Broadcast

Agenda #1: Divide and Conquer

From the series Diabolical

You’ve probably heard someone tell you that Jesus has a plan for your life. Well, did you know that Satan has a plan for your life, too? Chip begins this series by explaining how to identify Satan's tactics, protect yourself from his schemes, and keep from falling prey to his plan to divide and conquer.

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Message Transcript

I’m holding something in my hands that you probably recognize maybe from junior high or elementary school as you were learning about the world. But this is the globe. And what I want you to know, that for this entire planet, and everything and every person on this planet, there are two competing agendas.

God has an agenda for every person on this planet, He has an agenda for nations, He has an agenda for every man, every woman, every child. And it’s an agenda of unstoppable grace, of compassion, and love, and restoration.

By contrast, Satan has an agenda for this planet. He has an agenda for nations, and how they function, for communities, for every man, for every woman, and every child and his agenda is to kill, and to steal, and destroy.

And anything that is good, anything that is of God, anything that is positive, anything that is wholesome, and winsome, he wants to destroy it.

Somewhere you’re on this, I’m on this, and as a result we’re involved in a pretty big battle that if we’re not careful, you just find yourself like the Google map zooming, zooming, zooming, zooming to this tiny little spot and you can think the little spot that where you’re living is where life happens and you can miss the big picture agenda.

We’re going to talk about Satan’s agenda for planet earth including you. We looked at God’s unstoppable agenda in Acts chapters 1 through 5.

Jesus defined the agenda in one verse. John chapter 10 verse 10 he says, “The thief,” speaking of Satan, “his agenda or purpose is to kill and steal and destroy.” He says, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” I love the way the New Living Translation put that. “I came that you might have it, life,” Jesus said, “and have it more abundantly.”

And so I just want you to get a macroscopic view of the whole world, and the planet, and history, and realize God’s agenda is one word: life. Would you write that in your notes? It’s life.

It’s unstoppable. It’s forgiveness. It’s healing. It’s grace. It’s peace. It’s removing shame. It’s giving new life. It’s doing something inside of you so that the love of God isn’t just experienced but it’s shared. You’re His ambassador. You’re His agent.

Satan’s agenda can be described in one word as well. It’s death. He deceives, he lies, he corrupts, he brings shame, and then he brings temptations to you and me to get you to do something, or to treat someone, or try to get a good thing in a bad way, or at a bad time, that will kill relationships, that bring shame to your heart, that makes you depressed, that ruins relationships, that divides families, that breaks up small groups, that ruins churches and business places. His is diabolical.

It’s not passive. It’s not kind of bad. It’s not something over there if, you know, if we don’t mess with it, it won’t mess with us. No, it’s diabolical.

As I was studying these chapters and praying and came up with a lot of very bad titles and then said, Lord, I know those aren’t ones so will You show me? And early one morning just as I was waking up it’s like the Spirit of God said, “Diabolical.”

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t use that word a lot. And so I went to Webster’s and then I went to the little Wikipedia and here’s what, between the two of them, this is what diabolical means.

It means something extremely wicked or cruel, evil, fiendish, hellish, vile, vicious, satanic, infernal, demonic, despicable, deplorable. Those are like the worst words in the whole world.

You need to understand that you’re in a battle and there’s competing agenda and God has one, and Satan has one, and your soul, and your relationships, and your life, are constantly being bombarded by agents of grace and agents of evil.

And you need to understand the lay of the land, and what to do, and when, and how. And recognize when it happens.

When I thought of that I thought, “If someone asked me to kind of draw a box and write in it things that I think are diabolical by that definition.” I jotted a few things. In fact, I’d encourage you, I left a few blanks. To me genocide is diabolical. I mean, the Holocaust, Bosnia, Sudan, Stalin, fifty, sixty million people. Kills his own people. Ethnic cleansing.

It’s diabolical. It should never happen. The sexual abuse of children, slavery of sex slaves is diabolical. Betrayal. Someone you trust, someone you love, someone who commits to you, and then just lies, and just does the exact opposite, and you learn about it later. It’s evil. It’s fiendish. It’s terrible.

Abusing kids. Taking a prescription that you know, secretly, will cause certain side effects but you can get billions of dollars and passing it on through, knowing that cancer and death, even if it’s just one percent of the people it occurs. Diabolical.

Taking resources and putting poison in water that destroys people down the road or downstream because you can leverage it here for profit. Diabolical.

