Follow Along

Get new posts by email:

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Offline (Again)

Headed offline for a family day and then a writing week.

On Tuesday, I'm going to begin writing "the book" on resisting gossip.

If you're reading this (and I know you are!), would you take a second to pray for me as I write?  I'd like to get a detailed outline done and write the introduction this week.  Who knows?  Maybe even more.

I've been dodging between the ditches of "just get this done" and "it's got to be perfect."  But this weekend, I actually started to get excited about doing it.

Thanks for your prayers!

[Matt's Messages] "Great and Precious Promises"

“Great and Precious Promises”
Great and Precious Promises - Summer 2011
July 31, 2011
2 Peter 1:3-11


Today, we’re starting a brand new short sermon series called “Great and Precious Promises.” 

We’ve just finished our series on Resisting Gossip. And just in time! As this week, I’m going to sit down in front of the computer and start trying to turn the material in that series into a ministry book. Pray for me!

And we’re soon going to start the book of Acts. I think that we’ll jump feet first into Acts on the second Sunday in September. So, we’re getting ready for that.

So, I thought, “What do we do between those two series?

What do we need to hear?

What do our hearts need right now?

And the answer that came to me is “Preach on God’s Promises.”

That’s what we need right now. We need to hear God’s promises given to us once again to fuel our faith.

We need God’s commands, too, of course.  We need everything God says in His Word.

But it seems to me that right now, we could all profit from a hefty dose of God’s great and precious promises.

One of the things that I want each Sunday for you is to walk out of here fed and fortified for another 7 days of life in this world.

Now, if this is the only biblical meal you get all week, then you’ll probably not last very long.  But if this is feast in God’s word (and especially God’s promises) then you’ll you be fed and fortified for tackling the challenges that come at you each day.

That’s what I want for you.

And that’s found in God’s promises.

God’s promises are sure. They are certain.
God’s promises are life-giving.  They are encouraging.
God’s promises are fuel for living. They give us the fire in our bellies for living the life that God desires.

Thank you for turning in these survey sheets from last week.  There are still some in your bulletins today.

I got a few back this week. They were full of God’s great and precious promises.  One of them had an attachment with a list of great promises two pages front and back, hand-written!  Amen!

One of you answered the question, “What one promise would you most like to hear a message on?” by saying, “All or any are wonderful.  The one that has been awesome to me recently is Zephaniah 3:17.  Not only is He with me, does He really take delight in me?  I know He quiets me.”

That shows you someone who has been in God’s word. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Isn’t that a great promise?

And so precious?!

What I want to do with this series is to introduce it today by taking you to the passage in Scripture that calls God’s promises, “Great and Precious.”

Actually it says “very great” or KJV “exceedingly great and precious.”

And think about what makes God’s promises so exceedingly great.

And then on Aug 14, 21, and 28, we’ll pick some great and precious promises and apply them directly to our hearts. Ok?

Do you know the children’s song that goes:

Every promise in the Book is mine!
Every chapter, every verse, every line.
I am standing on His Word divine,
Every promise in the Book is mine!

That’s what we want to sing with our hearts because we’ve studied this together.

So, let’s see what the Apostle Peter has to say about God’s promises in 2 Peter 1:3-11. We’ll start in the first verse to get the context.

[scripture reading, prayer]

What is going to get you through the next week?

What is going to get you through the challenges that you are going to face in the next seven days?

Life in this fallen world is not easy.

Life is not a piece of cake.

Some of us have it easier than others at times but no one lives on Easy Street.  Not for long, at least.

Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble.

And that’s almost an understatement.

Life in this fallen world is not easy.

What is going to get you through the next week?

What is going to get you through the next month?

The next year?

The rest of your life?

What’s going to get you through?

I love what verse 3 says about God’s gracious provision for our lives.  Verse 3.

“His divine power [that “His” is God’s, the Lord Jesus’ from verse 2, His diving power] has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

We read this passage just a few weeks ago when we were studying gossip.

It’s an awesome declaration of the sufficiency of God’s grace for our lives.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.”

“Everything we need!”

Isn’t that awesome?

Where do we find everything we need?  In a relationship with Jesus Christ.  V.3

“Through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

In Christ, in the Lord, in knowing Him who called us to Himself by His own glory, by His own goodness, we have everything we need for life and godliness.

Now, if we just internalize that truth, we’ve got everything.

If we just truly believe that and live out of that, we are set for life!

But there is more.

He says (v.4), “Through these [that is, the Lord’s glory and goodness] he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

So, God has given us everything we need through our knowledge of Him and has also given us “his very great and precious promises.”

They are part of the “everything we need for life and godliness.”

The Greek word for “great” here is MEGISTOS.  And it means, “Great!”

“Exceedingly great!  Very great.  Tremendous!”

We’d say, “Awesome!”

And Greek word translated “precious” is TIMIOS.  And it means, “as of great price, “precious,” “held in honor,” “esteemed,” “especially dear.”

Is that how you feel about the promises of God?

Some of my favorite birthday presents are promises.

I’m told that I’m kind of hard to buy for in the present category, because what I really like is books, and that’s kind of boring to buy a guy a book every time his birthday rolls around.

“I got you another book, honey!”

So, my wife and now daughter have taken to making me coupon books for my birthday.  And they say things like this.  “This coupon is good an action flick of your choice and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.”  “This coupon is good for a free afternoon (including Suindays) to read a good book (with no kids around).”  “This coupon is good for BUCKEYES.”  Unfortunately, that one was already redeemed. Rats!

Every one of those coupons is a promise.

And the promises are just as good as the person making the promise.

These are great and precious to me.  Thank you!

But how much more great and precious are the promises of God!

Here was a list on one of your sheets;

Romans 10:9
Romans 8:32
1 Corinthians 2:9
Titus 3:3
1 Peter 1:3-4
Revelation 21:4
Hebrews 13:8
John 14:1-3

Do you know what those “coupons” say?

Somebody here does.  And they love them. They are great and precious to this person!

What makes God’s promises so very great and precious?

I think that this passage gives at least 6 answers to that question.

Let’s think about them briefly.

#1.  THEY ARE GOD’S GIFT!  V.4 Again.

“Through [his glory and goodness] he has given us his very great and precious promises.”

The promises of God are not things that we must earn.

The promises of God are not things that we must be worthy of.

The promises of God are not things that we must deserve.

They are gifts from an exceedingly gracious God!

“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises.”

That is such good news because you and I could never deserve them.

Some of the promises of God are so good that they hardly seem believable, much less attainable by worth and merit and effort.

They must be a gift for sinners like you and me.

And they are.  And that makes them so much greater and so much more precious.

Number Two.  What makes the promises of God so great and precious?

#2. THROUGH THEM WE PARTICIPATE IN THE DIVINE NATURE! That’s verse 4.

“...he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.”

Now, what does that mean?

It’s an amazing statement.

It’s more than just our sins are forgiven.

It’s that we share, somehow, in the life and being of God.

We become like Him and share in His life.

Doctor Martin Lloyd-Jones said it this way. “A Christian is one who is a partaker of the divine nature. H eis one in whom are, essentially, the traits and characteristics of God Himself, the divine life. He is like Christ. The life of godliness, the divine quality of life, the divine characteristics are in him, as being formed in him, and he is manifesting these divine characteristics. That, according to Peter, is the thing to which we are called; thais what is demand and expected of you and me as Christians. We not merely believe that our sins are forgiven in Christ–thank God that we do believe that–but we must not stop at that. I am not merely one who is forgiven, I am to be a partaker of the divine nature; I am to be a new man, a new creation, a new being; and I am to reveal and manifest these characteristics. That is the calling.”  (D.M. Martin Lloyd-Jones, 2 Peter, pg. 15).

