.

The apostle Peter preached that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. In Acts 4:12 He said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

How can we be saved? John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The only way to Heaven is to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus for salvation. He is the only way. Trust Him for Salvation today!