11 Aug 2019
The way the world deals with conflict is either to take revenge or to walk away. But God's people are called to a higher ethic- we are to confront our offenders about their sin. Not in bitterness or in a vengeful spirit, but in a spirit of gentleness and love. We are to love one another and to restore one another from ongoing sin. Jesus gave very specific steps as to how we should speak to a brother regarding a fault. Discover from this sermon exactly what steps you are to take and also the helpful tips that will make this process a God-honouring one. May God give us the grace to obey in love, so that the holy witness of His church will shine bright in a sin-filled world.
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Matthew 18 tells us about the principles of the kingdom, they are often counter cultural, they are different from the way the world lives and we are continuing our study of this, “Upside Down Kingdom” therefore. There are a few things that are very difficult for me in my life. It may differ from yours, but I find it difficult to make small talk. I find it difficult to eat raisins. I find it difficult to jog in order to lose weight. And one thing I find very difficult is to tell people their sins or their errors.
Perhaps, it's because I do not want to hurt them. Perhaps, it's because I fear that I may come across as being judgemental. Perhaps, it's because I just don't like confrontation. So I don't like to tell people about what they have done wrong, even if I see it.
However, in the text before us today, God does not give us an option to cop out here. He says in Matthew 18 and verse 15, “If your brother …” that is someone in the faith, a brethren in the church, “… he sins against you, go and tell him his fault.”
Now, we all know how important it is to tell people their faults in order that they may change. I do that actually a lot with my kids. I regularly tell my two boys what they've done wrong, gone wrong, so that they will not continue to do wrong. But I find it so hard to tell this to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I find it hard to tell it to adults, people who are not quite like my children.
But Jesus tells us to do that, so maybe you are like me, you find it uncomfortable, you find it difficult. Let's learn why it is so important for Christians to do so in His Kingdom. Jesus tells us, it's so important because, “If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” [Matthew 18:15] This is a rescue mission! This is a recovery process! When someone lives in sin and if you love him, you wouldn't want him to keep on sinning. So it is good; it is right; it is loving to go and tell him his fault, so that you may rescue him; gain him; recover him and prevent him from going deeper into his sins.
Now hopefully, prayerfully, the brother whom you have approached is humble enough and has this desire to please God, that he would say, “I'm sorry! That was wrong, I will repent.” That will be great! But we all know that in life, it's not always so simple. So the Bible, Jesus does tell us that if they do not listen, it may escalate to such a degree is spoken in Matthew 18, verse 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.”
A Gentile and a tax collector is a way of saying, “This person is not part of the Kingdom of God.” A Gentile and a tax collector is a way of saying, “This person does not belong to the faith.” At least, the way he lives is incompatible with his profession of faith that he belongs to God. So Jesus is saying, “Take this seriously.” If you notice someone around you who have committed sin, go tell him, so that you may recover him. But if he doesn't listen, it might go all the way to what we call, excommunication.
Wow! It's a big word! Well, it simply means put out of community. Ex is out, communication or community is that process where someone who used to be part of the church membership is now declared not part of the church membership. He's put under church discipline. He's placed out of the fellowship of God's people.
So this sermon is technical, so let me say up front, if you're hoping for an encouraging inspiring message, maybe this is not it, but this is necessary information. This is necessary doctrine for the people of God and for the church of Jesus Christ. So this is a technical message to explain what does it mean and what does it take for us to go and tell our brothers, his fault. In a sense, this is a repeat, we have looked at this subject about a year and 1/2 ago, in our sermon series on “Healthy Church” but we are going to focus a lot on what Jesus said in Matthew 18.
So being technical I'm going to give you three things. Number one - what is the purpose of church discipline? Number two - what is the procedure to church discipline? And number three - what are the principles for church discipline? Alright, I hope it will be helpful to you, even though it's a bit challenging in the technical aspect.