And what makes that possible?

The promises of God!

“Through them you may participate in the divine nature.”

It’s because of the promises of God that the Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell inside of each true believer and remake them into the image of Christ.

We don’t become God (No!), but somehow, we begin to live a bit of the God-life!

We share in the life and nature of God.

That’s mind-blowing and it comes from the promises of God.

More. #3. THROUGH THEM, WE ESCAPE THE CORRUPTION OF THE WORLD!  Next phrase in verse 4.

“...so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  Or King James Version, “lust.”  “Inordinate and misplaced desires.”

The promises of God are great and precious because through them we escape the corruption of the world.

I think that means, at least, salvation.

We are rescued from the decay of the world.  We are headed to heaven.

And that’s supported by the tense of the Greek word here.  It literally means, “you have escaped” from the corruption of the world.  Saved!

But I think it means more. I think it means that the promises of God are cleansing and purifying and help us to be victorious over temptation.

The promises of God are great and precious because they are sanctifying.

Let use a gossip example since that’s what I’m living and breathing right now.

Last month, we used two different promises of God to interact with sinful gossip.

Before you gossip, there was the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

We don’t have to give in to the temptation. That’s the promise. And we can escape the corruption of the world.

But what if we’ve given in?  What if we’ve fallen into that corruption?

1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Confess and repent and move on.  He’ll forgive because of the Cross.  That’s the promise.  Take hold of it and move on.

And we escape the corruption in the world.

How great and precious that is.

If we don’t understand the depths of our sin, the depravity and bankruptness of our sin, we won’t understand how great and precious these promises are.

They promise the escape from sin!

More. #4. THEY EMPOWER OUR SPIRITUAL GROWTH!

Notice what happens in verse 5.  Don’t miss the first 4 words.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”

Peter says to add these 7 qualities on top of your basic faith.

Goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

Now, he doesn’t mean to do them one at a time.  Don’t wait until you’ve got goodness down to gain in your knowledge.  Don’t wait until you’ve got perseverance to gain godliness.

In fact, these virtues are overlapping to some degree in meaning.  They are not stair steps.

But they are all things to grow in. They are something we work at “make every effort” at adding to our lives.

A number of our kids had a whole week at camp on just “brotherly kindness.”

Putting other people first.  Being givers not takers.

It’s talking about spiritual growth.

But don’t miss this!  What makes that growth possible?

What empowers that growth?

Is it self-powered?  Is this bring yourself up by your bootstraps?

No!

It is effort, but it is promise-driven effort.  Look again at those first 4 words.

“For this very reason...”  What was the reason?  V.4

“He has given us his very great and precious promises!”

“For this very reason...” make every effort.

Now, some people think that grace means that we don’t have to do anything.

But grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.

Grace empowers our efforts.

We must pursue spiritual growth, but we do it empowered by the grace of God found in the great and precious promises of God.

Isn’t that awesome?

How are you doing with your spiritual growth?

Which of these virtues need the most work in your life right now?

Goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love?

You won’t make any headway on your own.

But there are promises in this book that if believed, if taken-to-heart, will give you grace to make every effort to add these virtues to your life.

They a great and precious because they empower our spiritual growth.

Peter says that opposite is also true.  V.8

“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”

Ouch!

The last thing I want God to say about me is that I was “ineffective and unproductive . . .  and nearsighted and blind.”

How about you?

Here’s the opposite.  God’s promises are great and precious because.

#5. THEY HELP US TO BECOME EFFECTIVE, PRODUCTIVE, AND CLEAR-SIGHTED!

Wow. That’s a lot, isn’t it?

Notice again, the chain of thought.  You need to have goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love in increasing meausre to keep from being ineffective and unproductive and nearsighted and blind.

If you don’t have those things, you’re in trouble and you’ve forgotten the gospel.  V.9, you have “forgotten that [you have] been cleansed from [your] past sins.”

But to get those things, you must believe the promises of God.

So they are essential in being effective Christians, productive Christians.  Christians that are clear-sighted, far-seeing, and visionary.

Do you see how great and precious the promises really are?

Is that how you are treating them?

Are the promises of God your delight?

Are they your regular diet?

Are they the meat and potatoes of your life?

I think that sometimes we are tempted to make the promises of God something we run to when things go bad, but that we ignore the rest of the time.

As if they were just medicine what ails us.

They are medicine.

But they should also be the staple foods of our heart’s diet.

If not, we become ineffective, unproductive, and nearsighted and blind.

We don’t need a church like that.

We don’t need Christians like that.

We need effective Christians. Productive Christians. Clear-sighted Christ.

Christians who value the promises of God as the great and precious things they are.

Here’s the last one for today.

#6. THEY CONFIRM OUR STATUS AS GOD’S ETERNAL PEOPLE!

The promises of God confirm our status as God’s eternal people. V.10

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

As we believe the promises and grow in grace, then we will know more and more that we certainly do belong to Christ.  That we are His chosen people because we are more and more growing into the restored image of Christ.

And we will be more and more sure our rich welcome into Heaven and the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Not because we’ve earned it, but because Jesus has earned it for us, and we believed His gospel promises.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

That’s a great and precious promise!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Still Looking for Gossip Stories

Dear Friends,

I'm still in need of some good true-to-life stories about gossip.  On Tuesday, I'll be starting to write the ministry book based on the Resisting Gossip sermon series, and I still feel like I'm missing some critical stories that bring life and concrete reality to the teaching.

I'm especially in need of:

- Stories of a time when you were tempted to gossip and did or didn't give in.  What was that like?
- Stories of a time when you were gossiped about but responded in faith or love or both.  What happened?
- Stories of a church destroyed (or almost destroyed) by gossip.  What were the details (no names, please)?  How did it play out?
- Stories of a fellowship that was rescued from gossip by confronting it wisely.

Now is the time, if you haven't already, to send in that story.
Leave it in the comments here or email me: pastormatt AT lansefree DOT org.

Thank you, and keep praying!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yes!

Rejoice with me! I just sent chapter 3 of my doctoral project off to my advisor's office.

Heather spent the afternoon searching for typos, and I reworked all of the formatting issues that I knew about . . .  and then I pushed the "send" button.

That's a great feeling.

Next week . . . we begin writing "the book" (chapter 4 of the project).

Martin Luther on Gossip

"Those who are not content just to know but rush ahead and judge are called backbiters. Learning a bit of gossip about someone else, they spread it into every corner, relishing and delighting in the chance to stir up someone else's dirt like pigs that roll in manure and root around in it with their snouts."

Martin Luther in his Large Catechism.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Gossip and the Church"

“Gossip and the Church” [Audio Page]
Resisting Gossip
July 24, 2011
Psalm 133


This is the last message in our Resisting Gossip sermon series.

Thank you for bearing with me as I’ve test-driven the truths that I’ve been uncovering in my doctoral studies.

I’m pleased to report that I’ve finished chapter 3 of the doctoral project (all but footnotes and formatting), and I’m ready to start chapter 4.  I’ve written about 100 pages and have about 300 footnotes!

Many of you have asked, “How is your book going?” Well chapter 4 of the project IS the book. So, in sense, I’m now ready to start the book!

But we’ve been talking for 8 weeks about the things that will go in the book.  Five major things.

