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I Will Build My Church: Church Membership and Reconciliation

I Will Build My Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Big Idea

Tension: How does Jesus command his church to reconcile with sinners?
Resolution: Through the direct and loving process of discipline and reconciliation.
Exegetical Idea: Jesus commands his church to deal with sin through the direct and loving process of discipline and reconciliation.
Theological Idea: Jesus’ expectation for his church is that they would discipline unrepentant sinners to bring about reconciliation.
Homiletical Idea: Jesus and his people reconcile with sinners through discipline.

Intro: Case Studies

Tammy finds out her best friend Sarah is flirting with someone at work and her husband does not know.
Process
Jake and John are Christian business partners who get into a fight and say hurtful things. Jake accuses John of stealing from the business. John accuses Jake of being too controlling.
Ed and Sandy are a married couple going through serious problems. They cannot seem to see eye to eye and are talking about getting a divorce.
Iron Ridge BIble church finds out that one of their elders is having an affair with his secretary.
In all of these situations how does a church step in? In our series on the church this summer we have seen how the church oughtto take preventative measures to keep people out of sin, but how does the church deal with people when they sin? Mosst of us, when we deal with conflict, are either attackers or withdrawers. Some of go running into a ocnflict as fast as they can. Others of us run away from a conflict and snipe at their opponent like guerellia warfare. And most unbelievers would recommend approaching these situations from one of those two lenses. But Jesus’ instructions fly in the face of both of these things. You see, Jesus desires not to prove someone right or wrong, but he desires to reconcile wiht sinners through this process that is known as church discipline.
Now, I have preached on church discipline about at least 3 other times since I have become the pastor here: once in Galatians, once in 1 Timothy, and once in Johshua, and each time it is more difficult. And this time is no different. OOur passage today is relatively easy to understand, but very difficult to implement. And as we begin our passage, it is veyr important that we understand that this is not intended as passive agressiveness. In fact, other than cleaning up our church membership roles, there is not a big church discipline issue goign on in our church. And because there is no such conflict right now, it is better right now to deal with this. That way, if we ever have to deal with sin in our church, we understand how Jesus wants us to reconcile with that sinner through church discipline.
Now, often when I preach, I will spend the majority of my time trying to build up to the application. but here, I want to give you my application at the very begining, then I”m going to explain it. So here is my big application: We need to be obedient. We need to be obedient to how Jesus says to deal with sin. We need to use as a handboo for how we deal with sin. NOw, to explain that, here is how I’m going to go about it. I want to talk about the process that Jesus gives here, and then I want to make a number of other obsrvations about our passage, and then I am

