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Bear One Another's Burdens Part 1

Building One Another Up  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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When I was in High School I had a good friend named Travis that I went to church and Youth Group with. I spent many Sundays at his house with his family, just as Travis did mine. We remained close even when I left for College, and I will never forget the day Travis called and told me his Mom had decided to divorce his Dad. He knew I was at Bible college so he asked if I could call and talk with his Mom, which I agreed to do. So as a 21 year old kid I called Betty to talk with her. As I said previously I knew the family very well. We were not dealing with a situation of infidelity, or abuse, or abandonment here. Neither Betty Jo or Jerry were Christians when they got married, but Betty did come to know Christ after her first child was born and she took all of her kids to church with her. I do not think that had a saving faith in Christ at the time I knew them, but only the Lord really knows. As we continued to talk Betty made a statement that really caught me off guard, she said “David I know this is God’s will for me to leave Jerry.” My response to her was true, but was not wise as I blatantly told her “It’s never God’s will for you to sin,” she responded with “well God loves me and he will forgive me if it is.” As you can tell the conversation did not go much further. I am not relaying this story to you for gossip purposes, but for a few practical reasons:
It was the first time I had to confront someone who was blatantly and willfully sinning
I absolutely did not handle that situation the proper way.
Please turn in your bible with me to Galatians chapter 6:1-5 and for the next couple of weeks let’s look at what I did wrong during that conversation.

A True Test of Love

Dealing with sin in the lives of fellow believers is one of the most difficult tasks God has given Christians. It’s much easier to carry out the other “one another” injunctions. However, tough love is much more difficult. How many of us really like confronting someone? We dread it every time, primarily because of the double emotional whammy. First, we don’t relish intruding into another person’s private life. It always makes us uncomfortable. Second, we fear rejection—which is painful. However, the true test of love for another Christian is whether we am willing to take this kind of risk. Furthermore, it’s the true test of our love for God—whether or not we are willing to obey His will in spite of our uncomfortable emotional reactions.
Many churches ignore this responsibility entirely. Others treat it lightly. Still others deal with the issue of sin only after it has created a scandal that can’t be ignored. Unfortunately by then, it’s usually too late to help the person who has been trapped in sin. There is too much pain, hurt, misunderstanding, embarrassment and resentment.
Many churches ignore this responsibility entirely. Others treat it lightly. Still others deal with the issue of sin only after it has created a scandal that can’t be ignored. Unfortunately by then, it’s usually too late to help the person who has been trapped in sin. There is too much pain, hurt, misunderstanding, embarrassment and resentment.
When Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians, he was concerned that this not happen. He exhorted these believers to “carry each other’s burdens” (). The “burden” Paul was addressing was the heavy load that weighs us down when we are in trapped in a sinful activity. This should not surprise us, since he had just discussed in detail what it means to keep in step with the Spirit and “serve one another in love” rather than to become slaves to “the acts of the sinful nature.”
When Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians, he was concerned that this not happen. He exhorted these believers to “carry each other’s burdens” (). The “burden” Paul was addressing was the heavy load that weighs us down when we are in bondage to sin. This should not surprise us, since he had just discussed in detail what it means to keep in step with the Spirit and “serve one another in love” rather than to become slaves to “the acts of the sinful nature.”
Paul came right to the point—
Paul came right to the point—
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. ().
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted ().
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles. ().
Paul left no questions about this issue. Christians do have a responsibility when others sin. We have no choice if we want to be in God’s will. We are to attempt to restore that person—to help him acknowledge his sin and overcome it.
Paul left no questions about this issue. Christians do have a responsibility when others sin. We have no choice if we want to be in God’s will. We are to attempt to restore that person—to help him acknowledge his sin and overcome it.
To accomplish this goal, Paul gave some specific guidelines for carrying out this process—guidelines that are absolutely essential if there are to be positive results.
To accomplish this goal, Paul gave some specific guidelines for carrying out this process—guidelines that are absolutely essential if there are to be positive results.
Restoration is a Task for Spiritual Christians

