Weekly Encouragement - 9/16
Weekly Encouragement - 9/16

Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church • September 21, 2020

Pastor Jud and I are sending a weekly encouragement based upon Galatians 5:15 and guided by Alexander Strauch’s, If You Bite and Devour Each Other. The aim is to instruct what God’s Word teaches about conflict and how we should respond. When conflict flares, we must consider the instruction of God’s Word to walk as children in light. We pray that these might be profitable for correction and instruction in the Word of God.


"Face False Teachers" 


One of the reasons why there is conflict and division within the Church is because of the presence of false teachers. It is false teachers, according to the Apostle Paul, that have a "craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people" (1 Timothy 6:4-5). False teachers, by proclaiming a different gospel, are the source of great division. Therefore, it is important that believers think carefully about how to respond to false teachers that they encounter.  


How can the Church work to avoid the division and conflict brought about by false teachers? Let me offer a few Biblical principles: 


  1. Commit yourself to a study of the truth of the Word of God. The better you are acquainted with the true Gospel and sound doctrine, the more easily you will be able to recognize false teachers and false gospels. 
  2. In so far as it is possible, avoid the company of false teachers. The Apostle Paul warned the church at Rome about false teachers and instructed the church to "avoid them" (Romans 16:17). What does this look like practically? Alexander Strauch says this: "In practical terms this means we are not to attend their Bible studies or go into their homes for fellowship and friendship. We are not to welcome them into our homes for hospitality (2 John 10-11)." Don't give false teachers a platform for them to be able to spread their false doctrines.  
  3. Have the courage to faithfully confront and stop false teachers that come into the church and bring conflict. If you recognize that a certain person is promoting a different gospel and creating division, don't keep silent about it. Talk to your elders and/or your pastors about your concerns. Do what is necessary to keep false teachers from deluding others with their lies.  


"By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit (the gospel) entrusted to you" (2 Timothy 1:14). 


In Christ,

-Brennan 

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Weekly Encouragement - 9/9
Weekly Encouragement - 9/9

Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church • September 21, 2020

Pastor Brennan and I are sending a weekly encouragement based upon Galatians 5:15 and guided by Alexander Strauch’s, If You Bite and Devour Each Other. The aim is to instruct what God’s Word teaches about conflict and how we should respond. When conflict flares, we must consider the instruction of God’s Word to walk as children in light. We pray that these might be profitable for correction and instruction in the Word of God.


“Pursue Peace”


It is said that there can be no peace without justice. Peace is the result and justice is the means. Scripture presents another side to understand the relationship between peace and justice. In James 3:18 it is written, “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” “Righteousness” means conduct that is pleasing to God (1:20). It is justice. The way it is used here is as the result or fruit of peace. Right conduct that is pleasing to God—justice—is the result of those who make peace. This is why justice cannot come through man’s anger (1:20). Simply, James writes that there can be no justice without sowing peace. This is similar to the beatitude of our Lord, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).


How does one make peace? It begins with love for the law of the Lord. “Great peace have those who love your law” (Psalm 119:165). There can be no justice apart from those who make peace; and those who make peace are those who love the law of the Lord. 


Alexander Strauch writes, “Peace is absolutely essential to the spiritual health of a local church and to an individual’s growth in sanctification. In an environment of warfare and contending factions, spiritual growth is stifled. Where there is discord, fear and trust abound; frustration, anger, and distress fill the hearts of the peace. In such an atmosphere, the gospel witness is hindered and new believers and children become disillusioned.”


How do you pursue peace? You follow the law of the Lord and love the Lord your God and your neighbor. Remember the Heavenly Father’s love for you, shown on the cross of Christ, who is himself our peace. It is through Christ and because of Christ you follow the law of the Lord and make peace with your neighbor, which is the way to sow justice and righteousness.  

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Weekly Encouragement - 9/2
Weekly Encouragement - 9/2

Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church • September 02, 2020

Pastor Brennan and I are sending a weekly encouragement based upon Galatians 5:15 and guided by Alexander Strauch’s, If You Bite and Devour Each Other. The aim is to instruct what God’s Word teaches about conflict and how we should respond. When conflict flares, we must consider the instruction of God’s Word to walk as children in light. We pray that these might be profitable for correction and instruction in the Word of God.


“Pursue Reconciliation”


When we sin against each other, it creates division and disharmony among the body of Christ. The one sinned against could respond by slandering, gossiping, or holding grudges. The sinner could respond in similar fashion. Thus, sin not only creates disharmony, but our response to sin could also deepen it. 


Jesus teaches us another way. Pursuing reconciliation is the responsibility of all parties. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matt. 18:15). Jesus teaches that the one sinned against must go to the sinner. This goes against conventional thinking that the one sinned against has a right to anger because the sinner hasn’t apologized. No, Jesus says. The one sinned against has the duty to pursue reconciliation. 


