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James Merritt - Surviving the Big One

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    James Merritt - Surviving the Big One

Today we're gonna flip the scenario. We're gonna kind of turn it on its ear. We're gonna ask the question: How do you repair a relationship when you're not the one that ruptured it? In other words, how do you deal with a situation when it's not me; it's you that broke it? Or it's not you that caused the problem; it's them that caused the problem. So, in other words, we're going to answer this very, very tough question. What do you do when you're not the one that needs to get forgiveness, but you're the one who needs to give forgiveness? Let me tell you why I want you to really listen up over the next two or three weeks. Because this is going to be a much tougher thing to do. Because if you think about it, you'll admit this is true.

It is a lot easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to give forgiveness. It's a lot easier to say, "Sure, I'll be glad to forgive you". It's a lot easier to do that. Or it's a lot easier to say, "Hey, would you please be gracious and forgive me" than it is to say, "Sure, I will forgive you". It's a lot easier to seek forgiveness than it is to show forgiveness. A lot easier to ask for it than it is to give it. C.S. Lewis put it this way. He said, "Everybody thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until they've got something to forgive". That's true, isn't it? We want to preach forgiveness to somebody else until it really hits home with us.

And there are some of you listening to me right now, and you painfully know what I'm talking about, because there are some of you that, there's something you never leave home without. You carry it with you everywhere you go, and I'm not talking about a credit card. I'm talking about a grudge. I'm talking about bitterness. You go to bed it. You wake up with it. You eat with it. You sleep with it. You vacation with it. You play golf with it. You play tennis with it. You fish with it. You boat with it. Everywhere you go, somebody hurt you. Somebody offended you. Somebody sinned against you. You haven't gotten over it. You're determined not to ever get over it. And you're carrying a grudge.

There was a study that was done in the Journal of Adult Development It found that 75% of those surveyed who had made a mistake themselves, who had sinned in the past, 75% of them believed that they had been forgiven by God. But that same group, listen to this, said that against those who had sinned against them, only 52% of them had forgiven the person that hurt them. So, in other words, 75% said, "We believe God's forgiven us". But basically half said, "We've not forgiven somebody else".

Now, hopefully you've learned by now that there's only one remedy to ruptured relationships. We've talked about it week after week after week. And the only remedy for a ruptured relationship is forgiveness. And just as there are steps you've got to take in order to get forgiveness, there are steps you've got to take in order to give forgiveness. And we're going to go through those over the next several weeks. Now, the first step that you have to take to repair a relationship, and if you don't take this step, no matter what else you do, that relationship's not gonna ever be fixed. The first step that you've got to take to repair a relationship, even when you're not the one that caused it, you're not the one at fault, that first step is confrontation. Now, if you don't mind, I want you to say that word with me right now. Ready? Confrontation.

Let me tell you why I want you to say that and get used to it. 'Cause that word has a very negative connotation. Okay, I understand that. How many times have you heard someone say this? I've heard it so many times in my life. "Well, I just don't like confrontation". What you're going to learn today is Jesus begs to differ. Now, I've said this before. And you've heard it before. It bears repeating. There are no problems too big to solve; just people too little to solve them. That's true. There are no problems too big to solve; just people too little to solve them. And I promise you this morning: if you're in a relationship that has been ruptured because of someone else's fault, I'm going to share with you today how you can take the first step of confrontation to try to begin to heal that hurt and to fix that friendship and to restore that relationship.

Here's what I want you to take out the door this morning. "Confrontation is God's path to reconciliation". Confrontation is God's path to reconciliation. Let me just stop and say one other thing before I get started. You're sitting there and you're saying, "I am tuning you out because I don't like confrontation". I don't care. We do things every day that we don't like. There are many of you in the morning. You're going to have to get up at 5:00, 5:30. You know, take a shower or whatever. Be on the road by 5:30 or 6:00, because you know if you don't, you hit that Atlanta traffic, you're not going to make it to work. There are many of you that are going to get up Monday morning and get in your car and you're going to fight that hellacious traffic out there in Atlanta, you know, to get to your work. There's not a one of you that will get up in the morning singing "Zippity-doo-da, I get to fight traffic today". Not gonna happen. Then why do you do it? Because you've got a family to feed. You've got bills to pay.

So every day, we do things we don't really like to do. So I don't, you know, you don't have to like it. I'm not asking you to like confrontation. I am saying to you, if you really want to rebuild relationships that have been ruptured, when someone's offended you, someone has hurt you, someone's sinned against you, it is their fault; not yours, I want you to see what God has to say about why we are the ones that ought to take the first step to fix it and how we are to do it, okay? Here we go. Number one. You've got to be willing to confront personally. You've got to be willing to confront personally. Now, listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 18:15. He says, "If your brother or sister", he's not talking about physical but spiritual, could be physical, "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over".