So number one - what's the purpose of church discipline? Why do we go and tell our brother who have sinned against us his fault? Many times we think that when someone offends us, we got to go and tell him his fault so that he will say sorry to me, isn't it true? “Ah, ah, you did this to me, I want you to pay for it. I want you to say sorry.” So I go and tell you your problem. However, that's not what Jesus said. Jesus did not say that, “You go and tell your brother his fault in order to get even; to get revenge or in order to get him kicked out of church.” You know that might take place, if he does not repent, he might actually be kicked out of church, but that's not the reason why you do it.
A story is told of a pastor who had a conflict with his worship leader and he was preaching a sermon on encouraging the people of God to get up and to serve. But the song leader after the service, after the message, came up and said, “We will sing our last song - I shall not be moved.” Alright, next week, the pastor came up to preach another sermon and the sermon now is about giving, about giving your finances for the advancement of the kingdom. After the service, the worship leader again came up and said, “We shall sing our last song - Jesus paid it all.”
This guy … third sermon, he preached about gossip and how we not we should not gossip, and the song leader got up, after the sermon and said, “We shall sing our last song - I love to tell the story.” The next Sunday, the pastor got up again and said, and preached and then he said, “You know, I've been feeling of stress and strain, I feel like I should resign from the church.” And the song leader got up and said, “This will be our last song – O, why not tonight?”
You know, sometimes we hate someone so much you want to get rid of that person. That's why we think, “Oh, we need to go and tell him his fault because if he doesn't repent, good, the church will come and kick him out.” But that's not the purpose! We need to understand why. The reason as I've mentioned again is out of love that you want to gain your brother. This is why it is so counter-cultural. In the world, when you're offended, people generally like to give an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You've cost me to be upset, I will do something to make you upset.
Maybe some people may go a step further in a sense of the right direction. “Alright, I won't take revenge but I'll just keep away from you.” I've seen this on social media, I think it was last night. I was looking through Facebook and I saw a Christian post something like this, “Walk away from people who put you down. Walk away from fights that will never be resolved.” Sounds good! And I see a lot of people put like, like, like, like, like, love, love, love, love, love. “Wah! Great advise! Great wisdom! Aiyah! I should have walked away from this. Walk away from that.”
Now, it is I think better than taking revenge but it's not biblical. It's not what God wants. Because Jesus said, “If he sins against you, don't take revenge, don't walk away, but go tell him his fault.” Why? Because you love him, because you do not want him to continue in sin, because you want to bring restoration and healing to his soul. So even though this sounds good, it's not biblical.
So the Bible actually tells us as Christians, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, any sin, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” [Galations 6:1] You see the “Upside Down Kingdom”, Jesus has been teaching; emphasizes how each and every child of God is super precious to Him. You remember that last week. Each Christian is super precious to God! And so, we as God's people have a responsibility and duty to be our brother's keeper, to keep him from falling deeper into sin and we are to seek to restore. And to do that, we need a huge dose of humility, we need to do it with the spirit of gentleness.
So I want you to be clear that when we talk about church discipline, though the word, ‘discipline’ sounds fierce. You imagine your principal, scary… but actually the intention behind it must be love. It is for the good of the offender. You don't go to him to tekan [bully in Malay] him. You go to him to love him. That's the purpose! I think that's the most important point.
Second thing, we would like to explore in this church discipline is that of procedure. You need to know the steps to take. You, you need to have clear instructions how church discipline is to be done. I had the privilege on … was it Saturday? When, when's the NDP? Friday. I'm so forgetful! I had the privilege on Friday to be at our National Day Parade at the Padang. I was graciously given some tickets and so I was excited. I've not been to NDP for a long while, maybe three decades so or more. So I was glad to be there, especially bringing my two boys along.
I thought it would not be difficult to go to NDP, I mean it's at Padang, how complicated can it be! So I, I had a ticket and they had a kind of a map of the Padang and some MRT stations of City Hall, Raffles City, Bayfront. And so my family and I, we took a bus, we got as near as we could to City Hall, we hope. But the bus driver stopped the somewhere near Rendezvous Hotel. You roughly know where it is ah! So NTUC Building and they said, “Sorry, we are not going further! Road closures.” So we got off there and it happened to be right beside Bencoolen MRT station.