The sword cuts both ways. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus teaches that if you know you have sinned against another person, you must pursue reconciliation.


What is the point? In conflict, everyone bears the responsibility to pursue reconciliation. The reason is that the sinful flesh does not discriminate between sides. Idolatry, enmity, envy, and things like these are against the Spirit. As Paul warns, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21).  


How do we pursue reconciliation? In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus instructs us to admonish one another privately first. If nothing works, then one or two witnesses should join you. If that doesn’t work, then the matter must be brought to the elders (Matt. 18:15-17). 


As we live together as the body of Christ, we must walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. This includes an eagerness to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1,3). We maintain this unity of the Spirit by pursuing reconciliation with each other according to the Word of God. 


In Christ, Pastor Jud 

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Weekly Encouragement - 8/26
Weekly Encouragement - 8/26

Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church • August 26, 2020

Pastor Brennan and I are sending a weekly encouragement based upon Galatians 5:15 and guided by Alexander Strauch’s, If You Bite and Devour Each Other. The aim is to instruct what God’s Word teaches about conflict and how we should respond. When conflict flares, we must consider the instruction of God’s Word to walk as children in light. We pray that these might be profitable for correction and instruction in the Word of God.


“Control the Criticism"


The sixth biblical principle to consider for handling conflict is to control the criticism. Criticism is the act of judging unfavorably or faultfinding. There are times when criticism is necessary and right, such as a friend finding fault with your actions (Prov. 27:6). Nevertheless, as Alexander Strauch writes, “Faultfinding critics have an amazing ability to gather a flock of contentious complainers, and they can wield fearsome destructive power in a church.” 


Paul warns against quarreling over “opinions” or “disputed matters”, which appear to be distinct from fundamental doctrines (Rom. 14:1). By separating “opinions” or “disputed matters” from fundamental doctrines, Scripture recognizes freedom for disagreement. Paul’s concern, however, is the kind of person we become in such disagreements. Too easily criticism can be in the form of slander or unmerciful judgments. 


Another kind of criticism is grumbling. J.A. Motyer writes, “Grumbling is associated with selfish complaining, unbalanced criticism of small matters, impatience towards what is not understood, grudging unwillingness to be helpful.” James warns against grumbling against one another and Paul admonishes believers to do all things without grumbling (James 5:9; Phil. 2:14).


How do we replace this sinful criticism with godly instruction? 


First, pray for wisdom and tact. D.A. Carson writes, “All of us would be wiser if we would resolve never to put people down, except on our prayer lists.” 


Second, check your attitudes and motives. Ask yourself, “Does my criticism violate the commands of Scripture?” 


Third, speak gently. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23).


Fourth, include words of encouragement. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Blame comes best on the back of praise.” 


Fifth, welcome criticism. If we need to rebuke our brother or sister in Christ, we must also be willing to receive it. David writes, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” (Ps. 141:5). You might find that your critics are your best teachers.  


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Weekly Encouragement - 8/19
Weekly Encouragement - 8/19

Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church • August 19, 2020

Pastor Jud and I are sending a weekly encouragement based upon Galatians 5:15 and guided by Alexander Strauch’s, If You Bite and Devour Each Other. The aim is to instruct what God’s Word teaches about conflict and how we should respond. When conflict flares, we must consider the instruction of God’s Word to walk as children in light. We pray that these might be profitable for correction and instruction in the Word of God. 


"Control the Tongue"


There is perhaps no verse that captures better the power of the tongue than Proverbs 12:18 - "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." We can all probably think of a time in our lives when the words of another person were like daggers in our heart, and we can also probably think of a time when we've been greatly encouraged and comforted by the words of another person. Put simply, the tongue has tremendous power, the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). Therefore, it is important that Christians think carefully about how they are using their words.  


The Bible is sprinkled throughout with exhortations about using our tongues in an appropriate manner. What are some of the principles it gives to us? Here are a few:

  1. Be quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19). Instead of rushing to voice your opinion, take some time to listen, understand, and evaluate before responding.  
  2. Choose the right words: those that are gracious, edifying, and good for "building up" (Eph. 4:29-30). Remove inflammatory and cutting words from your vocabulary. 
  3. Speak the truth, but always do so in a loving and gracious manner (Eph. 4:15). There are times when we must speak the truth to someone sternly and with firmness, but even then the truth must be tempered by love.  

Let me add in conclusion that these Biblical exhortations apply not just to in-person interactions, but also to online interactions. It's easy to sit behind a keyboard and make remarks on social media or elsewhere that we would never make to others in-person.  Let us remember that "on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak" (Matthew 12:36), and that includes the words we've "spoken" online. May God give us all the grace to use our tongues to bring life and healing in every setting we find ourselves in.   


In Christ,

-Pastor Brennan  

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