The Value of Conflict
(The Corporate Christ)
Shades of Things to Come
Praise the Lord. One of the things the Lord gives to us is the right to rule in His behalf. There's a new rule of the Lord visiting the body of Christ. And it will replace the old rule. The old rule was about servants who, in the absence of their Master, began to beat one another and make them captive and subject to those who were strong enough to bring others under that rule. But the Lord is restoring to the body of Christ the righteousness of the rule of Christ.
The character of every age that is coming is mirrored in the character of the age that is ending. An age that is ending ends more like the age that is coming than the age that it represented. As an example, in the time of Moses, the beginning of that age was the giving of the Law and the establishing of the people within the land. But as that age came to a close, the age that was to replace it was the coming of Messiah. And so the character of the end of the time of Moses was consumed with the coming of Messiah than it was about the establishment of the Law, up to and including John, John the Baptist, who was actually "the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way of the Lord.'" (Mt. 3:3) And when he saw Him coming, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." (Jn. 1:29) So, the end of the time of Moses and the Law was more like the Messiah's age, the age when the Messiah would come, than it was about Moses and the Law.
In the same way, what is coming upon us is the advent, for the second time, in physical residence upon the Earth, of the Lord Jesus Christ. This time, He comes not as Savior. He comes as King of kings and Lord of lords. And the whole Earth will come to order under the rule of the King, for this is an absolute Monarch with the complete right to rule, for He has been given authority by the Father - all authority in heaven and on Earth. (Mt. 28:18) So, it is His right to rule, and it is His intent to rule. And in fact, He will rule in such a way that there will be no opposition to His rule, for this will be the Sabbath year that the Husband takes with His bride.
This is a time where there will be no more war. So He'll banish His enemy because that's the way He puts an end to war. He doesn't negotiate with His enemies. He banishes His enemies. He decides, "I will not war for a year." So He says, "You go into the pit for that year. I will not be concerned with you." This is a time of peace. When you have all authority in heaven and on Earth, you can do that. Hallelujah. Come, Lord Jesus.
But now in preparation for His Coming, His rule is beginning to be evident on the Earth. There are those who have been given rule to represent Him. And the character of their rule will be like His rule will be. The end of the age now is more like the age that is coming than the age that it's replacing.
There are some broad strokes that I would like to put in front of you because, when we come to the mountaintop, we come to get the wood. We collect the materials for building the temple, and then we go down and build the temple. Go to the mountain, get wood, and come and build the temple. So, we came to the mountain and we had a vision - a vision of the sons of God, ruling and reigning by His authority, ruling and reigning in His stead as He Himself rules and reigns. That's the wood.
Now, let's talk about how we rule and reign when we go down off the mountain because I believe that rule and reign is what will bring the work of God to the forefront, and it will establish what God is doing. So, I want to talk to you about the importance of conflict in the body of Christ - the value of conflict in the body of Christ. There's nothing less desirable now in the body of Christ than conflict. Nothing regarded of being a lesser value than conflict because the reign that we are going up against, the rule that we're going up against, had one intention and that was to make men captives to it.
So whenever anyone dissented to this, they were not going with the program. And the idea is, as it regards dissenters, get rid of them because there are plenty more where they came from who will be ruled and governed. So, we have placed no value in the body of Christ in conflict. We do not regard conflict as having any value and, therefore, we seek to avoid conflict at all costs.
Conflict Is a Valuable Asset
I had a friend years ago who is now before the throne of God. I am satisfied that that's where he is - a friend named Laury Eck. To this man, God gave a unique vision. It was a vision of the value of conflict to the body of Christ. One of the early things that showed me that Laury understood some things that were not commonly understood, was a statement he made regarding conflict. One day he came into the offices where we were - we had offices together, Christian Legal Aid and Christian Conciliation. And in his inimitable style, he bounced into the office and he said, "Conflicts are the property of the church, and we should take custody of them."
I thought, "This guy's really weirder than I thought." This is a fellow that was number one in his law class at the University of Montana Law School, and he went on and did an LLM at Harvard and was number one there. He was one of the few geniuses I've ever known. He was just that way. God gifted him in a unique way. He could see things by the gift of God in a different way. He was using the language of value to talk about something that is routinely viewed as valueless.
