Hey everybody, you're listening to A New Beginning, which is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners.
If this program has impacted you, I'd love to hear from you. So just send an email to me at greg.harvest.org. Again, it's greg.harvest.org.
You can learn more about becoming a Harvest Partner by going to harvest.org. We're essentially walking, talking billboards for what Christians look like. Coming up today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie says we each have an important choice to make. Some people bring joy wherever they go. Some people bring joy whenever they go. Which person are you? Are you the person that lights up the room or turns off the lights? Are you the person that brings everything down?
Or are you the person that builds others up? This is the day when the lost are found. This is the day for a new beginning. Amazing grace how sweet the sound. Again you hear all the angels are singing.
This is the day, the day when life begins. Disagreement and conflict is almost inevitable in human relationships. When that happens, some people put up their fists.
Others call up their lawyer. Others look up the proverb that says a soft answer turns away wrath. In the big picture, those moments can either undergird our efforts to share Christ or undermine them. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us deal with everyone in a spirit of grace and humility. We're in Acts chapter 15.
This is the day, the day when life begins. So I heard about three biker dudes that pulled up to a roadside cafe one day and they walked in. And here's a smallish man sitting on a stool having a meal. And they looked at this guy. Started laughing, hassling him. One of them took his meal away from him.
Another pushed him off his stool. And the man just went over and peed for his bill. Quietly walked out, got into his semi. He's a trucker, okay. And one of the bikers says to the waitress, he's not much of a man is he? She said, well I guess not.
She's looking out the window and watching the trucker drive away. She says, I guess he's not much of a trucker either because he just ran over three Harleys. Maybe that's not the best way to resolve conflict. But we all deal with conflict each and every day, right.
There's just no way around it. I don't know how you were raised but in my home as you know, there was a lot of domestic violence. My mom would get drunk and get in fights with her husbands and her boyfriends. And I don't just mean yelling.
I mean throwing things, hitting. I would sometimes get up in the morning, things are smashed all over the floor, dents on the wall. It was horrible environment to be brought up in. And I think at a very early age as a little boy, I sort of developed a desire to be a peacemaker. I wanted to resolve conflict.
I didn't want to see people fighting and have conflict. Another thing I sort of retreated into was my own little world of arts and cartoons where I could kind of have another place to live instead of the crazy world I was living in. And I developed this rather warped sense of humor.
My observations, because you think, well Greg, sometimes you're very sarcastic and your humor is a little odd. You don't know what I hold back. You don't know what comes into my mind. I have five things that go veto, veto, veto, veto.
I'll let that one through. That's how it works, okay. And that, even that is a defense mechanism that I developed. But I bring all of this up because I became a Christian. And I thought, okay now, no more conflict. No more disagreements. We're all going to just get together and sing Kumbaya in perpetuity.
Well, I came to discover that is not the case. Because conflicts and arguments will happen even among Christians. You know there are some people that create conflict unnecessarily. Conflict follows them wherever they go. It's always some kind of drama, right. You invite them over. There's going to be something that happens. And sometimes you don't want to invite those people over. Because in a way they're kind of like troublemakers.
I make up imaginary characters. Bobby Buzz killed Debbie Downer. I'm going to add a new one to that. Bobby Buzz killed Debbie Downer and Tina Troll. Oh yeah. Oh yes.
And sorry to make her female. But this is the person that always counterpoints everything even when you don't need to. And I find most of the trolls, though they're on Instagram and Facebook, many of these trolls are on Twitter, right.
So you'll post a picture with some friends. Had a great meal tonight. And the troll will come back and say, it must be nice to eat when people around the world are starving.
Yeah, it is. And I'm sorry about that. But it was a nice meal. Or, oh here's a picture with my family. And then the troll comes back and says, not everyone has a family. Try to be more sensitive. Do better.
Oh brother, really. And then you do another post. Oh, you know, beautiful photo of a sunset.
Check it out. And they come now with Bible verses. First John 2 15 says, love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. You know, really. That's so out of context.
You post a picture. Hey, had a great laugh with some people. Oh, you know, let your laughter be turned to sorrow and your joy into morning. Well these are verses in the Bible. But people are misusing them.
And there are some people that use the Bible to beat people down rather than build them up. And there are people out there that will mistreat you. They'll slander you. They'll hurt you.
So what do we do with these people? Well, one thing you can do on social media is block them. And I love to block people.
