Thinking Through Scripture

"but the word of the Lord remains forever"

Tag: love

Confronting the Sinner

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Jesus gave up His life for the opportunity to forgive those who have wronged Him.  That’s pretty remarkable.  Our desire as followers of Christ should be to act like Him.  We should want to forgive, be kind, and speak well of those who harm, persecute, or hate us.  When someone has wronged you, Jesus gives a step by step process about how you should attempt reconciliation.

 “If your brother sins” (Matthew 18:15)—translations and manuscripts differ about whether the phrase “against you” should be added.  It is in verse 21, but might or might not belong in verse 15.  Either way, is the beginning point.  A sin is committed and you are either a witness to it, or negatively affected by it.

Notice also that it is a “sin” that is committed.  People can be irritating, thoughtless, and stupid on a pretty regular basis.  But this passage is not about some brother who takes your seat with the better cushion, eats the last pizza roll at the potluck, or forgets to invite you to a birthday party.  It is about someone who is actually in sin.

“Go and show him his fault in private” (Matthew 18:15)—the first thing one ought to do it have a private conversation with the one who is sinning.  This is probably the step we struggle with more than any other.  It is uncomfortable and difficult, but Jesus says it is step #1. Don’t go to the elders or the preacher if you are unwilling to go to the individual sinner first.  Don’t tell your friends, call your mother, blather away at work, or post it on Facebook if you can’t talk to the one who sinned.  Also, keep in mind that you are the one taking the initiative to produce reconciliation.  You are not waiting on him. If you won’t do this, then you have no right to take any further action.

Matthew has a lot to say about those who try to do things secretly, privately, or quietly.  Joseph, as a righteous man, was going to do every possible to put Mary away “secretly.”  He did not want to disgrace her name.  Disciples are supposed to practice their righteousness “in secret” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18, etc.), for God to see rather than for men to see.  As much as possible, whether practicing individual righteousness or correcting our brothers, we should try to go the most secret route possible.  Keep it between us and God.  We do not want to disgrace our brothers, even those who are caught up in sin!

“take one or two more with you” (Matthew 18:16)—if he doesn’t listen in your private conversation, bring one or two more people with you to serve as witnesses.  This does not mean witnesses to the sin, but witnesses to the conversation and rebuke.  If it were witnesses to the sin, you could only confront someone if they sinned in front of multiple people.  Then you would have to ask around and begin a witch hunt about who all knows about this sin. In doing so you will besmirch the name of the sinner, which these first two steps are designed to avoid!

This step helps confirm the details about what actually took place and hopefully serves as more incentive for the individual to repent.  If the brother will not admit the sin in front of the witnesses, then it is simply your word against his, and the matter should be dropped.  These witnesses serve as a way to “confirm” every fact.  If the facts are not confirmed, then the process must halt.

“tell it to the church” (Matthew 18:17)—if he will not listen to you, and you have several witnesses that confirm what he did and that he will not repent, then you can bring the matter publicly to the church.  This is something of a last-ditch effort with the hopes that maybe a whole congregation can help bring this brother to his senses.  Maybe when he sees how many people love him, care for him, pray for him, and desire his repentance and salvation, maybe that will open his eyes.  Maybe it can change his heart.  Maybe a brother can be restored.

The goal of this step ought never to be to harm the name of a brother.  It should never be to get “justice” and embarrass someone who wronged you.  And certainly it should not be to get attention or praise as one who is unafraid to rebuke sin.  It should never be to build yourself up or to tear another down.  Like every single step Jesus has mentioned, the purpose is the well-being and restoration of a person who sinned.

“let him be as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17)—the final step in the process, after speaking privately, attempting a small group confrontation, and congregational involvement, is to treat him as an outsider.  That is the removal of fellowship.  This ought to only be done with weeping and tears.

“I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20)—This passage is a true comfort to an individual, small group, or congregation that has just gone through this troubling process.  After this process is over, God reminds his disciples that these proceedings on earth, are also happening in heaven (Matthew 18:18).  And that when you have those two or three witnesses, who have confirmed every fact, made requests of the Lord, and have gathered together to do what is right, God in with them and on their side.

Several reminders: 1. If you cannot talk to a person in private, you have zero right to take the matter public.  2.  If the witnesses cannot confirm all of the facts, then the matter should not be taken to the church. 3. Informing the church is not an attempt to harm an individual or earn a merit badge, but an effort to help restore one who is caught in sin.  4. The removal of fellowship is also designed to teach a valuable lesson, and to encourage the sinner to come back home.  5.  There is no limit to how many times a brother should be forgiven (Matthew 18:22). 6. The goal of this entire process should be to reconcile with a person who is drifting from God because you love and care about them.