"Conflict is the property of the church." Well, we think of property as estates and land. We think of property as tangible assets, things to be hoarded and gained and preserved. He was using the language of value to discuss something that everyone knew had no value - conflict. Why, that's like swamp land! That's like a uranium-tailings pond! A certified environmental nightmare that just flashes and glows dollar signs in the dark of what you have to do to clean it up!
And then he talked about taking custody of these assets. Typically if you have custody of a thing, someone trying to take it from you has an uphill battle. You see? Custody is what you want to attend things of value, bringing it into your immediate control. So he used that sort of language, and I thought, "This is absurd." But over the years, I noticed that we came to prominence in the body of Christ coming up, literally, through the sewers. Because everybody was willing to give us their conflict and with that, they gave us authority. Whereas, if you walked through the front door, they wouldn't talk to you. But I began to see, and to have God's idea about conflict and the value of conflict.
The Context of Conflict
So, what I want to do now is to step back from that and talk to you a little bit about the context of conflict. I want to introduce us to the notion, if we haven't already been introduced to it, of the corporate Christ. The corporate Christ.
In the United State of America, we have come to value, as being of supreme value, the individual. Our entire system of law and governance and our society, as a whole, is based upon individual rights. We are not a people - as we think of a people.
Normally, for nations to be people, and the common view of a people, is an ethnic people, people of the same ethnic group. We associate with that people who live in tribal societies who have ancestral lands. So they are more tolerant of each other because they have a common sense of origin and destiny. They have a sense of pride, and they want to project themselves, vis-a-vis, other ethnic nations as a people who are worthwhile. They talk about the heroes of that ethnic people. They talk about the accomplishments historically of that ethnic group. And they talk about the language and the culture of this ethnic group as if to say, "We have something of value because we are a group of people."
But not so in the United States. In the United States, our favorite sport is lawsuit. And we live vicariously through the accomplishments of actors, athletes and other public figures. We're not a people here. The same attitude is in the church. So whenever the body of Christ does something, if we're not the ones upon whom the lights are shining, we either criticize that thing as being not God or we have no way to participate in it and we talk about "those other people."
So the emphasis has come to be, culturally, the same emphasis as there is in the church - on me. "Anointing, fall on me." What I can do for God, how I am presented before my brethren as "the anointed one" of God, the man of power for the hour. And we have no comprehension of the corporate Christ because we're still stuck in a fallen, competitive view of mankind. And there is no value to us in the other, therefore, conflict is not about gaining the brother. Conflict is about silencing, making ineffective, to demote, and to remove the brother because the brother's problems hinder me from being the anointed one on whom the glory of God falls.
It is time that the body of Christ rises up out of the swamp of this sea of social intolerance, and lay a hold of what is closest to the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is His body. And I want to begin by saying in the corporate Christ is the ultimate perfection of the individual. In the body of Christ - the word, "corporate," is the word, "corpus," which means body. In the body of Christ, God intends that the individual comes to his or her ultimate perfection. And apart from the body, you cannot come to the ultimate perfection.
The Spirit of Antichrist
Now, we have known that the spirit of antichrist will come, and that it will precede the advent of the antichrist himself. Alright? We know that there is a man called "the man of lawlessness." Paul speaks of him and specifically identifies him as the one who wars against the Christ. "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." (2 Ths. 2:3-4)
Now, when the antichrist comes, the Lord Jesus Christ will be safely in heaven. Alright? Far above all authority, and rule, and every title that can be given, not only in this coming age, but in all the ages to come. So, it is really pointless to have on the Earth someone walking around called "the antichrist" when there is no Christ for him to be anti. Alright? That's kinda like, it's sort of like how we used to do the thing of the spiritual armor of God. Every Sunday - it was a great six-week series. Every Sunday, you select a different piece of the armor, and you preach about that. Six weeks later, people forgot about what you were talking about in the first draft. We were all suiting up for war but no one had a clue what the enemy was. Because if you got up and said, "Really it's not flesh and blood," they would say, "He's weird. He's talking about demonic stuff. We're Baptists. We don't believe in demonic stuff. Church of Christ, yeah, this guy is ooh-ooh-ooh." You see? Never occurred to us why we were suiting up. We engage in the exercise for itself. So, you finally found yourself with a sword in your hand, and since it was the sword of the Spirit and you were told to contend for the faith, you looked for your nearest enemy. He just happened to be Baptist if you were Church of Christ! So, the sword of the Spirit was something to bash Baptists with.