Restoration is a Task for Spiritual Christians

Generally speaking, there are two classes of people described in the New Testament: Christians and non-Christians. But there are also two classes of Christians: “spiritual” and “worldly”—or “unspiritual.” Spiritual Christians are those who “live by the Spirit” and who “keep in step with the Spirit” (). We can recognize these believers because they manifest the fruit of the Spirit in their relationships with one another: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control ().
Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 78). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
I dread it every time, primarily because of the double emotional whammy. First, I don’t relish intruding into another person’s private life. It always makes me uncomfortable. Second, I always fear rejection—which is painful. However, I’ve discovered the true test of love for another Christian is whether I am willing to take this kind of risk. Furthermore, it’s the true test of my love for God—whether or not I am willing to obey His will in spite of my uncomfortable emotional reactions.
What is a “worldly” Christians? They are definitely believers, but sometimes it’s difficult to tell. They often live like non-Christians—indulging in “the acts of the sinful nature.” The Corinthians definitely fit this category. Paul knew they were true believers because he had seen evidences of God’s grace in their lives (). He even identified them as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1:2a), and as believers who had also been “called to be holy” (1:2b). Unfortunately, they had made very little progress in this area of their lives. In Christ, God saw them as “holy” the moment they were born again—something that is true for every Christian and the only reason we can be saved. But in terms of daily Christian living, they were not reflecting who God is—a holy, righteous, and eternal being.
Paul went on to say that after he had led them to Christ and lived among them, he could not talk to them as spiritual, but as worldly believers. Listen to Paul as he described their lifestyle:
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? [that is, as non-Christians] ().
Paul’s description of the Corinthians’ behavior here and in the rest of this letter correlates with what he described in his Galatian letter as the “acts of the sinful nature.” They were still “walking in the flesh” rather than “in the Spirit.” Their relationships with each other were anything but reflections of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and fruit.
Paul exhorted the Galatian Christians to help people like this. But he made it clear that dealing with sin in the life of a worldly Christian is not a task for Christians who are also living out of the will of God. Rather, he wrote, “You who are spiritual should restore him” ().
All of the “one another” exhortations we have looked at thus far indicate that all Christians are responsible to minister to each other. However, only those in the body of Christ who are relatively mature are to deal with serious sin in the lives of other believers. This is why Jesus spoke so pointedly about this matter:
Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? . . . Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (, ).
Spiritual Christians, then, have a definite responsibility to help worldly Christians—especially those who are “caught in a sin.” But even further, we have a responsibility to avoid causing them to sin. Paul wrote to the Romans:
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up (; see also ).
What is a “worldly” Christians? They are definitely believers, but sometimes it’s difficult to tell. They often live like non-Christians—indulging in “the acts of the sinful nature.” The Corinthians definitely fit this category. Paul knew they were true believers because he had seen evidences of God’s grace in their lives (). He even identified them as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1:2a), and as believers who had also been “called to be holy” (1:2b). Unfortunately, they had made very little progress in this area of their lives. In Christ, God saw them as “holy” the moment they were born again—something that is true for every Christian and the only reason we can be saved. But in terms of daily Christian living, they were not reflecting who God is—a holy, righteous, and eternal being.
Many churches ignore this responsibility entirely. Others treat it lightly. Still others deal with the issue of sin only after it has created a scandal that can’t be ignored. Unfortunately by then, it’s usually too late to help the person who has been trapped in sin. There is too much pain, hurt, misunderstanding, embarrassment and resentment.
This mistake number one that I made in the scenario earlier, I should not have even been dealing with Betty. I was not a leader in a local church, I was not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, and I was almost 500 miles away. While my motives were good, I was out of line trying to deal with this from College. I should have encouraged my friend to call the pastor of the church we grew up in or called him myself after letting Travis know I would do that. And in my conversation I certainly was not exhibiting the Fruits of the Spirit, and was not mature enough yet to handle this.

