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2021 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Good Grace Spiritual Surgery - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - Good Grace Spiritual Surgery - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - Good Grace Spiritual Surgery - Part 2
TOPICS: Grace Gone Wild

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Like me, I'm sure you've been disturbed to see some of the churches across America become exposed for their congregational sins. Sometimes it's the leader who's fallen morally. Other times, it's an individual church member, but in every case, leaders in the church need to discern whether or not that sin should be dealt with publicly. Last time, we looked at two categories of sin that should be addressed privately, and today we're going to look at a third category that needs to be dealt with in a public way. My message is titled "Good Grace Spiritual Surgery," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".

We've talked about sins that threaten the moral health, the doctrinal health, thirdly, sins that threaten the emotional health of the church. Sins that threaten the emotional health, the unity of the church. Let's be honest. We all kind of have different categories of sins. We think about the really big sins. You know what, the big three are. Adultery, murder, theft. Oh, those are sins that have to be dealt with. But sins like gossip, criticism, slander, we kind of see those there's secondary or tertiary sins. Well, everybody does it. Not that big of a deal, but those sins can destroy a congregation if not dealt with. Remember what James said in James 3:5 about the power of our words. He said, "See how a great forest is set aflame by such a small fire".

We've all read those stories. One cigarette butt that's not extinguished, thrown out on a roadside, and it sets thousands of acres of a forest on fire and destroys them. That's what one careless word can do in the midst of a congregation. One little piece of gossip, one false report can destroy an entire church. I've seen that happen before. Many of you have as well. How do we keep that from happening? Ephesians 4:3 says, "Be diligent to preserve the unity of spirit in the bond of peace". That means when we confront or come upon these sins, we need to confront them.

You know, I like to remind our congregation that as we move in and out among other church members in our Sunday school class, our small group, discipleship university, as we interact during the week with one another, we're carrying two buckets with us. Just imagine yourself walking around with two buckets. One hand is a bucket of water. The other hand is a bucket of gasoline, and it's normal, when we come into contact with one another, we come upon sparks of controversy all the time, little conversations that go on like, "Oh, did you hear what the pastor did last week"? Or, "How do you really feel about the music in our church"? Or, "You know, I wondered if you would pray with me about the direction of our church. I'm very concerned about the direction of our church". You hear all these little sparks of controversy. We have a choice when we come upon those sparks of controversy. We can take our bucket of water and extinguish that spark by what we say. "You know, I doubt that's true". Or, "Have you checked with the person about it personally"? Or, "Maybe that's not the whole story".

We can douse it with water, or we can pour a bucket of gasoline on that spark and fuel that flame until it destroys everything and everyone. We are called as a church, as individual members of the body of Christ to be fire extinguishers wherever we find those sparks going around, and when somebody refuses to do that, when somebody is continually fueling the flame of controversy in the church, we cannot afford to leave that alone. It has to be dealt with. In Romans 16:17, Paul said, "Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them". In a previous church, we had a leader who was always fueling the flame of controversy. He was making false statements about the finances of the church. He was constantly criticizing staff members. And finally, the leaders of our church met and said, "We can't put up with this any longer. It is hurting our church," and they had the audacity, the boldness, the courage to remove this person from their place of leadership, and the controversy disappeared.

You think that's drastic? Listen again to what the Word of God says. Titus 3:10 and 11. "Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning". Oh, pastor, we're supposed to love these people. We're supposed to welcome them. Nope. That's not what the Word of God says. You reject them after a first and second warning. "Knowing that such a person has deviated from what is right and is sinning, being self-condemned". There are some instances in which a sin is so grievous against a congregation, it threatens the moral, doctrinal, or emotional health of that congregation. It has to be dealt with. Well, how do you do that? How do you engage in that kind of discipline? That's what Jesus was talking about in the first portion of Matthew 18. Remember, I call this spiritual surgery. Paul said, if you see somebody caught in a sin, "Let those of you who are spiritual restore," katartizo, a word that means to mend a broken bone. You've got to do this very, very carefully so you don't lose the patient, but also you don't lose the congregation in the process.

So Jesus outlines the steps for doing that. Look at verse 15. Step number one. If you see a person involved in this kind of sin, talk with the person privately. Here's the difference between condemnation and restoration. If you really just want to condemn a person and make yourself feel better, you're just interested in condemning people, you'll deal as publicly as possible with that sinning Christian. But if your real goal is restoration, then you'll deal as privately as possible with them, and that's why Jesus said, step one, verse 15. "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private. If he listens to you, you've won your brother". That's the best outcome.