In the same way, we think of antichrist coming to the world, but there is no Christ. Christ is far above all authority and rule. He's seated at the right hand of God, so who is antichrist coming to make war with, if Christ isn't here? Why doesn't he simply take another name? You know, Beelzebub is a good one. "My name is Beelzebub. I used to be antichrist, but there is no Christ so now I have to look for some purpose for Beelzebub." Are we so foolish as to not realize the reason there is an antichrist is because there is a Person of Christ in the Earth for him to oppose and that this represents the ultimate clash of the age? Who, then, is Christ in the world? The corporate Christ, that's who.
Now, here's the thing. Stay with me, please. Stay with me. The spirit of antichrist will precede the advent of antichrist to prepare his way. The spirit of antichrist is not primarily concerned with anyone but Christ, so the spirit of antichrist we may well expect to attack the body of Christ in preparation for the advent of antichrist. What is the spirit of antichrist then? That should be very interesting to us since we subscribe to the view that antichrist has an enemy in the world that's called the body of Christ, and we are members of it. What is the spirit that we might expect to operate against the church before antichrist comes to prepare the way for the success of anitchrist? What is this spirit? In the context in which John speaks of the spirit of antichrist, this is what he says: "Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist - he denies the Father and the Son." (1 Jn. 2:22)
The Cerinthian Heresy
John was addressing something very specific in his day. It was a heresy called "the Cerinthian heresy." It was named after its originator, a man named Cerinthus. Cerinthus had a syllogism (a form of argument) in which he said, "God is pure" (major premise); (minor premise) "flesh is impure"; (conclusion) therefore, "God can never come in the flesh." That was the Cerinthian heresy. The application: Jesus came in the flesh as God, so he denied that Jesus was God - God in human form. That has a strange ring to me. We have heard about God in human form as the vision for the last house. Cerinthus said about Christ, "Not so." John said, "This is the spirit of antichrist - denying that Christ has come in the flesh."
John was so upset, this was such a heresy to John, that on one occasion in the city of Ephesus, historians say, John was in the bathhouse in Ephesus with a group of his disciples. It was rumored that Cerinthus had entered the same bathhouse. John quickly gathered up his clothes and ran out of the bathhouse saying to the men, "Flee! Flee for Cerinthus is within and perchance the wrath of God might descend upon him today!" In other words, "God might kill him. Let's not get killed accidentally. This is a toxic dude!" That's my modern translation.
The heart of the Cerinthian heresy, the thing identified as the spirit of antichrist was the denial of divinity in humanity - God in man. Now, what is the application for us today? When I deny that Jesus Christ has come in your flesh, then the spirit in me is the spirit of antichrist. In short, put it another way, when I deny the corporate Christ, I am already a casualty of the spirit of antichrist.
When I deny the corporate Christ, I am already a casualty of the spirit of the antichrist. This is serious, brethren. I believe we're standing on holy ground.
How do I deny the corporate Christ? I deny Him regularly in how I deal with conflict - how I deal with conflict. Let's walk through it. Matthew 18. I believe, as far as an instruction to apostles and prophets, this might well be the most important instruction I impart to you. I'll say it again. I believe, I believe that this might well be the most important impartation to you that I ever do as an apostle. It's to teach you, to impart to you, the value of proper stewardship of conflict - the value of proper stewardship of conflict.
Godly Conflict Brings Unity
Before we start looking at Matthew 18, I'd like to preface this by reminding us of what Jesus said: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." (Jn. 13:35) Furthermore, His prayer to the Father, which I am satisfied is already answered - the only question is the degree to which we allow ourselves to participate in the answer to His prayer - in which He said, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me." (Jn. 17:20- 21)
The unity of the body of Christ is not some nice, theological thing. The integrity of the relationship between Jesus and the Father is portrayed in the unity of the believers that they are one. He said so. The world knows Jesus came from the Father by observing the oneness in the body of Christ. Therefore, conflict is the subject at hand simply because: What is it that keeps us from being one? Conflict. Whatever form the conflict is, whatever basis the disagreement, the bottom line in one catch word: conflict.