So I said, “Let's not walk, let's take a train.” And I've been reading on the Internet on how the activities of NDP and so on will be at Bayfront. I said, “Let's go Bayfront!” Downtown line at Bencoolen takes me straight to Bayfront MRT. Some of you shake your head, look at me, “This idiot is … he doesn't know where Singapore is or what?”
Anyway, we took the MRT, Bencoolen to Bayfront, got out, saw a lot of people, asked the MRT staff, “Where is the NDP?” He says, “Just follow the crowd.” So we followed the crowd lah! We followed, followed, followed , followed halfway. “This is not right! This is Marina Bay Sands!” And we asked another personnel, a, a security personnel, “Where to go NDP?” He look at me, “Sir, you're in the wrong place! This is too far from the NDP! You need to go to Raffles city or City Hall.” I looked at him, I didn't quite believe. I said, “Okay, okay.”
Then, I went to check with another personnel, just to be sure. He says, “Yah, you're at the wrong place! City Hall or Raffles City.” I said, “Alright.” So we are running a little late, so we got the tickets, got in the train and we headed for City Hall. So now I got to City Hall, we got out of the train, we walked up, then I saw a sign - if you holding blue sector tickets, you got to go to Raffles City.
So got down to the train station again and went to Raffles City and my wife commented, “Do you know that in this short period of time, we have gone to four MRT lines - Downtown line, Circle line, North-South line and East-West line. You've gone all four except the NEL line, alright. And I said to myself, “I wish I had clear instructions!” I didn't have them, I couldn't find it on the ticket. We googled last night, couldn't, so we went lost. So now you know your pastor is cowardly, don't dare to confront and he's also quite blur and stupid, alright, comes to direction.
So here we have clear instructions not to get to the NDP, but clear instructions as to church discipline. No one should be confused, it's technical, but it's clear. So Jesus gives us the map right here and there are four simple steps in this map with regards to church discipline.
Number one, “If someone sins against you, you go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” [Matthew 18:15-17] Step one. Now, if he listens to you, great! Case closed. Repentance is obtained, sin is avoided, thank God. But not all cases turn out well, so there may be a need to go to step two – “You escalate the problem to taking one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
Again if he repents, case closed. But if he doesn't, then you go to step three, which is - “You tell it to the church.” And hopefully with the intervention of the church, particularly the church leaders, the elders, there will be repentance. But if not then you go to step four - “That you let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. He is put out of the community of God's people.”
So in short, these are the four steps to get to the Padang, no … get to church discipline. Talk to him alone, bring one or two witnesses, tell it to the church and ultimately excommunication. It is very important for you not to skip steps. Now, some of you do mathematics, you are brilliant, you're a genius, you’re working, you skip steps. But when it comes to church discipline you cannot skip steps.
The first step as we've mentioned, is to go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. It is vital to do that, it's actually very wise to do that because you need to give the person maximal privacy and space to be able to repent. You see, if you were to bring a whole group of people, “I bring my whole CG, come and talk to you.” Wah! The person's face, don't know where to put, you know. Very hard for him to back down, in Chinese we say, 下不了台, [xià bú le tái] Everybody is looking at you on the stage, very hard for you to come down once you have boo booed there.
So it is wise that if someone has sinned against you, keep it as quiet as you can, go and tell him alone. Don't go around gossiping. Don't go around telling, “Eh, you know ah … John did this to me. Aiyah! What do you think? What do you think?” And you try to strengthen your position as if with a big gang you can intimidate John to repentance. Nope! That doesn't work well! I've actually witnessed, known cases in our church where the offended when skipping steps instead of following step one, he goes straight to speak with the pastor. And I realized that when that has happened, the offender finds it very hard to repent and indeed may just quit on church altogether. Go to another church because he says, “Every time pastor sees me, he's going to look at me with that kind of eyes already.”
