The Lenses That Can Change the Way You Live Life

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The Lenses that can Change the Way You Live Life

Crucial choices that can lead to a healthy walk and a healthy church


I wear glasses to help me see clearly, and the truth is, my glasses are trifocals.  I can focus on three different items at three different distances–all at the same time.  I can read a book, watch a plane and examine Alpha Centaury.  But with my glasses–most of the time I’m not even aware of their presence on my face.  They’re just there and I look through them.  But even though I am not aware of them, they are crucial.  They help you not to look out of focus and fuzzy.  Happily, I can see you smile, engage and turn in your Bibles.  Sadly, I can also see you when you leave, yawn, head bob, argue when you’re mad at your spouse, and most difficult of all when you pick your nose–stop it.

But the point is I am not aware of my glasses, but it is my glasses that actually allow me to see clearly.  That’s the same with life and ministry–we are often not aware of the lenses we look through in order to see life accurately.  All of us battle with smudges, distortions, even cracks in how we see, which leads to trips, falls and fuzziness in living.  And that is part of the reason, why we immerse ourselves in the Bible here at FBC, because the Bible cleans our lens–the Bible lights our path.

Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  The more we learn, own, apply and live the Scripture, the sharper our lens becomes to live like Christ.  Sadly, even those with sound doctrine and a healthy approach to the Scripture, at times look at life through a smeared lens.  You can see the result in their unwise decisions, bad relationships, harsh dealings and questionable choices.  The New Testament affirms all bad behavior is based upon bad doctrine.  When you see bad behavior in Christians and churches, there is some bad doctrine motivating it–a distorted lens.

This would be the believer who’d say they love the Lord, embrace sound doctrine, live by the Gospel, trust in the authority of the Word, but . . .

They won’t forgive another believer for some errant comment

Or they expect to be forgiven, though they’ve not repented

Or they’re controlling and critical with those they disciple

Or they define commitment to Christ as do what I expect and say

Or they do not attend worship weekly, faithfully, continually

Or they do not give sacrificially, do not have a budget, are out of control with their money, but still think of themselves as good stewards

Or they never commit to any faithful expression of ministry

Or they gossip about others and justify it, as trying to help others

Or they keep making excuses for their sin

Or when they’re offended, instead of going to the person, they treat them badly and make them suffer

Or they are harsh and attacking, but think that it’s okay because they’re defending the truth

Or they’re so non-confrontational they affirm anyone who calls themselves a Christian, regardless of their bad doctrine or immoral lifestyle

Or they suspect another believer has issues that need correcting, but instead of going to them directly, they go to others about them

Or they’re so private they refuse involvement in any meaningful church gathering, because they are afraid someone might ask them a personal or pointed question

I could go on and on–fuzzy lenses lead to bad behavior, which is the result of insufficient or bad teaching, immaturity, poor modeling, or a weak church.  Christians and churches are in desperate need to clean their lens, sharpen their focus, and understand the issues which cloud clarity and distort behavior.

Today we will take a break from the gospel of Mark and address some of these issues that focus our spiritual lives.  Why?

#1  I don’t want to start Mark 2 and break up the story of the paralytic into one message before Christmas, then part two after the new year.

#2  These are issues you and I need to heed.  You gotta have clear biblical lenses, to live spiritually healthy.

#3  It’s crucial to periodically remind you of our distinctives as a church.

#4  And I wanted to give you an idea of what I will teach at the next shepherd’s conference this March.

What are those crucial truths that can dramatically change the way you live this coming year and seriously impact your marriage, family, church and witness?  Assuming . . .

The Word of God is the living, active, true authority in your life.

What it says you embrace, love, obey, and esteem.

You desperately pursue sound doctrine to understand and live.

The priority of God’s glory, the Great Commission, the Great Commandment and the Gospel drive everything you do as a Christian and church.

And your goal is to be used of God to make as many people like Jesus Christ in the shortest time possible–you believe your mission is to have others come to Christ or become like Christ.

Assuming that is all true, what are some of the weaknesses in Christians and churches that need to come into focus?  Sadly, Christians who love the Word and embrace sound doctrine can drift toward becoming bity and critical, to the point that they actually treat believers as if they were the enemy.  Now, discernment is crucial, and correcting error is the biblical responsibility of an elder.  But how do you keep your own heart and a church from becoming haughty, harsh, and even hateful?

