The Devil's Schemes: Confrontation

We must learn how to confront others to protect the unity and purity of our group.

The Devil’s Schemes: Confrontation

Its the first century, sometime around 60AD. A man named Paul is mentoring a congregation of believers in the City of Corinth. There was a leader in that congregation who strongly disagreed with Paul’s instruction and leadership. This caused disunity in the fellowship. Apparently, this opposition leader was confronted and had repented. Paul writes:

2 Corinthians 2:10-11 (NIV)
If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Today we are going to continue exposing the Devil’s schemes. In another translation of the ancient Greek text instead of the words” outwit us,” “take advantage of us” is used. We don’t want the devil to take advantage of us and cause disunity in our fellowship. A scheme of the devil we will examine is the nonuse and misuse of confrontation.

I still have problems with confrontation. For me, it always seems like there is going to be a fight. Feelings are going to get hurt, relationships are going to be damaged. So I prefer just to pray that someone’s something will just resolve by itself. What I have discovered is that to fail to confront an issue results in falling into the devil’s trap.

Then on the other hand, there are times when I have confronted folks but with the wrong approach. I was way too forceful in telling someone that what they are doing was a big mistake—kind of like “stop being stupid and get back on the path of living your life to the full.” That never turns out well either. If you’re not confronting out of a heart of love, then the odds are against things going well.

If you are concerned with everyone liking you, then you are going to avoid confrontation like the flu shot. If on the other hand, if you think you are God’s prophet, then you are always telling people how they are missing the mark. So somewhere between being non-confrontational and overly confrontational is the place we must discover in order to be mature disciples of Jesus that strive for unity and spiritual health in the fellowship. We want unity and purity.

The first lesson of the day—follow the lead of the Holy Spirit when it comes to correcting someone. You will have to discern if you should confront and how you are going to do it.

As a disciple of Jesus the first place we must do confrontation is with ourselves.

Psalms 139:23-24 (NIV)
Search me, O God, and know my heart;  test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Jesus gave us some good advice when it came to judging others. There is a kind of judgment that doesn’t condemn, rather it seeks to correct and restore. Before you judge another or the nicer Christian term, discern in another an inconsistent behavior give yourself a checkup first.  Start that discernment with yourself.

Matthew 7:3-4 (NIV)
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Do your own work first. We are often blind to our own offensive behavior. This is one reason we need real fellowship, not coffee and pie fellowship, but iron sharpening iron fellowship (Proverbs 27:17) in which we have two or three others that we trust to hold us accountable for our thoughts and actions.

Proverbs 27:6 (NIV) & 141:5 (NCV)
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. If a good person punished me, that would be kind. If he corrected me, that would be like perfumed oil on my head. I shouldn’t refuse it.
Such confrontation brings spiritual growth and tightens bonds of friendship. Recall our teaching on Pride. Don’t be blind to your own need for forgiveness, correction, and grace.  The second lesson for us to learn is to do our own work first

When you think you need to confront, seek guidance and discernment from the Holy Spirit, and secondly make sure you have removed any planks from your own eyes before you go to someone to tell them about the speak of dust in theirs.
There are times when the Holy Spirit will direct you to confront. When a brother or sister's behavior is disruptive to the body, in conflict with the Creeds of the Faith, inconsistent with discipleship, that is when the Holy Spirit will move you to confront. If we follow the Spirit’s lead we must confront with love.

 “When we confront because someone’s behavior is less than worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27)  we are demonstrating love for God and obedience to Him. (Beverly Moore  )

Colossians 3:16 (NIV)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…

Admonish means to warn someone of an attitude or behavior that may stunt their spiritual growth and make them ineffective in building the Kingdom of God. A person’s hairstyle, tattoos or piercings or fashion sense doesn’t rate a confrontation.

When we confront it is out of love for God and out of love for the person we are warning. Done correctly confrontation is a demonstration of your love for this person.   (Beverly Moore  )

Galatians 6:1 (MSG)
If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out.

How would you minister to someone whose foot was caught in a bear trap? How would you want someone to deal with you if it was your leg all mangled up and bloody? Spiritual the devil's traps are just like bear traps.

We avoid misusing confrontation by depending on the Holy Spirit to direct us, doing our own work first, and making sure it is love that is motivating us to do so.