Now, you must understand the wisdom of following it step-by-step. It's giving the offender maximal opportunity and grace to repent. That's the goal! Now, I want you to know that this is what every single Christian is responsible for, you realize that! This is not telling your pastor to settle the difference for you, otherwise your pastor very “bo yeng” (busy in Hokkien dialect). Every time there's a conflict, he's called upon. Now he is called upon, the elders are called upon when you go to step three, but not initially at step one. Many issues by the grace of God could be settled at step one, if we were to do it in a right spirit, alright.
So let me ask you, “Suppose you are not involved in that conflict but someone who has been offended comes to you and asks you and speaks with you about it, what should you do?” So you are not involved in the conflict but he’s in your care group, she's in your care groups, she comes and tells you all this problems, what should you do? “Eh, tell me more lah! Wah! Nice detail leh! I like .. I love the juicy gossip, man. Tell …” Would you do that? Some of you laugh because that's what happened before, is it?
So what should you do if someone tells you about a conflict? Well, I think the wise thing to do is to say “Before you tell me more, have you spoken with him or her about the issue privately?” I think it's wise to remind people gently about not skipping steps and doing what Jesus has told us to do. Alright, I think that's wisdom! So if you go and tell him and he responds, you have gained your brother. Case closed wonderful, praise be to God. That's what we should hope for every time. That's what we should pray for when we approach our brother in sin.
Now as mentioned, it may not always turn out well, then you go to step two. “You get one or two witnesses along.” [Mathew 18:16] And the purpose of getting one or two witnesses is not to strengthen your own case. So when you go to the brother who has sin against you, don't bring your mother or your wife or your kids. “See … all of them support me, you are wrong!” I don't think that's the goal!
The goal is to bring a kind of objectivity to the situation. You're trying to establish a charge, you are trying to get witnesses to fairly and justly; righteously, as best as they can, to determine if what you are offended with is legitimate or not. And if you are maybe blowing out of proportion, you're blowing … blown this situation out of proportion, they will tell you, “Maybe this is not the situation.” But if it is established that, he the offender has sinned, then the person perhaps with this objective assessment will be more willing to repent.
So it is not to strengthen your case but to establish each charge. And again if he repents great, if not, step three. This is where you call for the church. In practice, it is likely to be very difficult for anyone of you to come and tell the church. Hard, you could imagine that! So it will be most likely via the ministry of the elders as they gather together to listen to this situation; this charge. And the elders on behalf of the church will resolve this and informed the church thereafter. Hopefully, this would cause repentance to take place, but again, if not, we come to excommunication - where he is put out of the community.
Now I remind you, the reason why church discipline is done is not because you love to see people in misery. The reason why church discipline is done is out of love. We want to see our brother not keep on sinning, we want to in a sense, save his soul. 1st Corinthians 5:5 says, “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”
The idea here is that he may suffer being put out of fellowship. He would suffer a loss of community. He would not have the same affirmation as a believer as he used to have. So that as he suffers in this pain, he may perhaps be like that prodigal son who knows his misery and will repent, so that, he may keep on following Jesus. So the whole intention and purpose is love, is to help him not to make him miserable per se.
Now, we all know about HIV - Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It's a virus that whacks and takes down the immunity system, the defence of the body. Once you have HIV advanced, then your defences are down, you get infections, diseases, cancers easily. And the church is that organism that also requires some immunity. We need to defend if some parts of the body is not doing well, there needs to be a willingness to cut it off. Just as the Bible says, “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” [1 Corinthians 5:2] Don't let this person keep on being in this community because he may infect and affect the spiritual life of this church.
By the way in 1st Corinthians 5, I, I hope you will remember this sin that is spoken of is a serious sin. Apparently someone in the church has committed incest with his stepmother. Paul says, “This kind of sin is not even heard of amongst the unsaved, but it's right here in the church and you guys are not doing anything about it.” Of course not! “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” [1 Corinthians 5:2] So that, “You can cleanse out the old leaven.” [1 Corinthians 5:6-7] Don't let this spread! Don’t let this affect …
You know when sin … open sin is not dealt with, the people of God, see it as, “Well, the leaders are not doing anything about it, the church is not doing anything about it, that means it's okay!” And without you knowing it, it spreads! Grievous sins will become the norm in the church of Jesus Christ.