Now, Jesus is dealing with a situation where it's not your fault; it's their fault. You're the innocent party. They're the ones that are guilty. They're the ones that caused the problem. And he's dealing with a situation where this is a fellow believer. This is someone in the church, someone in the family of faith, someone in the family of God. They have sinned against you. You're the innocent party. What are you supposed to do? Now, a couple things to keep in mind. Number one: he's not dealing with people who don't know God. He's dealing with people who do. He's not saying every time you see a sinner out there, "sinners," we're all sinners, but every time you see someone out there that doesn't know the Lord, they don't have a relationship with God, they've never trusted in Christ, they're not a part of a church and they're out there sinning, he says that's not your job to go and confront them.

I don't know why we get so surprised when sinners sin. I don't understand that. Newsflash: sinners sin. Okay, they just do. And we're all sinners, and I get that. But I'm talking about people who don't know the Lord. He says, look, I'm not dealing with that situation. I'm talking about someone who says they're a follower of Jesus, just like you are. I'm talking about someone that you're gonna spend eternity with and they have hurt you. The second thing I want you to notice is he's talking about an offense that is so bad and so egregious that it calls for confrontation. Because whenever somebody offends you, there's always two ways to deal with it, right? When somebody offends you, number one, you can overlook it. You can just say, you know what? It's just not that big a deal. I will just let it go.

And let me just say to you that, in fact, I would say probably in most cases, that's really what you ought to do. You really ought to overlook it. You really shouldn't try to confront it. As a matter of fact, if you're married, you better learn the spiritual art of overlooking. 'Cause if you don't, you're gonna be in a war 24/7. I'm telling you right now. Proverbs 19:11 says this: "Good sense makes one slow to anger and it's his glory to overlook an offense". It's true. Works in a marriage, all right? There are some offenses that you ought to overlook. But we all know that there are some offenses, they just can't be overlooked. I mean, they've hit such a level, they struck such an emotional chord, they have hurt so badly that confrontation's not only necessary, but you've got to do it, if for no other reason that if you don't confront them, they're gonna go hurt somebody else.

So here's the first thing Jesus tells us to do. Somebody hurts you, they offend you, they sin against you, Jesus says, "Go and point out their fault". Now let me just say this right up front. This is exactly where, most of the time, the problem starts, right here. Because we do one of two things. Either we just don't go, or here's what we do: we go to the wrong person. And whenever that happens, what could have been a little tiny tumor that could have been taken out early now metastasizes throughout the whole body. Because when you go to a person about a problem who is neither a part of the problem nor can be the solution to the problem, you must made that person a part of the problem. And so now the problem gets bigger.

So Jesus says, number one, you are to go, and only go, to the offending party. Even though you're not the one that broke it, Jesus said you're the one that ought to take the initiative to fix it. So understand somebody hurts you, somebody offends you, somebody sins against you, Jesus said you don't need to pray about it. You don't need to think about it. You don't need to talk about it. You need to go to the person that offended you and lovingly and personally confront them. Then he says here's the second thing you've got to do. You got to be willing to confront privately, not just personally, but privately. Now, I know what some of you are asking right now, and I really, I'd be asking the same thing.

You say, "Wait a minute. Sorry. Why should we take the first step to fix it when we didn't break it"? Why should we be the one to go to the person when we're not the person that hurt them; they're the ones that hurt us. Why shouldn't we wait on them to come to us and make this right? Jesus knew we'd ask that question. So to put this in context, I want you to... by the way, what I'm about to show you. this shows you how brilliant Jesus is. I would have never thought about doing this. Jesus says, okay, let me give you a reason. Let me give you an analogy that will help you understand why you ought to go do this. So he doesn't talk about a family. Now he talks about a flock. And right in the middle of this discussion, he says this in verse 12. He says, "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the 99 on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray"?

Well, have you ever noticed how when you lose something, that all of sudden, you're a lot more concerned with what you lost than what you still have? How many of you have ever lost your car keys? Have you ever noticed how, all of a sudden, you've become obsessed with finding those car keys? Nobody loses their car keys and goes, "Huh, still got a car". Don't do that. What are you doing? You're tearing the house apart. I mean, you're pulling planks and you're ripping off the, you know, you're doing everything you can to find those car keys. Or let's suppose you've got three young children, and you're shopping in Walmart, and all of a sudden, you look down and one of the children are missing. Well, you don't go, "I still got two". Well, I mean, it may depend on which child's missing. I get that. But, you know, normally you don't say, "Well, you know, I've still got two". What do you do? You frantically, you don't even think about the other two right now. You're looking for that one child that is lost.