First, recognizing gossip.  Biblically speaking, sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back, out of a bad heart.

Second, the heart of gossip.  Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.  Sinful gossip comes from sin in the heart. And that includes judging others. Most sinful gossip comes from sinful judgments about other people.

Third, resisting gossip.  What to do instead of speaking gossip and what to do instead of listening to sinful gossip.

Fourth, regretting gossip.  What to do if we’ve failed in this area and the hope we have of forgiveness and cleansing in Jesus Christ.

And fifth, responding to gossip in both faith and in love.  Trusting God with our reputations and loving even our enemies when we are the target of sinful gossip.

That’s what we’ve been learning.

And I want to go one more step today and apply this teaching, not only to the every day lives of Christians, but to the local church.

“Gossip and the Church.”

Exactly ten years ago this week, we had a little event here at Lanse Free Church that we called “Wild West Day.”

I’m joking that it was a “little” event.

It was, for us, a very big event.  Our church of approximately 120 people at the time put on an outdoor family festival for the whole community and had at least 1200 guests on our campus in one day.

As events go, it was big and one of the highlights of my ministry here.

I think we gave away like 3000 hot dogs or something like that?  A concert, Lew Sterrett and the Sermon on the Mount, the guys from Miracle Mountain Ranch came down and did all kinds of things, there were carriage rides, kids stuff.  A day long.

It was awesome!

But I came to believe after Wild West Day that the biggest miracle of that day was not how big the event was was but how unified our church family was.

And after it was all over, I preached a message celebrating that from Psalm 133.

Which I called, “The Blessing of Aaron’s Oil Beard.”

You’ll see why in a second.

Psalm 133 is the second to last song of ascents in the Psalter.

It’s one of the psalms that the Israelites would sing to one another as they went up to Jerusalem in family groupings as they traveled to the great feasts of Israel.

Imagine it being sung by a large family of foot travelers.

"1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes.
 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore."

God loves unity among brothers.

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”

Now, of course, in the original context, these are literal brothers, kinsmen traveling together up to the feast and enjoying the fellowship of being a part of corporate Israel brought together by the great feast and the goodness of the LORD that it represents.

But I think it is a very small “thought-jump” to see ourselves as Christian brothers and sisters in this verse. It is good and pleasant when Christian brothers and Christian sisters live together in unity.

That’s what the church is supposed to be.

God loves unity in His church.

Oneness.

David says that unity is good and pleasant.

It’s so good that it’s holy.

UNITY IS HOLY.

I think that’s what David means by the strange (to us) word picture in verse 2.

“[Brothers dwlling together in unity] is like precious oil poured on the head, running  down on the beard, running down Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.”

What does that mean?

Precious oil is a symbol in the Bible of the anointing, consecrating, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. And the picture that the psalmist is drawing from the historical memory of the people of Israel is the first consecration of the Levitical priesthood with Aaron (Moses’ brother) recorded in Exodus 29, Leviticus 8, and Leviticus 21.

[There’s Leviticus again!]

When Moses poured oil over Aaron’s head, he was consecrating Aaron and symbolizing his being set apart for priestly work by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.

And this verse in Psalm 133 tells us that it was a total consecration. You get the picture of this fragrant, perfumey slick stuff sliding down Aaron’s head and into his beard (he’d never get the smell out of it!) and down upon the collar of his robes. 

Completely immersed in oily goo.

Now that probably sounds gross to our foreign and modern ears, but try to put yourself in an Israelite’s shoes.  Here is a description of one of the most completely consecrated people, visibly holy by the marking of oil.  And here is the psalmist saying that unity is like that.  When brothers and sisters live together with rare, good, pleasant unity, holiness is present.

Unity is Holy.

That’s one of the reasons why God loves it.

The second is that UNITY IS REFRESHING.

I think that’s what the second strange word picture means in verse 3.

“[Brothers and sisters living together in unity] is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessings, even life forevermore.”

Now, who is this Hermon guy?

It’s not a guy.  It’s a mountain.

They are both mountains.  Mount Hermon and Mount Zion.

Mount Hermon is huge!

Mount Hermon is actually a mountain range that rises 9,200 feet above sea level, and extends some 16 to 20 miles from North to South. It’s massive!

Mount Zion, on the other hand, is relatively small.  More like a hill upon which the city of Jerusalem was built.  It’s only like 2,500 feet above sea level.

And so the psalmist says, “Imagine the dew of Hermon falling, descending, really–flooding upon Mount Zion.”

Imagine the deluge of water, the wetness carrying life-giving sustenance to a drier, more weary land!  He’s saying, imagine how green and fertile and rich and refreshed Mount Zion would be if Hermon’s dew covered it!

Imagine if Hermon’s dew descended on us right now!  How badly we needly rain here.

Now, apply that picture in your mind to unity. Unity is refreshing, restoring, reinvigorating, life-giving.  It’s not just pleasant–it is refreshing.

It’s like stepping into just-right air-conditioning this week.

AHHHHHHHHHH.

Right?

Unity is so refreshing, especially in a world like ours that is so fractured.

It is holy and refreshing and God loves it and blesses it. V.3

“For there the LORD bestows blessing, even life forevermore.”

Unity is a mark of God’s blessing and a mark of eternal life.

God loves unity among brothers. Amen?

And the flipside of that is true, as well.

Turn over to Proverbs chapter 6, verses 16-19. 

Proverbs 6:16-19.

“There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

The poetic device that Solomon uses here is a X+1 device.

He says that the LORD hates (that’s a strong word!) six things and then he adds another.  And the it’s supposed to emphasize that last one.  Not under-emphasize the others, but to especially emphasize the last one.

What does God detest?  (1) haughty eyes – looking around and being prideful, (2) A lying tongue - God hates falsehood because He is true, (3) hands that shed innocent blood - God loves justice and hates murder, (4) a heart that devises wicked schemes - a heart that makes terrible plans to do evil, (5) feet that a quick to rush into evil - a readiness to do what is wrong, (6) a false witness who pours out lies - not just lying but lying in court to do injustice, and then he adds one.  What does God hate? 

“A man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

God hates dissension.

Now, that doesn’t mean that God endorses unity at any cost.

No, He loves the truth and requires that we divide from others for the sake of important differences.  There are necessary times to divide.  Absolutely.

But He hates unnecessary division of His people.

God hates those who sinfully divide the church.

GOD HATES SINFUL DISUNITY AMONG BROTHERS.

Sinful disunity is unholy and the opposite of refreshing. 

Sinful disunity drains, saps, sucks the life out of people.

God hates sinful disunity among brothers.

And you know where this is going, don’t you?

Because that’s exactly what sinful gossip does.

Proverbs 16:28 says, “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”

Let me put it another way, “Loose lips sink fellowships.”


“A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”

And that could be the end of a church.

It’s happened before.

One of the saddest parts of my research is to see how sinful gossip has spread through churches and brought them down.

Bearing bad news behind brothers’ backs out of a bad heart and dividing those who should be united in Christ.

I’m so thankful for the holy and refreshing unity that we have enjoyed here at Lanse Free Church for so many years.

It’s not always been perfect, and it’s not always been easy, but it’s been good and pleasant when the brothers and sisters here have lived together in unity.

I am so thankful for it.

Today is a church family meeting where we get together to discuss things that are important to the body.

In some churches, that’s a meeting that you wear a side-arm to.

But I look forward to our meetings and am not worried that we’ll fall into fighting.