What would you put in that box? What’s the most evil, diabolical, terrible thing? I mean, axe murderers, serial killers, kidnapping little girls and chaining them to beds in basements – horrendous things. Those are dia…there’s evil in the world.

This isn’t philosophical, this isn’t metaphysical. There’s evil. And there is evil pointed at that planet and there’s an agenda to make it global, and individual, and pervasive.

Let me give you just kind of seven things that the Scripture teaches that will give you a framework as we talk about this diabolical agenda.

Number one, precepts to remember, good and evil are realities, they’re not merely concepts or metaphors.

It comes right out of the life of Christ. Matthew 4: it’s Jesus face to face with Satan. This wasn’t just some ethereal…it was a real angelic being who was evil trying to tempt our Lord to bail out on God’s plan. Very real.

Second, God is the source of all good and Satan is the author of evil. James chapter 1 says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

He says, “Don’t let any man say when he’s tempted, ‘I’m tempted of God.’ For God can tempt no one.” Evil was introduced into our world system through our enemy Satan, through our original parents. It’s Genesis chapter 3.

Third fact: Satan is a fallen angel who led one third of the angels in rebellion against God. You can read about that in Ezekiel 28 or Isaiah 14.

Sometimes, with all the Hollywood and all the different TV shows, and all the sensationalism, we get this idea that, you know, there’s this gory, scary, crazy, sensational… And that’s what Satan is all about.

Actually, Satan was called Lucifer. Star of the morning. He was the chief of all the Cherubs, which were the highest level of angels. He served at the side of God. He was the most beautiful of all the angels. He was the wisest and most knowledgeable of all angels and his fall was, he got caught up in his own beauty, in his own pride, and he started a coup.

He wanted to take…he wanted God’s job. And a third of the angels followed him and when angels, that’s what they are, when they turn evil they’re called demons. And so there’s a battle that’s very real.

Four, we’re in an invisible war with temporal and eternal consequences. I want you to step back from emails, and voicemails, and work issues, and relationship issues, and realize you are in, today, an invisible war and a battle for your soul, and the souls of people, that’s real.

Ephesians 6 will tell you, very clearly, the armor that you have, the protection that you have. You’re being bombarded, by the way, by lies. By condemnation. By feelings and senses that you don’t measure up. By relationships where you think it’s all your fault.

There’s something behind evil that provides all the resources for us to hurt one another in relationships. We own and realize that we do things wrong but there is a tempter. And you need to be very aware and you also need to know how to address it.

Five, we face a formidable but defeated foe. I just want you to know as we’re going into this, I don’t want anybody going home with bad dreams, you know, like, ahhhhh. Okay?

He’s formidable. He’s a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. But he’s defeated. Colossians 2:15, “He was defeated at the cross.”

Which leads to the very next point. We don’t fight for victory. We’re not trying to figure out who is going to win this. We fight from victory not for victory.

“Greater is He that is in us, as followers of Christ, than he that is in the world.” But it’s still a real battle. You need to know who you are in Christ. You need to know how to do spiritual warfare. You need to identify, is this just me? Could this be demonic activity? You need to understand all that.

Because the very last point is that ignorance is lethal. I mean, lethal. You are so set up to get hurt, or to hurt others, or to have everything that God wants to do in you and through you thwarted, if you’re ignorant.

When the apostle Paul wrote about these issues, he said it like this to one church. He said, “You are not ignorant of his schemes.” We get our word “strategies”. “You’re not ignorant of Satan’s schemes or strategies, the way he divides, and the way he condemns, and the way he lies, and the way he deceives.”

I don’t think Paul could write that to most churches today. I think most churches, most people are absolutely ignorant of his schemes.

Now, I don’t know what your expectations are but this will not be a series about, kind of, overt, sensational spiritual warfare. We’re going to look at behind that, the subtle agendas.

But if these seven things that I’ve outlined as a quick review are foreign to you, you’ll notice I put a little asterisk at the bottom. We have a study called The Invisible War. We have it in a book form, we have it in small group form, if your small group doesn’t know what you want to do yet, you can get it on CDs, or go to Living on The Edge, the mp3 is real cheap.

But you need to be aware of how that operates because we’re not going to talk about that side. I’m going to talk about huge subtle agendas and movements, that are wrapped in goodness, that are often wrapped in religion, that are wrapped in practices that you and I unconsciously accept, that ruin us and ruin other people.

