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2021 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Good Grace and Confrontation - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Good Grace and Confrontation - Part 1


Robert Jeffress - Good Grace and Confrontation - Part 1
TOPICS: Grace Gone Wild, Confrontation

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Jesus said, "Judge not, lest you be judged". So are we supposed to confront other Christians who are living in disobedience? Or should we just look the other way? Depending on whom you ask, you'll likely hear different answers. So today we're turning to the ultimate authority on the issue of confronting other Christians, God's word. My message today is titled, "Good Grace Confrontation", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

"Pastor, there is something I thought you should know," Don said in a subdued voice over a lunch meeting he had called with the new pastor of community hills church. Those words cause any pastor to tense up, since it's a rare thing that the something you should know is anything positive. "One of your deacons has cheated several of us in the church. Our family alone has lost over $20.000 we had earmarked for retirement. Some have lost even more". Don then launched into a detailed description of the failed business venture in which Bill Samuels, the deacon in question, had solicited funds from a number of people in the church in order to open a brand named Pizza Parlor that catered to children and promised to be an instant success.

Months passed, and all that appeared on the vacant lot was a sign announcing that the restaurant would open soon. Finally, one of the investors became suspicious, called the headquarters of the restaurant chain and discovered that they had never heard of Bill Samuels. When the investors confronted Bill, he was insulted that anyone would question his integrity. He explained that he was simply waiting for the opportune time to purchase the franchise so that he could obtain the best deal possible. Still, after nearly a year, there was no Pizza Parlor, only excuses. "Pastor, this is going to split our church unless you do something", Don insisted. "Well, what exactly did you have in mind"? Pastor Dave asked. "Well, doesn't the Bible say something about disciplining church members who sin, and if they don't repent, kick them out of the church"?

Pastor Dave knew the Matthew 18 passage to which Don was eluding. Although Dave had written an exegetical paper on the passage in seminary and had preached several sermons about it from his previous churches, he had no experience in actually exercising church discipline. "Yes, Don, the Bible does say we should confront sinning church members. But it also says that you should go to him in private first. If that doesn't work, then you're to take two or three with you to persuade him". "We've done that, pastor, but he hasn't listened. It's time for the church to take action. The entire deacon board needs to meet with him. If he doesn't listen, then his membership should be revoked". Pastor Dave promised to look into the matter, but dreaded the prospect of inserting himself into a controversy with so much potential disruption and so early in his tenure as pastor.

Church discipline. Those two words just conjure up an image in many of our minds of dour old men in black suits who are more suited to live in the 18th century than the 21st century. Church discipline? I mean, do we really want to go around correcting other sinning members in the church? Don't most of us have enough planks in our own eyes to be concerned about the speck in other people's eyes? Bad grace, the perversion of grace teaches that Christians have no right to ever judge the behavior of other members in the church. But as we're going to discover today, a true understanding of grace, good grace recognizes that as Christians, we not only have the right, we have the responsibility to correct sinning Christians in an effort to lead them back to a right relationship with God.

Interestingly, previous generations of the church understood that responsibility. I mean, starting with the first century church, we're going to look at numerous passages in the New Testament that remind us of our responsibility to identify and correct sinning church members. For hundreds of years, the church took those New Testament passages seriously. The Belgic confession of 1561, which grew out of the reformation, stated that a true church of Jesus Christ was noted by three characteristics. First, the preaching of pure doctrine. Secondly, the administration of the sacraments. And thirdly, the exercise of church discipline.

In colonial times, the preacher Cotton Mather had a broad list of sins he complied that warranted official church action against a member. You want to hear what those actions were? It included swearing, cursing, sabbath breaking, drunkenness, fighting, defamation, fornication, unchastity, cheating, stealing, idleness, and lying. There goes our entire membership right there. Now, our initial response when we hear a list like that, we either smile and we say, "How quaint, how quaint," or we recoil in disgust, saying, "How in the world could people be so narrow minded as to want to judge common sins like that"? After all, Matthew 7:1 didn't Jesus say, "Judge not lest ye be judged"? By the way, did you know that is now American's favorite verse of the Bible. It used to be John 3:16. "For God so loved the world". They replaced that with judge not. That's the spirit of our age. There's no standard of behavior. And if there is a standard, we certainly don't have the right to hold people accountable to that.