Because there is a high degree of commitment here to holy and refreshing unity.

Aarons’ Oil Beard and the Dew of Mount Hermon.

Not that we will all agree on everything, but we will love one another through our differences.

This church makes it easy to write on gossip because it’s not a major problem of ours.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the other writers on the subject of gossip do so because they’ve had to deal with a lot of slander and accusations in their ministry.

We saw that Paul had to deal with it in his ministry.  In 2 Corinthians 12, he says, “I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”

That hasn’t been my experience.  Lanse is not Corinth. 

Not for me. Not that we haven’t had to deal with sinful gossip.

Everyone does, but it is not a characteristic problem of our church.

So, how do we keep it that way?

What is that we do that maintains a culture of peace?

Ultimately, it is the gift of the Lord. Psalm 133 says, “The LORD bestows his blessing.”

But what is our part in that?  And how can we keep cultivating that gossip-free unity?

I thought of six biblical points that I also see at work in our church.

Let me give them to you quickly.

#1.  BEAR WITH, DON’T BITE.  Each other.

Curt and Steph Quick had Colossians 3:12-17 read at their wedding last Saturday.

And Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

“Bear with each other...”

That’s especially important for a church family.

We are all sinners here and very different from one another, so church life requires forbearance.

Putting up with each other.

Being patient.  “Love is patient.”  The old word is “longsuffering.”

Love is longsuffering.

Instead of running to gossip about someone, we forbear.

The opposite of that is biting.  Turn with me over to Galatians chapter 5, verses 13-15.

The apostle Paul has been explaining the gospel again to a church that was in danger of losing it.

And in chapter 5, he’s applying the gospel’s implications to their lives.

He says (Galatians 5:13), “You, my brothers, were called to be free [the gospel frees us!]. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love [bear with one another]. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ [There’s Leviticus 19:18 again!] If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Bear with, don’t bite, each other.

Now that simply means put to work all of what we’ve learned this Summer.

Do the necessary heart work to change.
Choose to resist gossip.
Love instead.

Bear with, don’t bite.

It’s simple, but it’s not always easy.

Go to the person that is rubbing you the wrong way and solve it between you, but don’t bite them in the back.

Bear with, don’t bite.

That’s what I see happening here at LEFC, and we need to keep it up.

#2.  PRAY HARD.

Turn over to Ephesians 6:18. 

This is the last piece of the armor of God.

Remember, our battle is not primarily with flesh and blood, but with unseen powers at work behind the scenes.

And Paul tells us to (Ephesians 6:18), “[P]ray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Even the ones you’d rather talk about?

Even those.

“Always keep on praying for all the saints.”

A-L-L.

I think there is tendency to stop praying for those we’re having trouble with.

But Paul tell us to be constant in prayer.

“Always keep on praying for all the saints.”

#3.  BE CAREFUL WITH REPUTATIONS.  Especially with leaders.

Turn over to 1 Timothy chapter 5. 1 Timothy chapter 5, verses 17-21.

1 Timothy is Paul’s instruction manual on how to do church.

And in chapter 5, he’s talking again about elders, especially those elders who are set aside for teaching and preaching.  We call those elders, vocational elders, or pastors.  He’s talking about me!

This is what he says in verses 17-21.

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’”

By the way, this is another one of the ways that God has blessed me in this church.

This church does a phenomenal job at honoring me as a vocational elder.  From the way that you speak about me, to the way that you take care of my family and pay us and give us time off, and this year, to give us time to be pre-occupied and write.

We are very blessed.  I don’t know if like (v.18) being called an Ox, but am very glad that you don’t muzzle me. 

And that you are very careful with my reputation.  V.19.

“Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.  Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.  I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.”

Now, it’s clear that the church is supposed to hold its leaders accountable.

Rebuke us publicly if we have fallen into unrepentant sin or heresy.

And do it without favoritism.  Don’t fail to rebuke us because you like us!

But be very careful and cautious with reputations.  V.19

“Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.”

That completely rules out gossip, doesn’t it?

Don’t listen to someone (especially an anonymous someone) who wants to bring some bad news behind the church leaders’ back and not bring it out into the open with two or three witnesses.

Church leaders can be destroyed by gossip.

I have a pastor friend whose whole ministry is barely hanging on right now because others have started a whisper campaign.

And that’s true for all church leaders, not just pastors.

But of course, a pastor’s livelihood and family often depend upon it.

I’m so thankful that this church is careful with reputations. Let’s keep it up.
   
#4. OPEN CHANNELS.

This is the flip side of that last point.

Often gossip flourishes in situations where there are no open channels for people to share their concerns and problems.

And that is the leadership’s responsibility.

Sometimes if there is sinful gossip in a church, it is the leaders’ fault.

Church leaders need to regularly humble themselves and make sure that they are listening.

Here’s what Paul says to Timothy in chapter 3 of 1 Timothy, just two chapters before.

“Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife [a one-woman kind of man], temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”

I think that a lot of those characteristics mean basically: humble, teachable, and approachable.

That’s how leaders are supposed to be.

And they need to open up channels of communication.

And here I want to thank you, as church family, for being patient me as your pastor for the times when I have not being humble, teachable, and approachable.

I want to be a good listener, but I know that I haven’t always done that.

There have been times when I’ve failed to hear you.

And those are times, I’m sure, when the temptation has been strongest to gossip about me.

I’m trying to be humble and approachable.  All of our leaders are.

We all want to hear from you and be responsive to you.

We may not always agree, but we want to be listening.

That will keep up our unity as holy and refreshing.

Aaron’s Oil Beard and the Dew of Mount Hermon.

#5. CALL EACH OTHER ON IT.

Turn over to 3 John with me.

John had a problem with a church that he cared about. It was being taken over by a Church Boss called Diotrephes.

And this is what he said.  V.9

“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.”

Diotrephes tried to take over and wasn’t even allowing missionaries to visit the church.

And he was gossiping maliciously about the apostle John!

If you think that being godly will keep you from gossip, then forget it.

You can be the apostle John and they’ll gossip about you.

So what does John do?

He calls him out.

He names the name and names the sin.

He’s not gossiping about Diotrephes. He’s holding him accountable.

“So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us.”

And if Diotrephes refuses to repent, I’m sure that John would be forced to discipline him.

Proverbs 26:20 says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.”

And it might be a better translation to say, “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.”
                       
The King James says, “so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.”

We need to call each other on it when we see each other maliciously gossiping, and as a last resort, we need to be willing to exercise church discipline.

Sometimes, unity is preserved by excluding someone who causes dissension.

It seems counter-intuitive at times, but unity is sometimes preserved by cutting out a part of the body that won’t function as a unit.

I give you all permission if you see me engaging in sinful gossip, to call me on it.

Number six and last.  You know what I’m going to say.

#6.  REMEMBER THE GOSPEL.

I think that one of the chief reasons why Lanse Free Church is by and large a gossip-free church is our unofficial motto is:

The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

And the main thing is the gospel.

One last turn of your pages.  Ephesians chapter 4.

Paul has spent 3 chapter explaining the gospel.

God’s great plan centered in Christ.

“Redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith . . . not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Paul has been explaining the gospel for 3 chapters and then he turns to application and says, Ephesians 4:1-6.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. [That “calling” is the gospel.  Live a life worthy of the gospel. V.2]  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love [bear with, not bite]. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Because we have all of this through the gospel, we have in common everything that is most important in life.

And we need to remember that and “make every effort to keep” that unity.

The gospel is what brings us together and holds us together in Jesus Christ.