Process

Observations
Go and tell him his fault: So Jesus starts off by giving the process for church discipline. He says, first thing, when someone sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. So he says when there is a conflict, you should go and talk with him about it. Just go and address it. Notice what he doesn’t say, he doesn’t say write them an anonymous note. He doesn’t say post about it on facebook. he doesn’t say gossip with them. It is so easy for us to talk a big game and push ourselves up and put others down, but Jesus says, “Go and talk to him about it.” Listen, we need to realize, it is sin to not do this. It is a command of Jesus, and if we take another method of dealing with sin, then we ourselves sin.
Now, Jesus is not saying anything new here. In fact, says to go and talk with someone frankly about their sin. Did you catch that? Leviticus says that to hate your borther in your heart rather than confronting them over their sin is itself a sin.
Probably every single person here has been subject to this part of church discipline right. Because this is so natural. It’s just the process of us going to one another, and saying, “look what you said, what you did, that hurt me.” or “that was wrong.” This week some of us were in a meeting, and I, as I often do, got carried away. And I turned to some of the people who were there afterwards and I said, “I feel like I went over the line.” And they said, “Well, not in the way tha tyou think you did. But you do kind of have a cynical streak in you.” And you know what, they were right. And listen, dear friends, this is good. It is good when others show us our blind spots, it is a grace of God when we have friends who will approach us and who get courageous enough to say, “I see this in you.”
Take one or two others: Now, Jesus says, “if that doesn’t work.” and he says, “If he doesn’t hear.” Probably a better word is “heed it.” If they don’t listen. If they don’t pay attention, bring along two or three other impartial witnesses. Now, this is the time, most of the time, when probably the elders and deacons should get involved. So when someone is sinning and they refuse to repent, this is a time you should call the elders or deacons and say, “Hey, can you help out with this.” It doesn’t have to be them, but it can be them. I say this is a good place because Paul is pretty clear that the elders and pastors should have a strong role in church discipline. let me show you a couple of the places where it is clear.
; , ,
2 Timothy 4:2 ESV
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
Titus 1:9 ESV
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Titus 1:13 ESV
This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
Titus 2:15 ESV
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Now, part of the reason that we want to emphasize this, is not every sin moves from step 1 to step 2. Because only those things where you have clear evidence can move from step one to step 2. SO let me put it thsi way. It is good and right to confront one anohter over pride. But until you see those external manifestations of pride, until there is clear evidence, than you can’t move it to step 2. Now, the reason that is important, is because in teh Bible, there is an assume people are innocent until you have evidence to the contrary. This protects teh church from acting on subjective matters. THe best way to do it is to look at their behavior in question and say, “Is this in clear violation of what Scripture says?”
Tell it to the church: Now, at this point, if the sinner doesn’t repent, then that is when the whole church hears about it. Now, this is important. Because up until this point, the sin is supposed to stay in secret. Can’t we be thankful because the Bible is totally unconcerned with peopel who thrive off of controversy. Listen, if you are hoping to know about every conflict that happens, then you are hoping for something that the Bible doesn’t think you need to know. Because the reality is, if we all knew about every conflict that happened, then it would jade our opinions of one another. And so Jesus says, “You should wait to tell the church until you have absolutely no other option.”
He is to be as a Gentile or a Tax Collector: At this point, the whole church is to apply pressure to try to get this sinner to repent. And they are to seek them out. Take them out for lunch. Take them out for coffee. Try to get to hear their story. Try to plead with them to bring them to repentance. We’re trying to bring the lost sheep back to the flock. We’re trying to get the erring sinner to come back. But if he refuses to repent even when the church approaches him, then he is to be as a Gentile or a Tax Collector. Now, what in the world does that mean? What Jesus is trying to say is that at this point, you can no longer say, “We know you are a genuine believer.” At this point, the church no longer can agree that this person is walking with the Lord. Because Jesus says in that “My sheep hear my voice.” IF a sheep is not listening to the shepherd’s voice, maybe he’s not a sheep, maybe he’s a voice. So at this point, the church officially removes that person from the church’s membership. He is no longer a member because we are no longer certain he is walking with Jesus. We have doubt about the state of their soul, so we no longer want them to be members.

Observations

Imitating Christ: Now, before we say anything else about the process, I just feel the need to say this. As we go about this hard hard work of CHurch discipline and reconciliation, we can just say, we are imitating the gospel when we do this aren’t we? After all, didn’t Chirst come and confront us for our sins. Didn’t Christ come and call us out? Lsiten, if you are here this morning and you don’t think that Christ has come and opened up yoru sins, than you don’t understand the gospel. No, CHrist has come to each one of us and showed us how we sinned against him. And then, he died on the corss for our sins to purchase forgiveness for us. It’s not htat we have to earn our place before the Father. it is that God is lavish iwht forgivneess and quick to reconcile. This is why Paul says in . Because God reconciled with us, we reconcile with one another.
Objections
For the purpose of reconciliation: Now, if you’ll look in vs. 15 right there, you will see the entire purpose fo this passagge. We want to “regain our brothers.” We want to be restored. We want to forgive each other. This person has just sinned against the Lord, and they’ve broken our fellowship through their actions. So we want to reconcile to them. This whole thing is so that we can say, “Brother, sister.” We don’t want to be separated from them any longer. We want to be with them, together, on teh same page. Let me say this clearly. Church discipline is not about beating someone up or kicking them wehen they’re down. It’s not about showing favoritism to one person over another. It’s not about winning an argument. It’s about reconciling with one another. It’s about showing forgiveness, and showing love. It’s about seeking the lost and welcoming them home. We don’t ask someone to earn their place back in our assembly, we ask them to repent of their sins and then we are lavish with forgiveness.
every charge may be established by two or three witnesses: Jesus is very concerned here that a church does not discipline someone just becuase they don’t like them. He doesn’t want it to be a power trip. This is not just so that you can get people on yoru side, or build up your authority, build up your status. No, Jesus wants this process of church discipline to be only based on clear, demonstrable evidence. A church doesn’t get to call the shots on their own. This has to be in clear violation of God’s word, not man’s.
Membership: Look at vs. 18, this will only work if we are practicing what Jesus says about church membership. We talked ab out htis a couple of months ago, right. That when Jesus says, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven...” what he is saying is that we “bring the church in heaven down to earth.” ANd so in church membership we are trying to assess where someone is at with Jesus. It is our way of saying, “Yes, we agree with that.” But if someone refuses to repent, we can no longoer say that this person is genuinely following Jesus.
Prayer: Now, here is what Jesus says in vs 19. This process requires a lot of wisdom. It requires a lot of patience. It requires a lot of help. ANd the only way we get that from God is through prayer. So Jesus says, hey if you’re considering this, please pray. And here’s what we can be confident of, that if we go through this trying and difficult process, if we pray God will give us the wisdom to proceed in a way that pleases him.
The presence of Christ: Finally, look at vs. 20. This passage has been abused and ripped out of context. But here’s what this means, it means if we are going about this difficult, tough, hard job of church disicpline, we can be confident that Jesus is among us. We can be confident htat Jesus has not forgotten about us. We can be confident that Jesus has not forgotten about our church, and we can trust him.