Our mindset needs to be a kingdom mindset as we look at conflict. And the first pillar that we must establish is that we are in the corporate Christ, which is the interest of God in the world. And it is the interest of the enemy in the world to attack and to destroy. And the very spirit of antichrist and subsequently, the totality of the actions of antichrist, will be focused against a small group of people who, in the face of all that hell will throw at them, will overcome and be given the right to the Tree of Life and be given entrance into the gate into the city for they are the bride and they will dwell with Him. That's the thing in a nutshell.
We want to be overcomers, but we don't, it never occurs to us that you have to overcome something to be an overcomer. For the most part it's just a religious phrase, isn't it? "We're the overcomers. We meet every Sunday, and we sing praise songs. We do our warfare in the band room." No. We're overcomers because we overcome. What do we overcome? The world, the flesh, and the devil. How do we overcome? By the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony that we did not preserve our own lives. "For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." (1 Jn. 5:4-5) "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." (Rev. 12:11).
In conflict, you have the opportunity to die, to not preserve your life. I'll tell you something. If we will not die in an ordinary, daily conflict, we will not die when a gun is held to our heads because it's the same thing we're trying to preserve. So, He's training us. "If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" (Jer. 12:5) God is preparing us now for that day upon whom the ends of the age have come. And conflict, the stewardship of conflict, to my mind, is the way that He's doing it. So, the first approach we take to conflict is see it within its proper context. It is in the kingdom and, therefore, the rules of the kingdom apply. And the first aspect of the kingdom is the assignment of value in conflict. Anytime you have a conflict, the issue comes down to this simple thing: what is the thing of value to me? Really, I mean it, it bulldozes, it runs D-9 tractor. Okay? When you bulldoze the ground, you cut through all of the context, and the "he said this" and the "she did that" and so on. When you bulldoze the whole thing, what you're looking for is the value. Because you won't fight over something that has no value. We shrug our shoulders, and we go on. "Eh, he's just like that," "She's..." We leave it alone. Unless we have a dog in that fight as they would say in west Texas. (Speak to every man in his own tongue wherein he was born.) So you identify, in conflict, that the reason there is conflict is there is a thing of value to you at stake. You are seeking to preserve that issue that is valuable to you. That thing of value is why you are in conflict.
The Hidden Jewel Within Conflict
What is the value, what is the thing of value that uniquely expresses the kingdom's point of view when you're in conflict with a brother? That's the heart of the issue. What is the thing of value from a kingdom perspective when you are in conflict with your brother? I'll read it to you. Matthew 18 says,"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you," (King James says,) "you have gained your brother." (Mt. 18:15).
When Laury used the term "property," he identified a thing of value. Conflict is property to the church. Taking custody means taking possession of a thing of value. This tells me, when my brother sins against me, I am to go to him because if he repents the thing of value to be gained - we use the language of acquisition. I feel like Quark here - the language of acquisition. The language of acquisition has the term "gain" to it. If he repents, you have gained your brother.
So, from the kingdom perspective, the thing to be gained is your brother. From an earthly perspective, the thing to be gained is anything but your brother. Your brother is the dispensable party. The thing to be gained is the property over which you are fighting - the reputation, the tangible property, the intellectual property - whatever it is. The thing to be gained from a worldly perspective, from a demonic view, from the kosmos view if that makes it any clearer - and from the kosmokrator's point of view, who is the devil - so from a demonic standpoint, the thing to be gained is the thing that is passing away. How foolish. I want to fight you over this piece of river bottom which is about to be flooded. It's really not worth it, is it? If you gained the whole world, it will pass away. So the kosmos point of view says the thing to be gained is the object over which you are fighting, knowing that it will elude you anyway. So, who is the deceiver? But your brother you will see for eternity.
So the kingdom says, "Re-orient your perspective on gain when you're in conflict. Change your mind. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ so that when there was conflict between God and man, God came to gain man because that, from God's point of view, is where value lies." Okay? Otherwise, anything else you gain is foolishness if in the process your brother has been discarded. You have gained nothing! In fact, you've gained less than nothing because you avoided gaining the thing of value, and you ended up with a worthless thing. Kingdom perspective says, "Turn it around. Look at where gain is, and there really is only one place that gain is, and that is in gaining your brother."