The gospel defeats gossip.

We have Jesus in common, and that’s everything!

We need to remember that Jesus is enough to keep us living together in unity.

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) live together in unity.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's Everywhere!



From our friends vacationing in Virginia, "Best ice cream on our trip!" 

Yum. I'll bet they really dish it out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another Big Milestone

Rejoice with me.  I completed chapter 3 (of 5) of my project!!!
 
It's got 57 full pages with 220 footnotes.

Heather is going to take a red pen to it for grammar, clarity, typos, etc, and then on next Tuesday I'll fix all of the footnotes and formatting, etc, to send it to my advisor to see what he thinks!

Yeah. That really feels like we're getting somewhere.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Responding to Gossip in Love"

“Responding to Gossip in Love” [Audio Page]
Resisting Gossip
July 17, 2011
Matthew 5:43-48


Last week we turned the corner into the homestretch of this sermon series on resisting gossip which I hope you’ve found to be helpful. 

I think that I’ve changed my mind (am I allowed to do that?) and have one more message to give you on this topic before we lay it to rest. Pray for me this week as I think about giving one more message on gossip and the church, next Sunday.

Last week, we began to think about being the target of gossip.
                       
What should you do if you are caught in the crosshairs of gossip yourself? 

How do we RESPOND to gossip?

Not just, how do we resist when we feel like sharing it or receiving it.

But how do we respond when we are the target of sinful gossip?

Last week, we talked about responding in faith.

The bottom line was that we should trust God with our reputations.

A reputation is a good thing. “A Good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”  Proverbs 22:1

But we cannot control our reputations and we need to entrust them to God.

Now, that doesn’t make it easy.  It’s still really hard to be gossiped about.  And the Bible does not minimize that pain in any way.

But we learned last week from Psalm 140 to take it to the Lord, to leave it with the Lord, to cry out to him for justice, and to believe that He will answer.

When gossiped about, we should trust God with our reputations.

But what about the other people involved?

How should we relate to them?

How do we respond to those who have gossiped about us?

And the answer that our Lord Jesus gives can be summed up in just one word.

Love.

“Responding to Gossip in Love.”

Have you found Matthew 5:43-48?

This paragraph is a part of our Lord’s teaching in what we commonly call “The Sermon on the Mount.”

And at this point in the sermon, the Lord Jesus has been masterfully correcting misunderstandings about the Law of God and setting forth not just His own correct interpretations of the Law but also His own divine statements of the Law.  What we might call the “Law of Christ.”

He has said 6 times in Matthew 5 something like, “You have heard it said...but I tell you...” something different. The Lord Jesus is setting forth His own authoritative teaching.

And it’s very different from what they had heard.
And it’s very different from what we hear from our culture.
It’s very different from what other religions say.
It’s very different from even what our instincts might lead us to believe.

Well, our paragraph for today is the last of those six.

And it’s a correction of what the rabbis had been teaching about Leviticus 19:18 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Remember how we just studied that last month?

And not just a correction but a new dimension added to that law.

Here’s what our Lord Jesus says.  Matthew 5:43-48.

[scripture reading, prayer]

If someone has sinfully gossiped about you, then they are acting like your enemy.

Now, they may not be your enemy in any legal sense. They may be your friend.  They may be your closest friend.

But at that moment when they were bearing bad news about you behind your back out of a bad heart, they were acting like your enemy.

And our Lord Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

That was different from what the people had commonly heard.  V.43

“You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”

The rabbis had taken Leviticus 19:18 which said “Love your neighbor as yourself.” and assumed that that must mean “Love your neighbor,” your countryman, your brethren, and of course, then that means hate your enemy.

But the Mosaic law does not say anywhere to hate your enemy.

And the Lord Jesus not only corrects that misunderstanding but adds a new dimension.  V.44

“But I tell you [and who is He to issue commands like this? He is claiming to be the Son of God here just by saying, ‘I tell you’”: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...”

Love your enemies.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to “like” them.

Think about the last person who gossiped about you...that you know of.

Of course, again most of the time, we don’t even know when people are gossiping about us.

We can’t control it.  We often don’t have a clue that it’s even going on.

That’s just a fact of life.

And I’m so glad that my God knows everything, because I can’t.

But think about that last person who you know gossiped about you.

Jesus is calling you to love them.

Not love in the touchy-feely warm fuzzy kind of love.  Affection, we might say.

But love in that actively-seeking-someone’s good kind of love.

Love is a verb, not primarily, a feeling.

It’s a seeking the good of another.

It involves the heart but it’s not the same thing as liking someone.

Love your enemy.

Do 1 Corinthians 13 on your enemy.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

That’s what we’re supposed to do, not just for our friends, but also for our enemies.

And when we do that, number one, we show the family resemblance.

#1. TO SHOW THE FAMILY RESEMBLANCE.

Look at verse 44.

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

Now, we know from what Jesus says elsewhere that you can’t become a son of God by being good.  You cannot earn your way into sonship.

We become sons and daughters of God through faith in Jesus.

But we can grow into our sonship by acting more and more like our new relationship with God.

So, in that sense, we can become sons of our Father in heaven by imitating Him.

And when we do that we demonstrate that we are His children.

A couple people have remarked that I look a little like my father.

Bald is beautiful, you know!

My dad and I say that God only made a few perfect heads and on the rest He put hair.

I’m glad that I look like my dad.  Because we are related to one another in a special relationship.

Jesus is saying that if we love our enemies, then we are showing our family resemblance because we’re acting like our Heavenly Dad. V.45

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. [God loves His enemies. He shows love to His enemies.  Be like Him. V.46] If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? [Don’t even the drug pusher do that?  Don’t even the scum of the earth scratch the backs of those who scratch theirs?  That’s not being like God. That’s just being normal. V.47] And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

No. Jesus’ followers are called to show the family resemblance and actively love even our enemies.

Now, what does that look like, practically speaking, in terms of being gossiped about?

I’m glad you asked!

Loving your enemies is going to look differently in different situations.

It just is.

There is no one-size fits all for loving your enemies.

It depends on a lot of factors.

For example, what is your basic relationship with this enemy?

And what kind of gossip was it?

Remember, we talked about different kinds of gossip a few weeks ago?

There is a big difference between some idle chat about you shared by people you don’t know and a malicious betrayal by a best friend.  Isn’t there?

So, we’re going to need some discernment here.

Biblical wisdom dug out by mining the Bible for principles that apply and Holy Spirit given wisdom bestowed on us as a result of prayer.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

A few months ago someone out of love informed me that someone else had been gossiping about me.

And I hardly know that other person.

So, you know what? Loving that person who acted like my enemy doesn’t really change a thing for me.

I’m maybe a little more wary of them than I had been.

And the Bible tells us to be wary of our enemies.  Jesus said to beware of men.

So that’s okay. But I’m still supposed to love them.

Let me suggest four ways to love your enemy when they have gossiped about you.

A, B, C, and D.

The first comes right out of verse 44.

“Love your enemies and PRAY for those who persecute you.”

A. PRAY.

[By the way, some of your Bibles probably say, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you.”  And if you’re looking in your NIV, those words are down in a footnote.

Jesus did say those things, but that’s in Luke chapter 6.  It’s doubtful that Matthew put them into his gospel because only late manuscripts have it in there. Some scribe probably wanted Matthew and Luke to say the same thing, so he added it in here in Matthew.

We need to do all of that because it’s Jesus’ teaching, but we need to be careful not add to God’s word, so it’s probably not a part of Matthew.]