RESTORATION IS A TASK FOR MORE THAN ONE PERSON

Paul went on to say that after he had led them to Christ and lived among them, he could not talk to them as spiritual, but as worldly believers. Listen to Paul as he described their lifestyle:
When Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians, he was concerned that this not happen. He exhorted these believers to “carry each other’s burdens” (). The “burden” Paul was addressing was the heavy load that weighs us down when we are in bondage to sin. This should not surprise us, since he had just discussed in detail what it means to keep in step with the Spirit and “serve one another in love” rather than to become slaves to “the acts of the sinful nature.”
There are two types of sinful behavior outlined in Scripture calling for two different approaches for dealing with that sin. First, there is the person who sins against another brother or sister in Christ. Second, there is the person who sins against himself and the larger body of Christ.
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? [that is, as non-Christians] ().
Paul came right to the point—

Sin Against Another Christian

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted ().
Paul’s description of the Corinthians’ behavior here and in the rest of this letter correlates with what he described in his Galatian letter as the “acts of the sinful nature.” They were still “walking in the flesh” rather than “in the Spirit.” Their relationships with each other were anything but reflections of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and fruit.
Jesus Christ outlined a very specific approach for dealing with this kind of sin:
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony 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, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector ().
Paul left no questions about this issue. Christians do have a responsibility when others sin. We have no choice if we want to be in God’s will. We are to attempt to restore that person—to help him acknowledge his sin and overcome it.
Paul exhorted the Galatian Christians to help people like this. But he made it clear that dealing with sin in the life of a worldly Christian is not a task for Christians who are also living out of the will of God. Rather, he wrote, “You who are spiritual should restore him” ().
To accomplish this goal, Paul gave some specific guidelines for carrying out this process—guidelines that are absolutely essential if there are to be positive results.
Here Jesus specifically outlined the procedure for handling sin in the lives of someone who has sinned against another Christian on a personal basis. In such cases, confrontation should also be one-on-one. With the exception of seeking wisdom from another mature Christian regarding how to proceed, we are not to talk to others but to go directly to the person who has sinned against us. However, if this person will not listen, then we are to take several others with us to once again confront the problem. Again, if there is no response, we’re to take the matter to “the church”—which in most instances, involves the spiritual leaders. If there is still no response, we have no recourse but to relate to this person as if he were a non-Christian—even though he may be a believer.
All of the “one another” exhortations we have looked at thus far indicate that all Christians are responsible to minister to each other. However, only those in the body of Christ who are relatively mature are to deal with serious sin in the lives of other believers. This is why Jesus spoke so pointedly about this matter:

A Christian Who Is Trapped in Sin

Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? . . . Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (, ).
Spiritual Christians, then, have a definite responsibility to help worldly Christians—especially those who are “caught in a sin.” But even further, we have a responsibility to avoid causing them to sin. Paul wrote to the Romans:
Paul was dealing with this kind of sin in Galatians. In this case, a Christian is in bondage to sin and needs help. His sin is against himself and the larger family of God. In these instances, Paul indicates that this person should be approached by several spiritual Christians immediately. Thus, he wrote: “You [plural] who are spiritual should restore him.”
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up (; see also ).
In some respects, Paul actually picked up with the third step outlined by Jesus. This approach would include the individual who refuses to listen to his offended brother or sister, and also refuses to listen to two or three witnesses. At this point, several “spiritual” Christians are to attempt to rescue this person and to set him free from this trap.

Restoration Is to Be Done with Genuine Humility

“Restore him gently!” wrote Paul. In essence, he was referring to meekness and humility. Thus, he wrote later: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (, ). Thank God, he responded.
“Restore him gently!” wrote Paul. In essence, he was referring to meekness and humility. Thus, he wrote later: “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:1, 3). Thank God, he responded.
WE ARE ALL OBJECTS OF GOD’S GRACE

