Session Four | Life Together as a Family: Discipline
Life Together Retreat 2015
Life Together as a Family: Discipline
Well just a quick recap, we’ve been studying this weekend, what it means to do life together. Our first session we looked at what it means to be in a covenant relationship with one another. We looked at “What is a covenant relationship?”. First and foremost been a relationship that God has with us as part of the new covenant that he has made with Christ and with us as we are in Christ. We saw that this covenant relationship is one that is characterized by loyalty, and faithfulness, and steadfast love, and this is how we are suppose to relate to one another within the body of Christ.
Next we looked at what it means to do this on the ground. We looked at church membership and how living the Christian life in a covenant relationship means that you actually covenant together with other Christians in the local church, under leadership, committed to one another, responsible to one another, with obligations to love and serve one another. Then we looked at how that practically plays out and how the Spirit has given and equipped every single member for ministry. The role of the leaders in the church is not to do and be all the ministers but to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
We have had some amazing discussions that I have been really encouraged by and we are finishing this life together series on “What is discipline”. We are going to look at it from Hebrews 12 which is probably one of the best chapters on discipline. The reason we are going to start here and why I think we need to start here is this: the other Scriptures we read, 1 Corinthians and Matthew 18, is outlining the process and examples of church discipline, but Hebrews chapter 12 is where we go to understand the heart and nature of discipline in the Christian life. We need Hebrews 12 before we can do anything. You need to understand Hebrews 12. You need to understand the love of the Father and how he loves his children, and how he disciplines his children, and how we must endure through this, how it is for our good, how it doesn't always feel this way but it is and the fruit that bears in our life. We need to understand these things, our identity as God’s children and his discipline as a Father before we can begin to talk about discipline as a church. We need to understand the heart behind and the nature of the Christian life as one of discipleship and discipline. The Christian life is one of discipleship and discipline.
The main point today is that Life together as a covenant family (household of God Ephesians 2:19) means we undergo discipline from God. This is what proves we are His children. Without discipline, there is no family relationship, and there is no discipleship. Discipline requires endurance.
Youth tend to view holiness as what we do. Youth and immaturity tend to view holiness as what we do. But a mature faith understands the way to get to holiness is through what we endure.
I don’t know if you have felt this way, but if you go into a church and it is a lot of older people and if you are a younger person it is easy to feel like there is no life in this church. There is nothing really happening in this church. There is something wrong with this church? How many people have felt that before? To be sure if there is no one under 65, there is probably something going on but it is easy for us, in our own conceit, to glory in our youth and feel like our energy and our zeal and the fact that we have energy and time and we want to get involved in these projects and we want to do these things, it is easy to become conceited and think that we are the ones who are more holy when in fact, people who have been sitting in the church and remained committed in their relationship with the church for a long time, sitting under the Word of God for 10-40 years, often are much much much more holy than people who seem a lot busier, than people who seem a lot more zealous outwardly. That’s because holiness, as we will see, only comes through endurance. We have accepted the cultural lie and the view of holiness and it mainly has to do with our zeal. What are you passionate about? What do you care about? Well, the zealous, passionate people are the serious ones, they are the holy ones. Maybe that is true, but the Bible talks about serving with zeal but it also says that the Jews are zealous without knowledge. Zeal without knowledge. As we will see in Hebrews 12, the way to holiness is not through what we do but through what we endure.
So let’s look at that this morning.
