Sunday Morning 1-20-2013

Posted by Sherry

The Bitter Root 
Hebrews 12:15 
CBC 1/20/13
OPEN: In Winchester, Ohio there’s a church called the Bethlehem. It’s been in existence for over 150 years, and over the years different events have been recorded in their “history” book. One of their recent ministers was reading back over the different entries in this book when he ran across the following item from the year 1840: 
“We had fighting right here at home. The Democrats and Republicans were so bitter against one another, it broke the church up.”
One eyewitness reported a fist fight over the issue: “Two of our best men fought to a finish. One wanted to know if the other had enough. He said he had, so he let him up.”
(Tom Claibourne, Restoration Herald. Sept. 07)

A fist fight on the church property?
not right
can’t happen at church...can it?
saved people
should be kindest, gentlest, most understanding people you’ve ever met.  
But they aren’t always.

2004 survey: most neglected topic @ seminary 
Conflict management  
(John C. LaRue, Vice President of “Online Services for Christianity Today International”)

why wouldn’t Bible colleges cover that topic?
Perfect churches don’t have conflict
I’m a PK & over 30 yrs in full time ministry...I’ve got experience w/ churches

· Power struggles
· Church splits
· Church members “not speaking to each other”
  • won’t shake hands
  • won’t sit on same side of sanctuary

Why would this happen? 
Why would Christians act like that?
because of something the Bible calls “the root of bitterness”.

Hebrews 12:15 warns the church to “Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it—”

Numbers 16.
bunch of really bitter people in the camp of Israel and 
their anger has reached the boiling point.

What’s made them so bitter?
verge of entering the Promised Land. 
Moses selected 12 spies and then sent them in
2 gave favorable report (Nu 14:8)
10 gave unfavorable report 
  • saw the negatives
  • giants
  • city walls
  • possibility of death
  • couldn’t see God
God said, “ok, don’t go in, don’t trust me”
cost: 40 yrs in wilderness
when ur all dead I’ll let ur kids go in
crowd suddenly changed their minds
went across the border w/out God
took a whoopin’ and came back w/ tail between their legs
got angry and blamed Moses, their leader
they’re filled w/ root of bitterness
form a “committee of the concerned”
most are Reubenites (Ruben 1st born of Jacob/Israel)
Moses a Levite (Levi was 3rd born of Jacob/Israel)
Committee decides Moses doesn’t have “authority” or “status”
They decide they have authority & status  b/c they been around longer
They confront Moses & here’s what happens
Lesson 1 – be careful about getting into “power struggles” in the church.
God takes it personal, according to scripture when that happens

“This is MY church” (or something similar). 
no one is listening to what THEY want done. 

who owns the church? (God does)
Who supposed to be “in charge” of the church (God is)
It’s HIS church… not ours.

Lesson 2 - 
don’t let bitterness (over problems you encounter in church) take root in your soul. Bitterness/ anger/ venting your frustrations isn’t healthy. 
they can lead to sinning against God
God punishes sinful behavior in His children

First thing ...he dealt promptly with the conflict. 
He didn’t let problem drag on at all.  
He immediately confronted the challenge. 
He didn’t  believe in, “Letting sleeping dogs lie”. 
“sleeping dogs” eventually they wake up & bite us. 

Numbers 16:3-4
They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?’

And what does Moses do????
Vs. 4 When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.

Why on earth would he do that?
When faced with conflict… body language says a lot.
If someone is angry with you - they’ll frown, fold their arms, clench their fist and hold their heads in a certain way. 

Moses’ body language was intended to show humility and humbleness. 
He fell on his face before his accusers because he’s not looking for a fight/ 
doesn’t want to fight he just wants to resolve the problem.
Moses didn’t want the job, God called him to it
Moses didn’t take it personal b/c it’s really between the people & God

Moses actually cares for them
Throughout this passage Moses prays for these folks.
He reasons with them.
He goes the extra mile

when they show that they have no intention of being reasonable he starts getting tough. 
Numbers 16:12 
“Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. 
But they said, ‘We will not come!’”

By their behavior they show they’re not open to reason.

And so – in verse 15 it says “Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, ‘Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.’" Numbers 16:15

He told God that these people are in rebellion… and he asked Him to take care of it. And of course – God did!

So, let’s revue: 
Moses loved these people. 
He cared about them.
He didn’t want to fight. 
He wanted to help these people deal with their anger.
And so he did everything he could to resolve the conflict.

In fact, he even proposed a solution to the conflict. 
Numbers 16:5-7 
“Then he said to Korah and all his followers: ‘In the morning the LORD will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him.
You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before the LORD. The man the LORD chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!’”

How do you deal with a brother that has something against you? 
Matthew 18: if I have a problem with a brother I am to:
1. Go to him one on one
2. If that doesn’t work - if they won’t listen to me – take two or three witnesses along and try again.
3. If that doesn’t resolve the conflict – take it before the church 
4. Then – if that fails – then God gives us permission to walk away.
the whole objective is to win my brother

But Korah hadn’t done that.
Instead, he had joined with the Reubenites to stage a full scale rebellion.

So there is a proper way to deal with conflict 
– And Moses attempted to do it that way.
First he talked to Korah
… then he tried to summon Dathan and Abiram.
Then he proposed a solution - let’s take it to God.
Fill your censers, we’ll take them before God and let Him decide.

Notice, Moses doesn’t ask to have this settled by a church vote. 
He doesn’t ask for a show of hands to see who approves of how things are.
Israel isn’t a democracy… it’s a theocracy.
The only vote that’s going to count (particularly on a doctrinal matter) – is God’s

Whenever God’s people voted in the Bible the result was rarely a good one.
Because people tend to vote their emotions and what they want to have done
… rather than focusing on what God wants. 
Thus, the outcome of some church votes is that the people end up trying to “outvote God”. 
That’s not really a good way for a church to receive His blessing.

Now – wise Church leaders WILL listen to their people. 
And when there is not a direct Biblical command being considered they should take the feelings of the people into consideration, 
and they should it do that way because the church doesn’t belong to them either.
The church belongs to God
… and God is the one who has to be pleased with what they do.

Church problems begin when people get upset
doesn’t have to end up in 
-fist fights, 
-power struggles, or 
-church splits. 
Handle w/ LOVE & Obedience to God
God can work in ways we can’t
God can heal what we can’t
God will deal with rebellion & sin in OUR hearts
God can root out bitterness
God can heal the wounded after conflict
God has last word
...14,000 swallowed by the earth
...250 consumed by a Holy fire 
In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul lists a number of punishments God brought down upon the Israelites because of their sinful behavior in the wilderness. 
Then he writes: 
“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11
pull up and discard any root of bitterness
follow scriptural procedure to save church member’s lives


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