#1  Pursue truth and grace simultaneously

We must model the example of Christ.  In fact, at the very beginning of the gospel of John, the apostle says something we can easily overlook.  John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus Christ was full of grace and full of truth–100% grace and 100% truth.  Fully truth and fully grace.  And here in John 2 you see both modeled by our Lord.  Turning water to wine is a gracious act–He didn’t have to, but graciously served the needs of a wedding celebration.  Then, cleaning out the temple, an action of truth–very early exposing the hearts of the religious leaders.

The example of Christ is amazing and overwhelming.  Here is the incarnation of truth–He is truth, the Word of God.  And no one spoke the truth like Jesus.  Yet no one was more gracious than Christ.  Doesn’t it amaze you that tax gatherers, harlots and children all loved to be with Him, yet no one spoke truth and confronted sin more than Christ.  He would never compromise the truth.  He’d never rationalize sin, yet sinners loved to be around Him.

This is the target for every Christian, every man in ministry, everyone desiring to glorify God, every church–to be full of grace and truth.  No error gives you the right to be harsh or hateful.  No sin by others opens the door for you to be cruel or mean.  Yes, there is a place for anger of the evils of error, and what it does to the people you love and Christ died for.  But remember the example of Christ, and obey the commands of the New Testament.

First Thessalonians 5:14, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”  Second Timothy 2:24 and 25, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.”

I taught a poorly taught church about truth and grace, and when they heard it, they reacted to our Lord’s example by saying, “We need to be more truth-oriented.”  I taught a well-taught church about truth and grace, and their reaction to this example was to become more gracious.  What will your reaction be?  How should you respond?  I am guessing most believers here need to be more patient, more gracious, and kind with those we disagree with, their spouses, their children and other Christians.

Yes, the Lord was very strong when he rebuked those who were teaching a false gospel, leading others to hell.  There is a place for strong words and direct confrontation when eternal souls are at stake.  But most of our dealings are with people who need to hear the truth in a gracious manner.

My goal until heaven is to speak the truth, honor the truth, live the truth, yet to be full of grace, caring, loving and tender.  I have found I can say incredibly difficult things to people when I speak gracious to them.  Now when others are battling with sin, I am not as prone to pull away, or comment, or shoot them down, or blast away, but get in close, speak the truth and demonstrate grace–with words and actions.

To genuinely infect your children, your spouse and your friends to grow healthy, Christians, who are committed to truth must also be committed to grace–as elders, as ministry leaders, as shepherds, and disciplers, there’s no place for harshness.  Seek to be like Christ, full of grace and truth.

#2  Practice dependent obedience

Turn to Galatians 5.  Christ warned us in the Church there would be many tares who look like genuine Christians, but are not.  In the Church, there’re many who are secretly trying to earn their salvation.  They’ve not depended upon the grace of God alone, and they’re living pseudo-Christian lives in their own strength.

Sadly, there are also many true believers who spend much of their waking moments living in their own strength.  Even in their sincere attempts to participate in sanctification, many attempt to grind out spiritual growth in their own strength.  In reality, living in your own strength and external obedience to the Word of God, is merely another way of living in the flesh.  When a church becomes dominated by fleshly efforts, the result is always the same–like the Corinthians, division and sin.  The Bible makes it very clear, we can’t live the Christian life in our own strength, in the flesh–we must live by the Spirit.

And Paul in Galatians makes this obvious in 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”  When you live in the flesh, you’ll manifest the fruit of the flesh, and if the flesh is the norm of your life, you are not born again.  Galatians 5:19 to 21, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, . . . that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Then when you live by the Spirit, there will be the fruit of the Spirit, and if that is the norm, it is evidence you are born again.  Galatians 5:22 to 24, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  God makes it clear, there is no sliding scale–you are either in the flesh or in the Spirit–not sort of fleshly or kinda spiritual.  At any one moment, you are either in the flesh or in the Spirit.

