·         ACTS 15

·         Very contentious passage…about contentions

·         The Bible does not directly say who was right – Paul or Barnabas

·         The first principle of contentions in the church – it’s normal to disagree.

o   Cults operate on the principle of forced unity

§  You can’t deviate one iota – if you do, you’re out.

o   Real unity – we’re all looking in the same direction with the same heart

§  Forced unity – not the same thing at all.

·         There are places on earth where perfect peace, perfect unity abides

o   We call them “cemetaries.”

o   As long as there’s life, there will be contention, there will be problems.

·         Avoiding dissenting voices or pretending they’re not there is not the answer

o   The key is in both Paul and Barnabas’ lives, they both had very different views of what’s coming ahead.

§  Realize they were looking at things from different perspectives.

o   Barnabas was all about grace, Paul was all about the mission. He understands the battle ahead.

§  Who was right?

§  Which side will you take?

·         First step is to see it’s normal – and we therefore need to give people the freedom to have a dissenting voice.

o   Give people the freedom to push back; and when you go to minister to the body, you do so in one spirit

o   The break between Paul & Barnabas did not spread; it did not form factions.

·         Warning – wolves in the church will appeal to Matthew 18

o   They want to keep people in the dark, keep them from comparing notes.

·         Paul & Barnabas kept things between themselves, and they came to a conclusion – even though we might not have much liked it.

·         Know your limitations – you don’t know what you don’t know.

o   Some times that’s enough in the subject of contention – you must realize you don’t have all the information.

o   Up to this point, the Lord has moved among us

§  Let’s not wreck it by speculation and assumption

o   That person who feel s he has to get to the bottom of everything is both insecure and dangerous.

·         Read Spurgeon’s “A Blind Eye And A Deaf Ear”

o   If you hear your servant talking behind your back, don’t take it to heart

§  You know you’ve done it, too!

o   There are people who just can’t let things go.

o   Sometimes, you need to develop a thicker skin – take your shots – don’t defend yourself.

o   Your critics can be your best friends if you look at it the right way – they will often see what you can’t!

§  At the very least, they’ll keep you from believing your own press, and will keep you praying and humble before the Lord.

o   Be thankful for those who point out your faults!

o   Be thankful for those who point out your shortcomings!

o   Small-minded people feel they have to get to the bottom of everything.

o   Don’t take things to heart in the sense of mulling, dwelling, worrying, etc.

§  Take things to Jesus, and let Him apply what’s legitimate to you.

·         Spurgeon said, “we don’t have earlids like we have eyelids” so we need to find another way not to take things to heart.

·         A lie is like a fish out of water – eventually it will flop itself out.

·         Stoke the true fire rather than try to put out all the other fires the enemy starts.

·         “Difficult people are God’s agents to scour the lives of His chosen servants.”

·         The root of many disagreements: Strengths overplayed.

·         In most cases, it’s more important to be loving than it is to be right.

o   Win the argument, lose the fellowship, what have you gained?

·         “Are they convinced that you love them?”

·         Can you tell the difference between a wolf and a wounded sheep?

o   Wounded sheep can be very loud

o   “Have you ever had anybody spiritually throw up on you?”

o   Love them, love them, love them.

o   Take it. Don’t take it to heart, take it to Jesus, and love them.

o   “Once you’re a part of this church, you’re a part of the family, so I’m going to love you anyway even when you hate me back.”

·         In the contention that we see in Acts 15, God does something powerful through Paul which confirms he is in the right for some people.

o   What people really want to know is, “is the Lord among us?”

o   Go back to the cross.

·         Spurgeon put it this way: people will forgive many of your shortcomings and faults if they’re well-fed and well-loved.

o   You can’t stop many contentions in the fellowship

o   But you can be faithful to keep loving and keep praying and keep teaching the Word.