Matthew 18 | Shaun LePage | April 29, 2007
A. Illus: Man who put van on cruise control and took a nap. Why didn’t it work? Constant correction of the steering wheel is needed. People are not so different. We, too, need constant correction to keep us on the right path.
B. Biblical Examples: Josh 6:17-19→7:1-13; 2 Sam 11 (David’s adultery)→2 Sam 12:1-14.
C. God desires holiness and righteousness from His children because He Himself is holy and righteous—1 Peter 1:14-16. Shouldn’t we desire holiness and righteousness also? Bylaws: Members commit that we “Are endeavoring to live a life free from any sin which would disgrace the name of Christ or discredit the testimony of this church.”
D. The natural question: What if we don’t? God loves us enough to “correct” (discipline) us.
A. Dt 8:1-5; Heb 12:4-11 (“discipline”=punish, instruct, correct; v.7—expected answer? None!; v.8—“without discipline”=“illegitimate…not sons”; Why? “live” (v.9; cf. 1 Cor. 11:30 and 1 Jn. 5:16), “our good…holiness” (v.10), “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v.11). Write this important application: God disciplines us directly: Receive God’s correction.
B. God disciplines us indirectly:
1. Through Parents. Pr 13:24 (why “hate”? “disciplines”=“correct”); 29:15 (NIV “rod of correction”; “his own way” contrast with “wisdom”); 29:17 (“correct” also translated “instruct” 29:19; “teach” 31:1; “discipline” 19:18). This is why the church doesn’t discipline children, by the way—parents are responsible. Please write these applications:
a) Parents: Provide God’s correction for your children.
b) Children: Receive God’s correction through your parents.
2. Through the Church. This is an important responsibility. Two extremes: 1) Neglect—1 Corinthians 5; 2) Harsh and controlling—2 Cor 2:7-8→Proper, Biblical: Matt 18
a) Level 1: Go and show. (v15)
(1) “If your brother sins”—“if” series of conditions; “brother”=fellow believer”; “sins”—(“against you” (KJV, NIV) is a later addition—not limited to personal offenses.) must define “sin” biblically. Scribes and Pharisees accused disciples of sin on Sabbath (12:2), but Jesus called them “innocent” (v.7). Be careful: Only what the Bible calls sin should be confronted.
(2) “Go and show him his fault in private”—all of us share this responsibility—Rom 15:14; Col 3:16; “In private” Informal “discipline”; Perhaps unaware, needs help.
(3) “If he listens to you, you have won your brother”! Purpose: Win! Gal 6:1; 2Ti2:24-26
b) Level 2: Take 1 or 2 more. (v16)
(1) Why? “So that…every fact may be confirmed” You might be wrong! Wise protection!
(2) Elders/overseers aren’t immune. 1 Tim 5:19-20—multiple witnesses is a safeguard.
(3) Still very private—not gossip, but constructive conversation, prevents gossip.
c) Level 3: Tell it to the church. (v17a)
(1) Why? More confirmation. More people trying to “win” the brother!
(2) No one should ever be put under formal discipline without multiple warnings.
d) Level 4: Do not associate. (v17b-20)
(1) “Gentile and a tax collector”—treated as an outsider: 2 Thess 3:6,14
(2) Difficult decision—prayerfully, wisely, Jesus gives His approval. “bind…loose”=forbid and permit. Not forcing God to do something, but when we handle sin God’s way, He gives His approval; “Agree…gathered together”=prayerfully seeking God’s will (“in My name” v20). Not easy, but Jesus promises to walk through it with us and lead us to accomplish His will.
e) Level 5: Err on the side of Grace. (v21-22)—right after: “70X7”; 2 Cor 2:7-8
f) Write these applications, please:
(1) Christian: Provide God’s correction for your brothers. If you think I’m in sin, I would much rather you come to me and talk to me and “show” me my sin than to remain silent or just leave. God has ordained that you and I would help in the correction of our fellow Christians. Provide that for your brothers in Christ.
(2) Christian: Receive God’s correction through your church. Jesus’ own words in Matt.18 provide us with a safe, reasonable, wise way of dealing with sin in each other’s lives. Discipline—correction—is for our own good. Receive it.
III. Closing: My friends. My brothers. My sisters. This is Biblical, healthy Christianity.
IV. Closing Song
V. Announcement: Thank guests for coming. CBC Members reassemble in 5 minutes—follow up to “family business” we discussed on March 11.
I. Shaun LePage
A. March 11 was discussion of Sarah Cherry. Today, we need to discuss Frank Cherry, since Frank has been an elder of CBC for many years, and since the nature of some of his recent decisions has been so public. I’m going to start and then I’m going to let David and Scott communicate whatever is on their hearts and minds. Then, we’re going to give you an opportunity to ask any questions or make comments.