Now turn to Ephesians 5:18.  It’s crucial that dependency upon the Spirit of God saturates your life, your home, your ministry and your church.  To do that, Christians are to obey the command of Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”  Look back in the context to understand this.  In order to be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 1 to 3 say you must be genuinely saved–which means you’re indwelt and sealed with the Spirit of God.  Ephesians 4 and 5 say you must function in the church with a heart that wants to walk pleasing to Christ.

Look ahead in the context to see how important being filled is.  Before you can actually be a godly wife or godly husband in 5:22 to 33, or be a godly father to your children in Ephesians 6:1 to 4, you must first be filled with the Spirit of Ephesians 5:18.  So what does being filled mean?  The grammar of the Greek verb “filled” answers the question.  The literal rendering of the verb “to be filled” with the Spirit is “be being kept filled.”

The verb “filled” is an imperative, a command, a non-optional Christian life requirement.  You must be filled—how often?  The Greek verb for “filled” is a present tense–all the time, every moment of every day.  Like faith, without it you can’t please the Lord.  Like love, without it you’re merely making a lot of noise.  Being filled with the Spirit is every moment, now, every action, every word, every attitude, as you sit here today, when you get up, as you fellowship with other believers, as you talk with your kids and spouse, as you decide where to eat, and especially as you drive away.  It’s a fun game to point out the filled drivers and the flesh drivers.

Being filled is present tense all the time.  For the believer, it is like a marriage.  How do you think my wife, Jean, would react if I were to say to her, “I used to love you all the time.  I’ll love you again sometime in the future.”?  That doesn’t work–this issue is, “I love you now,” present tense, all the time.

That would be like the new husband that gave his wife a mood ring to help him understand his bride–and it did.  It turned green when she was in a good mood, and it left an ugly mark on his face when she was in a bad mood.  Be filled is present tense, now.  Being filled is not a one-time high, or a point of super dedication–it is a moment-by-moment, day-by-day, present tense process.  And who is it for?

Everyone–the verb “be filled” is plural, Texas-style—“You all” be filled.  This is not merely for pastors, elders, or worship leaders, but for everyone in the Ephesus church, and everyone here too.  Filled is not for those who think they’ve had a past conversion experience, or for charismatics.  Ephesians 5 and 6 tell us being filled is crucial for every marriage, every parent, every employee slave, and every employer master–and every believer involved in spiritual warfare.  For each and every one of you.

So how can I be filled?  This is where it gets tricky.  The verb for “be filled” is passive.  If it were active, you could do it.  If it were middle, you would do it to yourself.  But it’s passive—you can’t do it, it is done to you.  How do you like that?  God gives you a crucial command, but in giving it also tells you plainly, you can’t do it.  What is the Lord telling us, through the apostle Paul?

In order to be filled with the Spirit, you are to yield to the Spirit.  You seek, desire, expect, rely, but–you don’t control, as if it is your choice, like you are in charge.  No, He is God and, you are not–the indwelling Spirit fills those who submit, yield, depend, rely, and desire Him, then obey His Word.

It’s not that you do the Christian life, you D.O.–depend and obey.  It’s like my baseball glove–if I say to my glove, “Play baseball,” what does my glove do?  Nothing–my glove cannot play baseball.  But if I put my hand in my glove and play baseball, what happens?  It can play baseball, and function in the way it’s designed to function.  It fulfills its created purpose.  And if I put my hand in my glove and play Yankee baseball, what happens?  It wins.  If I play Dodger baseball, no one wants to buy me.

John MacArthur writes, “A Christian can accomplish no more without being filled with the Holy Spirit than a glove can accomplish without being filled with a hand.  Spirit-filled people learn what God wants them to do in His Word, they yield themselves to the Spirit, then they dependently obey.  They become the instruments the Spirit can use to demonstrate the character of God in words, actions and attitudes.”

Like when my boys were one to two years old, and I would take them for a walk–they would raise their hand, put it in mine so they could walk and not fall down.  Spirit-filled Christians are those who raise their hands, grab onto their Heavenly Father’s hand in order to walk in this world.

This is the same truth of Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith [dependence] in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”

Back to Ephesians 5, the verb “to be filled” is passive.  You can’t do it, it must happen to you.  But you put yourself in a position to be filled–you live dependently, you live desiring to be filled, then you step out in obedience to His Word.