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Why I Love The Bible

Why I Love the Bible

One Wednesday evening after speaking in a Summer Series in Durant, OK I was approached by a college student. He had sat in the auditorium while I presented a sermon on the topic of “God’s Holy Book.” After I had finished preaching and the service had ended, he eagerly walked to where I was standing and told me he needed to talk to me about something very important. I had never met this man before and thoughts started racing through my head about what was on his mind. My hope was that his heart had been pricked and he desired to become a Christian. I soon realized that his intentions were entirely different.

He began to unload on how much he despised the Bible, citing it as the reason for all the evil in the world. He had been spending time on atheistic websites that had filled his mind with a tremendous amount of animosity. He had printed off a list of 101 Bible Contradictions which we began going through together. I spoke with him for several hours that evening. The discussion did not result in his conversation to Christ but we both enjoyed it and we left on good terms. I emailed him later, but to no avail.

The conversation that we had got me thinking a lot. I thought about the importance of being prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us. I also thought about God’s providence as my study for the sermon on “God’s Holy Book” prepared me for that interaction. (It also did not hurt that early that day I had finished reading the Warren-Flew debate and was rarin’ to go). However, the feeling that struck me the most was one of great pity. In no way was my pity derived from a feeling of superiority or pride, but from a feeling that where I had experienced great love this man had experienced great anger and animosity. That the book I had grown to love and appreciate from a young age could result in so much hate and anger in another was something I found profoundly depressing. I pitied him for how much he was missing.

I love the Scriptures. I enjoy studying the Bible. I am in full-time pulpit ministry, not because I love performing funerals and weddings. It’s not because I love visiting hospitals and I certainly don’t love wearing suits in the 100 degree heat. I am in ministry because I love the Word of God and the impact it can make in someone’s life. This is not to say that visitation and the honor of performing funerals/weddings are not important (I’m still doubting the importance of me being in a suit in the summer), but these things are not what I love about ministry. I love the Bible.

  1.  I love the Bible because it is the foundation of so many of my best relationships. My relationship with my parents, best friends and spouse are all rooted in our mutual appreciation for Scripture. When I spend time with my parents the Bible is not only what guides our relationship, but it is also the main topic of many of our discussions. Most of my best friends are full time ministers, and all of my best friends are people whose lives have been shaped and molded by Scripture. My beautiful wife means the world to me. I can talk to her about anything. But our relationship is founded upon our common love for the Word of God. It is His Word that unites us and gives us a shared worldview. I could not imagine the turmoil each of these relationships would suffer if God were removed from the foundation.
  2. I love the Bible because I love the people in the Bible. From childhood many of my greatest heroes were men whose lives have been recorded in the Sacred Writings. Daniel, whose faith and dedication to God was so great that the threat of death would not hinder his prayer life. Jacob, who repeatedly overcame seemingly insurmountable hardships without losing faith. Paul, who radically changed his life when confronted with his error, and faithfully served Christ through times of persecution and hatred from every direction. I love to read the accounts of these men. I love to read about Esther, Noah, Peter, Samson, Amos, David, John, etc. Men and women who at times seemed so human while other times their faith soared high above expectation. Men and women who rose above conflict to do what was right. I love to read about these people.
  3. I love the Bible because it changes lives. The Bible has changed my life. I have seen the incredible power of God’s Word in action through the lives of sinners brought to Christ. I have personally experienced positive changes in my life as I have sought to conform to His will. I love teaching the Bible and seeing it “click” in people’s minds. I love to learn the Bible, and I love to help others learn the Bible. When people learn the Bible, they are learning truths that transcend this earth. The Bible does not change lives because it is so well written. The Bible does not change lives because it is so culturally influential. The Bible does not change lives because a preacher might be a great speaker. The Bible changes lives because it comes from God. That thought always blows my mind. The book that I am holding in my hand actually came from the mind of God. When reading Scripture, we are reading insights from the Mind that created and sustains the universe, the God of Israel. This almighty God has spoken. It is an indescribable honor to be able to listen. When we do listen, the Bible changes lives.

I suppose there is a lot more that could be said. For 3,400 years, since the Bible first began to be written and preserved, people have been talking about it. That is not going to stop either. It will continue to strengthen relationships. The lives of the heroes in Scripture will continue to inspire. God will continue to speak His message to generations as long as this earth exists. That excites me! “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass, the grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25). I love this book and will study and preach it as long as I am able.

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