What about the failure to confront? “When we’re reluctant to confront we sometimes rationalize and justify with thoughts like: “What if she gets mad?” “What if I hurt his feelings?” “ What if she doesn’t like me anymore? ”Here’s what could be lying underneath these thoughts about not confronting—you are more interested in people loving and accepting you, than seeing people set free and the Kingdom flourish. Ouch!!!   When we confront, we have to be willing to risk the person’s rejection or anger for the sake of spiritual health for every member of the body.   

A confrontation may result in rejection. When it does, that’s hard on you. But it may also prove it was absolutely necessary to be done.

Some folks, instead of confronting a problem will become passive-aggressive. For instance, this is a totally made-up story, no persons are situations are actually represented in this illustration and no animals were hurt in its fabrication. Let’s say your roommate leaves their dirty clothes on the floor all over the place. The behavior drives you nuts. You really need to confront, but you don’t want the drama, you want to avoid confrontation because you are afraid of the backlash. So instead you put on some rubber gloves, pick up the soiled clothing and put it under their pillow. That’s being passive-aggressive.  Does anyone see a problem brewing?  Instead of speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) we dysfunctionally deal with the unwanted behavior.  You know what happens when we don’t do things God’s way—we end up with a mess.

Now granted underwear on the floor has little to do with discipleship, but if one of our habits are driving someone crazy, wouldn’t you want them to come to you and tell you? Confrontation done right is an act of love.

That’s our third lesson; Confrontation is a loving thing to do.

This, of course, leads us to how to confront. First relay on the Holy Spirit to lead you, secondly do your own work first, third realize a gentle, kind, compassionate love is the proper motivation for confrontation.

Now you go to the person. Just you. You want to keep things confidential.

1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

You start by asking questions rather than assuming you know exactly what’s going on. There is always a story you don’t know, circumstances that you are not aware of.

Proverbs 18:13 (NLT)
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.

One approach that I have found to be successful is to explain what you see and ask for that person’s help to understand what’s happening. When you do this with humility and without self-righteousness or judgmental attitude it will help the other person not to become defensive, it will invite dialogue. Remember we are in this together, just one unworthy servant trying to help out another whom we love and respect.

You do have a responsibility to those you confront, and that’s to walk by their side, to help them get things in the right order. From this point on its all an art form with the Holy Spirit guiding. That’s our fourth lesson, don’t confront and run, be an encourager.

Jesus gave his disciples pretty clear instructions.

Matthew 18:15-17 (MSG)
"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.

When it comes to the misconduct of leaders, of teachers, in the church Paul instructs his protégée Timothy with a stronger word.

1 Timothy  5:19-20 (NIV)
Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.

The leaders and teachers, the Bishop, Pastor, Deacon, Elder, Church Board Member, Church Council are all held to a higher standard of moral and spiritual expectations. They must be examples of living the life of a disciple. If they are not, the situation must be addressed before harm is done.

In the worst of cases when a person has been shown the error in their behavior and refuses to repent, meaning they refuse to end the behavior or to fight against it, when they refuse to sincerely seek deliverance, when the inconsistency in discipleship is outward, meaning it can be seen or heard, and when this revealed sin is significant in the eyes of the body, then we must demand such a person to leave the fellowship. Paul writing to that church in Corinth wrote:

1 Corinthians 5:5 (MSG)
Hold this man's conduct up to public scrutiny. Let him defend it if he can! But if he can't, then out with him! It will be totally devastating to him, of course, and embarrassing to you. But better devastation and embarrassment than damnation. You want him on his feet and forgiven before the Master on the Day of Judgment.

Sometimes we must put someone out of the greater fellowship so that they will see the gravity of their behavior and repent. This is the last thing you want to do. Yet it just might be necessary in order to create an environment where repentance is possible.  This is especially true concerning the person who causes division in the body.

Titus 3:10-11 (NLT)
If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.

All of this is hard to do. For the sake of unity and purity, confronting in love must be practiced by all of us that our larger fellowship is spiritually healthy. In a spiritually healthy congregation folks are growing deep, growing up and growing fruit.

To confront wisely, first relay on the Holy Spirit to lead you, second do your own work first, third love is the motivation for confrontation and finally continue to encourage the person you’ve confronted. Don’t forget to follow the guidelines Jesus and his Apostles have laid down for us when it comes to confrontation. So we don’t get caught in the Devil’s schemes.  


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