I like how Spurgeon practiced this truth.  As he walked up each of the steps to his pulpit to preach God’s Word, the prince of preachers would say to himself with every step he took, “I believe in the Spirit, I believe in the Spirit, I believe in the Spirit,” seeking to be filled, controlled, as he proclaimed God’s Word.

Christian, you and I are literally to be being kept filled.  This is not let go and let God, this is dependent obedience–this is faith in the Word of God.  This is the belief that not only can I not save myself, but I also cannot sanctify myself.  Saturate your mind, your family and your fellowship with the continual awareness of your desperate need to be in the Spirit and not in the flesh–to be filled with God’s Spirit.

Older Christian, this is for you–older believers face a special danger.  Those who have been Christians for years can begin to depend, not on the Spirit but, on their experience–live externally, say the right words, act the right way, without prayer, living in their own strength, not depending–a religious fleshiness.  To be indwelt with the Spirit means you have all of the Spirit.  But to be filled with the Spirit means the Spirit has all of you.

So work at living dependently obedient–be filled with the Spirit and continually say to yourself, “I can’t, but He can through me.”  Expect your saved spouse to lived filled, your saved children to live dependently filled, and the saved people you shepherd and disciple to be dependently filled.  Do not allow the flesh to remain as the norm in your home, ministry or church.  Shut it down, do not continue a discussion with a flesh-filled believer.  Do not allow a group of believers to continue living in the flesh.

#2  Practice dependent obedience

#3 Become adept at dealing with sin in you and others

Christians have a hard time knowing what to do about their own sin and the sins of others.  Since Adam, as soon as they sin they hide, then when caught they blame God.  The difficulty comes in finding the balance between hating sin, yet creating an environment in the Church where people can get help with their sin, and help others with their sin.  If your church overemphasizes a hatred for sin, the people of that church will often hide their sin from everyone.  If your church overemphasizes God’s grace over sin, the people of that church can often not take their sin seriously.  Sin is so serious, it required the death of God’s perfect Son.  Yet grace is so sufficient, it secures us now for all eternity.

For the Christian, the Bible is clear–though Christ took care of the penalty and power of sin, we Christians can grieve God, quench the Spirit, be disciplined, and suffer consequences for our sins.  So how can we hate sin, yet celebrate God’s grace?  As a believer, the Bible tells you to reckon yourself dead to sin, Romans 6, believing sin has no more power over you because of the cross; to confess your sin, 1 John 1 (saying the same thing that God says about sin—that it’s your fault and your responsibility); to flee from sin, 1 Corinthians 6 (to run in terror from immorality); to repent of sin, Acts 26, to change your mind in such a way that always leads to a change of behavior, and to get help with sin.  Help each other with our sin.  Not to gossip, put down, or be disgusted with, but humbly come alongside and help each other deal with sin in each other’s lives.

Galatians 6, in the context of dealing with sin, Paul says in verse 1, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” Then, “2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”  The context tells us those who are in the Spirit are to restore those in the flesh and bear one another’s burdens–literally hold each other up, and help each other in their battle with sin.  But how do we help each other?

The first step is the most difficult, because it involves changing the tone of your entire church.  It is to develop willing leaders who will ask the Lord to develop a church that is practically shepherded by its elders, cared for by its ministry leaders where time is created for enough fellowship so that you can exercise the 66 one another’s of the New Testament, and making mutual discipleship in pursuing Christlikeness a desired goal for each member of the church to grow to God’s glory.  That atmosphere creates an environment where people are more prone to help each other deal with their sin.  Most reformed churches today never get this–we are striving to.

The second step is to help people discern if and when they should speak to others about their sin.  The apostle makes a profound statement in 1 Peter 4:8.  In the midst of preparing his readers to live in light of eternity, Peter says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”  True Christians love each other and work at growing passionate about their love for one another, and here is the key.

When you love someone, sometimes that means you overlook their sin, even sin against you.  You cover it, which practically means you don’t let it offend you, and you forget about it.  One commentator says, “Where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offenses and even some large ones, are readily overlooked and forgotten.  But where love is lacking, every word is viewed with suspicion, and every action is liable to misunderstanding.”