Let’s talk about praying for our enemies.

If you find out that someone has gossiped about you, then pray for them.

Have you ever done that?

It’s not easy to do.

They have hurt you.  They have talked about you behind your back.

And you didn’t find out from them!  You found out some other way.

Pray for them.  Before you talk to your enemy, talk to your God about your enemy.

Pray for blessing on them.
Pray for God’s conviction for them.

Many people have prayed for someone instead of confronting them, only to find that person being repentant without ever being spoken to.

Pray for them.

And pray for yourself that you would have wisdom to know how to relate to them.

I suggest Philippians 1:9-11 as a great scriptural prayer for smart-love.

It says, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.”

Pray that for yourself when you’ve found out that you are in the crosshairs of gossip.

B. OVERLOOK.

Listen to Proverbs 19:11.

“A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

I would say that 90% of the times when we are gossiped about, the right thing to do is to just overlook it.

Now, it depends on a lot of things.

Like what kind of gossip it is.

Was the gossip a lie being told about you?  Or was it the truth?

Was the gossip a secret that you had asked someone to keep, but they spilled the beans?

Was the gossip just people sharing their bad opinions about you?

In many situations, you can just overlook it and act as though it didn’t happen.

And that’s love.

“It is to [your] glory to overlook an offense.”

Now, that assumes that you can just go on relating to the person the same way as you always did.  Overlooking is a kind of one-sided forgiving.

That’s what I did for that person that I heard about a few months ago.

It’s not hard to overlook it.

I trust God with my reputation and then just overlook the offense.

That doesn’t minimize the pain.  It still hurts.

But it just absorbs the pain and moves on in love.

Of course, we can’t always do that.

So another way to love our enemies is to loving confront them with their sin.

C.  CONFRONT.

And this is especially the case if you are brothers and sister in Christ. 

Jesus says in Matthew 18:15.

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

Now, again, this is confronting IN LOVE.

Love doesn’t just sweep things under the rug, it also goes to the person who is acting like an enemy and shows them their fault so that the relationship can be restored.

“If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”
       
One of the frustrating things about this series, is that I can’t use very many personal illustrations because I want to protect those I’m talking about.

I’ve promised not to gossip about anyone while preaching on gossip!

So, I can’t tell you the details, but one time I was gossiped about, and I felt that I had to go to the person who was spreading the bad news about me, confront them.

And they agreed with me and asked for my forgiveness!

And our brotherhood was restored and even improved!

Praise God!

Sometimes, people will repent, and you can forgive them.

Other times, they won’t repent, and you will need to be patient and forebear with them and hope for their repentance and lean towards forgiveness and release bitterness, hoping to eventually reconciled.

Lovingly confront.

Now, before you go confronting someone about gossiping against you there a few things to consider.

One is to consider whether or not the gossip about you is true.

And to consider if there is anything you can learn from their behind-the-back criticism of you.

Maybe they shouldn’t be sharing it, but could you be learning from it anyway?

Loving our enemies sometimes means learning from our enemies.

That takes humility, but humility is Christ-like, too.

Is there some truth in the stories going around about you?

Make sure that you don’t prove them right by the way that you live.

The apostle Peter put it this way. “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  [Well, some might because they are wicked.] But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Before you confront someone about their slander of you, make sure that the story that’s going around is not true.

Live with a clear conscience so that they they will (eventually) be ashamed of what they said.

Live it down.

Live the bad reputation down.

And, of course, that brings up the question of whether or not to defend yourself.

We heard last week a story of someone who decided to stop trying to defend themselves around town when they were being slandered.

And that’s wise because you and I can’t pick up all of those feathers spread by the wind either.

But there may be times to defend yourself and your reputation.

In the Fall, we’re going to read the book of Acts, and we’ll see that sometimes Peter and Paul and the other apostles defend their actions and other times they don’t.

So, sometimes it would be good to do a limited amount of defending, if it might help others, and other times it’s best to just let it go.

The Lord will direct our steps as we trust in Him.

If the gossip about you is Untrue, and it’s because you are following the Lord Jesus, then the Bible says that we should actually rejoice!

Jesus said in this same chapter, Matthew 5, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Rejoice and be glad and love your enemies.

Whether or not they ever repent, we need to love our enemies.

And that means).  D. REPAY EVIL WITH GOOD.

I think that the Apostle Peter was meditating on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5, when we wrote 1 Peter 3.  

Peter has been preparing his people for persecution. 

Because suffering is normal for Christ-followers until Jesus returns.

And he says this in chapter 3, verses 8-12. Listen to this.

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. [Like your Heavenly Father.] Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, [and here he quotes Psalm 34] “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

So, the point here is that Jesus’ followers are to love their enemies by doing good to those who do them evil.

To return beatings with blessings.
To bless those who curse us.

If someone gossips about us, we don’t gossip about them.

We seek their good.

Have you ever seen anyone act like that?

It’s awesome to see.

That person who responds with LOVE for their enemy, begins to look just like Jesus.

Because that’s how Jesus loved us, isn’t it?

While we were still God’s enemies, Christ died for us.

Jesus was saying on the Cross, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”

This seems crazy to the world, but so be it. Paul’s personal temstimony in 1 Corinthians 4 was “We are fools for Christ  . . . When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;  when we are slandered, we answer kindly.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13.)

If someone has gossiped about you, make sure that your basic stance is FOR THEM.

That doesn’t mean to not be wary of them.

That doesn’t mean to trust them in the say way that you did before.

But it does mean to want what’s best for them even at a personal cost.

Do good towards them.

And you might win them back.

But even if you don’t, you are showing the family resemblance!

God sends rain on the good and the evil.

He is good to those who hate Him.

And we can be, too.

Repay evil with good.

Now, catch this.  We do all of this loving our enemies for great reward.

That’s point #2 this morning.

Love your enemies.

#2. TO ENJOY GREAT REWARD.

Now, it’s only hinted at in Matthew 5.  Luke 6 spells it out even more. And I think that 1 Peter 3 illustrates it the best.

Matthew 5 says, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”

Answer?  Nothing.

That’s just normal.

But what’s hinting at?

If you love your enemies, you will get rewarded!

If you love that person who gossiped about you, then God will reward you.

Jesus spells that out more clearly in Luke 6 in what we call the “Sermon on the Plain.”

“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them witout expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.”

And here’s how 1 Peter 3 says it.  Some of you are still there.

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

That’s what I want.  I want the eyes of the Lord on me.

I want His ears attentive to my prayers.

That’s blessing!

And it comes with loving our enemies.

Do you want the eyes of the Lord on you?

Do you want your prayers to be answered?

Love those who gossip about you.

Now, again, that doesn’t make it easy.

Being gossiped about is suffering.  It is painful.

Jesus knows that.  He had it worse than anyone.

He never deserved any of the gossip about him, and they called a bastard, and they called him a son of the devil, and partner with Satan.

He knows how hard it is.  But he loved His enemies and He calls us to do the same.

Love your enemies. #3. TO BE HOLY AND PERFECT.

Matthew 5:48 ends that whole section of the Sermon on the Mount and that call to love our enemies by saying, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

And I think that he’s echoing Leviticus 19 again.

“Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Now, how does that make you feel?

One the one hand, it’s great to know what God wants, isn’t it?

This is what we are supposed to do.

There is no question about it.

When gossiped about, we respond in love.

But “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect?”

I don’t know about you, but that drives me to despair.

I can’t do that.

I know that I can’t do that.