Now, this isn't about somebody who sinned against you. You're supposed to forgive them. No, this is some other kind of sin you see that's destroying them or harming the church. Go talk to them in private. Don't tell anybody else about it. And the very best outcome is they say, "You know, you're right, and I'm going to change". That's what you hope for is the outcome. I need to stop here and just address this common fallacy. I even saw it in the chat room between services. People watching our online service. "Well, what about Matthew 7, judge not lest ye be judged"? Jesus was not saying you never judge anybody for any reason at all. I could quote you verse after verse where the Bible says we are to judge, we are to make discerning decisions. We're to inspect other people's fruit. By them, you shall know... By their fruits, you shall know them. The judgment Jesus is talking about here is the pharisaical kind of judgment.

The pharisees loved to condemn people and say, "This person is beyond redemption". We're never to say that. Only God can perform that kind of judgment. Let me prove to you, though, the fact that Jesus says we are to judge. Look at verse 5 of Matthew 7. "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you'll be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye". Jesus said, "I'm not against trying to take the speck out of somebody's eye, but just take the log out of your own eye before you try that". Let me illustrate this. Have you ever gotten something in your eye and you just couldn't get it out? I mean, your eye waters and it's just a mess, and all you can think about is, how am I gonna get this out? Let's just imagine you wear contacts. You get a contact lens stuck in your eye, and you can't get it out, and it's just bothering you, and it's getting worse and worse, so finally you break down. You go to the ophthalmologist. The nurse puts you in the chair and says, "The doctor will be with you in a moment," so you lean back, waiting for the doctor to come in. He comes in and says, "What is the problem"?

And you notice coming out of his eye is a two-by-four. He says, "Now, let me see here to see if I can get this out of here". Would you want that doctor working on your eye? I don't think so. You'd want to be sure that two-by-four got out of his eye so he could see clearly to operate on your eye, and that's exactly what Jesus is saying in Matthew 7. It's a merciful thing to help somebody remove the speck from their eye. We ought to do that, but we've got to deal with the log, their sin in our own life before we can see clearly to help somebody else. Go talk privately. If he responds, you've won a brother. Well, what if he doesn't respond? Well, then go to step two, Jesus said. Verse 16. Take a small group with you when you talk to the person. Look at verse 16. "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two with you, so that," and then he quotes from the Old Testament. "So that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be confirmed".

Now, Jesus isn't saying find two or three eyewitnesses to the sin this person has committed. That's almost impossible. There are usually no eye witnesses to sin. The reason Jesus says, "Take two or three with you," is that a, it will convince the sinner of how serious his sin is, that if three people from the church want to come and talk to you, this is a pretty serious matter. But also, it means that there are two or three witnesses there who can respond to the church if necessary on what the sinner's attitude was. Was he repentant or not repentant? Again, when this happens, the goal is restoration.

Now, I've been involved in this process many times, two or three of us talking with a Christian who's committing a sin that needs to be corrected, and if you're gonna do spiritual surgery, it's a very delicate surgery. There's gotta be precision. I've met with the people who were gonna go confront with the sinner, and we wrote down who was going to say what, in what order, how are we gonna respond if he says this, or what if he says that? You know, when you're doing surgery, you want to use a scalpel, not a pickax. It's very delicate, what you're doing, and so it needs to be done carefully with thought, and always remembering the goal is restoration, to bring him or her to the point where they're willing to say, "You know, you're right, and today I'm repenting of that sin. I'm asking for the church's forgiveness. I'm ready to start living differently". And again, if the person responds great, you've won a brother. But what if they don't respond? What if they bow up and said, "I don't have to listen to you. I'm gonna continue living however I want to live. What do you do then"? Jesus gives us step three, "Report the situation to the congregation".

Look at verse 17. "If he," that is, the unrepentant believer, "Refuses to listen to them," that group of two or three, "Then you tell it to the church". Why would you tell it to the church? It's not to humiliate the sinner. It's to, first of all, let him know, this is such a serious thing, we're gonna have to report this to the church, and it's also to gather a group of more people to pray for the sinner, to restore him to a right relationship with God. Now, I need to point out here that Jesus's directions here are very general. They're not precise. We don't know exactly what he means, to tell it to the church. I think Jesus has given us a lot of leeway in how to do this according to our individual situation. You know, I doubt most of the time, we would want to announce somebody's sin to the whole church. Can you see our video announcements ending with, "And now a list of sinning church members for this week". That high attendance, I'm sure. Every Sunday, people would want to come and see that, but I think by telling it to the church, it could mean to a group of leaders in the church, to the deacons, to the staff. But Jesus gives us some leeway. But again, the goal is restoration here.