And so, first, I just want you to get, here’s some precepts you’ve got to remember. Here’s the framework of what we’re talking about.

The second thing, before we dig in, is there’s some perceptions I want to challenge. I mean, when you talk about Satan, when you talk about the devil, you know, we all have some background and pictures pop up.

I love C.S. Lewis. He said, “There’s two great errors when you talk about Satan. One is you think too much about him and the second is you think too little.”

I mean, believe me, this is not a church, and we’re not a place, where everything is Satan. There’s a demon behind every bush, you know, I’m driving my car, I got a flat tire. Oh no! It must be the flat tire demon. No, it might be a nail. You know?

Spiritual realities are real but so is everything else. Everything isn’t demonic. Sometimes I have really bad situations because I do really stupid stuff. Sometimes I do sinful stuff. And it’s consequences.

So I want you to know that, you know, we don’t assign or think everything, he’s behind everything. But there’s others you don’t think about him at all. You don’t think, why do you have these unexplained waves of depression every time you want to get in the Bible?

When you’re working on your marriage and you go to counseling and you’re making some real steps, why are you having more fights than before? You know, you finally decide you go to a small group and someone in that group says something that really offends you and you just feel pushed away. Why is it every time you take steps toward that which is good, things start to fall apart?

Well, then, you know what? Maybe you need to understand there’s an enemy of your soul.

Second perception is, when I thought of this term, “diabolical” and I thought, Well, I’m going to name this series, Lord, because You, best I know, that’s what You want to do. I think we have a view of diabolical and as I’ve been studying, God has a different view.

It’s not that He doesn’t think that axe murderers and serial killers and genocide – that is evil for sure.

You know, we think those are those diabolical, evil, terrible things out there that can –  that’s not us. I’ve been reading through Proverbs. And as I’ve been reading through Proverbs this little phrase, “the Lord detests” and then it’ll say this: “The Lord abhors, God hates.” And as I was reading through, pretty soon I thought, I start in my Bible. I put a little box around “The Lord detests.” Or every time He hates this or He hates that.

And I came up with a list. And I thought to myself, you know, it just dawned on me as I was studying. If God hates something, it must be diabolical. Right? I mean, He hates it.

But I don’t have any verses like He hates serial killers, or He hates genocide, or He hates infanticide, or…although those things would certainly be true. But can I just give you a highlight of, this is just what Proverbs says is diabolical in God’s eyes.

Chapter 3 it says, “God detests perverse men. Perverse women.” And then so what is a perverse man? Well, the passage goes, a perverse person in this passage, “One who withholds what is good when it’s in your power to repay.”

In other words, you owe someone money, you got the money, you don’t pay them, God hates that. He thinks that’s diabolical. It’s when you plot to harm someone else. It’s when you accuse someone for no reason. It’s when we envy violent people. God says He hates that.

Later on it says, “He hates and detests haughty eyes, a lying tongue, the shedding of innocent blood, a heart that devises evil, feet that rush to evil,” and then are you ready, “and people that stir up dissention.”

People that gossip, people that take a little thing and divide, people that make you think less of other people, people that mess with – God says He detests it. He hates it. Haughty eyes, thinking I’m better than other people. A proud heart. Arrogance.

God says He hates it. All of a sudden, I realized I needed to get my little box into a much bigger box. Because all of those, those who oppress the poor He abhors. Those who have different weights, business deals where you put stuff on Craigslist, you know, it’s worth this, and you lie a little bit about it, He detests it.

And all of a sudden, what I realized was, it’s in the lying and the scheming, and the deception, that happens in small areas in our hearts, God detests. And the things that we call diabolical are just what happens when they bloom and they multiply over time.

C.S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters, if you’ve never read it, it is a classic. And it’s placed as an older demon coaching a younger demon about how to deceive God’s people.

And if you ever want to learn the subtlety, because, see, this is not going to be about demons and they have big eyes like this and there’s manifestations like that and this might happen.

There’s a time and place for spiritual warfare. I’m going to tell you ninety plus percent, maybe ninety-nine percent, of all the demonic activity that you’ll ever face will come packaged so sweetly, so subtly, and so deceptively that you’ll be on course, moving in a direction that will bring ruin to your soul, and to your relationships, and those around you, and you’ll never know it.

In fact, most of the ways we’re going to talk about were accepted. We have unconsciously accepted some things, and you’ll look at them, and I’ll look at them, and we’ll realize why so many marriages don’t work. Why so many kids hate their parents. Why so many churches have so many factions.