I love it. Now if you say something I don't agree with, I might delete your comment. But if you attack, I'll block you.
And I wish I could do it in real life. Of course you can't do that. So we're going to have to learn how to resolve conflict. Let me add these words. To the best of our ability the Bible says, as much as it is possible, live at peace with all men. Aren't you glad the Bible says as much as it's possible? Because with some people you can't live at peace with them.
But at least you want to make the effort. So let's explore that together. Because that's the subject before us.
And that's 15, conflict. The book of Acts, as I told you at the outset, is a very honest look at church history. If one of the people in the story does something wonderful, it's recorded.
If they mess up, that too is recorded. We see the heroes of the Bible in Acts and all the books of Scripture, warts and all. The great British legend Oliver Cromwell wanted to have his portrait painted. And this particular painter was known for removing any blemishes and making the painting look better than the person looked in real life. So Cromwell instructed the painter, go ahead and paint me warts and all.
And the painter did. And in the Bible we have the heroes, warts and all. We see them as they really are. So what is the backdrop of this story?
We have some troublemakers that have entered this scene. They're believers in Jesus. They're Jewish. And they have a Jewish background. And they felt that one had to be circumcised before they could become a Christian. This is basically a right of the Jewish religion.
It was never required of anyone but a Jew. But they're saying you have to be circumcised. So number one, this hurts. If you don't know what I'm talking about, talk to your parents or someone else.
We'll explain it. Circumcision hurts. Number two, they were placing an unnecessary barrier on these new believers. So Paul and Barnabas are now a missionary team and they're not happy about it. Remember I told you Barnabas, his name means encouragement or the son of encouragement. It wasn't his given name. It was effectively his nickname. He was literally Mr. Encouragement.
So if Mr. Encouragement wasn't encouraged, something was wrong. There was a saying in that day that went along the lines of if Barney isn't happy, ain't nobody happy. Now that wasn't really a saying. But there was a saying if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
Right? Barnabas was not pleased with this. Paul was not pleased with this. And they thought we need to go back to the leaders in Jerusalem and get this resolved. So now they're going to make the journey back to Jerusalem because these Judaizers, these legalists were saying James authorized what we're saying. And as it turns out James did not authorize it at all. So they were not being truthful.
So they wanted to go and get it from the horse's mouth so to speak. Now James is the brother of Jesus. Well you could say half brother because obviously Jesus was supernaturally conceived in the womb of Mary. But James was a son of Mary and Joseph. He grew up with Jesus. And by the way if you grew up with Jesus that would be hard not to drop that into every conversation. You know I remember when Jesus and I were just boys. This happened. I remember Mary our mother made us dinner the other day.
What a meal it was. But he didn't do that. He didn't play the I'm the brother of Jesus card. But he was a man known for his great wisdom.
And he pretty much was the leader of the church at this point along with Peter. And so they need to go and speak with James now and get his input because of these legalists. And you know there are people like this that we know. And you can probably think of them. And I don't know if the people who are these people know they're these people.
But let me just give you a clue. If no one ever wants to hang around you you might be one of these people. Consider it this way. Some people bring joy wherever they go. Some people bring joy whenever they go. Which person are you? Are you the person that lights up the room or turns off the lights?
Are you the person that brings everything down or are you the person that builds others up? Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. So many listeners have commented on the help they receive from the resources we make available at A New Beginning, like this listener. I thank God for the hope of the gospel and its power. Thank you for being bold and using so many avenues to get out the gospel. If you'd like information about Pastor Greg's New Believers Bible, just contact us at harvest.org.
That's harvest.org. From our study of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15, Pastor Greg is pointing out how to show grace and mercy in dealing with others, especially in moments of conflict. So they go back to Jerusalem and this is what happened as they meet with the apostles starting in verse 4 Acts chapter 15.
Let's read it together. I'm reading from the New Living Translation. When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders, and they repeated everything that God had done through them. But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted that Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses. So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. The apostles gave a ruling.
So basically they said, okay, we're not going to require circumcision. And all the Gentiles collectively said, whew. But now they go on to give a ruling of verse 19. So my judgment is, and this is James speaking, my judgment is we should not make it difficult for Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols in sexual immorality and from eating the meat of strangled animals and from consuming blood.