Well, what if even after that, a person doesn't repent? Then and only then do you go to the most drastic step, step four, if necessary, remove the person from the congregation. Again, I heard somebody in the chat room, read somebody in the chat room, "Oh, I can't believe the pastor talked about removing people from the church. We're supposed to be a church of love and acceptance of sinners". Oh yes, everybody's welcome to come. All sinners are welcome to come. All unbelievers are welcome to come. But the one who's talking about removing people from the congregation, it's not Robert Jeffress, it's Jesus Christ. This is what he said. Look at verse 17. "If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a gentile and a tax-collector". That was an idiom for turn him out of the congregation. It's what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5. This one who refuses to repent of his sexual sin and is ruining the reputation of your church, you need to turn him out of the church so he understands how serious the sin is.

And again, the purpose of turning somebody out of the church is not out of hatred for the person. It's out of love. It's with the hope that, number one, such a drastic action will cause that person to realize what he's doing and repent. But secondly, it's to protect the moral and spiritual health of the congregation. It's going to infect the entire congregation, if it doesn't get dealt with. You know, these days, we're talking a lot about antibodies, the need for our bodies to have antibodies to protect ourself against disease. Correcting sinning Christians, even to the point of removing them from the church, is a way to keep our antibodies strong. It produces antibodies. It keeps the whole body from being infected when we engage in church discipline. If we don't follow Jesus's instructions here, we're at risk of infecting the entire body of believers. That's what he's saying here. The question, and I want to make this point before I wrap up, 'cause I think it's a point that needs to be made.

I heard somebody point out even this week, that all of these steps for correction, step one, two, three, and four all take place within the local church. The local church is the highest ecclesiastical authority there is on earth. There is no higher authority. God said the way you deal with sinning Christians who need to be restored is within the confines of a local church, nothing larger than that, and the reason I say that is one of the disturbing trends I see in our southern Baptist convention is to go beyond that and to create a denominational hierarchy, and to have churches report to this hierarchy, and if the local church doesn't deal with a sin, to let the denomination deal with it. That is totally antithetical to what the Word of God says. There is no biblical basis for any organization that is more authoritative than the local church. Every local church is responsible for dealing with the sin within its own congregation.

Well, does it really work? Does this whole idea of church discipline really work? You know, I have found that most of the people in the Christian world who preach about or write articles or books about church discipline are those who have never done it before. Full disclosure here. In 40 years of pastoring, I have gone through step one, step two, step three, telling it to the church, usually a smaller subset of the church. I've never engaged in step four of actually turning somebody out from the church. I have refused to allow certain people to join the church, knowing they would cause dissension, but I've never turned anybody out of the church. One reason I haven't done it is because, in today's culture, if you get turned out of this church, all you have to do is walk down the block and join another church.

In Paul's day, there was only one church in every city. For you to get turned out of a church meant it was either be with God's people or be with Satan's people. You were either in or out. It's a little different than it is today. My experience has been that, by the time you get to step two or three, the person voluntarily removes themselves from the church. Usually it just takes a small group going to an individual and confronting them to either get them to repent, or cause them to leave. Interestingly, this situation in Corinth had a positive outcome. Remember I said in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul chastised them for not dealing with this sinning member sleeping with his stepmother? Well, apparently they got the message, and they dealt with him. How do I know that? Because of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians, his second letter, chapter two, beginning with verse six. He said, "Sufficient for such a person is this punishment which was imposed by the majority, so that on the other hand, you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a pro person might become overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Therefore, I urge you to reaffirm your love for him".

The church met, they voted this man out of the church, he repented and wanted to come back. Some of the people in the Corinthian church said, "No, no, no, no, no. We're not letting you back in. We don't want to endanger our church". Paul said, "That's the wrong response. The goal is restoration, and if he repents, you need to welcome him back". That's the goal of church discipline, the restoration of a sinning Christian. Now, I know this is completely foreign to our understanding today, but remember, all of this is an illustration of how seriously God takes the subject of sin. Sin is a serious subject to God. It's serious in your life, and it's serious in the life of other believers as well. And the most loving thing you can do is to help correct a sinning Christian, and therein is the difference between good grace and bad grace.

Bad grace equates correction with condemnation. Good grace understands that sometimes the most loving thing we can do for another Christian is to confront him about his disobedience. Bad grace rarely considers the effect that an individual sin has on an entire congregation, but good grace recognizes our responsibility to protect the moral, the doctrinal, and the emotional health of the church. Bad grace uses the live and let live philosophy as an excuse for ignoring a fellow believer who's being held hostage by sin. Good grace recognizes that we have a responsibility to rescue other believers who have been overtaken by sin. As James says, "He who turns a sinner from the error of his ways saves his soul from death and covers a multitude of sins".
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