B. Frank is my brother and my friend. First person I met at CBC (along with Allen Rogers). I love him and his family—I know Scott and David do as well. We want only what is best for Frank and his family.
C. Shortly after I became pastor, Frank asked me if I thought he was qualified to be an elder. I told him I didn’t know him well enough to make that call, but I’d be happy to visit with him and hear his story and offer my opinion. We went to lunch many times over the past year and I spent many hours listening to the history of the Cherry family. After a while, I began to counsel Frank regarding his decision-making as a father. I felt he was wrong—even sinful—in his choices to not discipline his children Biblically, but because he was listening and even making some changes, it remained a private matter between Frank and me. Eventually, Frank decided to step down from the Elder Board—on his own—to focus on his family. I continued to talk with Frank and encourage him.
D. A few weeks later, Sarah found out she was pregnant. As I said on March 11, we all hoped the pregnancy would drive Sarah to God, but there was no outward evidence that this was the case. She remained rebellious toward her parents and spent most of her time with her boyfriend—the baby’s father. Rebekah, too has been very rebellious over the past 12 months to the point where her life was literally in danger if Frank did not set proper boundaries and make significant changes.
E. A few months ago, in a lunch meeting with Frank, I learned that Frank had allowed Sarah to go live with her boyfriend. I knew that Sarah had been very difficult to live with and no doubt, Frank and Kaye were just tired of her, but as I thought about this I could not get past the fact that this was a sinful decision—a very public, sinful decision.
F. I went—by myself—to speak with Frank and Kaye about this. I spent an entire afternoon with them, “showing them their fault” as well as listening to their justification for the decision. They listened to me, but they would not agree that they had sinned. I left that meeting still convinced that it was a sinful decision.
G. I then spoke with Scott Schultz and David Barfield—the CBC Elder Board as well as long-time friends of Frank—about the situation and we arranged to meet with Frank together. We spent five hours with Frank on a Saturday morning, listening, clarifying and hearing his justification for his decision. At the end of that meeting, I said I was still convinced that it was a sinful decision and I asked Scott and David to tell me what they truly believed—I told them I did not want “yes men” on the Elder Board who would simply agree with me no matter what. I wanted the truth. Both men agreed that Frank had clearly made a sinful decision. Frank would not agree. He said it was “not the best situation” but He refused to call it sin. I asked him to take a few days to think about it, talk with Kaye and pray about it. He agreed and we made arrangements to meet with him again the following week.
H. A few days later, we received an email in which Frank thanked us for our concern, and then listed three specific things he wanted us to know: 1) they were canceling the baby shower they had planned for Sarah; 2) he had asked Sarah to return home; 3) “Kaye and I do not consider ourselves formal members of CBC and have decided that it is best for all that our family not attend CBC. We do not feel that any further discussion about this is necessary, and therefore I will not be attending the meeting previously discussed for this Thursday, the 15th.”
I. While we felt that it was the right decision to cancel the baby shower and to ask Sarah to come home (both of which we had counseled him to do), we were very disappointed that after 15 years of attending CBC and after serving on the elder board for much of that time, he and Kaye would suddenly inform us—at this time and in this way—that they did not consider themselves formal members of CBC. Scott, David and I all contacted Frank and asked him to keep his commitment to meet with us. One month later, he finally met with us and we expressed our disappointment over the fact that he had often encouraged us—as elders—to practice the one-anothers and hold each other accountable. His actions did not match his words. He still refused to agree with us that his decision to let Sarah live with her boyfriend was sinful.
J. So, this Elder Board was faced with a very difficult decision: Should we bring this to the church and place Frank Cherry under formal church discipline. Today, we bring this situation to you—the church—according to our Lord’s instructions in Matthew 18:17. We invite you and encourage you to contact the Cherrys as the Holy Spirit leads and call them to repentance. However, as an Elder Board, we have prayerfully come to the decision that at this time, we will not pursue this matter any further—we are not willing to place Frank under formal church discipline. We have decided to err on the side of grace. Here are the two primary reasons:
1. Although Frank would not admit—with his mouth—that he had sinned, we believe his actions may have demonstrated otherwise. According to his email, he did go to Sarah and ask her to come home. It is not our place to question his motives for doing this, but this decision communicates to us some level of agreement with us that the decision needed to be reversed.
2. Although Frank was wrong to announce—by email in the midst of a Matthew 18 conversation—that after 15 years of involvement with CBC, he and Kaye did not consider themselves to be formal members of CBC, the fact is that for some time the Cherry family has been very uninvolved in CBC and had never joined the church in a formal way.
K. Before I turn it over to Scott, let me repeat that we truly love Frank and his family. We only want what is best for them. But we believe that they have walked away from what was best for them—the love, blessing, fellowship and—yes—correction of their church family.
II. Scott Schultz
III. David Barfield