Love covering sin only works in a Gospel-saturated environment.  When you come to the place where you realize that you yourself are the worst sinner you know.  When you own the fact that your very wants, wishes, and words are corrupt.  When you live aware of the evil thoughts you entertain, the selfish motives that drive you, and the internal desires which consume you.  When you actually, daily see your own internal jealousy, greed, lust, anger, judgment, gossip, pride, and self-centeredness—then your love for others is more prone to cover their sin.

When a group of believers truly embrace the Gospel, they realize just how sinful they were and just how sinful they are.  They accept that even though they don’t want to sin, they will.  And they know at times their sin will hurt, disturb, or insult, a brother or sister.  But when the Gospel is fully embraced, those who are wounded by sin, out of love, often choose to cover it, to ignore it.  You let it go—you get over it, you completely forget about it, and you move on with joy.

Other times, because the wound from the sin doesn’t heal and you can’t seem to let it go, you can’t cover the sin of a brother or sister–in other words, you keep throwing the covers off.  And if you can’t cover it, you then must address it.  God never allows grudges or resentment to remain between His children in a church family, so the offended party must not say anything to anyone, but go to their brother or sister privately, and seek to restore their relationship, just as Jesus teaches in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”  Or Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

One of the big practical differences between a real believer and a non-Christian is not that the real believer does not sin against another believer–we do, and we will hurt each other until heaven.  A big difference is this–a genuine believer will either overlook/cover the sin against them, or they will go to their brother and restore that relationship.  They will forgive each other.  You ask, “Which one should I do?  When do I cover the sin of a Christian, and when do I go speak to them privately?”  The second step here is to help people know if and when they should address sin in someone else’s life.  So here it is–ready?

If that offense can be forgotten, never bother you, and not hinder your relationship with the Christian who sinned against you, then it’s covered–you’ve thrown a veil over those sins, so move on.  Like Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.”  But if that sinful offense bothers you, causes you to resent them, or affects your ability to fellowship with them, then go to them privately and seek to restore your relationship—if that is possible.  Sometimes it’s not, because they refuse.  Then at that point, Romans 12:18 kicks in.  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

The 3rd step is to practice Church discipline in humility.  Too many solid believers do not understand Church discipline–it is the process the Body is to use in restoring defiantly sinful believers back to dependent obedience to Christ, and to protect the body from defiant, unrepentant sin and sinners.

It is described all over the New Testament, making it crucial to embrace.  The most familiar passage is Matthew 18 addressing personal sin in verse 15 to 17.  “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”  Matthew lists four steps with personal sin.

#1  go in private–only if they refuse to repent, then

#2  go with two to three witnesses–but if they refuse to repent

#3  tell it to your elders, then the church–but if they still refuse to repent, then

#4  the church separates from them

So how do leaders and Christians misunderstand this process?  And how can we obey it in a way that pleases Christ?  Understand . . .

1  Church discipline is commonplace

Every believer has experienced it in part.  You have all experienced the first steps of Church discipline in some form–Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.”  Every married Christian has gone through this.  All Christians, at one point or another, have been confronted for their sin–and thankfully, by God’s grace, the process stops with your repentance.  And just like spanking a child, it is a healthy, necessary process

2  Church discipline is directed against defiant sin

We are not to pursue discipline against those who are battling with their own sinfulness.  People are not supposed to confront you as you struggle with your sin every day–they’re supposed to help you.  But those who know what the Bible says and have chosen to defiantly disobey what God clearly says, they need to be confronted.

God began to make distinctions about sin in the book of Numbers, and it’s these verses that lay the foundation for Church discipline.  There are different kinds of sin.  I’m not describing the differences between pride and greed, but the differences between any sin which is a struggling disobedience in your life compared to any sin which is a defiant disobedience in your life.

Listen to Numbers 15:27,”Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one-year-old female goat for a sin offering. 28 The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. 29 You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 30 But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.”