I can’t love my enemies perfectly.

I’ve been gossiped about, and I have not always responded in love.

And I’ll fail again next time.  At some point, I’m sure.

I think that Jesus wants us to feel that despair.

Because He wants us to not only see the gold standard, but also be driven to the Savior!

To feel our need for salvation.

To feel our need for forgiveness because of what He would do on the Cross on our behalf.

To feel our need for Him.

To feel our need for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to help us to love our enemies.

We CANNOT do this on our own.

But Jesus did it perfect and gives us His perfect record on our account if we belong to Him and then gives us the power through His Holy Spirit to do it better and better as we trust in Him and Him alone.

If you are not yet a faith follower of Jesus Christ, you can’t do this, though you should.

You can’t love your enemy, not really, and not perfectly.

Turn from your sins and trust in the Savior.  He will forgive you and give you new life.

Don’t try to do this in your own power.  You can’t.

None of us can, not even the Christ-followers.

But we can do it in His power.

Love your enemies.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"The Teacher" of Ecclesiastes on Gossip?

Does this passage teach an important principle about gossip?

"Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you--for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others."  

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

Sunday, July 10, 2011

[Matt's Messages] "Responding to Gossip in Faith"

“Responding to Gossip in Faith” [Audio Page]
Resisting Gossip
July 10, 2011
Psalm 140

We’re almost done with our sermon series on resisting gossip.

This week and next week should wrap it all up.

I hope that it’s been helpful to you, and I’d appreciate your feedback about that.  What has been helpful and what was confusing along the way.

Because the next step is to turn these messages with some other material into a ministry book which will become chapter 4 of my doctoral project.

So, I’m really looking for prayer and for your input about what has been and hasn’t been helpful.

For the first 6 weeks of this series, we focused on resisting gossip from the perspective of what we might call “the gossipers,” those who are tempted to gossip either in speaking or listening.  Bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.

This week and next week, we turn the tables and think about gossip from the perspective of the subject of the gossip.  The target of the gossip.

What if you are the target?

What should you do if you find yourself in the cross-hairs of sinful gossip?

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, get ready, it will.

What should you do if you find yourself in the cross-hairs of sinful gossip?

Of course, most of the time, you won’t know that you are.

Right?

Gossip happens behind your back.  When you aren’t looking.  When you aren’t listening.

When you’re not even there.

That’s one of the most pernicious things about sinful gossip, often the target is unaware.

But what if you get wind of what’s being said about you behind your back?

Someone else is bearing bad news about you behind your back out of a bad heart.

What do you do?

Well, next week, we’re going to talk about what you do with other people in that situation, especially those who have wronged you.

But this week, we’re going to start with what you do with God when you find yourself in that position, as the target of sinful gossip.

“Responding to Gossip in Faith”

One of the best and richest places to go in the Bible for learning how to survive being the target of other people’s sins is the Psalms.

The Psalms are songs of experience, including the experience of being attacked, being sinned against, being chased, being hated, being the target of other people’s sins.

There are dozens of Psalms that we could go to this morning to find out how to respond to sinful gossip in faith.

King David, especially, lived a life under attack and his prayers set down for us as songs in holy Scripture provide patterns for us to practice in our own lives today.

King David wrote Psalm 140.  Have you found it?

Let’s read it together.  As I read it, look for how David interacts with GOD about his situation of being slandered and attacked by others.

[scripture reading, prayer]

What makes it so bad to be gossiped about?

What makes it so hard and painful?

Well, a lot of things.

It IS painful.  It is a kind of suffering.  A trial.  And no trial is fun.

And especially because it’s going on behind your back, it can be really painful because there is a kind of betrayal going on.

I almost preached this message from Psalm 55, another Psalm where King David was wrestling with those who were gossiping about him.

And there it was a betrayal by his close friend.  He said, “If an enemy were insulting  me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him.  But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.”  Psalm 55:12-14.

That kind of betrayal always hurts.

And it leaves you feeling very vulnerable, doesn’t it?

You begin to be tempted to fear, don’t you?

Because you don’t know what’s being said about you.

You might have thought that all was good, but now you find out that there is all of this buzz going on around you and you can’t control it!

You can’t even know it, much less control it!

That’s scary.

In that same Psalm, David talks about how painful it really is.

Listen to this.

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me.  Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.  I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly far away and be at rest–I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and the storm.”  (Psalm 55:4-8)

David is saying that if he could run away and hide, he would

And that’s the king!

How much more could we feel scared and intimidated and hurt and betrayed by sinful gossip?

And I think another thing that makes it so hard to be the target of gossip is that it affects our reputations.

And we care about our reputations.

Is it good to care about your reputation? [That’s a trick question.  Don’t answer too quickly.]

Is it good to value your good name?

Yes.  Look here at Proverbs 22, verse 1.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

A good reputation is a good and valuable thing.

It’s a good thing to want. A good thing to value.

Something we ought, as much as its in our control, to cultivate.

Not through marketing and public relations or manipulating people’s opinions of you.

But through being a man or a woman or a boy or a girl of good character so that we gain a good reputation.

Proverbs links that good name to wisdom, of course.

A wise man or a wise woman will gain a good reputation, and that’s a good thing.

But what if someone is attacking that reputation?

That hurts!

Shakespeare captures that in the play Othello.  Look at this quote.

    “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
    Is the immediate jewel of their souls: [Sounds like Proverbs 22:1!]
    Who steals my purse steals trash; ’t is something, nothing;
    ’T was mine, ’t is his, and has been slave to thousands;
    But he that filches from me my good name
    Robs me of that which not enriches him
    And makes me poor indeed.”

Sinful gossip steals from good reputations.

And that’s really painful.

So, what do we do?

Psalm 140 teaches us three things.

#1.  TAKE IT TO THE LORD.

Notice where David goes when he gets in trouble.  V.1

“Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men; protect me from men of violence, who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day.”

David takes it to the Lord first and foremost.

And should, too.

But that’s not where we tend to go first, is it?

We tend to take things into our own hands.
We tend towards gossiping about our enemies.
We tend towards complaining about those who are complaining about us.

On one of your green survey sheets, I got back this story:

    “To try to piece together all of the events that happened several years ago [with someone I had business dealings with] would be impossible since I have attempted to forget. Not only forget as much as possible but to forgive . . . for what happened.
   
    This person, a professing Christian, went throughout the community, in business places as well as other churches attacking my character. 
   
    At first, I admit it was very difficult since I came from a background of wanting always to vindicate myself.  Not to get even but to be sure everyone knew my side of the story.
   
    It became evident that the task was overwhelming and was affecting my mental health.  Relief came when I surrendered the person to the Lord and myself as well.
   
    I had to take a hands off approach and let the Lord defend my character. It was not about me but rather about what the Lord was doing in me.  The burden lifted.”

Take it to the Lord.

Not just in principle, but in reality.  Take it to the Lord in prayer.  Talk about this with God.

David said, “Rescue me, O LORD, from evil me; protect me from men of violence.”

He talks to God about his situation.

And he doesn’t mince words. V.3

“They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent's; the poison of vipers is on their lips.”

Gossipers talk like snakes.
They bite.
Their words are full of poison.

Notice, again, how David acknowledges just how bad it is.

God isn’t looking for us to bear things stoically, without feelings.

"Just grin and bear it."

No!  Take it to the Lord and tell him how you feel.