Why, if we took these passages seriously about church discipline, it would split the church or earn a lawsuit. Why are we so hesitant to follow what the scripture says? Why are we hesitant to confront Christians who are caught up in immorality or addiction or harmful relationships? I think one reason is the consumer mentality many churches had fallen into. My late professor Haddon Robinson wrote about that. He said, "Too often now when people join a church, they do so as consumers. If they like the product, they stay. If they don't like it, they leave. But they can no more imagine a church disciplining them than they could a store that sells goods disciplining them. It's not the place of the seller to discipline the consumer, or so we think". You know, the unspoken fear of pastors and church leaders is if we take this church discipline stuff seriously, it's going to keep new people from joining our church. Who wants to be a part of a church like that? And it will drive away current members as well. Other people are reluctant to exercise church discipline because of bad experiences they've had with it or bad examples they've seen.

I remember when I was freshly out of seminary, young minister, I was idealistic and I thought I knew everything about the way everything ought to work. And I was serving here on the staff and I'll never forget asking Dr. Criswell, "Pastor, why is it this church doesn't do what the Bible says and exercise church discipline against errant members"? He said, "Robert, when I was a little boy, I'll never forget being in a church meeting where they were disciplining a church member and were going to turn him out of the church. And even as a little boy, I remember the harshness, the vindictiveness of the people in charge of that meeting. And as a little boy I had the thought, 'those people doing the discipline are more in need of discipline than the one being corrected'".

I understand that now. But as one writer said, the answer to bad church discipline is good church discipline, not no church discipline. And there's another reason, I think it's probably the fundamental reason we don't apply these passages today, and that is, we really don't understand it is our responsibility to identify and correct sins in others who have fallen into a disobedient lifestyle. We don't understand that because we have what I call a club mentality. Dr. John white wrote about this one time. A club versus a body mentality.

We think when we join a church, we're joining a club. You know what a club is. It's a group of people who have similar interests, but everybody still remains pretty anonymous. If you join a stamp collectors club, you go once a week to the stamp collecting message. You may hear a lecture about stamp collecting and how to be better at it. You may say a pleasant hello to somebody at the meeting and have some superficial conversation. But at a stamp collectors meeting, you would never think about talking to another stamp collector about the state of his marriage or his walk with God or his obedience or anything else. You don't do that in a club. The philosophy of a club is live and let live. But when we join the church, we're not a part of a club. We're part of a body, a body.

And think about the mentality of a body. If your liver becomes diseased, how does the rest of your body respond? Does your pancreas say, "Oh, I'm so sorry, Mr. Liver, to hear you're feeling bad. I'll put you on my prayer list and be praying for you"? No, every other organ in your body and system does whatever it can to help heal the liver, why? Because as goes the liver goes the whole body. That's the way a body operates. They're connected to one another, and they try to help and heal one another. Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 12:26-27. "If one member of the body suffers, all the members suffer with it. If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body and you are individually members of it".

I want to suggest to you today that this idea of correcting other sinning Christians is actually a part of the great commission. You say, "Well, how do you get that"? Remember the great commission, Matthew 28:19 and 20? Jesus said the one reason he's left us here on earth is to go into all the world and what? "Make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit, leading them, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you". The reason we're here is to make as many followers of Jesus Christ as we can. How do we do that? Through evangelism, baptizing them, sharing with them the Gospel. When they become a Christian, they're delivered out of the bondage of sin. That's what Christianity is. It's deliverance from the bondage of sin. Paul said we have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the light of God's own son. But once we become a Christian, we still deal with sin, don't we, every day. We've been delivered from the bondage of sin, but we need to also as Christians be delivered from the power of sin.

Christians occasionally get tangled up in slavery to sin, to addictions, to relationships, to patterns of behavior that are displeasing of God. And church discipline is the corollary of evangelism. It's directed to help free Christians from the power of sin. What is church discipline? On your outline I've given you a good definition of church discipline by Jay Laney. It's the confrontive and corrective measures, now get this, taken by an individual or church leaders or the entire congregation regarding a matter of sin in the life of a believer. Church discipline doesn't always mean calling a church member and dragging some poor guy or woman up here and voting them out of the church. Church discipline can involve one Christian talking to another Christian, helping lead them in the way that they should be going. Sometimes it involves a small group. Sometimes it involves the entire church. But it's always done in love. The purpose is healing.