There is unintentional sin, and there is defiant sin–and the sins which result in the process of Church discipline going beyond a simple private confrontation between two Christians to a more serious process are defiant sin.  Sin that you know is wrong, and you choose to do it anyway, like, “I’m not going to leave this man and return to my husband”, or, “I’m not going to stop slandering that believer.”  And in each case, when this discipline process goes beyond a private confrontation, there is always a passage that is identified as an obvious Scripture that is being defiantly violated.  It doesn’t matter whether the defiant violation is passive, like one who is lazy and unwilling to provide, or whether the defiance is defiantly active, like leaving his spouse for another woman.  There is always an identified verse which is being disobeyed.  No clear passage means no confrontation.  No clear violation of Scripture means no confrontation.

3  The confronter is only looking for repentance

There is no vengeance, no feuding, and no payback.  There is only one thing loving discipline desires, and that is repentance on the part of the defiant sinning one.  The hope in confronting is that they would be freed from bondage to any sin, be able to turn from it, and follow Christ again.  Just like John wrote to the church at Ephesus after they lost their first love, Revelation 2:4 and 5, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”

Repentance is a decisive change of mind, always leading to a turning from sin and turning to Christ–always change, which results in restoration.

4  The goal of discipline is restoration and protection

As Matthew 18 says, “You have won your brother.”  Or as Galatians 6 says, “Restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.”  The goal is to see a brother or sister return to dependent obedience to the Holy Spirit following the Word of God alone.  When the danger to the church is great, when the flock of God is in danger, the goal may move from restoration to protection.  There’re times when discipline is to protect the flock from a wolf.

Are you a shepherd of a group of people?  If so, never forget, shepherds never pet wolves.  Shepherds protect sheep from wolves, Romans 16:17 and 18, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”  There are times when dealing with a defiantly sinning so-called brother, when they are a great danger to the people of God.  That’s why . . .

5  The type of sin determines the discipline process you use

There are times in the process of Church discipline where you cannot use Matthew 18 and go through four steps.  In fact, when the danger to the church is great, there are passages which teach one step or two steps, so that the church is protected.  You don’t want the sheep to go confront a wolf, so God’s Word designs a faster process which protects God’s people.  That is why it is crucial in the process of dealing with defiant sin you know exactly which passage you’re using in the discipline process.

If personal sin, Matthew 18:15 to 18 and Galatians 6:1.  In Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins.”  The variant reading that should be added is this–“if your brother sins against you,” it’s personal sin.  And Galatians 6:1 speaks to those filled with the Spirit when it says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

If it is sexual sin plus some other sins, 1 Corinthians 5:11 to 13 says, “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”

If it is laziness and lack of responsibility, 2 Thessalonians 3:11 to 15 says, “For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

If it’s a sinning elder, 1 Timothy 5:19 to 20 says, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.”

If there is someone who is divisive it moves fast–two steps.  Titus 3:10 and 11, “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

If there is someone causing dissension and hindrance notice there are no steps, just a turning away.  Romans 16:17 to 18, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”

Healthy Christians and healthy churches need to know how to deal with their own sin, and the sins of others.  We must trust God’s Word and follow it in the fear of God with humble hearts, in order to bring Him glory.  Always make certain it’s defiant sin, identify the verse being violated, look only for repentance with a heart for restoration, using the appropriate discipline passage which addresses the sin being manifested.

Today, will you allow the Lord to move in your heart, and to make you more of a truth and grace person?  Where do you need to grow?  Will you pursue being moment-by-moment dependent in order to be filled by the Spirit, manifesting His fruit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control.  And today, will you deal with sin in your own life–right now?  Confess, repent, and get help from the Body.  Don’t go to pastors–they are not Catholic priests.  Go to those who know you best and see you every week.

Will you forgive others and cover their sin?  And when you can’t cover their sin, will you obey God’s Word and go to them privately first, gently sharing the sins you struggle with as you seek to help them with theirs.  Only healthy Christians will, and only healthy churches do, and here is the key.  You can’t live this unless you know the Lord of truth and grace.  You can’t be filled with the Spirit unless you’re born again, and are indwelt with the Holy Spirit.  You can’t deal with sin in your own life or others’ lives unless Christ has dealt with the sin in your life, forgiving you.  Has He?  Turn to Him today.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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  1. […] the beginning of his sermon on Sunday, Chris asked us whether we needed to work more on pursuing grace or pursuing truth in our […]