“Lord, I feel attacked.”
“Lord, I feel betrayed.”
“Lord, I feel scared.”
“Lord, I hate being the object of gossip.”
“Lord, take it away!”  V.4

“Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from men of violence who plan to trip my feet.”

Now, David probably had it worse than any of us here.  He had enemies who actually wanted him dead. For the most part, those who gossip about us don’t want us actually to be killed.

But the principle is the same. Take it to the Lord.  V.5

“Proud men have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path.”

“This is not easy, Lord. I don’t like it.”

Faith does not minimize the suffering.
Faith doesn’t say, “It’s no big deal.”
Faith does not pretend that it doesn’t hurt or that isn’t scary.

What faith does do is take the problem to One who really cares and can really do something about it!

Take it to the Lord.

Have you taken your suffering to the Lord?

Have you been attacked recently?  Have you talked with God about it?

I mean, really talked?

Have you said anything like this to the Lord?

“Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men.”

You and I can’t control what other people say about us.

That’s not in our “circle of control.”

It’s in our “circle of concern,” but it’s not in our circle of control.

But it is in GOD’s circle of control, isn’t it?

So, take it to the Lord!

Now, notice how these prayers of David are based upon his relationship with God. 
V.6

“O LORD, I say to you, "You are my God." Hear, O LORD, my cry for mercy.  O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle...”

Do you see all of the “relationship” words?

“You are my God.”

David isn’t just asking some god out there to do something for him.

He’s asking his God.  The God with whom David is in covenant.

The God David belongs to.

“You are my God.”

And David has seen God work for him before. V.7

“O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle...”

“You’ve been there for me before, Lord. I know that you’ll be there again.”

Have you seen God work on your behalf?

How about in relational ways?

Here’s my testimony.

I don’t know about all of the times that people have gossiped about me.

I’m guessing there is a lot.

I’m a semi-public figure.  I’ve been involved in various difficult situations and been connected to various conflicts between people at times.

Some of the gossip, I’m sure that I deserve. That is, not that people should share the bad news about me, but that the bad news was true.  I am a sinner, and I have sinned.

But of all of the gossip that I know has been shared about me, and some of it has been deeply painful–I even thought about resigning as pastor during the most painful time of gossip so far–God has protected me and my reputation.

Again and again and again.

To my knowledge, it has not hurt me or our reputation here as a church.

And I’m profoundly thankful for that.

And it helps me to be ready to take it to the Lord next time.

He has always shielded my head in the day of battle.

Why wouldn’t I turn to Him this time?

Take it to the Lord, because you are in relationship with Him.

Of course, if you are not in relationship with Him, then you wouldn’t have this option of taking it to the Lord.

If you are not yet a believer/follower of Jesus Christ, then you can’t say, “You are my God” with David in verse 6.

And while, I’m sure that He’s been good to you, you can’t yet say, “O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer” with David in verse 7.

You see, there is something much greater for us to be delivered from than the snares of and traps and poisonous of other wicked people.

It’s our own sin.  Our own sin will condemn us to Hell.

But Jesus Christ died and rose again to deliver us from our sins and enter us into a relationship with Him that starts today and goes on forever.

Turn from your sin and trust in the Savior, and you can say with confidence, “You are my God. . . . my strong deliverer.”

And then, when you are attacked with clandestine verbal weapons, you have somewhere to god.

Take it to the Lord.

#2.  ASK HIM FOR JUSTICE.  V.7

“O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle–do not grant the wicked their desires, O LORD; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud. Let the heads of those who surround me be covered with the trouble their lips have caused. Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise. Let slanderers not be established in the land; may disaster hunt down men of violence.”

This is a request for justice.

David asks that the plans of the wicked be thwarted.

In fact, he asks for a reversal, that the bad things they want for David come back on their heads. V.8

“Do not grant the wicked their desires, O LORD; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud [and the Lord opposes the proud]. Let the heads of those who surround me be covered with the trouble their lips have caused.”

That’s justice.

And David and the other psalmists ask for justice again and again in the Psalms.

They even ask that their reputations be protected.

That’s not a bad prayer.

Psalm 71 says, “In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.”

That means, in effect, “Let me not look bad.”

“Protect my reputation.”

Not, ultimately, for myself but for you, Lord.

But don’t let my reputation be unjustly bad.

Bring justice, O Lord!

Have you prayed for that in your situation?

Someone has gossiped about you, and everyone seems to believe it.

Take it to the Lord. And ask Him for justice.

Now, you might, at first, have a hard time squaring these cries for justice with loving your enemies, as Jesus teaches us.

Next week, we’re going to talk about loving our enemies–even those that gossip about us.

You and I might not yet be able to pray verse 10 and, at the same time, bless those who persecute us.

But I don’t think that they are actually mutually exclusive.

I think it’s possible to pray verse 10 without bitterness and personal hate.

And to ask for justice while still holding out mercy for those who would repent.

But it takes becoming like Jesus who is able to do two difficult things at the same time.

I think that if David’s enemies had turned around and asked for forgiveness, David would have granted it like that.

Because he would have been like his gracious Lord.

But the Lord is not just gracious.  He is also holy and just.

And that includes, for the unrepentant, retribution.

I believe that it’s a both/and sort of thing.

Ask for justice while still loving your enemies.

And we know that Jesus did that sort of thing and that He makes it possible for us to do through the Cross.

Because the Cross satisfies the demands of justice and while also dispensing mercy.
If that person who gossiped about you comes and asks for your forgiveness...give it.

Justice will still be done.  Justice will always be done.

Either in Hell or at the Cross of Christ.

So, don’t be afraid to forgive.

And don’t be afraid to humbly ask for God to bring justice in your cause.

And #3.  BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL ANSWER. Verses 12 and 13.

“I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. Surely the righteous will praise your name and the upright will live before you.”

Believe that God will answer your request for justice.

Know it!

“I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.”

I know it.

That’s what God will do.

He will bring justice.

That’s the consistent message of the psalms.

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”  That’s Psalm 55:22.

God will settle the score.  God will see that justice is done for those who cry out for it.

Your reputation will be saved.

Now, you might have to wait some for that.

We live in an instant society where we expect things to happen now, on our time-table.

But God’s time-table and ours are not the same.

As one of my pastor friends says, “God is seldom early but never late.”

In a similar Psalm, Psalm 37, David says, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways (aren’t we tempted to fret?!), when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath (and this is the same guy who prays verse 10 of Psalm 140!); do not fret–it leads only to evil.  For eveil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.  A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.  But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.”

You might have to wait “a little while,” but you can trust God to bring that justice.

Trust God with your reputation.  Don’t fret about it.  That’s taking something good like a reputation and making it “god.” 

A reputation is valuable, but it’s not worth worrying about.  Because, again, you can’t control it.

But God will.  You just might have to wait a “a little while.”

That “little while” might feel longer than you can bear.

For the Lord Jesus, it was [get this] after he died of the injustice that God made it all right again.

It was in His resurrection that Jesus was vindicated.

For you and me, it might get worse before it gets better.

But it will get better.  God has promised, and it’s in His very character, to bring justice. To restore our reputations. V.12 again.

“I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.”

Jesus knows that, too.  He understands what you and I are going through.

If David understood what it meant to be under attack, how much more did Jesus–the fulfillment of the Psalms.

Jesus lives out verse 13 right now.

And so will we if we trust in the Lord.

“Surely the righteous will praise your name and the upright will live before you.”

Forever!

When you are the target of sinful gossip, respond in faith.

Take It to the Lord.
Ask Him for Justice.
And Believe that He Will Answer.