The End

November 28, 2008

This book is now complete.

To get an overview of it, please use the ‘Contents’ button at the top of the page (where you can see chapter headings and sub-headings) and then navigate by chapters, or simply use the chapter titles in the right hand column of this page.

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18.2 Us Generally

November 28, 2008

Creating a Secure CHURCH
PART 5 : Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 18 : What Sort of Church?

18.2 And Us Generally?

And so as we move further into the twenty-first century, how will we go?

In our churches,

  • Will we worry about minutiae of doctrine, purity of practice, exclusion of the ungodly,  and denouncing of those with whom we appear to disagree?

or

  • Will we create a powerful community of loving, caring and accepting people, who know what they believe but can tolerate and love those with slightly varying viewpoints, who are secure enough in themselves to love those who are clearly different from them?

In our churches

  • Will we be inward looking, concerned only for ourselves, our worship, our prayer meetings, our Bible Studies?

or

  • Will we be secure and filled with the love of God, looking out to share the love of God with all who will receive it, whatever they look like, whatever they sound like?

  • Will we continue with a form of religion that so often pretends, that so often ignores the needs that are there, that so often maintains a structure without a heart?

or

  • Will we work to create a community where people are able to be themselves, able to be real, able to acknowledge their concerns, knowing they will still be loved and accepted, so that the love of Jesus can reach them and bring transformation, and where grace abounds?

In our churches,

  • Will we maintain a superficiality, a look-good environment that looks good on the outside but is worried, anxious and upset on the inside?

or

  • Will we become a community of truth where ‘what you see is what you get’, where joy and sorrow co-exist alongside each other and truth abounds because people know it is acceptable because grace is there to meet it when truth creates embarrassment or upset?

These are some of the key questions that face the church in the West in the early years of the new millennium. Can we become a secure church?


18.1 A Review

November 28, 2008

Creating a Secure CHURCH
PART 5 : Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 18 : What Sort of Church?

“anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing” (John 14:12)

As we conclude this second book on creating a secure church, can we look back over some of the things we’ve covered and now try to get an overview of the whole thing, asking the question, what sort of church will we be?

18.1 A Review

Chapter 1 – The Need

  • Do we see the need within the church, and within the world, to work for creating a secure church?

Chapter 2 – History

  • Do we understand the characteristics that make for a secure church?
  • Can we acknowledge the things that work against that in reality?

Chapter 3 – Strange People

  • Do we understand the concept of ‘strange’ or ‘different’ people as being one we need to counter and work against if we are to create a secure church?

Chapter 4 – Imperfect People

  • Do we understand the concept of ‘imperfect’ people or ‘slow changing’ people as being concepts we need to counter and work against if we are to create a secure church?

Chapter 5 – Togetherness

  • Do we understand the New Testament teaching revealing corporate church life?
  • Do we understand the potential of togetherness in church life?
  • Do we understand and can we live with immaturity in church life?

Chapter 6 Confession

  • Do we understand the importance of confession in church life?
  • Do we understand the things that make confession easy in a secure church?

Chapter 7 – Team

  • Do we understand the concept and value of ‘team’ in leadership?
  • Do we understand the concept and value of accountability?

Chapter 8 – Relationship Strategies

  • Do we understand the need to communicate the vision of a secure church?
  • Do we understand the practical things that can be considered to help people feel secure on Sunday morning and at midweek meetings?

Chapter 9 – Mentoring

  • Do we understand the call to be a people who change and grow and mature?
  • Do we understand the difference between discipling and mentoring?

Chapter 10 – Preaching

  • Do we understand what it means to be a secure preacher?
  • Do we understand some of the things that make a congregation secure in preaching?
  • Do we understand the distinction between legalism and grace?

Chapter 11 – Gifts

  • Do we understand the benefit of prophecy in the church?
  • Do we understand the checks and balances to create a church that is secure with prophecy?
  • Do we understand some of the dynamics of creating a secure church when there is deliverance ministry?
  • Do we understand some of the dynamics of creating a secure church when there is prayer for healing?

Chapter 12 – Light to the World

  • Do we understand our call to be a light to rest of the world?
  • Do we have a complete confidence in the Gospel?
  • Do we have channels for taking God’s blessing to the world?
  • Have we thought through the problem of accessibility for potential visitors?

Chapter 13 – Correction Theory

  • Do we understand the need to consider correction and the variety of approaches?
  • Do we understand how difficult it is to lay down standards of right and wrong?
  • Do we have a full view of God’s approach to correction as\seen in the Bible?

Chapter 14 – Correction Practice

  • Do we understand the needs for different forms of correction?
  • Do we understand the distinction between the need for confrontation and the need for teaching or discipling?
  • Do we understand some of the needed dynamics for confrontation?
  • Do we understand the distinctions between reconciliation, restitution and restoration and difficulties that arise?

Chapter 15 – Disagreeing

  • Do we understand some of the basic reasons why disagreements arise?
  • Do we understand the types of disagreement that arise in church life?

