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Summary: A look at Jesus’ instructions to His disciples in the steps for resolving disputes, restoring unity and restoration within the church and between individual believers.

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--ILL>One of Aesop’s fables is the story of the Lion and the Boar. On a summer day, when the great heat induced a general thirst among the beasts, a lion and a boar came at the same moment to small well to drink. They fiercely disputed which of them should drink first, and were soon engaged in the agonies of mortal combat. When they stopped suddenly to catch their breath for a fiercer renewal of the fight, they saw some vultures waiting in the distance to feast on the one that should fall first. They at once made up their quarrel, saying, “It is better for us to make friends, than become the food of Crows or Vultures.”

The truth is, when Christians fight among themselves, the vultures of the pagan world lie ready to attack Christianity.

<>Today we’ve come to the final message in the series, “Pursuing Unity.”

-->We’ve seen that unity, our being united together as believers, is important to God, and absolutely essential to our accomplishing the mission He’s called us to as Christians...as His church.

-->We’ve seen the importance of focusing on what it is we have in common: we’re all loved by God, we’ve all sinned, Jesus died for us all, salvation has been offered to all of us, and heaven is waiting for all who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.

-->And we’ve seen what unity looks like: being united in our consecration and being God-centered, united in our cause and purpose, being united in our commitment and being servants, united in our compassion and concern for helping people in need, united in our comfort and support of fellow-believers, and being united in our confidence in God’s ability to meet every challenge we face.

-->We know that God has not called us to be lone rangers...we need each other.

-->And we’ve seen that being united together miracles can and do happen.

-->But we also know that we’re involved in spiritual warfare. Satan stands opposed to us, and one of his favorite and most powerful weapons he brings against us is discord, disunity, disputes, and trying to get us to be divided.

So today we close the series looking at what the Bible teaches us to, and how to fix it (unity) when it’s broken.

I invite you to open a Bible and turn to Matthew 18:15-18.

JESUS TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES A 4-STEP APPROACH IN SEEKING TO RESTORE AND MAINTAIN CHRISTIAN UNITY.

<>STEP #1...What is to happen first when unity has been threatened or has been broken.

--a) We’re to GO PERSONALLY, INDIVIDUALLY.

-------Mt.18:15a--“If your brother sins (against you), go & show him his fault in private;”

----<>The FIRST person to know that you’re upset about something, that you’ve been offended, hurt, or you’re concerned about something is the person who did the offending.

------->We’re not to “air our grievances” with someone else.

------->We’re not to ask others to pray for the offending person until we’ve first gone and spoken to that person individually, and privately, confidentially.

----------Unfortunately, I’ve heard a lot of what I call “gossip praying” in my time.

----------It’s nothing short of gossip when we tell people another person’s faults with the guise of asking others to pray for him or her.

----------God is not IN it, and God is not pleased WITH it.

------->God’s plan for handling the problem calls us to go to the person privately and confidentially before bringing anyone else into the mix of repairing the broken unity.

----<>Also, we’re not to confront the person while he/she is in a group...but in private only.

----<>And, if the matter is resolved, then the matter needs to remain private forever, never to be brought up in public.

-------->It’s done. It’s over. It’s resolved.

----<>If it doesn’t get resolved, there are further steps Scripture tells us to take, and we’ll talk about them in a moment.

--b) Go REDEMPTIVELY.

-------Mt.18:15b--“...if he listens 2 you, you have won your brother.”

----<>We are to go and speak to the offending person with the hope that everything will be resolved without ever having to “expose” the reasons for this encounter.

----<>We’re to go and speak to the person with the hope that reconciliation and restoration will be the end result.

----<>You’re to go and speak to the person with the hope that you and the offending person will actually come away from the encounter closer to one another than ever before.

-------ILL>Woodrow Wilson said it this way: “If you come at me with your fists doubled, I think I can promise you that mine will be doubled as fast as yours. But if you come to me and say, ‘Let us sit down and take counsel together, and, if we differ from one another, understand why it is that we differ from one another, just what the points at issue are,’ we will presently find that we are not so far apart after all, that the points on which we differ are few and the points on which we agree are many, and that if we only have the patience and the candor and the desire to get together, we will get together.”

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