Hebrews 12. The Big Idea of this chapter is: Our submitting to discipline and enduring discipline is what demonstrates that we are Children of God. All true children are disciplined by their loving father. No discipline, no love. And as it relates to this weekend, I want you to see that discipline can only happen if we understand our Life Together as a covenant life. As a life where we remain committed to Christ and committed to each other.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God…”
So the writer of Hebrew is saying that we need to focus our eyes on Jesus Christ and we need to cast aside the sin and run with endurance. What we are looking at when we are running is not a finish line but the Lord Jesus Christ. So the strength for endurance, specifically with our fight against sin, is the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we need to begin with and need to stay focused on. There can be no fight, no war, no growth against sin, no movement in holiness apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. “Apart from me you can do nothing”. We only bear fruit as much as we remain in Jesus Christ. When our fight against sin becomes purely entered around us, when it becomes a project where we look in the mirror and evaluate where we are at then we are prideful or absolutely despairing. So the power for endurance we have to say right off the beginning comes from considering Jesus Christ. He himself endured perfectly. Because the joy set before him, he endured the cross, despised and ashamed and now is seated at the right hand of God. Ultimately our confidence in our race is that the race has already been won. The author and perfecter of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ has ran his race, fully and completely and is seated at the right hand of God. He is the hope that we can run ours.
“…Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted…”
Consider Jesus so that you do not grow weary or fainthearted. Our discouragement in our own lives and our discouragement in our fight against sin, discouragement in the Christian life is so often when we fail to consider the Lord Jesus Christ. When we fail to consider that he himself endured so much hostility against himself. When we face challenges, when we face trials, or conflict in our faith means that we have to suffer, we grow fainthearted. We don’t want to run anymore, we get tired of it. We just want a break. We grow weary. And the way that we don’t is we consider the Lord Jesus Christ. Who he himself did not grow weary, he continued to endure, he continued the race. In your struggle against sin you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Notice that in all of this he is talking about us struggling with sin, from sinners outside of us and from sin within. The analogy that he is using to describe that struggle is a race. It’s a long term thing. Part of the encouragement for us this morning is that your battle against sin is not something you are going to win today, it’s not something you are going to win tomorrow, it’s something that in your whole life the Lord is shaping you, maturing you, refining in you. Jesus who began the work in us will bring it to completion upon his return. So our hope for holiness is not something that we will achieve tomorrow but something that we press on towards, we cast off the sin that entangles us is a major way, but it will only be completed at the coming of Jesus.
And that is something, as we talk about discipline, we need to remember because that gives us patience doesn’t it? It helps us with ourselves to be not discouraged when we look to Christ and cast ourselves on him. It helps us to not just view other people with a lens of where are they at? but rather where will they be?, what will the Lord do in their life?
Our aim in discipline is mainly to keep people moving towards Jesus. That is our aim in discipline. That is God’s aim in your holiness. His aim is that you would keep your eyes fixed on Christ and keep moving towards him. It’s not so much the pace as it is the trajectory. Are you moving? Are you casting off your sin? People come to the church with very different lives, very different pasts, and very different struggles, and there needs to be grace for that. It’s not so much where are you but are you moving towards Christ. We need to keep that in mind.
So he is describing the fight against sin not something that is fixed like this but as a race, a marathon that will take out whole lives which does not require perfection but what requires faith and endurance. That’s what he cares about. My concern for some of you is not so much that you are sinful, though you all are sinful, but my concern is that you wouldn’t fight. My concern is that you wouldn’t endure.
“…And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?…”
We saw in the first session that when God created the world, at the end of his creation- the climax of his creation was that he made mankind in his image and likeness. We saw that image and likeness was a way that they described Adam’s son Seth and said that he was born in Adam’s image and likeness, as his son. The likeness is speaking of a son-father relationship. We see that in the beginning God created a family. He created a son. He said, Adam you’re going to be his son and going to rule the world, and take dominion over it with my rule and you are to be fruitful and multiply.In other words, I am going to extend my kingdom, my rule through this world, I am going to show everyone I am the ruler, by your rule and your reign. You are going to look so much like your dad that everyone is going to look at your ruling and say ‘that is what his dad is like.’ A benevolent ruler, a gracious ruler, a sacrificial ruler, that is what he is like. But the son didn’t obey the father, right? And that’s why we went through the terrible history of sin until the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect Son. The Son of God came and he welcomes us through faith into his family and that is what he is speaking of; a covenant relationship with the Father and Son. And when I saw son, we mean children. We mean daughters too. This is men and woman and children and everyone who is a child of God.