We’re going to see these big, subtle ways that his agenda for this planet, he is happiest when what he is doing to us, we’re oblivious to.

So, are you ready? We’re going to go on a journey. Open your Bibles to Acts chapter 6, and we’re going to learn a pattern to recognize.

The Church has exploded for five chapters. Three thousand come to Christ, five thousand, and they usually only count the initially the men, then their whole families. Then the Lord’s adding to their number every day.

So, maybe we have, who knows, somewhere between twenty to fifty, maybe eighty thousand people in these first few months. The Church is exploding. And the Church is inside Judaism right now.

So, all those that are coming to Christ, in Jerusalem, are Jews. Now, I want to give you a little context here. Write down, the context is rapid growth or change. I want you to get that.

So, what’s happening now is that there’s tens of thousands of people and the marketplaces are full, and Peter is, you know, he’s, boy, here’s John and James and, boy, there’s all these demands and organizationally it’s growing. They never expected something like this.

The second thing I want you to notice is the complaint. There’s going to, a complaint’s going to come up of unmet needs. When things grow rapidly, or if there is change in your world and my world, it almost always surfaces unmet needs.

When there are unmet needs in a marriage, unmet needs in a friendship, unmet needs in a small group, unmet needs in a church, our tendency is to look at the differences and begin to blame the other person and that’s where the enemy causes division.

Here’s what I want you to recognize. Here’s agenda number one. Satan wants to divide and conquer. He wants to divide you from your friends, he wants to divide you from your mate, he wants to divide you in your small group, he wants to divide you with your parents, he wants to divide you with your kids, he wants to divide you at work.

His agenda, this is the agenda. He’ll use lots of different ways, and temptations, and people, and personalities, and backgrounds, and differences. But the goal is to divide you. And the easiest place to divide us is when we have differences. Because, left to ourselves, we move from we’re different but I’m right and they’re wrong.

Now, what I want you to do, as I read the passage, is notice how the early disciples dealt with the differences and the complaint, how they didn’t allow the superficial issue to be – they went to the core – and how they address it.

Are you ready? Acts chapter 6. “In those days,” in the days of this rapid growth, “the number of the disciples was increasing. The Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebrew Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of the food. So the twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables.’”

Now, here’s a solution side. So you have a complaint. The complaint is rooted, and here’s the historical situation. Judaism is made up of three groups now. We read this and we have our Christian eyes.

Right now, it’s all Judaism. Inside Judaism you have the largest faction are people who do not believe Jesus is the Messiah. You now have a growing faction inside this, you have one circle of people who speak Hebrew and Aramaic who have lived in Jerusalem, who’ve received Jesus the Messiah, and they’re Christians.

You have another group who don’t speak Hebrew, they probably know some Aramaic to get around because it’s the trade language along with Greek, but they are Greek speakers, they came from all around the area, and when they came at Pentecost, they heard the message, they’ve become Christians, and now they’re living in Jerusalem.

So they speak Greek, they speak Hebrew. This group because they’ve lived elsewhere they look at the world differently. I mean, people who speak a different language from another country, we all get along, but we eat different food, we think differently, we have different values, we have different styles. That’s the situation.

Now, imagine now, from a hundred and twenty people, to a few hundred, to a few thousand, to ten thousand, to maybe forty, fifty thousand people. And let’s just say one or two percent of them are really poor and have needs.

A complaint is, now they’re saying, “Wait a second! If you’re a Hebrew-speaking person your widows are getting the food but ours aren’t.”

Add to this, historically, if you spoke Hebrew and came from Jerusalem, this is well documented, you just looked down your nose at every other Jew. You were of the pure, unmixed ancestry here in Jerusalem.

Jews are God’s chosen people, and you are the chosen of the chosen. And so, you basically think these second-class citizens, I mean, they’re okay, they believe in Jesus but we do know who is better.

So that’s the story. That’s what’s happening. Notice what happens. The disciples say, “We got a problem.” They realize they’re going to have to realign their priorities.

Here’s the response. “‘Brothers, choose seven from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and we will give our attention to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.’ Well, this proposal pleased the entire group; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and also Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, who was a convert to Judaism. And they presented these men to the apostles who prayed, laid hands on them,” basically delegated the authority.