Now, because that is true, what is it that we will not do to gain that thing of value? So He puts upon us an extraordinary set of requirements. He says, "lf your brother sins against you..." (Mt. 18:15) So let me understand this in legal terms. He is the wrongor, and I am the wrongee. All right? I'm the one wronged, and he has wronged me. All right, so I understand that. So to the wrongee, to the person wronged, He says, "You go to the one who has wronged you." I don't understand this. You're telling me, I'm already hurt by this person and I know that I'm hurt by this person, which is why I have a problem with him, and now You want me to go to the one who has wronged me and expose myself again to being wronged? In law, that's called double jeopardy.
Conflict Produces the Character of God
So often, God gives us the opportunity to literally participate in the character of God. We like the idea that we are gods to whom the Word of God has come (Jn. 10:35), but we don't like the process by which He's removing that which opposes God in us. We want the result, but the cross we would choose is one in cyberspace - an illusion. We want the results, but we want it through a simulated process. I want to assure you the cross of Jesus was not a religious artifact. It was an instrument of His death, the place of His execution. Why does God tell me, the wrongee, the person wronged, to go to the person who has wronged me? Why does He tell me to do that? Simple. When I sinned against Him, He came. This is my opportunity to be like He is. See what I mean when I say, "We want the result, but we don't want the process"?
Listen. He was exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords because He learned obedience by the things He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation. By the things He suffered. The writer of Hebrews tells us that: "Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him" (Heb. 5:8,9) By the things you suffer, whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sinning. Peter tells us that: "Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin." (1 Pet. 4:1) What is it that opposes God in us? The nature of sin. How do you put down the nature of sin? You suffer in the flesh. What is the process by which the soul is redeemed? It is brought to suffering. It is brought to subjection through suffering.
"Don't tell me that. I just want to name it and claim it. I want the result. I don't want the process." You think it is anything for God to give us anything? It's nothing for Him to give us what we want. But to give us sonship... It's not a cheap thing, it's not a toy, it's not a car, it's not houses - those are just cheap toys to the One who has made the universe. But sonship is His greatest gift and that comes only to those who are voluntarily willing to submit their wills to be made like Him. It can't be given any other way.
So your brother is the object of gain, and when he sins against you, you go because that's what He did. So shall you be like your Father in heaven. And you go with what intent? To tell him off? You go to gain him. If you're going to make a deal on some land that's really valuable to you, or you go to make a deal on a car, or if you're going to make a deal on a house, do you go with the idea of antagonizing the person? Not if you want it! "I think I'll just go over there and anger that guy that I'm trying to buy forty acres from. Maybe he'll give me a good price that way." You have a different mindset. You have the mindset of doing whatever it takes. If it's valuable to you, whatever it takes will get it done.
What if the guy says to you, "Come back next week. I'm too busy."? You say, "Well, sure. What day next week? What time would work for you?" Your brother sins against you, you go to see him, and he says, "I can't talk to you now. Come back next week."
"Yeah, right. See you in court in thirty days!" Right? You see how we have a different attitude because of what we value?
So, you make the effort, and you go and you talk to him, and he says, "I didn't wrong you. What are you talking about? It's your fault. This all came up because it's your fault." The Word has something else to say about pursuing that thing to gain it. It says, after having been rejected like that, you, still being the person wronged, you go and find two brethren or three and let them have the heart of martyrs who are ready to lay down their lives to see both of you be reconciled. That's the word, "witness," in the Greek. Jesus said, "But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'" (Mt. 18:16)
Not the two or three who, you know, on your way over as kind of a lynching party. They now are the "lynchees," the ones who are ready to lay down their lives for the reconciliation of the brethren. Why should you only put into the custody of martyrs this conflict? Because there was One who laid down His life that the two at odds might be reconciled. The Father and His creation were at odds by sin, and the Lord Jesus Christ was the martyr. He laid down His life.
The Ministry of Reconciliation
Conflict is so precious that it should only be entrusted to those who are ready to lay down their lives as Christ did. Why? Because in the process, the greatest measure of reconciliation that occurs is between the reconcilers themselves. The whole process is meant to result in a wider spread of the attitude of Christ among the body of Christ. Whoever is involved in the reconciliation of the brethren become, themselves, reconciled to each other. So the thing has a multiplying effect. What is it that we're pursuing when we pursue conflict properly? Pursuing gain of the brother. What do we deny when we achieve that gain? The spirit of antichrist because we're pursuing Christ in the other.