“…My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives….”
All of a sudden he begins to say that the struggles that we are facing, because of our fight against sin from within us and from outside of us, is actually the Lord disciplining us. It is actually the Lord disciplining us. See, we often view the things we go through as something bad is happening. I must be doing something wrong in my life, I must be being a bad child of God. Because if I was a true child of God then nothing bad would happen to me.
But he is actually saying that these things are being used by the Lord to discipline us, to instruct us, to grow us and mature us. I want you to get this: Discipline is a sign of love. The Lord disciplines the one he loves.
What I am trying to do this morning is reshape our view of what we think discipline is. When we talk about discipline, how many people feel anxious? How many people feel that if you are going to be a member and it means undergoing discipline, how many feel slightly apprehensive? Even if you know it’s good and right, how many people feel kind of nervous about that? Its kind of like a “I hope that doesn’t happen to me. I hope I am not someone who needs to be disciplined”. It’s kind of a scary thing. I want you to never feel that again. When you begin to feel that way, go read your Bible and see what the Lord says and you won’t have to feel that way.
The Lord disciplines the one he loves. The discipline that we face is not evidence of our punishment, is not evidence of us being condemned, is not evidence of God being mean or angry towards us, it is actually evidence of his love towards us. The problem is that we are not a good loving father. And we didn’t grow up under perfect loving fathers. We weren’t disciplined perfectly. So inedibly when we think of this there is pain or anxiety or fear of what does this actually mean? But what we need to see, except and believe is right now discipline is a sign of love. The Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son whom he receives. Is discipline for just some Christians who can’t get it together? Who is discipline for? Every son. Discipline is for every son. So we need to see that discipline is a sign of love and discipline is for every son. We need to understand discipline as something that all of us have to be going through. If we are not being discipline by the Lord then we are not his children. So we need to stop thinking of discipline as the worst case scenario or for the people who just can’t get it together. It is because God loves us and we all have to undergo it.
“…It is for discipline that you have to endure…”
I’ve been using the phrase this weekend and saying that in a covenant relationship we remain faithful, and loyal, and steadfast. Another way of saying that is saying that we endure. We endure in our relationships with one another. We don’t have a back door. We don’t have a relational back door. I’m not saying you can’t ever leave a church or leave a relationship, there are reasons for that. What I am saying is that we tend to do when relationships get difficult, when there is a point of conflict, when there is something we don’t like to deal with, we tend to try to find a back door. We try to work around it. We try to escape it. He is saying that if there is no endurance, there is no discipline. We have to be trained by it. This is the same thing with physical discipline. If there is no physical discipline then there are no benefits of training. If every time I am going to work out and take the back door out because I don't want to workout, there will be no change in me. none. So many people live the Christian life as “When I want it, When I like it, and when it’s good for me, I am in. But when there are things I don’t like then I am out. I remove myself from relationships, the community, I don’t listen to my leaders, I go and create ‘mentors’, I go to another church, i stop coming around until I sort things out and then I come back into the community.” That is not enduring. That is not discipline and we will never grow that way.
“…It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, jin which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons…”
Do you understand the weight of that? Is this changing how you view discipline? If you are not undergoing discipline, if you are not enduring so that you can be disciplined then you are not true children of God. So when we talk about discipline, it isn’t the Gathering trying to be all intense, thats a word everyone uses to describe us. “They are the intense church”. It’s not us trying to be intense, it’s not us trying to take a power grab on part of the leadership, it’s not not us being cultish or authoritarian or something like that. It is trying to be faithful to what Hebrews is saying. If we are not as a church, as Christians, disciplined then we are not children of God. if we have created a view of the Christian life and Christian discipleship where it is easy come easy go, never have to deal with anything, always having a back door, never having to endure, then that is not Christianity. I said it in my last session but I bet if more churches put into place solid membership and trained the people to understand what that is, a covenant membership, and we took seriously our responsibilities to one another for discipleship and discipline, lots of people would leave the church. We read these things about Jesus about picking up your cross, about dying to yourself but we keep these things in our head. The way that they are lived out are in the covenant community of Christ, which is his church. If we don’t follow Jesus in the community of faith, then we don’t follow Jesus. You see what I mean?