Questions

Now, obviously there are a lot of questions. So I want to address some common questions that people have about church discipline.
Doesn’t Jesus say not to judge one another? So probably the firs question I always get is, “Doesn’t Jesus say not to judge one another.” So peopel are referring to when they say that. And it is true that Jesus does say, “Do not judge one another,” but he also adds something to the end of the sentence, he says, “lest you be judged with the judgement with which you have judged one another.” And then he goes on to say, “Don’t take the speck out of your brother’s eye if you have a plank in your eye.” But then he says what, “Go first, remove teh plank from your own eye, then you will see clearly so you can take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” What is Jesus’ point? Jesus’ point is that we are all held to the same standard. ANd before we confront one another for their sins, we really need to confront ourselves. But that doesn’t mean we should never confront one another. It means that we should actually confront one another once we’ve dealt with our own sins.
Why can’t we just ignore this? Probably another common objection to this is, “Well, can’t we just ignore this? Can’t we just give this up?” In his stellar book, Mortal Republic, Edward J. Watts describes how the Roman Republic died and it was taken over by the tyrannical Emperors. And how the Roman Republic died was this. There were these rules that everybody agreed to. And as long as the Roman politicians were willing to play according to the rules, the Republic thrived. But when the politicians stopped playing according to the rules, that is when dictators and emperors took over and set the Republic on its ultimate path towards destruction. Listen, in the past few years, we have seen about half a dozen pastors from huge churches fall miserably and their chruches basicallly imploded. Why is that? Because they refused to play by teh rules that Jesus giave. They refused to confront their leaders over their sin. So like a cancer grows into a bigger and bigger tumor, their sin got so big that it basically suffocated teh chruch. If we ignore this, not only are we being disobedient to Jesus’ clear instructions and clear commandments, we are setting our church on a road to destruction.
It feels like we’re betraying each other: But another issue is, this just seems really mean, right? This just seems really cruel. Like, these might be our friends, and it feels like we’re betraying them. But here’s the thing, we need to learn what it means to be loyal to Christ before we’re loyal to another. And by refusing to repent, they are betraying Christ, and they’re betraying us. There’s something in us that wants to be loyal to our friends. But we have to recognize that jesus Christ ought to be the first person in our hearts.
Does this mean they’re not allowed to come to church? Probably the biggest misconception that people have about church discipline is that it’s telling people they’re not allowed to come to church anymore. that’s actually not true. When we say, “We don’t know where you are at spiritually,” what are we saying? We’re saying, “Come to Jesus.” We actually want people who are under church discipline to come to church. We want them to come and see Christ among us. We want them to hear God’s word. The only reason that we would ask someone not to come to church is if we felt your safety was at risk. But we want people who are under discipline to come to church, because we want them to hear God’s word and repent. We want to regain our brothers and sisters.
Why Are we talking about this now? Now, the question some of us might have is
How long does this take? So one question that Jesus does not answer is what is the timeline for this. I think that is good because we handle it in a case-by-case situation. For some people for example, a pastor who has disqualified himself, the process of church happens right next to each other. But for most cases, teh process of church discipline takes a long time. It is stretched out over many years. It is a very long process. It does not happen immediately. It is a process that takes a long time, a lot of prayer, a lot of wisdom, and a lot of faith. But, where 2 or 3 of us are, there is Jesus among us.
What does this mean for us? SO what does this mean for us at SHCC. Well, right now, our churhc’s bylaws do not make room for this. And so because we want to be obedient to what Jesus Christ commands, as the elders and deacons have been wrteslting with this for the last year or so,, we are recommending that us as a congregation ammend our bylaws to be more in line with what Jesus teaches. So, part, although not the only part, of the recommended bylaws for