We'll stop there. So one of these conclusions dealt with morality. The other two dealt with sensitivity. Let's start with the no-brainer. The one that dealt with morality. Tell these Gentile believers who have come to Christ the following. They should not commit fornication. That's what the King James Bible says in the New Living Translation. They should not engage in sexual immorality. This comes from a single root word, porneia. We translate this word today to pornographic, pornography, etc. And it is a word that speaks of all sexual activity outside of God's proper order. And what is that? The only place where sexual activity can take place legitimately in the eyes of God is between a man and a woman in a marriage relationship. Period.
Right? That's it. There are no exceptions. Extramarital sex is forbidden in Scripture. Premarital sex is forbidden in Scripture. People say I want to know the will of God. God says very clearly in First Thessalonians 4-3, here's God's will. Be holy and stay away from all sexual sin. So I don't know what's happening in your life and if you've wondered about this but this is clearly taught in Scripture.
But now we come to an issue of sensitivity. Where they say tell them to not eat food that was offered to idols. Now this is hard for us to understand today so let me give you a little history. Back in this day there were pagan temples everywhere. Temples built for all these gods that the people worshipped.
These are the Gentiles. And they would offer meat or animal sacrifices to these idols. So you could get a killer deal on this meat.
You could go in and buy it at a greatly reduced price. It was a lot cheaper than the kosher meat down at the market sold by the Jewish merchants. And so the Gentiles are like hey we know these idols are false. We don't believe in these idols.
Why pay retail when you can get it wholesale. Let's go and buy this meat. But this offended the Jewish believers because it was offered to idols. And so here's what Paul is saying. Look even if this doesn't mean a lot to you it means something to your Jewish brothers and sisters. So for their sake don't eat it and stumble them spiritually. So take away truth for us. We should not put up a wall where God has opened a door. We should be a bridge not a barrier to people coming to Christ.
We should be a stepping stone not a stumbling block. It should never be difficult for someone to come to church say for the first time. And clearly they may not be a believer.
And that's obvious for a number of reasons. But whatever it is they come in. They should always feel welcomed into the church.
You know a couple may come in and they're living together. And they come to church or someone may come in and they're gay or someone may come in under the they're a drug addict or whatever it is or they dress in a way that makes some people uncomfortable. And you'll say well why are they in church.
They're sitting next to me in church. I don't think this is a good thing. That would be like going to a hospital and saying why are there so many sick people here. Because it's a hospital. And they're there to get better.
And I'm glad they're in the hospital. And I'm glad non-believers come into our church because we want them to come. As I've said before the church is not a museum for saints. It's a hospital for sinners.
Now having said that I would also add this. They don't need to clean up their life and come to Christ. They need to come to Christ and he will clean their life up.
All right. Jesus said he that would come to me I would in no way cast them out. Jesus cleans his fish after he catches them. But having said that now once they've come once they've heard the gospel and if they've made a profession of faith the person who is gay needs to repent and no longer live that way.
The couple that are living together need to move out and consider if they should get married at all but not continue living in that way. The person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol should be and can be delivered by Jesus Christ. Okay. So the change has to happen. But I think sometimes you get the cart before the horse. Well let's get them all cleaned up first and then they can come to church.
No. Let's get them to church. Let them hear the Word of God. But it all starts here.
Let them come into a relationship with Jesus. You know before I was a Christian I used drugs. I've told you that.
That shouldn't come as a revelation to you. And I didn't know what was wrong. I just did what everyone I knew was doing at that time. And after I believed in Jesus He spoke to my heart and made it clear to me that was not the lifestyle I was to live anymore. But what drew me in was not somebody berating me and telling me how wrong I was and my lifestyle was. It was Jesus. I was drawn to Jesus Christ who loved me and accepted me and would and forgave me. And I thought I want to follow Him. Now my obedience comes as a result of that love.
Right. We love Him because He first loved us the Bible says. Jesus says if you love me you'll keep my commandments. So let's not get this in reverse and miss what this Bible that we're holding is saying to us.
We should not do anything that would keep people from hearing the Gospel. So let's bring this to the present day. Let's say that I'm a meat eater and you're a vegetarian. And by the way I am a meat eater.
I'm happy to be a meat eater. My wife took me out to a vegetarian restaurant the other day and didn't tell me until after the meal was done I was in a vegetarian restaurant. Because she knew I wouldn't go with her. And she told me ahead of time.
So I had the meal. It was very good. She said how did you like it.