Now, if you had time to study this, all seven of these names, guess what, they’re Greek names. So, what the apostles basically said was, “Wait a second. This thing is growing but we’ve got to step back, not respond emotionally.” I mean, this is real stuff. They’re complaining. “What’s wrong with you? Hey, Peter, I thought you loved God. How come my, you know, my aunt’s a widow. What’s the deal?” Right? This is heavy stuff.

They step back and they realize, “We’re overwhelmed, we need to be servants,” but the ultimate goal, Jesus said what? “Go, therefore, into all the world, make disciples.”

“We’re overwhelmed,” they listen, and they say, you know what? So they appoint seven of the most godly people, who all have Greek names because they’re closest to the problem, and they come up with the solution.

“And it pleased the people,” and then look at verse 7. “So the Word of God spread and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

And so notice on your notes here. You’ve got rapid growth, you have an unmet need, and then here’s the core.

Differences are fertile ground for division when growth or change create real or perceived unmet needs.

See, the core issue is the disciples understood that when things grow and multiply, unmet needs accentuate the differences, and when there’s differences, that’s when the enemy gets in.
To understand really what’s going on here the early Church is thoroughly Jewish at this point. And in Jewish culture every Friday morning they would go out two by two to the market, people who sold at the market, and home to home and they would ask for donations for the poor for that day.

They would then go to the outer court and there would be, it says, waiting on tables. Don’t think of them like at a restaurant. There were these tables. And the apostles were at these tables, different groups would go around, and then they would bring food and some money.

And if you were desperate – people didn’t get paid by the month – people got paid for that day’s work. So, some people came at the end of the day, they didn’t have any money, didn’t have any food for tomorrow.

And so they would come and they could get a meal, or some money right then, or if you were a widow, there’s no social systems whatsoever, you would get fourteen meals, that would give you two meals a day for the next seven days.

And so, it was the oversight of this that the apostles were doing along, so it’s a pretty operational, strong job.

So, they step back and delegate that, and they get to the core issue, which was: how do we stay on track? Let’s not allow these differences, where they’re starting to blame one another. This could have divided and ruined the Church.

Notice also here, that the cure is new wine demands new wineskins. The presenting problem is, hey, these widows aren’t getting enough food. The disciples’ response is, our goal has to remain the same. We can’t allow the differences to divide us. So leaders step back, reevaluate roles and priorities, to make sure the needs get met.

In fact, what you see in this passage is in the first half of this passage you see differences that could have divided, and you get wise leadership and we’ll talk about our practical application in a minute.

In the second half of the passage, you’ll notice now that Stephen, it’s more than these guys just waiting on tables. You basically have part of Judaism having a worship service in Hebrew, another part of Judaism having a worship service in Greek.

But now this group is giving oversight and as they’re giving oversight Stephen now begins to have ministry more than just this.

In fact, when change or growth begins to mess with your world, and my world, there’s certain traditions and habits that keep us comfortable, and sometimes we don’t want any truth. And we don’t want the change and the implications of truth.

And the enemy gets in, and instead of it being different or I need to grow, the enemy gets in and says, “You know what? You’ve got to take that person out.” And so notice what happens.

“Then they secretly persuaded,” now these are Jews. They know the commandments. These are people that, “We love God, we honor God, Yahweh.” You know? So they secretly persuade people to speak against him and say that Stephen has been speaking words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.

“So then they stirred up the people.” Notice division. “And the elders and the teachers of the law and the seized Stephen and they brought him before the Sanhedrin,” which is the ruling counsel of the Jews.

“And they produced false witnesses who testified. ‘This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs of Moses handed down to us.’”

And they’ve taken some truths and just tilted it in such a way. “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin look intently at Stephen and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”

First part of the chapter, differences, potential division, wisdom, the Church continues to grow, roles change, paradigms change, people understand we need to stay on track. Our differences aren’t wrong it’s just a different day. I need to be flexible, I need to respond, I need to hear God’s voice.

The second group, just the opposite. The change threatens their power, threatens their security.

Well, let’s talk about you and me. So where do we go from here? What are specific ways that – principles that we can apply, because this division to conquer, he wants to ruin your marriage.

If you’re a single person and dating someone, or you’re a single person and you have some really good friends, he wants to ruin your friendships.

A little miscommunication here, a little miscommunication here, and a text here and a voicemail there. “Oh, I think she meant that. She said that. I don’t…” He wants to destroy you. You need to understand, that agenda is flowing towards you 24/7.