If we are not disciplined, we are not his sons. Discipline is for all of us and if we are not being disciplined we are in danger. Your not living as children. By the way, that is what we are saying to someone when we finally are saying you are not apart of the church. We are not saying that we are condemning you, we are saying that you are not living like a child of God.We are all disciplined in this family. If you don’t want to be disciplined then you are probably not part of this family and you need to come back to the family. It completely changes how you view discipline.
“…Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits land live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness…”
What is the purpose of discipline? It’s not that you will be punished. It’s not that you would be condemned. There is no condemnation in Christ. It’s a family relationship where God uses the means of discipline through endurance that you would look more and more like him. That you would share in his holiness. That you would be more devoted to Jesus. And so often our discipline, both because we are sinful parents and we are sinful children, is either sinful or received sinfully. Our discipline can push us away from our parents, it can push out children away from us. But God is discipling us to bring us towards him. You see that? God is actually discipling us for our good so we can share in his holiness, share in devotion to him. Every act of discipline that God brings into our life is not to push us away, it is to pull us towards him. Do you understand that? Sin is running away from the Lord and our heavenly father comes in and disciplines us so that we may move towards him.
“…For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it…”
Two things. Just because discipline is an act of love and just because every Christian is disciplined, because we are sinful, discipline doesn't always feel good. And so many Christians need to hear this, and so many churches need to hear this, and so many people leave churches when they don’t feel good. At the moment all discipline seems painful but the fact that you don’t like something doesn't mean that the other person is wrong. He doesn't just say some discipline or the bad kind of discipline is painful but all discipline. At the time all discipline seems painful. Isn’t that true? Even if you like working out, even if you like exercise, is it not hard when your muscles and lungs burn? Even if you are thinking that this is making me stronger, there is part that sucks. It seems painful and yet we endure through that and it bears fruit. But so many of us don’t even have a concept for discipline but one we get it we think “well maybe” but then it happens and we are like “well I don't like that, that’s not very nice, that’s not very good.” And we think that it must be wrong but Jesus says here “At the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant.” Seeing the need for discipline and yet denying it when it seems painful is like wanting to get in shape but not having to go through any of the pain. There is no way. That’s not how it actually happens. So what we need to do when it seems unpleasant, when it seems painful, is remember the second part of this verse: ”but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” There is that word again: trained. I can’t pronounce it and I don’t know greek so I won’t even try but there is a word in there that is “gym” like gymnasium, and it’s probably where the word comes from for being trained.
The fruit of righteousness only comes to us as we have been trained by the Lord’s disciple. Do you understand that? The fruit of righteousness only comes to us as we have been trained through enduring the Lord’s discipline. There is no growth in holiness, there is no move towards righteousness, there is no fruit in our lives unless we enter the gymnasium of Jesus Christ and undergo his discipline. There are times that we want to quit, and there are times it is painful, but he will help us as we keep our eyes on him to endure. If we do so fruit will come in our life and we will grow in holiness.
“…Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord…”
The Lord disciplines us our holiness and why is this important? Because without this holiness, without this devotion to God, we actually won’t see him. Now this doesn’t mean that your salvation and faith is based on work, it doesn’t mean that their is this hierarchy of Christians that some will see Jesus and some won't see Jesus, it means that a true Christian, a true son is someone who casts off sin, who looks to Christ, who undergo’s the pain of discipline, who sees the fruit of righteousness. And if that doesn’t happen then we are not children and we are not moving towards holiness therefore we won’t see our father. Does that make sense? He is not saying that if you are a Christian you could theoretically not see the Lord. He is saying that if you are a Christian, you need to strive towards this. He is saying that if you are a true son of God then you need to undergo the discipline of the Lord. If you are a true Christian and true son of God, you will want to be transformed by him.