“So I'm writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or idolatry or he's a reviler, drunkard, swindler not even to eat with such a one.” [1 Corinthians 5:2] So there is a clear removal of fellowship. There's now a sudden awkwardness. There's no more affirmation that he is our brother. That's what excommunication looks like and it is necessary to protect the integrity, the holiness and the walk of the church.
“Purge the evil person from you.” [1 Corinthians 5:13] “Keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” [2 Thess 3:6] And verse 14, “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person and have nothing to do with him that he may be ashamed.” [2 Thess 3:14]
All that because of love. Let's get it very clear. So when this person put out of fellowship should wake to his senses, repent and turn back, then we should be very quick to reaffirm our love for him. [2 Corinthians 2:8] We should be very quick to receive him back into fellowship because that's what this whole church discipline process is for.
Now, let me ask you, “When do you exercise church discipline? For every sin?” Suppose after service today, you go downstairs and you queue for lunch and then this guy, he just cuts right in front of you. And you say, “Brother, you've sinned against me.” He turns to you and says, “No, I did not sin against you.” “Hah, okay! Eh you two, you stand behind, you two witnesses. Hah, first step ah, you two, he cut or not?” “Yah, he cut.” “He sin or not?” “Yah, he sinned.” “See, we say you sin.” “No, I did not sin.”
“Okay, never mind.” “Pastor, Pastor, come Pastor.” So you get all the elders, we stand one line, “Pastor, this man cut our queue, refused to admit.” We listen and say, “Yah, he cut queue. Brother, please repent, go behind.” “No, I don't want …” Then, what do you do? Hah? We chase him out of church. Now, does that sound right to you? Funny, right? You follow the steps but … do we, do we excommunicate someone for cutting a queue?
Or maybe you are one of the traffic marshals out there, not easy job, it’s hot and everything and someone drives and because the car park is full, you tell him, “Please drive off.” And the person … [with rude gesturing] Wah, you get so upset! He offends you. You're upset because he's so rude, you say, “Eh, you come down, you come down. Why you sin against me?” And then you start the whole process, pastor go down to the front gate and excommunicate him. Do we .. do we do that for every single sin? Probably not!
Now, don't get me wrong, every sin is serious before God. He's absolutely holy, He's of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. But for the sake of church discipline, I think it is not to be trigger-happy. It's not to be imposing this for every situation. For example, so I'm suggesting to you there must be a confluence of some principles before you practice church discipline.
Factor 1: Serious Sin
Number one, I think it should be serious sins. For example in the list, we have seen in 1st Corinthians 5, it talks about some serious sins, right. I mean it's not exhaustive, it's not comprehensive, but it does say, it does smell, it does speak of serious sins.
And then another text, you may refer to is 2nd Timothy 3. That again gives you a list of sins like - lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to parents. And some of you may say, “This refers to the world.” No, not quite! I think it refers to people in church because if you look at the second last line, “There are people who have the appearance of godliness but deny its power.” But in any case, the point here is that these lists do hint that it is not about every triviality but it deals with serious sins. Alright!
Factor 2: Outward Sins
A second factor, I think that may be helpful is that you don't practice church discipline for sins that are in the heart, it must be outward sins. In other words, I don't look at you and say “Eh, you look covetous.” Hah, how you tell? “Wah! You look idolatrous.” “Wah! …” Anyhow shoot ah? “Wah! I see that your intention is greed.” What .. very hard! So you don't go around judging people for their motives or intentions. You can't read them!
So excommunication or church discipline is for I think outward sins. Actions not motivations. Outward deeds, not inward thoughts. If it's inward thoughts, none of you will be in church next Sunday. Church discipline deals with outward behaviours that would contaminate the rest of the people.
Factor 3: Unrepentant Sins
The last factor, what would it be? Serious sins, outward sins, one more. Very good, unrepentance sins. That's right because if someone has committed a grievous sin, but is repentant about it, there is no need for church discipline. You get that! It is only for those who refuse to listen; who refuse to turn. So unrepentant sins. Repentance is the goal, so if you're already repentant, no need discipline. Make sense?