So, here’s some practical principles at the first signs of disunity. Number one, don’t be defensive. Listen objectively. I love the apostles. I mean, they could have said, “Wait a second! We saw him rise from the dead, don’t you worry about these widows. We’ll take care of this.”

And instead it was, “Listen, maybe there’s an issue we don’t understand. We’re overwhelmed right now. We can’t meet all the needs.” They listened objectively. If you have any sense of division, if you have any resentment, if there’s someone that you’re not getting along with, just let’s stop. And before you blame, and shame, and it’s all them, just listen.

Second, get to the core issue and refuse to blame. Get to the core issue. The issue was not the widows. The issue was the system was broken. The unmet needs wasn’t because someone was trying to do something intentionally wrong, but that’s what they were thinking, right?

It wasn’t that they missed your phone call. It wasn’t that, you know, they married you, and then tried to make your life miserable. Right?

Get to the core issues. I mean, it’s crazy, I mean, you get attracted and you find that you’re living with this person you thought would be really, really wonderful and then you find they do, like, really what you think is stupid stuff. Like, the toilet paper is to go this way, not that way.

And then you come in and the toothpaste is squeezed from the middle and you’re going, “Man, what’s with her? I’ve told her seven times! It’s from the bottom and you wind it up because it’s wasteful.” Ooooh.

“I sleep on this side of the bed. Well, I want to sleep on this side of the bed. I want it to be seventy degrees at night. You know, that’s too much energy. It’s got to be sixty-two.” And it starts with stuff like that.

And then it’s pretty soon of: “Your parents are this way and mine are that way. Well, you spent money over here. Well, anybody could wear that many pair of shoes, I can play golf, now.” Bing, bong, bing, bong. Right?

Those are symptoms. Those are never the problems. In churches it’s the same. There are differences. You have to learn to communicate. You’ve got to step back and say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. What’s the core issue here? What’s the disconnect? What’s the value? What’s it mean to love one another?”

In churches it’s never about, “We should have hymnals instead of slides! We should have organs and stained glass instead of electric guitars!”

Those aren’t the issues. “Everyone should have a key! No one should have a key! We should use this room instead of that room. Why are they kicking us out of this room?” All of those are symptoms.

Differences provide, in an environment of rapid change and growth, an opportunity for division to occur in the most subtle of ways, and we feel justified and self-righteous in speaking evil of others, and blaming others, and it divides marriages, and it breaks up friendships, and it ruins small groups, and it goes on Facebook, and we text it to one another.

And we have no idea that the, “Nya, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” It’s diabolical! And Satan gets his agenda done and no one is thinking about demons, or evil, or the exorcist. He doesn’t need to. He’s got us pushing his agenda. You’ve got to get to the core issue.

Third, seek outside help. There’s a third alternative. The disciples said, “You know what? We’re all Hebrew, Jewish boys. We got a Hellenistic speaking problem. Why don’t we get the seven wisest, most godly, smartest, Hellenistic, Greek-speaking Jews, and ask them what we ought to do, and how to do it? And then why don’t we delegate it? And why don’t we stay in what only we can do, and address this issue that way?”

There was a third alternative. It wasn’t feed them more, or do them less. It was, “It’s time to change the paradigm.” The new wine demands new wineskins. We’ve got to change – truth never changes. Methods, roles, always change.

And so, for some of you, you know what? You’ve been banging on each other. There’s a third alternative. It’s not you’re right or she’s right. Go to a quality Christian counselor and sit down, and get the issues on the table, and get down to the core.

There’s a third alternative. You know, in a friendship, find a good friend that you both trust, and sit down, and stop sending stuff to people, and stop talking to other people, and go directly to them with a humble heart, not blaming, not defensive and say, “I know we’re brothers, or we’re sisters, or whatever in Christ, and God wants unity and we don’t have it. What do we need to do?”

Get outside help. It’s a third alternative. We all don’t have to worship the same, we all don’t have to have the same style, we don’t have to like the same music. But we have our allegiance to Christ. And those coming to Christ. And those who come to Christ mature. And those who are mature, loving and caring for people.

The fourth is be flexible. Accept roles and priorities will always change in healthy, growing environments. Our elderly lady, Gladys, who likes to get her stuff from Peter, just needs to know, you know something? God’s agenda is bigger, and more important, than her personal preference.

And by the way, we all have to do that all the time. You’ve got to do that with friends, you’ve got to do that in a small group, you’ve got to do that in your marriage.