“…See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no w“root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…”
Bitterness, according to the Scriptures, is one of the most toxic and dangerous things to happen in an individual and in a community. And if you have been a Christian for a while you know this. If the seed of bitterness grows in someones heart and they grow more and more suspicious and then all of a sudden everyone else is the enemy, everyone else is wrong, every thing is everyone else fault, and they start justifying themselves more and more and more until all of a sudden they have been deceived and they believe this lie and there is no reaching them. But what this also does is work its way into the community. The subtle words, the gossip goes into a community. Did you notice he mentions bitterness right beside sexual immorality? A lot of churches talk a lot about sexual immorality but how many churches talk about bitterness? Being a pastor for only three years and being involved in church my whole life, I can say I have seen way more churches and individual christians make a shipwreck of their faith through bitterness. Way more. Why? Because it is a sin that is tolerated. When a brother or sister comes to you in bitterness, how many times have you said, “That is dangerous.”? How many times have you instead thought, “I don't want to hurt your feelings”?. Or the bitter person hijacks it and says “These are my feelings, I am not angry or anything. I am not upset. I am just saying…”. No you are bitter and that is just as dangerous as if you had sex with that person. Just as dangerous. Do we view it like that? Because it is exactly like that. Bitterness turns to fear, turns to accusations, turn to slander, and it gets worse and worse and worse. The text says that it defiles. Bitterness defiles. Did you know that not only sexual immorality but bitterness defiles a church? It does.
“…that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears…”
He didn't actually want to repent. He wanted to be forgiven but not to repent. So a couple things and then we’ll make some practical application here.
Discipline is a sign of the love of the Father. I want you to see that so that when we think about discipline we stop being nervous because we see that true discipline, even by the hands of imperfect fathers, should be done out of love. And whenever we discipline our children and it is not out of love, we need to repent of that.
We see that every single person, who is a Christian, has to undergo discipline. It is not for just a really bad Christian, it’s not the worse thing that can happen to you, it is actually what needs to happen to you, to me, to us. And without discipline we are not actually children of God, we are illegitimate children. So having these couple of things in our head, I would to move briefly to how does this play out in the local church?
Church membership is church saying ‘we can give our stamp of authority together that you are giving evidence as a Christ-follower’. The whole community is saying we can agree, in as much as we can see through your profession of faith and your baptism, that you are a professing Christian.
There are two kinds of disciplines that happen in church membership. The first is Formative Church Discipline: All of the Christian life. How many of us when we hear of discipline we think of a corrective thing? Most of us think that. But the Biblical view of discipline includes everything. All of the Christian life is one of discipline, of discipleship. It includes not just correction but formation. This is things like preaching, teaching, counselling, encouraging, fellowship, meeting together, prayer-individual and corporate. All of these things are the Father disciplining us, instructing us, encouraging us to be healthy, mature children of God. So the reason we all need to undergo discipline is because discipline includes all of the positive things that the Father does to us. So the context for corrective church discipline happens in a family relationship of formative discipline which is the role of the whole church family. So we love discipline, we loved to be disciplines and instructed by our father.