Now some of you may say, “Pastor, how do you determine if it's serious outward unrepentant? Who decides? Who decides?” I think ultimately the church decides. “Hah, who gives you the right to decide?” Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My Name there am I among them.” [Matthew 18:18-20]
The last verse is a verse that you've heard of a lot of times, right? And where do you hear it usually? You hear it in …? Prayer meetings. But I am, I am suggesting to you, it is not about a prayer meeting. This is about church discipline. Jesus is saying, “That the authority is vested in the church. You don't have to wait for me to come down to tell you what is right or wrong. “If two or three of you shall agree, that is the judgment that will stand. I am in the midst of you.””
So I hope now don't get me wrong, I believe prayer meeting is precious. I think God is with us, individually and I believe God is delighted in a prayer meeting, but don't use this verse to be a justification for prayer meeting. This is a verse in the context of church discipline. So essentially, if you have one or two witnesses and the brother refuses to listen, then the ultimate authority is vested already in the church, especially the church leadership and that should be it, alright.
So we have looked at the purpose, we have looked at the procedure. The last thing I want to highlight is that of some friendly reminder, some principles, alright. Some just tips as to how we should do this. Now let me say this, this sermon is not a sermon for theory sake. It is sad that soon, we, I believe as a church we are going to have a few cases where church discipline needs to be done. We have reached out to some brethren, who we believe are living in sin and they have not wanted to repent and our heart aches for them. We are sad, we are grieved but we do need to obey the Lord in practising church discipline.
So what we are saying here is to arm you with the necessary biblical understanding, so that when that should happen, we would know how to respond to brethren like this. For example, when we should highlight the details of a case, we are not going to give a lot of gossip juicy details. That's not the goal! We will let you know about a certain kind of sin and we will urge the church to please be prayerful for the brother or the sister to turn back. But don't after the meeting with the members, “Eh, tell us more lah, what happened lah?” And you try to dig information because that hurts the family, that hurts the people that is involved.
Principle 1: Take The Initiative
So there are some principles I think we all need to be mindful of in church discipline. Number one, I think it is important for each and every one of us to take that initiative. Because Jesus did not say “Wait for the brother to repent, wait for the brother to come to you, but you go and tell him his fault.” So you're not allowing him to live in that sin any longer than is necessary, and you're also not waiting for him to say sorry before you go to him. You take that initiative.
In a NDP, we have songs that are about how we can all do our part – “There’s a part for everyone, count on me, Singapore …” And in a sense, in the church, there's a part for everyone. Dealing with sin, purging evil from amongst the congregation is a necessary duty for each and every Christian. This is not something like, “Oh! I see a problem, I tell pastor. I see a problem, I tell pastor.” You, you have to deal with it yourself, that's Biblical. You go and tell him his fault, so taking the initiative.
Principle 2: Not Too Loud Please!
Number two, I think we need to do it in a very quiet way, not too loud please. If you see a fault, don't need to broadcast it! No need to spread it around! No need to gossip! Go and tell him privately as best as you can.
Principle 3: Clarify Your Goal
Number three, I think it's important to clarify your goal. Tell him why you're speaking to him about this issue. “Hey I, I realize that was what happened. I want you to know I'm speaking to you about it not because I'm angry; upset; bitter but because I love you. And I want to see healing and holiness in the body of Christ. I, I want you to live in the joy that God wants you to have. So my goal is to gain you my brother, is to help you my brother.” I think it's very important to do that.
Principle 4: Check Your Facts
Number four, I think it's wise to check your facts. I see that as a principle exemplified in every charge be established. Sometimes we read situations wrongly. Sometimes we interpret actions wrongly. So I think it's important to clarify - Why that is done? Or could I have misunderstood the situation? So clarify your facts!
Principle 5: Step Up When Needed
And when it's necessary - step up if needed. Take one or two, tell it to the church, excommunicate if necessary.