WE ARE ALL OBJECTS OF GOD’S GRACE

Christians who approach another Christian about sin must do so with a great sense of their own unworthiness to be called children of God. In fact, Paul made it clear to Titus that we are also to approach non-Christians in this way—“To show true humility toward all men.” Then he explained why:
Christians who approach another Christian about sin must do so with a great sense of their own unworthiness to be called children of God. In fact, Paul made it clear to Titus that we are also to approach non-Christians in this way—“To show true humility toward all men.” Then he explained why:
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved [trapped] by all kinds of passions and pleasures We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved, us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy ().
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved [trapped] by all kinds of passions and pleasures We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved, us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy (Titus 3:2-5).
Paul was exhorting Titus to remind the Christians at Crete to approach everyone with a true sense of understanding, meekness, and humility. We must always remember that it is only God’s grace that has saved us when we were yet in our sins. No saved person who truly understands the grace of God in his own life can approach any person (saved or unsaved) with arrogance, pride, or a sense of superiority.
Paul was exhorting Titus to remind the Christians at Crete to approach everyone with a true sense of understanding, meekness, and humility. We must always remember that it is only God’s grace that has saved us when we were yet in our sins. No saved person who truly understands the grace of God in his own life can approach any person (saved or unsaved) with arrogance, pride, or a sense of superiority.
This was Paul’s concern when writing to the Galatians regarding how to help Christians who were “caught in a sin.” He admonished spiritual believers to approach those people with an attitude of true gentleness and humility. With this approach, they would help carry that person’s burden with the same attitude Christ had toward us while we were yet in our sins. This is why Paul himself appealed to the Corinthians—Christians who were trapped in many sins—“By the meekness and gentleness of Christ” ().
This was Paul’s concern when writing to the Galatians regarding how to help Christians who were “caught in a sin.” He admonished spiritual believers to approach those people with an attitude of true gentleness and humility. With this approach, they would help carry that person’s burden with the same attitude Christ had toward us while we were yet in our sins. This is why Paul himself appealed to the Corinthians—Christians who were trapped in many sins—“By the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1).
This is also why Paul warned Timothy to avoid getting into quarrels with people who were opposing the truth of God. Rather, anyone who wants to serve God, Paul wrote:
This is also why Paul warned Timothy to avoid getting into quarrels with people who were opposing the truth of God. Rather, anyone who wants to serve God, Paul wrote:
Must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct [with patience and humility], in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will ().
Must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct [with patience and humility], in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
We’ve all made mistakes in dealing with sin in the lives of other Christians—as a parent with our children, as a pastor with our people, or as one Christian with another. Personally, I’ve had the best response confronting those who are out of fellowship with God when I’ve acted in harmony with Paul’s injunctions to treat others with gentleness, humility, and meekness. I’ve had my most negative responses when I have been insensitive, too quick to judge, and too harsh with my words. I may have been right in my observations regarding sin, but wrong in the way I went about seeking to correct the person.
We’ve all made mistakes in dealing with sin in the lives of other Christians—as a parent with our children, as a pastor with our people, or as one Christian with another. Personally, I’ve had the best response confronting those who are out of fellowship with God when I’ve acted in harmony with Paul’s injunctions to treat others with gentleness, humility, and meekness. I’ve had my most negative responses when I have been insensitive, too quick to judge, and too harsh with my words. I may have been right in my observations regarding sin, but wrong in the way I went about seeking to correct the person.