Just imagine you have a lump on your arm and you got concerned about it and you went to see the doctor. The doctor said, "Well, we'd better biopsy that". And your doctor in a few days got the report back and it showed a malignancy, a tumor that needed to be removed. But suppose your doctor said, "You know, I think I'll keep that to myself. If I share with my patient he has a malignancy, he may get upset, or worse, he may go to another doctor. I don't want to lose the patient. I'll keep that to myself. And I certainly don't want to go to the next step of not only telling him, but operating on him. You want me to cut into his flesh? That would hurt, that would be expensive. I think I'll just keep this information to myself". A doctor who would do that would be accused of what? Malpractice, doctors are supposed to heal. And although the process is sometimes painful and upsetting, the goal ultimately is health and restoration. It's the same way when we talk about correcting another Christian. The purpose of that is to ensure the Christian's spiritual health. And you find that throughout scripture.

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". That's the goal of correction, to win someone.

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15. "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. Yet don't regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother".

Or the passage I had you read a little bit earlier, James 5:19 and 20, "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins". It's a good thing to restore somebody to spiritual health. Discipline, correction is a sign of our love for somebody, not our hatred for them. In fact, isn't that how God deals with us?

In Hebrews 12:5-6, the writer says, "My son, don't regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him. For those whom the Lord loves he" what? "He disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives". That's what loving parents do. They correct their children. They don't allow misbehavior to go unpunished.

In fact, in Hebrews 12:8 the writer says, "But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons". God only disciplines those who are a part of his family, not those who aren't part of his family. If you go to the mall and you see some child misbehaving, yelling at his parents, yelling out obscenities, do you go over and correct that child? Probably not. I mean, if you tried to do it the child, even the parent would say, "Who in the world do you think you are? Butt out, buddy, that's not your business". And they would be right. Parents only discipline their own children. It's the way with God, God disciplines his children who are caught up in sin. And the fact that hard things come into your life when you sin as a Christian is a proof that you're part of God's family and that God loves you too much to allow you to get away with it.

One of the channels God uses to bring discipline in your church is through other Christians in the body of Christ. Well, what are the purposes of church discipline, correction? The scripture mentions three. First of all, write this down, to reclaim a Christian who has been overtaken by sin. To reclaim a Christian who has been overtaken by sin. My first acting experience was when I was in the first grade here at our church and our Sunday school class was going to do a dramatic reenactment of the story of the good Samaritan. And I was chosen to play the lead role. My parents were so proud. I still remember them coming in and watching my performance as the good Samaritan. They dressed me up in a bathrobe and gave me a first aid kit. And I was part of the story that probably everybody even with a cursory understanding of scripture knows.

Remember the story in Luke 10? Jesus had said, "Love your neighbor as yourself". And there's a lawyer in the crowd looking for loopholes. And the lawyer said, "Now, wait a minute, Jesus, this love your neighbor as yourself stuff, exactly who is my neighbor"? He was looking for a way to get out of that. Surely, you don't mean anybody. Wouldn't my neighbor be somebody that I like and care about? And so Jesus answered his question, "Who is my neighbor"? By telling the story that we call the good Samaritan. He told the story of a Jewish man who was walking and on his walk he had been ambushed by a group of thieves who had beaten him, robbed him and left him for dead. And there he was bleeding in the street. When a priest walked by, saw what had happened, said, "Isn't that a shame"? And on he went. And then an assistant priest walked by, and again stopped to do nothing.

But the third man who walked by was a Samaritan from Samaria. The Samaritans hated the Jews, and the Jews certainly hated the Samaritans. But he, an outsider, was the one who stopped and rendered aid and took him to the inn and paid for his healing. Jesus was saying your neighbor is anyone who is in need. That's who your neighbor is. Now, what does that have to do with church discipline? Every day we see Christians who have been assaulted and beaten by sin in this world. They are the victims of sin. Through immoral relationships, broken marriages, addictions, they are getting beaten up by sin and being left for dead. If you see a Christian who is under assault from sin, what are you supposed to do? Just walk by, say, "Well, that's his problem. That's his relationship with God, I can get involved"?

No, to walk by a Christian who is the victim of sin is to show contempt toward that Christian. It is our duty to stop and help whenever we can. The evangelist Charles Finney once claimed, "Reproof," that is correction, "Is a Christian duty. If you see your neighbor's sin and you pass by and neglect to reprove him, it is just as cruel as if you should see his house on fire and pass by it and not warn him of it". You see, again, the reason people resist this idea of church discipline is they don't want to get involved. It may be messy and they don't want to be involved in condemnation of another sinner. The purpose of church discipline is not condemnation, but restoration.
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