If that brother says to the two or three witnesses, "You're all wet," then they could legally impeach him, couldn't they? But you get to the next step because what are you trying to do? Gain the brother. Jesus said,"lf he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." (Mt. 18:17).
Why are we to tell it to the whole church? So that they don't have to gossip. Three or four people - the party wronged and two or three others - have come forth, and they have told the story reliably to the body of Christ so everybody knows. Everybody knows the truth. You don't have to second guess. And God help us, you don't have to say, "I don't know if I agree with you or not. I don't think I'd handle it that way." God knew all of that so He gave us a kingdom approach to dealing with the matter. Tell it to the church. Tell it openly. Let those witnesses stand up and bring the evidence before the body of Christ so everybody hears the same thing at the same time. With the instruction, "Whoever he will listen to, go and talk to him." Maybe he had some prejudice against us, from former deals, whatever - maybe there's some reason in him that did not allow him to lay a hold of what we're tying to do, but maybe there's somebody he will listen to. Tell it to the church. Let the whole church be involved in gaining this brother.
And if he does not, you have one final opportunity to gain the brother because what's going on here is his flesh, his flesh is so dominant that not the entreaties of the Spirit of God through the body of Christ can bring about a repentance. So, give his flesh to the devourer of his flesh. One person has the right to do that, and that is the antichrist. Let the antichrist devour his flesh so that there is nothing remaining that keeps him from Christ in the hope that you will gain your brother.
I believe God is very serious about this issue of the corporate Christ. And there's nothing more destructive to the corporate Christ than the failure to handle conflict properly. Conflicts present to us the greatest opportunity for the reconciliation of the body of Christ. You know why? Because underneath the surface of most of our lives, there are things that have not been dealt with. Sometimes, we don't know those things exist. Conflict is usually the way that the hidden things in us are brought to the surface to any degree.
Looking to Your Own Selves
And as you go to gain your brother, what you actually dig up is the attitude behind the disagreement, exposing the heart. Usually, that conflict will expose a tap root in a person, that central root of bitterness that's gone all the way down into their lives that sustains their natural existence and it is the control in them of the evil one.
Now, what God will do with all of us is He will dig around that root, and He will expose some of it to us and we will see it. What He does, we see it for what it is, and we say, "Oh, God, help us with this. Please help us." And usually, God will give some grace and He won't dig up the whole root in a day so He doesn't kill you, but He exposes enough so you know it's there. But you think it's dealt with because you saw it and because you don't have the sense of all the attachments and the way that thing has defiled you. Sometimes, that thing comes down generationally into a person.
So then, after a while, enough time goes by, God's given you breathing room and He digs again around the root, and you see it again, and you say, "I just don't think I'm gonna go on with this Christian life because I thought I had gotten over this. I thought I dealt with this years back. This Christian life is just too hard. I'm not making any progress. Might as well give up."
Now, whose voice does that sound like to you? Surely, that's the voice of your Father. "Give up and go to hell." No! Your enemy exploits you, exploits the vulnerability that comes when God exposes the weakness. So like the vultures circling at branding time, you know, you're doing a useful function, but they think maybe something will die in the process. "We get a free meal. Smell hide and hair in the air. Something's got to be dying down there. I think we'll go look."
The devil is gonna do that. He knows when you're vulnerable. The hardest times is when he'll rush in and say, "Ha! I accuse you of being not completely reconciled to God! Aha! I accuse you!" As the French say, "J'accuse!" "I accuse you."
"Well, that's your role. Go ahead and accuse me. You're the accuser of the brethren. But I'll tell you something. There's Blood in this thing. Go ahead and accuse. You're the accuser. That's your proper role. Yes, I am not yet made perfect. Yes, Adam is still in me. I'll tell you who else is in me. And even if I am guilty of the thing you accuse me of, because the price has already been paid, I cannot be condemned!" Does that sound like Romans? Paul wrote, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 8:1-2)
He'll rush in. "The root is exposed. This's my opportunity. I accuse you. You are still this way, just like your mother, just like your old daddy. You're this way."