Boy, you know, have you ever stopped to ask, “What is God’s agenda in this conflict that I’m having in my marriage? What is God’s agenda in this conflict that we’re having in this small group? What is God’s agenda in these parts of, you know, this Ingram guy? And he’s just doing some stuff and one week I like him and the next week, just hate him. And then, you know, but I can’t say that because it’s so ungodly so I just email sort of these passive aggressive little things to other people and tell them, ‘I’m not sure this is really where we ought to…’”

No, we’re not all going to agree on everything. We’re just different. And a lot of this isn’t right or wrong. But we’ve got to be flexible. We’ve got to accept, you know, every season, roles change, priorities change, things are going to be different.

When things are growing, they’re alive. When they stop growing and they’re the way we like them all the time, here’s what you need to know: you’re dying.

Fifth, refuse to fear. Change means different, not wrong. See, the disciples, they weren’t afraid of the conflict. It was, here’s the deal, it’s normal. Conflict is not even bad. It’s just normal.

But the Synagogue of the Freedmen, they were afraid. They were afraid of the power, they were afraid of the shift, they’re afraid that their roles and their way was going to get changed and so it produced some very, very negative, unhealthy, ungodly behavior.

Finally, beware. Our perceived loss of control and power makes us vulnerable to divisive words and behavior.

I mean, they lost power, didn’t they? And pretty soon they’re followers of God and they’re getting false witnesses. They’re followers of God and they’re making up stories. Have any of us ever done that? Any of us ever made up stories about how it’s going with a relationship, or how it’s going in a marriage or, you know, we talk with one another.

I’m always amazed. I do a lot of studying in coffee shops and I do not try and listen to people. But some of them just talk so loud.

And, I mean, you ought to try this sometime. I don’t know if I should say that but maybe not on purpose listen. And just ask yourself, of the five conversations that I heard, was there even one where two people weren’t talking about someone else that didn’t measure up to their expectations, or did something to them?

I studied for about three hours in the Starbucks around the corner and people here, people here, people there. And I was there for two hours so they rotate, you know, a new group came.

And I just, and I’m studying this. “I mean, you know what? My daughter-in-law, I just don’t know what she’s thinking about, and that boyfriend live in. I just, you know, she has no respect for me.”

You know, “Well, I don’t know. My supervisor, I’ll tell you what. This whole job thing…”

And, I mean, it was just like, ge, goo, ge, goo, ge, goo, ge, goo. And I just wonder if Satan isn’t laughing and dividing.

And here’s what scares me: I know when I’ve been faced with differences, and when I’ve been wounded, and when I don’t like the change, I have been that person. And in sophisticated ways, with an occasional Bible verse wrapped inside of it, I have made other people look bad.

I had a season of my life where I thought my view was the truth. And I was convinced. It was such a disease in my life, earlier, I actually wrote on a card, “My perspective of this situation is not necessarily the truth. It’s simply my perspective. It may or may not have anything to do with reality.” And I read it over, and over, and over, and over.

So, when something comes to me, or a person comes to me, or I look at something, I can at least try and be like the disciples, and step back and say, “Now, wait a second.” Because my immediate reaction is, “That’s dumb, that’s ungodly, this is the way it is, they shouldn’t do that.”

And I’ve responded in that way, at times, only to find out I didn’t have all the facts. That as objective as I think I am, I’m not. I actually come from a background, and a language, and a set of values, and I look at things like this, and sometimes they’re not like this. They’re like this.

And what I know, when there’s conflict, and differences, and division emerging, whether it’s in my marriage, or with a close friend, or with a group of elders, or with a staff member, or with someone out on a basketball court, what I know is that whatever I’m feeling that makes me want to blame and divide is, Satan’s at work and I need to realize, you know what? This is how I see it but how I see it isn’t necessarily reality or true.

And so I don’t want to be defensive, and I don’t want to blame, and I want to ask some questions, and with humility I’m going to say, “Our unity matters more than me getting things the way I think they ought to be.” And I ask, “What’s God’s agenda?”

We have a redemptive God. We have a forgiving God. He can take the worst and pull it back together.

And I thought, Oh, Jesus, that’s Your agenda. That’s His agenda for your marriage, and your small group, and with your kids, and with your friends, and with a co-worker that doesn’t even know Christ. That’s His agenda. It takes power but you’ve got it because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.