WHEN WORLDLY CHRISTIANS WILL NOT RESPOND POSITIVELY

No matter how gentle, kind, sensitive, and humble we are, there are some worldly Christians who will not respond to this approach. Paul saw this possibility when he wrote to the Corinthians. Consequently, he gave them a choice. “What do you prefer?” he asked. “Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?” ().
Some Christians are so caught up in their sins, so self-deceived, and so arrogant that they will not respond to a gentle, humble approach. If they do not, we must then take a second step in church discipline—to break fellowship with that kind of believer.
Because of the immature way the Corinthians had responded to sinfulness in the church, Paul pulled no punches:
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat ().
This was the final step for Paul. However, his tough love brought unusual results. The Corinthians dealt with the man in their midst who was living in flagrant immorality. They also came to grips with their own sins. As Paul wrote in his second letter: “Godly sorrow brings repentance . . . See what this godly sorrow has produced in you” (). Furthermore, the immoral man who had been expelled from their midst also became repentant. In Christlike fashion, Paul exhorted them to forgive the man, to receive him back, to love him, and to encourage him in the Christian faith (). As always, restoration is the true purpose for discipline—not ultimate alienation.
On one occasion, a Christian man swindled several fellow believers in a business deal. He actually violated federal laws—and then denied his wrongdoing. Several men met to lovingly but directly confront him with his sins.
Initially, he seemed repentant. However, his subsequent behavior indicated he had not responded with a spirit of true brokenness and sorrow. He continued to manipulate and lie. Those who were victims of his deceptive practices continued to report this behavior to the leaders in the church. As the net continued to close in on him, this man wrote a letter to the elders attacking the people who were trying to bring this problem to the surface. Incidentally, this is a common tactic on the part of guilty people who will not admit sin. They often attempt to draw attention away from themselves by putting the blame on others.
At this point, the problem went beyond Paul’s guidelines for restoration in . This man rejected help. Consequently, the leaders in the church had to move to the final step in Jesus’ plan—to take the matter “to the church.” In this case, the “church” was represented by the elders and all the offended parties. There was no need—there never is—to involve the “whole church” unless everyone is affected.
Unfortunately, when this man was confronted by the elders and all the offended parties, he still did not respond with total honesty and repentance. Though he admitted to some lying and criminal activity, he would not follow through with the elders’ suggestion to turn himself in to the proper authorities. Rather, he chose to leave the church.
At this point, the spiritual leaders and the offended parties could do nothing but treat this man as an unbeliever—not that he was actually a non-Christian. Rather, with the authority of Jesus Christ, they had to treat him as they would treat a non-Christian who had engaged in the same kind of deceptive and illegal activities. Consequently, the only recourse for the people who had been swindled was to take the matter to legal authorities who are set up to deal with such cases. It’s unfortunate when we have to go before pagan courts but when a Christian will not respond to loving confrontation as it’s outlined in Scripture, we have no alternative plan. The Christian who violates the laws of the state must suffer the consequences.

RESTORATION MUST BE DONE CAUTIOUSLY

When several Christians, even spiritual Christians, approach someone to help him escape from the trap of sin, it must be done carefully. “Watch yourself,” warned Paul. “You also may be tempted” ().
This is another reason why it’s important to have more than one person involved in this kind of confrontation and intervention. The lusts of the flesh are very deceptive—and very attractive. Some Christians, when attempting to help another believer who is trapped in some sin, may fall into the same sin.
I have a pastor friend who fell into this trap. He was trying to help a woman who had a bad relationship with her husband. You can guess what happened. He ended up in a sexual relationship with this person. Though he confessed his sin, it had a devastating impact on his wife and family. Though there has been restoration and forgiveness, the scars are still evident—and probably will be for the rest of their lives.

RESTORATION MUST BE DONE PRAYERFULLY

James adds an important dimension to the process involved in bearing the sin burdens of other Christians. “Confess your sins to each other,” he wrote in his epistle. Then he spelled out why: “And pray for each other so that you may be healed” ().
When a Christian indulges in sin, when he “sows to please his sinful nature,” he will from that nature “reap destruction” (). Obviously, a non-Christian who does not turn to Christ but continues in his sin will end up spending eternity without Christ. But “destruction” also involves Christians who do not “keep in step with the Spirit,” but rather “indulge in the acts of the sinful nature.” There is inevitable deterioration in their lives—spiritually, psychologically, and physically.
James indicates that some Christians—not all—are physically ill because of sin.
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed ().
Note again that James does not say that all illness is caused by specific sin. Rather, he wrote, “If he has sinned, he will be forgiven” (5:15).
God, of course, does not promise to heal all believers when we have physical and psychological illnesses. However, He does honor obedience and faith. And in many instances, when we pray according to His will, He will in fact heal. Sometimes this happens in very dramatic ways!
One thing is certain. If we confess our sins, the blood of Jesus Christ continues to cleanse us from all sin (). No matter what we have done that violates the will of God, there is always forgiveness. We may suffer the consequences of those sins in our physical and emotional lives—but this is not because we have not received forgiveness.