"No, I'm not. My Father doesn't sin. You've got the wrong father here. You've got the wrong father." You need to learn how to answer the accuser in the day when God is dealing with you and He's dealing with you in the venue of conflict. Alright? When God finally exposes the whole root, He's dug all the way to the bottom, then He'll pull it out of you. He'll pull it out of you. The day He pulls it out of you, it's likely that the following scenario will occur: You're somewhere in town or wherever, and you observe this person behaving very badly. And you identify the reason he or she is doing that is because there is a similar problem with them as what God has been showing you about yourself for a long time.
It's kind of like the day when I was walking downtown, and the sun was at a certain position. I was walking by an office building with very large, plate glass windows. It was like a mirror. I looked over and I saw this gray, slouching, fat guy. And he was looking right at me, walking at the same pace as I was, and apparently, going in the same direction. It's just that he was left-handed. Because when I reached up, he did it with his left hand. I had no identification, emotionally, with that guy. I was still in my prime! I thank God I was not like men like these! I'm sure you guys have had the same kind of experience - they're called stalkers. In most jurisdictions, there are laws against people like these!
Sometimes, God will show you yourself behaving badly in somebody else. And when you see it, it makes you sick. On that day, you'll say, "Oh, God, whatever it takes, kill that in me." And God will say, "You know, I've been working on you for forty-six years to bring you right here. I think today is as good a day as any for you to die." Then He pulls the root out because the Spirit and the bride are in agreement. "Come, Lord Jesus, into this place of the devil's stronghold. Come, Lord Jesus." When He pulls it out of you, it will be as though you were never guilty of that sin because there will be no remaining trace of it in your life. And in that place where your enemy ruled over you, in that place, you have become the righteousness of God in Christ.
Without Spot or Wrinkle
My brethren, that's the secret to the removal of the things that oppose God in us. The bride will really actually be spotless. Have you ever thought, how could a thing that was once brought out of sin, personally guilty of sin, how could it ever be made spotless? And there was some theology that says, "Well, you kind of pass through the Blood, and it washed you, and you're spotless." But after the Blood, I was still the same way! Still sinned! In the same way! Well, there you are introduced to the operation of God called "continuous cleansing." The Blood has always paid for it, and the Spirit makes it possible, when your spirit agrees with the Holy Spirit, and your soul is saved where the enemy ruled you. Then, the Blood cleanses you, and you are as spotless then as if you never ever even knew that sin.
God will finish what He has begun. He will have a perfect people and that's what He is doing. And that's what the latter house will look like when its heavenly counterpart arrives on the Earth. John saw it in anticipation and said, "The tabernacle of God is with man and He will dwell with them." And it was the New Jerusalem that was coming down, and in the New Jerusalem were those who had been washed in the Blood of the Lamb, made holy and spotless. (Rev. 21:1-3; 22:14) Conflict allows us the opportunity to see what's underneath.
Now this is looking at the coin from the other side. We talked about it one side down, where your attitude toward the one who has sinned against you needs to be one of persistence in gaining him. Then, we turned the coin over and we said, "When you go to the one who has sinned against you, what are you dealing with?" The answer: You're dealing with things in his or her life that God has begun to expose. And when you focus on that and you say, "What God is doing is He's digging down and exposing the root and eventually God will get it." And because of your persistence in the matter, the work of God continues in the other, that the bride might be perfected in the same way that the work of God continues in you - in us - that the bride might be perfected. Well, what value, what stake do I have in the other being made perfect? Because that's the part of the body of Christ that I've been put with. What has put me with him? Conflict. Conflict. We think of the ones in the body of Christ we've been put with as the ones who agree with us. And often, that's the case, but that's not the only ones we've been put with. Conflict puts us with others in the body of Christ by the appointment of God.
What a different view. You know, the view from the throne is different from the view from Earth. Thank heaven. You see what I'm saying? From the throne of God, He knows what you needed so He gave you this brother. This your brother, who stole your Father's inheritance and squandered it with prostitutes. He has come home to you! And your job is to kill the fatted calf that you never got while he was gone and arrange the musicians, and you better be in there with the music and dancing because this, your worthwhile brother of whom you thought otherwise, has come home to your Father's house. (Lk. 15:11-32).
"And so shall you be the sons of God. And the whole world will know that I came from the Father because you love one another, and you're one. And you have stood against the antichrist, and those of the house of Satan. And of all the Earth, your robes have been washed in the Blood, and you have been made spotless. And you now agree with the Spirit, and you say, 'Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus. We are ready.'"