There is also Corrective Discipline which we read about in 1 Corinthians and what Jesus talks about when he refers for the first time to the Church in Matthew 18. It is the family saying ‘you’re not living like you’re part of the family’.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 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. 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…”
He is saying that the church has the authority to discipline in the Church. You have the authority to do this. But look at the process. Corrective discipline, yes. But “if your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” So much of our discipline goes of track because when we feel hurt and harmed by someone, what is our first reaction? Go tell other people. That is very unloving. That is very unkind. That is very ungracious. It is very sinful. And it gives us a sense of relief and vindication, a sense of “well at least I am understood”. But you are not actually fulfilling your obligation to your brother. You are condemning your brother and he is not even getting a hearing. That is very sinful, very self centered. So when we are wronged in the church, we are to forgive one another yes, but we are to go to one another. If someone wrongs you or you see a sin, even if it is not something against you but they are sinning against the church, it is against you indirectly. Go to them like it says; Alone, One one one. Do you know how many big, huge situations we would avoid if more Christians just picked up their responsibility to go. Years ago, before we understood all these things, overtime there was a problem the elders would be told and we would have to talk to people. We started to see it was so dysfunctional. For one, it set up the elders as the police of the church, which we are not. And it puts us in a really awkward position because we don’t really know the situation and it’s not our responsibly to be the first people on the scene. Do you understand that? The first people on the scene are brothers and sisters. Most of corrective discipline, get this, nobody else should ever know about it. Most of corrective discipline that happens in our church know should ever know about. Because by God’s grace, when a brother comes to us, I have brothers who come to me and we live a life of accountability, say “look you shouldn’t do this, this is sinful, you are wrong about this, and I am not here to condemn you but we are all sinners and working on this…” and I say, “Oh, thanks. Ya that was sinful, please forgive me.” Done. Corrective church discipline. Wasn’t that helpful? I grew. You grew. We are all growing. It didn't get worse. The seed of bitterness didn’t grow in your heart because you went to someone else instead of me. It’s a beautiful and wonderful thing when you practice it that way. You don’t get all apprehensive about having this huge conversation. We have a culture of this, it’s what we do. If there is anything in my life that you see, come talk to me and vice versa. There is an expectation. It is not weird when Christians come to us. And we are not coming to condemn each other, we are not coming to be superior over one another, we are coming to love one another, serve one another, to help one another. But we begin by going alone. Most of corrective discipline should be totally private and no one should ever have to know about it, and praise God. We need to put our effort here first. Watch over one another in love and patience. Love and patience.
We see there’s a process
“…But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses…”
One thing that God hates is a false witness. He hates a lying tongue and hates a false testimony. That is why God hates slander. Slander says that I am going to talk about you without you having a chance to respond. When you see bitterness rise up in a church, you know it is false accusations if the person does not want to deal with it face to face. If you want to deal with it behind closed doors, you are probably bring malicious and you are probably not being fair. But if you want to deal with it face to face then you are saying that person has a right to a fair trial. Treat others as you want to be treated. Would you want someone to say something about you and find out two weeks later. So if our brothers or sisters don’t listen to us when we go to them, it doesn’t give us the right to spread it around the church. It means we are going to with someone else, because you know what, we may be wrong. You need that category. Remove the plan from your eye before you go and try to take a speck out of your brother’s eye. We might be wrong about what we see. Jesus is so awesome that he saying even though he won’t listen to you, go with someone else so that the charge may be established on two or three witnesses. God doesn’t accept charges by one witness because it is unfair. And he hates unfairness. He hates it. He hates it. So we go with two or three people and what that does is give them a chance with a witness so that it is fair and we can mediate this thing and have a fair trial. What it also does is, for the person coming to someone in sin, that it protects them too. Because often someone who is in sin, they are deceiving themselves and being deceitful. The person who comes to you in your deceit, you see them as your enemy and you go and tell everyone how mean and harsh, rude and unfair they were when they did no such thing. If you don’t have a witness there with you, it wreaks havoc. So you need to have a witness for their sake, so they get a fair trail, to make sure you are being objective because you may be wrong; and so that you are protected. Jesus knows what he is doing.
“…If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church…”
This should be very rare in a church community where, God willing, we are all Christians. Because if we are Christians, some Christian comes and talks to you in grace and patience and gives you time and space to think about that, most Christians with the Holy Spirit will do that. If a Christian has to come back with someone else to say, “this is serious and you are going in a bad directions, and we love you, turn from this and come on home.” , and you still don’t do it, it is probably a sign that you are at least in danger of not being a Christian. It doesn’t mean that you are not a Christian necessarily.
“… 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….”