Principle 6: Do All In Gentleness And Love
Then, if I may say, lastly, do everything in gentleness and love. There's a way of being right and yet be wrong. There's a way of knowing what is the right thing to do and yet still do it wrongly because we do it with pride or arrogance or with a superiority complex. The Bible tells us that we are to do it in the spirit of gentleness. Be as gentle as you can, be as loving as you can. Tell it as factually as you can. Tell it as firmly as you can but do it with humility, with gentleness. And then, when the person repents, be very quick to reaffirm your love for him.
So I hope this will put our church in good stead in protecting the purity of His church here at Gospel Light. Now, if you study books on church growth, people usually tell you, “Have a big front door and have a very narrow back door.” You know what that means? It means, welcome many people to church, but don't let too many people leave church, be very tight about it. Good for church growth, makes sense, right? Big front door, tight back door, you get more and more people.
However, in a sense I agree to that with regards that to the seekers, but when it comes to membership, I think it's actually quite the opposite. The membership meets in this congregation, but not all of you are part of the membership because not all are true followers of Jesus Christ as yet. When it comes to membership, I think we should have a narrow front door and a wide back door because the purity of the church is at stake. We must not hesitate to deal with people who are living in unrepentant sin, because you do not want it to spread in the church of Jesus Christ.
Some of you may then say, “Well, if you have such a philosophy, won't the church shrink? Won't less and less people be in the membership and more and more people leave? And wouldn’t the church gets smaller and smaller and smaller?” Well, when there is a healthy regard to holiness, something beyond our understanding takes place.
In Acts 5:5, we read of, “Ananias, who lied against the church and against the Spirit, against God and immediately he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all, upon the people in church and people outside church.” Ananias lied, but his wife Sapphira also lied. “She also died on the spot and great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” [Acts 5:10-11]
“Oh, the church is such a scary thing to be part of the church!” “Oh, God is so severe!” So we may think that the church will shrink but just three verses later in verse 14, we read, “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” You see, we think church growth is done men's way - keep it popular, keep it light and easy, keep it like the world. But really, if we are living like the world, why would the world even come to church? It's when the church is living a distinctive holy life that represents the holiness of God well, that I think we will be attractional, that the people would know we are His people.
So I want to encourage Gospel Light. We talk about the grace of God, the love of God - beautiful truths. We are not saved because we are holy but His grace makes us holy. We are thankful for all that but let us not neglect the aspect of living a holy life. “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” says the Lord. Let us be a church that does just that.
Let's bow for a word of prayer together. I want to appreciate you, bearing through a technical sermon but I, I think these are unpleasant things actually, people don't like to talk about. But they are absolutely helpful and necessary things. But most of all, let us not just be a church that preaches or listens to a sermon on church discipline, but let us be a church that will practise discipline in a biblical loving, Christlike way when called upon.
It is inevitable that sin would rise in the body of believers here. But let us learn to deal with it well, deal with it in gentleness, deal with it in biblical faithfulness. Would you pray for Gospel Light? Would you pray for the church that we would be a holy people because that is what God desires? Perhaps, even today some of you are struggling in personal sin, would you ask God this morning to cleanse your heart? Would you ask God today to humble you, so that you will not keep on living in your sin?
And to all my dear friends who are here, you do not know Jesus as yet. I want to tell you that there is a Saviour for your sin and that is Jesus Christ. He came to give His life on the cross, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. God hates sin and He deals with it very severely. But this is the amazing grace of God, that instead of dealing with you for your sins, if you believe in Jesus, Jesus has taken it all on the cross for you. Repent and believe that you might be saved today.
Father, thank You for Your Word this morning, I pray that this will be helpful and I pray that we will be faithful to do Your will, as it's clearly spoken of in the Scriptures. Preserve this church, O God. May we be a holy witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Once again, we pray for brethren today who might be living in sin, soften our hearts, cause us to hunger for Your ways and to live in righteousness. We pray for say seekers who are here with us, bless them with repentance and faith. Lord, thank you! We pray all this now in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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