PRACTICAL STEPS FOR APPLYING THIS PRINCIPLE TODAY

WHEN WORLDLY CHRISTIANS WILL NOT RESPOND POSITIVELY

Step 1

No matter how gentle, kind, sensitive, and humble we are, there are some worldly Christians who will not respond to this approach. Paul saw this possibility when he wrote to the Corinthians. Consequently, he gave them a choice. “What do you prefer?” he asked. “Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?” (1 Cor. 4:21).
Always evaluate your own life before trying to help another Christian who is trapped in sin.
Always evaluate your own life before trying to help another Christian who is trapped in sin.
Some Christians are so caught up in their sins, so self-deceived, and so arrogant that they will not respond to a gentle, humble approach. If they do not, we must then take a second step in church discipline—to break fellowship with that kind of believer.
Are you among those who are spiritual? That is, are you ordering your life by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit? Are you living in such a way, and in relationship to other Christians, that the fruit of the Spirit is obvious in your life?
Are you among those who are spiritual? That is, are you ordering your life by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit? Are you living in such a way, and in relationship to other Christians, that the fruit of the Spirit is obvious in your life?
Check yourself! If you classify yourself among those who are spiritual, you will reflect love and joy; you will be at peace with other Christians; you will demonstrate patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control ().
Because of the immature way the Corinthians had responded to sinfulness in the church, Paul pulled no punches:
Check yourself! If you classify yourself among those who are spiritual, you will reflect love and joy; you will be at peace with other Christians; you will demonstrate patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control ().
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat (1 Cor. 5:11).
And whatever you do, remember Jesus’ words. In essence, He said, “Don’t try to take the speck of sawdust out of your brother’s eye when you have a two-by-four in your own” (see ).
This was the final step for Paul. However, his tough love brought unusual results. The Corinthians dealt with the man in their midst who was living in flagrant immorality. They also came to grips with their own sins. As Paul wrote in his second letter: “Godly sorrow brings repentance . . . See what this godly sorrow has produced in you” (2 Cor. 7:10-11). Furthermore, the immoral man who had been expelled from their midst also became repentant. In Christlike fashion, Paul exhorted them to forgive the man, to receive him back, to love him, and to encourage him in the Christian faith (2 Cor. 2:5-8). As always, restoration is the true purpose for discipline—not ultimate alienation.

Step 2

On one occasion, a Christian man swindled several fellow believers in a business deal. He actually violated federal laws—and then denied his wrongdoing. Several men met to lovingly but directly confront him with his sins.
Always evaluate another Christian’s lifestyle from a truly biblical perspective.
Initially, he seemed repentant. However, his subsequent behavior indicated he had not responded with a spirit of true brokenness and sorrow. He continued to manipulate and lie. Those who were victims of his deceptive practices continued to report this behavior to the leaders in the church. As the net continued to close in on him, this man wrote a letter to the elders attacking the people who were trying to bring this problem to the surface. Incidentally, this is a common tactic on the part of guilty people who will not admit sin. They often attempt to draw attention away from themselves by putting the blame on others.
Unfortunately, some Christians go around looking for sin in other Christians’ lives. Some are expert at making up “extrabiblical” lists to help them evaluate sins. This, of course, can quickly lead to judging others (see ), which is sin in itself. It reflects a pharisaical attitude.
At this point, the problem went beyond Paul’s guidelines for restoration in Galatians 6:1-2. This man rejected help. Consequently, the leaders in the church had to move to the final step in Jesus’ plan—to take the matter “to the church.” In this case, the “church” was represented by the elders and all the offended parties. There was no need—there never is—to involve the “whole church” unless everyone is affected.
On the other hand, Christians are to be concerned for those Christians who become trapped in some sin. Not surprisingly, just before Paul admonished Christians to “carry each other’s burdens,” he cataloged the “acts of the sinful nature” (). This list in turn becomes a biblical criterion for determining what is indeed sin in a believer’s life. This is a supracultural list, a guideline for all time.
Unfortunately, when this man was confronted by the elders and all the offended parties, he still did not respond with total honesty and repentance. Though he admitted to some lying and criminal activity, he would not follow through with the elders’ suggestion to turn himself in to the proper authorities. Rather, he chose to leave the church.
Following are four lists, representing four translations. All these are included to enable you to discover more specific definitions of what Paul listed. Some of the Greek words he used tend to be general and interrelated. The four viewpoints will help you determine more accurately what Paul was saying.
At this point, the spiritual leaders and the offended parties could do nothing but treat this man as an unbeliever—not that he was actually a non-Christian. Rather, with the authority of Jesus Christ, they had to treat him as they would treat a non-Christian who had engaged in the same kind of deceptive and illegal activities. Consequently, the only recourse for the people who had been swindled was to take the matter to legal authorities who are set up to deal with such cases. It’s unfortunate when we have to go before pagan courts but when a Christian will not respond to loving confrontation as it’s outlined in Scripture, we have no alternative plan. The Christian who violates the laws of the state must suffer the consequences.
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RESTORATION MUST BE DONE CAUTIOUSLY
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When several Christians, even spiritual Christians, approach someone to help him escape from the trap of sin, it must be done carefully. “Watch yourself,” warned Paul. “You also may be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).