Now look what Jesus adds in verse 13. He said, "And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the 99 that never went astray". Now, why is it that when we find those car keys, we're so pumped? Why is it when we find that little child, we're so excited? Why is it that when that shepherd finds that one lost sheep, Jesus said he gets more joy over the sheep that he found than over the 99 that he had? It's not that the lost sheep was more valuable than the other sheep. It's not that the lost sheep was more loved than the other sheep. The reason why he got so much joy is because that's the sheep that needed to be rescued. And that's the sheep that needed to be found. And here's the point Jesus is making. It's so brilliant. Jesus says when a friendship has been fractured or a relationship has been ruptured, you need to see the person that hurt you and the person that sinned against you and the person that offended you as a lost sheep that has wandered away from that relationship, and here's what he's saying.

Now watch this. He's saying that a fellow believer in Jesus Christ ought to be more valuable to you than a sheep is to a shepherd. You ought to care enough about every eternal relationship you have that if that relationship ever gets ruptured, you're willing to take the step to fix it, because, you see, here's the point I want you to understand. Let me tell you why you should never, ever be afraid of confrontation. Confrontation is for the purpose of rescue, not retribution. When you confront somebody, you're not trying to win an argument. You're trying to win that brother. You're trying to win that sister. You're never trying to avenge a wrong. You're just trying to restore a relationship.

And that's why the next step here is so crucial. Verse 15. He says, "Point out their fault". Now listen to this. "Just between the two of you". Jesus said the way to restore a relationship that's been ruined: go to the right person. And he said there's only one right person to go to. That's the person that has done you wrong. And this is so important, because whenever conflict occurs, you should keep the circle of people involved as small as possible for as long as possible. See, if somebody hurts you and you go to any other person than the person that hurt you, you just went to the wrong person. And what did you just do? You didn't make the problem smaller. You made the problem bigger.

Now, do you understand why Jesus said it's a big deal that you go privately to that person? See, when you go privately, when you don't take anybody with you, when you go to that person that hurt you and offended you, just by the fact that you go by yourself, you're telling that person, "Look, I'm not here to win an argument. I'm here to win you. I am not here for condemnation. I'm here for restoration". Now, let me just stop, 'cause I know what some of you are doing right now. Excuses are flying all over this building. I got it. Here's... It won't do any good. I know what you're talking about. It won't do any good. Or they won't listen. They won't listen. Or it'll just make things worse. Well, Jesus again comes to the rescue. He knew you'd be thinking that. He knew you'd be saying that.

So listen to what he says in verse 15. He says, "If he listens to you, you have gained your brother". Now, the reason why Jesus said "if," he says, look, I understand there's a possibility that the person won't listen. I get that. But then Jesus is saying the issue is not, will they listen? That's not the issue. The issue is do you care enough about that relationship to just give them a chance to listen. Because after all, they may; they may not. But you really don't know until you go. So what if I do that and they still don't listen to me? Jesus said, "Got it covered". Then be willing to confront patiently. Now, what's this? Watch what Jesus does. Let's suppose you go to the right person. You do the right thing. You do it the right way. And that person rebuffs you and rejects you and they don't listen. They refuse to admit they're wrong.

As a matter of fact, let's say they get mad at you. Let's say they turn it back on you. "How dare you come to me? You come to me with this problem? You've got a lot bigger problem than I've got". I mean, just, you know, and they just really try to turn it back on you. What do you do? He says, okay, verse 16. "If he does not listen, then you go back and you take one or two others along with you". Now, not for the purpose of ganging up on the guy and beating the daylights out of him. That's not what you do. "You take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses".

Let me go back to that lost child in Walmart. If you lose that child in Walmart, you start looking for that child; you don't find that child. What do you do? You go to employees. You go to other people that are around. "Would you help me find my child"? You get on the intercom. You know, it's all hands on deck. Help me to find that child. You get others to help you try to find that child. You're not gonna give up. Why don't you give up? 'Cause you love that child and you value that relationship. And what Jesus is saying to us is, don't give up at first. If at first you don't succeed, you go back. Because just as God does not give up on us, we should not give up on others. And so Jesus says in this case, you take one or two others along with you.