Chapter 16 – Conflict

  • Do we understand what we mean by ‘conflict’ and the nature of different types of conflict?
  • Do we understand the effects of unresolved conflicts?
  • Do we understand how to help an Offender acknowledge and deal with their offence?
  • Do we understand how to help an Offended person deal with their offence?
  • Do we understand what is needed to walk out reconciliation?

Chapter 17 – Forgiveness

  • Do we understand the dynamics of Scriptural Forgiveness?
  • Do we understand how God forgives?
  • Do we understand some of the things that helped an offended person come to peace?

17.6 And So?

November 27, 2008

Creating a Secure CHURCH
PART 4 : When Things Go Wrong

Chapter 17 : Thinking about Forgiveness

17.6 And So?

So, as we conclude this chapter on the matter of forgiveness, consider the following:

Are there people in my life who

•  are unforgiving of me?

•  that I cannot forgive?

If there is someone who has seriously offended me, what is it that stops me confronting them in love, seeking to bring a right resolution?

If there are people who are simply fractious, what do I need to be able to help them?


17.5 Helpful Factors

November 27, 2008

Creating a Secure CHURCH
PART 4 : When Things Go Wrong

Chapter 17 : Thinking about Forgiveness

17.5 Helpful Factors

There are a number of factors that might enable us to receive the grace of God to cope well with the situation:

1. Realisation of Justice

Many people struggle with the question of forgiveness, and counsellors sometimes don’t help because they do not follow the Scriptural pattern, because they are being asked to ignore injustice, and so the offended person says, “But she/he did me wrong!” and the correct answer is, “Yes, it was very wrong and God wants them to come to a place of repentance but in the meantime the important thing is for you to receive God’s grace to heal up all you are feeling about what happened.”

We may subsequently go on to also suggest that they are to become God’s means of bringing that other person to the good, and when that happens they can then pronounce forgiveness, but not until then. The focus of the counsel then moves to receiving grace for today without the need to ignore justice.

[You may be saying, but I didn’t get justice when God forgave me. Oh yes you did, You repented and God forgave you on the basis that His Son had stepped in and taken the punishment for the Sin(s) you’ve just confessed. His work on the Cross only becomes operative in respect of clear, known sin, when there is repentance.]

2. Our own unworthiness

The truth is that we have no room to point fingers at other people. If an angel blew a horn from heaven every time we had less than a perfect thought or less than a perfect word or less than a perfect action, there would be a tired and exhausted angel in heaven! We have been forgiven by God despite what we were like. The parable of the unmerciful servant (Mt 18:21 -35) is a strong warning.

Again and again in Scripture we are encouraged to act in a particular way because that is how God or Christ has acted towards us, e.g. in our Colossian verse it finishes, Forgive as the Lord forgave you”. These sort of verses remind us that we are what we are by the mercy and grace of God and so we are to extend that same mercy and grace to others.

3. The condition of the other person

Sometimes when we’ve been counselling someone we’ve come up against the stumbling block of pain or anger which seems impossible to surmount. However what the Lord did was to show them the state of the person who offended them. One girl who had a major (and genuine) grievance against her father from her childhood days, found as she prayed that the Lord allowed her to see the state her father had been in at that time. Instead of anger against him,  she wept with compassion and found it easy to release him to God (he had already died). Awareness of the state of that person as seen through the eyes of Christ enables grace to come much more freely.

4. The will of God in His command

The Scripture allows us no excuses. Too many times it commands us to forgive and indeed makes it a condition of receiving forgiveness (e.g. Mt 6:15). But it’s not just a question of Law, for the Law is there to drive us into the arms of the Father. In that amazing Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says a number of things that are humanly impossible to do. So why does he say them? To drive us into the Father’s arms where we acknowledge our own weakness and our own need, and receive through our relationship with Him the grace to do those things.

Grace in the face of hurt is one of those things, and if that wasn’t bad enough, love for our enemies is another as we noted previously (Mt 5:44), so if you consider someone has abused or offended you and has become your enemy, the command is there: love them, pray for them, and you’ll only do that with God’s grace, but it isn’t an option!

A Summing Up Verse

In Book One we noted Peter’s security in Jesus’ presence by reference to Mt 18:21 when Peter asks how many times he shall forgive his brother, but in Luke’s teaching in Lk 17:3,4 we find Jesus saying, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent’, forgive him.

There it is all very clearly laid out – he sins, you rebuke him, he repents, and you forgive him. Those are all the ingredients. When Peter spoke about it in Matthew’s Gospel, his emphasis was simply on how many times he needs to forgive. When Jesus spells it out, he gives all the ingredients for it to be true Scriptural forgiveness – and yet it has to keep on happening if the forgiveness-repentance cycle is repeated.


17.4 The Key

November 27, 2008

Creating a Secure CHURCH
PART 4 : When Things Go Wrong

Chapter 17 : Thinking about Forgiveness

17.4 The Key to Biblical Forgiveness

Instead of seeing offence and forgiveness as an issue simply between two people, we need to see that it is between two people AND God. Where there is an unconfessed sin this is an open issue with God. It may not be something that affects our eternal destiny (although it can be) but unconfessed sin means you have an unresolved issue with God – sin is an offence against God! It is only resolved when you repent of it, and God doesn’t bring judgment then, because Jesus already took that punishment.