Step 3

This is another reason why it’s important to have more than one person involved in this kind of confrontation and intervention. The lusts of the flesh are very deceptive—and very attractive. Some Christians, when attempting to help another believer who is trapped in some sin, may fall into the same sin.
Always follow biblical procedures when confronting Christians trapped in sin.
I have a pastor friend who fell into this trap. He was trying to help a woman who had a bad relationship with her husband. You can guess what happened. He ended up in a sexual relationship with this person. Though he confessed his sin, it had a devastating impact on his wife and family. Though there has been restoration and forgiveness, the scars are still evident—and probably will be for the rest of their lives.
The New Testament outlines three levels of disciplinary action.
RESTORATION MUST BE DONE PRAYERFULLY
James adds an important dimension to the process involved in bearing the sin burdens of other Christians. “Confess your sins to each other,” he wrote in his epistle. Then he spelled out why: “And pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
First, we are to warn a Christian about his sin, attempting to restore him and release him from Satan’s trap (; ).
When a Christian indulges in sin, when he “sows to please his sinful nature,” he will from that nature “reap destruction” (Gal. 6:7-8). Obviously, a non-Christian who does not turn to Christ but continues in his sin will end up spending eternity without Christ. But “destruction” also involves Christians who do not “keep in step with the Spirit,” but rather “indulge in the acts of the sinful nature.” There is inevitable deterioration in their lives—spiritually, psychologically, and physically.
Second, if a person does not respond and turn from his sin, then we are not to fellowship with that Christian (, ).
James indicates that some Christians—not all—are physically ill because of sin.
The final step is excommunication—to actually consider this person as if he were an unbeliever ().
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:14-16).
It has been my experience that when we follow proper procedure in dealing with sin in the lives of other Christians, it is seldom necessary to go beyond the first level. Either the person responds and repents, or chooses to separate from fellow Christians without being asked. This is particularly true when we speak the truth in love. Even though people don’t respond positively, they appreciate the concern and choose to leave the church rather than creating more problems.
Note again that James does not say that all illness is caused by specific sin. Rather, he wrote, “If he has sinned, he will be forgiven” (5:15).
Unfortunately, it is at the initial level that we frequently fail to act. Furthermore, it is this first level that Paul had in mind when he said we are to “carry each other’s burdens” in order to set them free from sin. Restoration should be the true purpose of all discipline, no matter on what level we’re operating. Discipline must always be done in love and with the purpose of helping the person turn from his sin and to once again “keep in step with the Spirit” rather than engaging in “the acts of the sinful nature.”
God, of course, does not promise to heal all believers when we have physical and psychological illnesses. However, He does honor obedience and faith. And in many instances, when we pray according to His will, He will in fact heal. Sometimes this happens in very dramatic ways!
One thing is certain. If we confess our sins, the blood of Jesus Christ continues to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:9). No matter what we have done that violates the will of God, there is always forgiveness. We may suffer the consequences of those sins in our physical and emotional lives—but this is not because we have not received forgiveness.
PRACTICAL STEPS FOR APPLYING THIS PRINCIPLE TODAY
Step 1
Always evaluate your own life before trying to help another Christian who is trapped in sin.
Are you among those who are spiritual? That is, are you ordering your life by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit? Are you living in such a way, and in relationship to other Christians, that the fruit of the Spirit is obvious in your life?
Check yourself! If you classify yourself among those who are spiritual, you will reflect love and joy; you will be at peace with other Christians; you will demonstrate patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-
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