Do you know that it is the bride who will agree with the Spirit and invite the Lord Jesus to return? We just want the Lord Jesus to return so we don't have to deal with conflict. Because, after all, "me and Jesus got a good thing going." No, you and Jesus and the whole rest of us have a good thing going.
A Goodly Inheritance
I hope to have imparted to apostles and prophets something of God's heart about conflict because you will take possession of the kingdom and your inheritance as apostles and prophets based largely on how you see conflict. I will remind apostles that it is by great patience, it's a character of great patience, that sees the kingdom advance in the lives of men.
I would remind prophets that those very ones in whom such unrighteousness flourishes and such unholiness characterizes their lives - these are the very ones to whom the message of hope is given, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mt. 3:2) Prophets don't expect people to repent. Change your heart. The reason the word of God appears is so that those who are in need of repentance will repent. Allow them to respond to the grace of God that appears through you. Otherwise, you're useless. You're stating the obvious: "You're going to hell." "Well, tell me something I don't know." Okay? The heart of God in the prophetic word is to bring about redemption.
Jonah was upset because his declaration of judgment did not happen in his time because the people repented, and God did what is normal for God - He had mercy. He forgot that the reason God sent him was so that the Ninevites might not be overthrown. The folly of the thing! Why would God simply send you to tell somebody they're going to hell? What value is that to the ones you're telling? "You're going to hell."
"Well, after you speak, I'm no better, no different, than before you spoke. So what's the point? Tell me something about my condition and tell me how to get out of it." So bring the word and anticipate, leave room for the people to turn. It's the reason you were appointed to bring the word - in the hope that they will turn. So change your heart about the prophetic word. Have God's heart. This is to gain your brother.
You build a kingdom as apostles. If they don't see it at the time, then take the attitude, "Look, if it doesn't come in my lifetime, it'll come anyway. But I'll labor in my lifetime, that if perchance God might build something of His kingdom in my lifetime because of my lifetime." Have the heart of God. Have the heart of your Father. If you don't get it right, the attitude that pervades the church, that the church belongs to the pastors, will be the same attitude that continues on. What foundation are we building? Wood? Hay? Stubble? (1 Cor. 3:12-15) Will we continue the mistakes of the past? Surely not! For of all people, our eyes have seen the glory of the last house. God brought us here to impart a vision. And a particular part of this vision is: how do you clear out the rubble to lay the foundation?
When the exiles returned from Babylon, they came back to the house of God in ruins, much turmoil and conflict, and it was still there in physical form when they returned. Under the cover of night, Nehemiah went around to survey the damage. When he arrived, he didn't wait until the morning. He went around the city at night - he was a man with a purpose, a purpose that was greater than sleep. He went around immediately and surveyed. And then the next day, he called the princes together, and he gave them his report of his survey, and he gave them instructions. "This is how we shall build the house of God. This is how we will restore the ruins of the city of God." (Neh. 2:12-18).
I tell you, my brethren, the task that falls to apostles and prophets, perhaps greater than any other task, is to pick up, pick up the stewardship of conflict. It is your inheritance. It is what will bring you to greatness in the kingdom of your God for Jesus Himself is the Reconciler. You have been given the ministry of reconciliation that God is making His appeal through us. That appeal to men is: "Be reconciled to God." Paul wrote, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Cor. 5:18-19)
May God grant us that this word of His kingdom finds its way in our hearts and change, fundamentally alter, our perspectives that we see as God sees, that we see from the vantage point of the throne and not from the fallen estate of the great house of God. This is a great house and the building of it has begun with the clearing of the rubble and the setting of the foundation. If it doesn't, if you don't see the final house in your lifetime, know this: you will see it. From a gallery of witnesses, it will rise up from the Earth because it is inevitable. Therefore, labor in your time as men and women of purpose, and let it be said of you as it was of David, "He served the Lord in his generation." (Acts 13:36) Whether it happens on your watch or it does not, you're part of an exalted company. By the will of God, you have been made part of an exalted company. Therefore, labor in faith as the sons of God that you might pursue the interest of your Father on the Earth. And, in the end, it will surely come to pass. The words of an old song that stirs my heart. It says, "For I know that my Redeemer lives and, in the end, He shall stand on the Earth. Though my flesh it be destroyed, yet with my eyes I shall see God, and I will stand with Him on that day." Blessed be the Lord.