The Biblical teaching is that it is possible to unintentionally sin and obviously action can only be taken when you become aware of it (see for example Lev 4:13,14). Similarly Paul shows us (Rom 5:12 -14) that sin existed before the Law (knowledge of specific sins) but wasn’t counted against the sinner – yet the effects of sin did operate, i.e. people still died.

So, as we said above, forgiveness is a judicial pronouncement on behalf of heaven when there has been repentance. Before the repentance and after it, the important thing for us, the offended person, is that we get the grace of God to cope and to hold a non-hostile attitude towards our offended, wanting them to come through to the good with God and with you.

Hold on, you may be thinking, surely the end outcome is the same as if I’d simply said, “It’s all right I forgive you” even if they haven’t repented? No, you wouldn’t have been part of God’s process of bringing them to the good – they still have a casual attitude about their sin, because you let them off. God wants them to come into a proper place before Him where they acknowledge what they have done is wrong and repent of it. In that way they are reconciled to God AND they are less likely to repeat it, which again is one of God’s goals for them.

From your side of it all, the difficult thing, as we said before, is for you to hold a right attitude towards your offender


17.3 Biblical Forgiveness

November 26, 2008

Creating a Secure CHURCH
PART 4 : When Things Go Wrong

Chapter 17 : Thinking about Forgiveness

17.3 The Basics of Biblical Forgiveness

A Common Misunderstanding

There is a common misunderstanding about forgiveness that you hear again and again, but which does NOT correspond with Scripture. The common version is, “You must forgive people regardless of whether or not they are repentant.” Now that is inaccurate in one specific way which is very important to God – it minimises the awfulness of sin. What it in fact says is, “It’s all right that you have sinned against me, it doesn’t matter.”

Biblical Forgiveness

Biblical Forgiveness is based on God’s forgiveness:

Col 3:13 Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Now when we examine how God forgives, we see that it is ONLY after repentance. We mustn’t confuse this with two things:

•  God loves us

•  God sent Jesus to die in our place.

Now as we went to lengths to say in Book One, God loves us unconditionally, but don’t let that become ‘God excuses our Sin’. He never does that, He has too serious a view about Sin, so serious that the only way to deal with it was with the life of His Son!

Yes, Jesus did die in our place, but it is very clear from Scripture that to receive the work of the Cross we have to believe it and come to God in repentance, specifically seeking his forgiveness. Throughout the Old Testament period the prophets preached repentance. When John the Baptist came he preached repentance (Mt 3:1,2). When Jesus came he preached repentance (Mt 4:17). When the Holy Spirit came on Peter on the day of Pentecost, he preached repentance (Acts 2:38), which would open the door for forgiveness (see that same verse).

Nowhere in Scripture does God forgive without there first being repentance, but the moment there is repentance, forgiveness is guaranteed.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary says, “Human ‘forgiveness’ is to be strictly analogous to divine ‘forgiveness,’ e.g. Matt 6:12. If certain conditions are fulfilled, there is no limitation to Christ’s law of ‘forgiveness,’ Matt 18:21,22, The conditions are repentance and confession, Matt 1815-17, Luke 17:3″.

Love before Repentance

Now if we are to forgive as God forgives, it also means we are to love as He loves, and He loves before there is repentance. That’s why we said we need to distinguish between love and forgiveness. You CAN love but not forgive, because forgiveness has to do more with a judicial proclamation than with feelings.

The Christian requirement from Jesus is that we love our enemies (Mt 5:44) which means holding a good attitude towards people who are clearly against us which may go even beyond your offender.

This sort of forgiveness process is much more onerous than the casual or cheap forgiveness so often expounded. This forgiveness calls a spade a spade while at the same time holding an open non-hostile heart towards the offender.

This sort of forgiveness confronts your offender (Mt 5:23,24) but works for reconciliation, approaching your offender with a gentle heart (Gal 6:1) looking for their good – because how can love do anything less than this!

When Jesus was teaching, the ‘law’ that he brought sought to counteract any desires for revenge by going much further and requiring is to do something positive by means of countering the offence (that was the purpose of ‘eye for eye’ – Mt 5:38).

The Scriptural Strategy for Forgiveness

The following is the process that the Scriptures show us for properly dealing with offences:

1. Someone abuses you. (Probably there is a time lag as you cope with it).

2. You confront that person with their offence

3. They repent and ask your forgiveness.

4. You declare your forgiveness and the two of you are reconciled.

That’s how it is supposed to be! On occasion it may be that stage 2 is omitted because God convicts them before you have an opportunity to face them up with it.

But it’s that stage 2 that most of us would prefer to avoid and simply say, “Oh, it’s all right, I forgive them.” But that’s not forgiveness, that’s condoning sin. As we said above, it takes real grace to confront someone in such a way that you want their good as well as yours.

What happens if stage 3 doesn’t happen? You do one of two things: you either leave it for the Lord to bring conviction, or you go to a leader in the church for it to be taken a stage further. We’ll pick up the latter option in a later chapter where we focus more on correction.

You may have to leave it if the person is not in your church and having confronted them, there is nothing more you can do.