Sunday, October 26, 2008

Learning to Deal with Conflict

Joseph Herrin (10-26-08)

II Timothy 4:2
Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

I would like those who read this blog to be patient in considering what I share here. I know the last two blogs that spoke of a difficult situation with a brother in Christ have disturbed some. I have received a great number of e-mails on the matter, probably 40-50 in all. Most have written to express appreciation for some point that was made, such as the need to slow down and be patient, to avoid hasty actions and words, to test all things carefully, to not throw doctrine out in a pursuit of some false sense of peace and love, and the need to clearly differentiate those who have become partakers of the life of Christ from those who have merely had a religious experience.

There have been a small, but not insignificant, number of people who have written to express that they were disturbed by the difficult topic being addressed. There have even been three people who asked to be taken off the mailing list after suggesting I was manifesting a religious spirit. (Please note, I do not have a mailing list. If you receive this blog it is because you subscribed to it, and there is an unsubscribe link at the bottom of each post sent out. I am not involved in managing the list of subscribers. It is all automatic.)

I do consider carefully the criticisms that come my way, asking God to reveal His mind and thoughts, and to correct me if I am in error. In this particular situation I have invited God to make known His mind, and if I am manifesting some religious spirit, to reveal its presence that I might come to a greater conformity to the image of Christ. As I have continued to wait upon the Lord, He has not been silent, and what I have discerned Him saying is that the body of Christ does not like dealing with conflict, and the avoidance of it has hurt the body significantly.

Let me ask you to consider when the last time was that you observed the body of Christ exercising discipline toward one of its members? I know from my own experience, and the testimonies I receive from others, that the church fails to exercise discipline as it once did. Some older saints have shared with me how the church used to admonish the unruly, and even publicly rebuke those who were indifferent about their sin. These things are no longer done out of fear of offending the transgressor, or of making the members of the body feel uncomfortable. There is much Scriptural precedence for discipline among the body of Christ.

I Timothy 5:20
Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning.

I Thessalonians 5:14
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

Titus 1:12-13
"Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons..." For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith...

Titus 2:15
These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

Ephesians 5:11
Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them...

These are but a handful of the many Scriptures that relate to the call of a minister to reprove, rebuke, exhort, admonish, and expose sin among the body of Christ. Today Christianity has adopted a philosophy of providing “seeker friendly churches.” Seeker friendly churches rarely speak about specific sins in society, and they never mention sin among their own members. This would create an “unfriendly” environment and scare visitors and members away.

Most Christians today do not want to be held accountable by their ministers. This is evidenced by the tens of thousands who flock to churches pastored by such men as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, and Robert Schueler. Christians do not see or hear of ministers reproving members for sin, or refuting the error that has been embraced by individual members. They therefore have no pattern or example of true Scriptural discipline.

When I was a young minister in my thirties, the Spirit of Christ led me to speak to a number of church members about error or sin they had embraced. I always tried to be diplomatic about the things I said, but I took my call before the Lord seriously, fearing Him more than I feared man. My experiences in this regard were not very positive. I was met with great anger by certain members of the body. After this happened several times, the Lord spoke to me, and I wrote the article titled “The Issue of Judging.” I will quote from it here:

[The issue of judging] has long been a troubling issue for me because as a minister with a prophetic gifting, God often has spoken words of correction, instruction and warning through me. On many occasions these words have not only been rejected, but they have elicited a very vitriolic response from brothers or sisters. Often my character and motives have been attacked because a member of the body did not want to hear truth or allow the Spirit of God to delve into areas of their life that they had walled off from His inspection.

Because I grew up under the influence of the strong men of guilt, condemnation, and shame I have been quick to believe that I must have been in error when the words God had me share with others were rejected. I would look for the tiniest indication that the message of God was influenced and corrupted as it passed through the vessel of my flesh. Did I err in not speaking in love? Did I not have the person's welfare in mind when I spoke to them? Did I let my own feelings of rejection add a harshness to the delivery of the word because I anticipated the message and messenger being rejected and criticized?

I am certain that at times there was some substance to these questions that arose in my mind. However, I am fully convinced that the rejection of correction and warning is most often due to the fact that in the Western world the mass of Christian believers simply do not receive these things well. There is little true discipleship in churches. Members are courted and catered to. Offending a brother is looked upon as the most grievous of offenses. There are too many competing churches to risk offending a brother or sister. It is too easy for them to pack up and go somewhere else where no one will interfere with the way they choose to live their life.

In many ways, the mass of church goers are like spoiled children. They are given everything they want with little required of them in return. As a spoiled child pitches a fit or throws a temper tantrum when told they cannot do something, or when they are corrected, so do many of the saints of God. It is largely because such an atmosphere of tolerance and appeasement has been adopted in the church that the issue of judging has come to be out of vogue and is looked down upon as unkind and uncharitable.

In my confusion, due to the harsh rejection and actual fits that some have thrown when I have spoken correction, instruction, or warning to them, I have often gone back to brothers and sisters and apologized to them for offending them. I felt that certainly I must have been in error in some way, though I could not put a finger on my error even when I sought the Lord diligently to reveal it to me. Over time, as I have seen this pattern repeated, I have come to discern that it was not due to some error on my part that caused the bitter rejection of the words I spoke, rather it was due to immaturity and an ingrained fleshliness that is rampant among the body of Christ.

As a minister, I am charged to offer correction to others with whom the Lord brings me in contact. I do not rush into this, nor do I consider it my business to speak correction to all people. I understand that every minister is given a particular sphere of responsibility. Most of the refuting, reproving, admonishing, exhorting, and correcting that I do is through e-mail correspondence as I interact with people who have contacted me. In most cases this communication is expressed by offering some instruction to believers, and inviting them to consider what is shared. Sometimes people are offended simply by having me share Scriptures with them. The truth truly does offend.