Here is a third stage. Then the church will say something. That’s the point when the whole church says “look, we've given our affirmation of you and we are concerned for you right now.” So you don’t bring them before the church and the church just goes “done, cut”, the church then goes, “now it’s our turn to pursue you, it is our chance to give you an opportunity to repent.” and still if you do not receive the welcome, it says, “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”, which means that we treat them as if they are not believers. That’s what it is talking about in 1 Corinthians; putting them outside the believing community. It means removing them from church membership. We are no longer saying that we can give our stamp that you a Christian. He says treat them as that. We don’t know. It is not us saying that we are God and know for sure what is going on in your heart. You know what, We go through and I have gone through, seasons of deceitfulness and sin that can last a long time and part of God’s means of bringing us back is for this to happen to us. Is for us to stop living on the lie that the way we are living and what we are doing is good for us. Or the lie that everyone else is a problem. Because if one person comes to you, you can create a story about them; if two people come to you, you can still say they are off; but if the whole church comes to you and says together that you are in danger, it makes it really hard for you to start lying about a whole church.
That’s why the church needs to be unified, not a couple elders coming in and being the police of everything. We do this together. Why? For the sake of that person and for the sake of Christ’s name. See, even in this, we are not saying that we are punishing and condemning you. We are saying that you are being in danger of being condemned because you are not living under the grace of God.
“..let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector….”
What do you do with Gentiles and tax collectors? What did Jesus do? He loved them. He witnessed to them. You don’t love them as if they are part of the family. We witness to them and share the gospel with them and hopefully they come back. And that is God’s means of bringing people back. It is not a mean or vindictive thing. But it is very hard to do. It is very painful to do.
So there is a process.
I want to read 2 Corinthians 2:1-11. Do you remember in 1 Corinthians, we read about the person who was sleeping with his fathers wife and Paul tells them to put that person out?
This is a beautiful verse,
“I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears…”
This is the sprit of discipline. This is the spirit of a father over a wandering child. Affliction and tears. Not harshness and anger. It’s a terrible thing and it is why it is awful when people get mad at you for this.
“..not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
Satan wants us to do two things. He wants us to go one of two ways. First, he wants us to practice no discipline and to not live the Christian life. He loves middle class, north american churches that are consumeristic, individualistic, take what you get, get what you please, come as you want kind of thing. He loves that. He would love for that to continue because that;s awesome because there are tons of people in those churches who are not following Jesus but who think they are. That is an amazing place for Satan to have people. He says, “Let’s keep that going, keep building those churches, keep making them succeed” .
The other thing he wants us to do is have churches that are not forgiving or gracious. The churches that would practice church discipline but not do it with the spirit in which the Bible speaks of.
So he is writing to the church to tell them to put that guy out but now he is writing to say they need to let him back in. He is saying that putting him out is enough. He is turning in repentance, he is sorry and now the church is not remembering the gospel and bringing him back in. Paul is begging and pleading with them to forgive this man and welcome him back. The gospel helps us hold the tension of both. We need to live lives of devotion to the one who has given himself to us but we are all sinners and we forgive and welcome people. Notice what he says, “We don’t want to be outwitted by Satan.” He is saying that failing to forgive is falling into Satan’s trap. You can fall into Satan’s trap by being a church that tolerates all these sins and doesn't do anything, and you can fall into Satan’s trap by being a church that practices discipline as a punishment with no kind of restoration. Those are both things that Satan loves to do to churches. So a gospel centred church practices family discipline as a gracious, forgiving church. When we go to someone, whether it’s the first person, what is our aim? If your only aim is for them to see their sin, that is a problem. It needs to start there, but your aim should be reconciliation. That is your aim. And if you are not ready to do that, you are not ready to go to them.
Church discipline must be seen in context of a covenant relationship of a father and a son. Where it is loving and necessary and happens to al of us. We have to submit ourselves to the Biblical process. One then two then the community coming together. All things done with the aim of moving people towards God, not pushing them away from Him. And exercising forgiveness and grace. It is a hard thing and it is a difficult thing. It’s like parenting and it is something that we have to do as followers of Christ.
other sermons in this series