Conclusion

John Jones:
Many years ago, I was excommunicated from my church, and I’m thankful to God for it.
You probably wouldn’t expect to hear that reaction. But if the church had not honored God’s Word, I’m afraid to even wonder what the state of my life—and more importantly, my soul—might be in today. My removal from church membership directly led to God’s restorative work in my life. So now, I’m a cheerleader for church discipline. As you consider my testimony, be encouraged to appropriately exercise loving, biblical church discipline when a fellow church member is no longer walking in step with his confession.
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MY STORY
My story is like so many others. I grew up in a faithful Christian home. I attended a gospel-preaching church. In every way, I looked and acted the part of a good Christian kid. I confessed my faith in Christ at an early age and was baptized a few years later. I was a popular member of our youth group and played on the worship team. I even would have affirmed the gospel and my own conversion.
But in a state of cognitive dissonance that only the deception of sin can explain, I was simultaneously pursuing pleasures of the world. What started as an obsession with pornography and masturbation led to increasing degrees of immorality and fornication. But the double life was exhausting, and eventually my transgressions were exposed. At first, I manufactured remorse when I was confronted by other Christians in an attempt to convince them that I was repentant. But as I continued to pursue my lusts, my heart became more hardened, and I no longer bothered to cover my sin. My hypocritical life was known to many members of my church, and I didn’t want or know how to change.
Here I was, claiming to be a Christian, faithfully attending church, and continually fornicating with little hope of repentance. The elders, many of whom had known me for most of my life, patiently loved and pleaded with me. But I continued to embrace my sin, and my church made the hard, biblical decision purge the evil person from their flock (1 Cr 5:13).
The next six or seven years were sad. I tried to find my satisfaction in the approval of others and physical pleasure. However, after my father died, I accepted an invitation to attend a gospel-centered church where membership and discipline were practiced with fidelity.
When I started attending this new church I was quick to disclose the fact that I was still technically under discipline at my old church. The elders of both churches conferred and my new church agreed to take on the stewardship of my soul. Both churches modeled Paul’s exhortation in to aim for restoration. I was reading my Bible, attending service, and trying to pray. I moved in with two brothers from the church.
Still, I never thought I would be able to say no to the sin that had ruled my thoughts and body for so long. Even when it had been months since my last dalliance, I was terrified. I thought it was inevitable that I would return to my sins of the past. I’ve never been addicted to drugs or drink, but the compelling urge to be intimate with a woman, any woman, was a cruel master. And yet, for the first time in a decade, I didn’t have sex. Weeks of celibacy turned into months—and I trudged ahead. As though against my will, I stayed on track. That narrow path was hedged by loving friends and elders. Even after 10 months of outward repentance, I wasn’t convinced my heart had actually changed. I claimed that I wanted to love Christ more than my sin but years of falling taught me to doubt myself.
My eventual membership interview was a turning point. The presiding elder listened to my rambling, defeatist story and then had a simple observation that still rings in my ears: “Brother, what you’re describing is called repentance. I’m going to recommend you for membership.” These words fell with the effect of a grace bomb. Doubts diminished, and hope flooded my heart. I could see so clearly my efforts that would never save me. In fact, God had been at work in spite of me.
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