Throughout the years since the Lord led me to begin a ministry of writing, He has directed my attention to numerous topics He wanted me to address. One prevailing topic has been that of divine government and spiritual authority. These are topics that are steered clear of by the mass of ministers, for they tend to upset a lot of carnal believers who do not want to die to self and take up the cross. Men do not want to take Christ as their head in all things, and women do not want to have man as their head. Yet the second and third books the Father led me to write are focused upon the authority men are under, and the authority women are under.
Sarah’s Children:
I can tell you that these teachings have not been universally received. Indeed, it has been a remnant that have been able to accept them and seek to walk in the truth. One purpose of government and authority is to bring men and women to a cross. Most Christians in this hour of carnality recoil violently when someone reveals that there is a cross appointed to them.

Many, many men and women have written to me with great objections to these teachings. These objections continue to this day. Even recently I have been admonished by some to not teach on these topics. Those suggesting these things often accuse me of some wrong motive, but the Spirit testifies that it is not the teacher offending them, but the teaching. This is evidenced by their failure to accept whatever spiritual authority God has ordained for them, whether it be Christ or man.

There have been others who have embraced the truths of God’s word, and have been willing to take up the cross, and these have often written with very thankful hearts that there was a minister willing to speak the truth when so many are silent. I have been amazed at the widely divergent reactions of various people to the same teaching. Some would demonize me, and others would lionize me. In both cases the Spirit testifies that I am to keep my eyes on Him, and not fear man.

Over the course of the years I have learned that conflict is unavoidable. Paul describes the hearts of Christians in the last days. He says,

II Timothy 4:3-4
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

Anyone who is teaching “sound doctrine” must anticipate that the majority of professing Christians will not “endure” them. They will despise both the message and the messenger. I encounter this rejection very frequently. It is a part of what the Father has called me unto. When I encounter believers who despise the truths the Father has called me to proclaim, even when they are unkind, insulting, and very carnal in their words, I have learned to reply as the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy.

II Timothy 2:24-26
The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

There are times when a stern rebuke is called for, but as God is my witness I can attest to you that it has been a very rare thing for me to speak sternly to anyone. Paul told Titus to sternly rebuke the Cretans, and he told Timothy to rebuke some who continued in their sin in the presence of all. I have done this very rarely, but I have done it, both as a pastor at a church and in the present ministry entrusted to me. I have no sense of the Spirit’s censure in having done so.

I do understand that if most Christians today were to witness true church discipline, initiated and animated by the Holy Spirit, they would judge it as demonic. This is what some have done at times in suggesting I am manifesting a religious spirit (i.e., an unclean spirit) by bringing a rebuke or correction, privately or publicly, to a brother or sister.

As a case in point, I wrote a number of article early on during the Lakeland, Florida event concerning the evident transgressions there. I was roundly vilified by a great number who described my warnings as an attack inspired by Satan. I am sure many readers here have read condemnations of those who were warning the saints about the impure things going on at Lakeland. It seems many in the church considered it a greater evil to expose sin than to actually be the one committing it. Such is the mindset of a people who have been led to live by emotion and to revere universal acceptance and tolerance, while casting out sound doctrine and a message of accountability unto God.

I know that it is uncomfortable to be a witness to the correction or discipline of another. But listen again to Paul’s words:

I Timothy 5:20
Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning.

Does not a public rebuke, when justified, have a beneficial effect? Consider the case of Ananias and Sapphira. When Peter rebuked them publicly they fell down dead, and great fear came upon the body of Christ in Jerusalem. The people were much more careful about their walk for a season. The fear of God had entered their hearts.

What happens when parents fail to discipline their children? Do they not often turn out as hellions? What happens when the church casts away correction and fails to discipline its members? People will begin to live careless lives. They will have no fear of God.

What happens when churches no longer correct, refute and reprove wrong doctrine? They will find that the members of the body of Christ are embracing many errors. Doctrinal correctness will give way to sloppy thinking, and little by little the church will arrive at the very place we see it today. The message of suffering and the cross is despised, as well as all doctrines that lead to a personal cross, and all manner of soft doctrines of a loving and merciful God who really cares little about sin or truth will become the standard of the day.

What will the church think of the rare individual who does take his call as a minister and guardian of the flock seriously? Suppose you had a hundred households where the parents all let their children do whatever they desired. The children could eat whatever they pleased. The children could occupy themselves in any way they desired. They could stay up as late as they wanted, and they could live totally selfish, spoiled lives.

Then consider there was one family where the parents exercised discipline over their children. They gave them food to eat that was healthy, not just pleasurable. They gave the children chores and responsibilities and required studious attention to their schooling. The parents required the children to be in bed at a certain hour, and they even disciplined the children when they acted unruly.

What do you suppose the hundred undisciplined households would think of the one where there was discipline? Would they not accuse the parents of being controlling, of lacking love? Perhaps they would try to pressure this one family to no longer exercise discipline over their children. They would most likely not want to have anything to do with those parents. They would vilify the parents, seeking to portray them as monsters.

The Spirit is testifying that God is sending great judgment to the nations and in particular to the church. Judgment must begin at the house of God. Is it not largely due to the fact that the church has not judged itself, even vilifying those who dare to speak publicly of transgression and the need of repentance, that God is now forced to judge His people? Let us put off this avoidance of all that is difficult and uncomfortable and begin to judge with righteous judgment.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.

Heart4God Website:
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Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

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