Now, why do you do that? Well, you accomplish several things when you take one or two other people with you. Number one, you're letting that person know, "I'm not giving up. I really value this relationship. And I don't care how much you've hurt me. I love you enough that if I can, I am going to fix this, and I am not on a personal vendetta". The other reason is that at least now you've got other people who can confirm, hey, you did the right thing. You did it in the right spirit. You did it in the right attitude. It is not your problem; it is their problem. So when you bring other people with you, you just brought objectivity into it. They're not emotionally involved. And you brought accountability into it, because they can leave and say to anybody that wants to know what happened "I was there. I'm a witness. This person was in the right. That person is in the wrong".

You say, "Okay, so what if I take two or three people and that doesn't work"? Verse 17. "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and as a tax collector". Now, let me put some of you at ease here, okay? 'Cause some of you are going, "Are you telling me that if this thing doesn't work out, I got to get up here on Sunday morning and I got to tell everybody in this church about this guy or this girl that won't make things right with me"? No, that's not what I'm telling you. Let me tell you why. When Jesus talked about the church, there was one thing that was true at that moment. Does anybody know what that is? There wasn't a church. Right? Wasn't a church.

So what did Jesus mean when he said, "Tell it to the church"? The word church simply means "gathering". What Jesus was saying was, if you take two or three people and he still won't listen to you, then you find as many people as you can that may have influence on that person. Find as many people as you can that may have some kind of a relationship with that person and you take them to that person. And you let all of them kind of stand in for you and stand in with you and you let that person know you need to make things right. And Jesus said, now, if at that point, they still won't come across, then he said, "You treat them as Gentiles and tax collectors".

Now, you're sitting there, going, "What does that mean"? It's bad. It's real bad. Okay, let me tell you what that means. To a Jew, a Gentile and a tax collector was basically the same as an unbeliever. They were kind of outsiders, okay? What Jesus was saying was this. It doesn't mean that you're rude to these people. It doesn't mean that you're mean-spirited. It doesn't mean that you slash their tires or burn their house or anything like that at all. What it simply means is this: it means that you and the two or three that you took with you and the group of people that you took with you, you look at this person and you say, "Because you're not willing to make this thing right, because you're not willing to restore and rebuild this relationship, we are cutting off all communication with you. We are cutting off all fellowship with you. We will love you. When we see you, we will be kind and cordial to you, but we're not having any social interaction with you whatsoever until you make this thing right," and the reason you do that is, hopefully that perhaps may drive that person finally to swallow their pride, to break down that wall, and to be willing to admit what they've done and be willing to restore that relationship.

Now, I want to tell you why I love this passage so much. I don't practice everything like I ought to. This is one I'm big on, and my staff knows this. They know I'm real big on Matthew 18. And the reason why I'm real big on Matthew 18 is because it works. So today, I'm going to ask everyone listening right now to do one of two things. You've been carrying a grudge against someone because they've hurt you, and you know deep down you ought to just let that offense go. You know deep down you just ought to just overlook that offense, put it behind you, and move on. Here's what I'm going to ask you to do. I'm going to ask you, when you get home today, and I want you to do this the first thing when you walk in the door. Don't turn on, you know, the soap opera you've been missing or whatever you DVR, Don't turn on any of that stuff.

When you walk in to your house, I want you to get out a piece of paper, and I want you to write down what that person did. Much detail as you want. Then I want you to take a match and light it and burn it up and say, "I forgive it. I'm done with it. I'm not carrying that with me anymore". But then there's a situation. You just can't overlook it. Lady came up to me after the 9:15 service and said, "When I was in Alabama, a man raped me when I was 15 years old. How do I deal with that"? You can't overlook that. You can't just burn that one off. So you've got an offense. Someone has really hurt you, and it is so bad that you just carry it with you every single day. What I'm going to ask you to do is to confront that person. That may be, you say, "Well, that person lives 1,500 miles away". Skype. But you confront that person. You lovingly go to that person.

Remember, you're not trying to win an argument. You're trying to win the person. And you go to that person and you let that person know you have hurt me and I want to make things right. I know it's not my fault and you know it's not my fault, but I'm still here, and if you love me enough, I love you enough. Let's fix the problem. I'm gonna man up, I'm gonna step up, I'm gonna do the right thing, and I'm gonna try to restore that relationship, and just maybe that lost sheep will be found.

And let me tell you how all this wraps up. Listen. It's really the spirit of this passage why we even have a church today, because here, just think about this. When we sinned against God, when the human race sinned against God, when we offended God, when we were the ones at fault, what did God do? He came to us. He took the first step. And through his son Jesus Christ dying on a cross and coming back from the dead, he did everything he needed to do on his end to fix our fault, to restore that relationship, that we might be reconciled to him, and all the Bible says from Genesis to Revelation is this: what God has done for us we ought to do for other people.
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