She says great. She said there was no meat in it. No there was. No it's a vegetarian restaurant.
You know I didn't really like it that much. That's a true story. So let's say you and I go out to a meal. You're a vegetarian or a vegan. And there's differences.
I had to actually look this up. Now a vegan is on a different diet that excludes all meat and animal products. Including meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs. That's a pretty limited diet. Then there's a vegetarian. They can eat eggs and cheese but not meat, poultry, and seafood. Then there's a pescatarian.
You know what that is? A pescatarian is someone who eats fish but no other meat products. Then there's a presbyterian pescatarian. And they can only eat fish in church.
I don't know if you've not. I made that part up. The pescatarian part is true. So let's say that we're sitting down for a meal and I'm eating my filet and you're having your broccoli and you're offended. You're offended. You know I wish you wouldn't eat that. That offends me. I can forgo my steak so I don't offend you.
Let's apply it a different way. Let's say we go to a restaurant and we order some pasta and you order a glass of wine. You say I love wine with my Italian food. What if I say but I was an alcoholic and if I have one sip of wine I could fall off the wagon. It's hard for me to sit here while you're drinking. Well that's your problem man. No we're a family. Now out of consideration for that person you would say well I'll forgo that.
I won't do that because I don't want to do something that would cause you to stumble. Romans 14 19 says aim for harmony in the church and try to build one another up. Good encouragement today from Pastor Greg Laurie.
Aim for harmony in the church and try to build one another up. And there's more to come from this lesson here on A New Beginning. Pastor Greg has titled it How to Resolve Conflict. And then we want to mention Pastor Greg's book. It's called Revelation a Book of Promises. You know Pastor Greg there's a lot of symbolism in Bible prophecy. You've studied the subject a great deal.
Yes. How much of that symbolism do we know for sure what it means and how much is open to interpretation where godly people do disagree. Well I think it's very important to understand Bible prophecy. There are constant exhortations to understand these things. Jesus when he was speaking of an event called the abomination of desolation said let the reader understand. In the book of Thessalonians Paul writing to the believers there he says brothers I would not have you be ignorant. Then he went on to talk about the rapture.
So we don't want to be ignorant. We want to understand and the very word revelation means to unveil. Now there are different ways that we can view these truths and I think godly people can and they do frankly disagree on some of these things. Now my position is I believe that there is an event called the rapture that could happen at any moment. I believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. Now the tribulation period is last seven years starts with the emergence of antichrist. It ends with the return of Jesus Christ. I don't believe we as Christians will go through the tribulation period. I believe we'll be raptured before that time comes. Now that belief alone will affect you in the way that you live because if you believe you could be caught up to meet the lord in the air and you see the signs of the time showing how close the tribulation period could potentially be you realize if the tribulation period is close then the rapture of the church is even closer. So I could use the illustration of seeing Christmas decorations up and you know they go up so early now don't they what is it August or something it's like I can't believe Christmas decorations are up well guess what if I see the decorations for Christmas going up it says this Thanksgiving is coming you see no Greg it says Christmas is coming no I know but if Christmas is coming Thanksgiving is coming even sooner because Thanksgiving precedes Christmas doesn't it so the point of it all is if I see signs of the times out there telling me that the tribulation period is coming then that means that Jesus is coming even sooner for his church that belief alone will affect you in the way that you live and I talk about that and a lot more in this book that I've just written called revelation a book of promises this is going to be a resource that you'll keep at home and hopefully you'll consult it again and again and my prayer and my hope is it will help unlock this great book the final book of the bible the only book of the bible I might add it has a special blessing promise to the person who reads hears and keeps the words of it and I want you to get this book I've just written simply called revelation a book of promises yeah that's right and we'll rush a copy back to you to thank you for your investment in these daily teaching opportunities it's only through listener support that we can continue to come your way so get in touch today for pastor Greg's book revelation a book of promises you can write us at a new beginning box 4000 Riverside California 92514 or call 1-800-821-3300 that's a 24 7 phone number 1-800-821-3300 or go online to harvest.org well next time more insight on harmony in the church as pastor Greg gives us some practical insight on conflict resolution join us here on a new beginning with pastor and bible teacher Greg Laurie the preceding podcast was made possible by harvest partners helping people everywhere know God learn how to become a harvest partner sign up for daily devotions and find resources to help you grow in your faith at harvest.org
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