Disobeying Christ to Bless Him?

I have just started Frank Viola’s (and now George Barna’s) book “Pagan Christianity?” I have few friends who have been jacked by the “church” after spending decades there, and this book is striking a chord with them. So I thought I should read it as I am becoming increasingly convinced by holding what passes for the American Church up to scripture, that… well… it ain’t.

I got through the introduction, but on the page before the preface, Viola has placed this question from Christ to the Pharisees:

Matthew 15:3
“Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? “

I don’t think that is one that I have internalized before. But it is an idea that my husband and I had gotten close to in a letter to our former pastor about the corruption there. I thought I would share that passage here:

“Over and over during our dealing with Bel Air on this problem, we ran into the same ethos. The lie that one can disobey Jesus for the sake of the ministry of Jesus and still be in a relationship with Jesus.”

In both cases, those being confronted have used service to their religion/traditions/methods/process ostensibly as justification for their sin. But as soon as religion/traditions/methods/processes oppose, ignore and trample the word of God, they no longer serve or please God.

They become just another one of man’s worldly ambitions going after his worldly goals, no different than disobeying God for the sake of ones bank account or political career or popularity. Either a process or a ministry approach or a worship method obeys and serves God or it doesn’t. Once it doesn’t any more, it does not matter in what respect it doesn’t, it just matters that it doesn’t.

To disobey Christ to serve tradition, or to serve ministry goals, or to serve the homeless, or to serve your greed, or to serve career ambitions, or to serve your moment of anger, or to serve any end, no matter how lofty or how base you may consider it, is to still to disobey Christ. Why you are doing it is irrelevant.

Chris Rock confronts such a moral dilemma much more plainly:

“You know what they say, “There’s no reason to ever hit a woman.”… There’s a reason to hit everybody. You just don’t do it… there’s a reason to kick an old man down a flight of stairs. You just don’t do it.

It doesn’t matter if you think you have a good reason to sin… just don’t do it.

You cannot disobey Him and glorify Him at the same time. You cannot rebel against Him and be in a right relationship with Him.

And I think possibly the silliest thing that professing Christians do is to justify disobedience to Christ for the sake of the Gospel. “I have to win people to Christ, so I will disobey His direct commands in order to make the gospel more appealing, and thereby win converts”.

“But if we discipline the pastor whom so many come to hear speak on his personal sin, attendance will go down, donations will go down and we won’t be able to rent insert name of massive local venue for our Easter Service and won’t be able to make our city the Greatest City for Christ in America™!”

Because God needs our help to save people?

Because the Holy Spirit is insufficient to convict people of their spiritual bankruptcy and make them long for God’s forgiveness?

Bottom line, we want to do what we want to do to satisfy our desires and ambitions, so we do it. And when we use the traditions and methods that we have invented to supposedly honor God to justify doing what we want to in Christ’s direction, we merely prove our wicked nature, and defend ourselves against having to repent and give up our will to the will of God.

Sin’s circular reasoning.

We are a creative bunch of sinners, aren’t we.

Matthew 18 gives us the clearest direction on what to do when tradition or ministry goals or personal reputation or our job or our relationships or anything causes us to sin. If something has to give, it is not obedience to God, it is the thing that we sinned for.

Matthew 18:8-9

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.

If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

A graphic word picture to be sure, but pretty clear that when the believer feels he has to sin in the service of his job, his only choice is to quit his job.

And it is an absolutely clear instruction for this in church leadership that if their ministry requires them, to disobey scripture, the “ministry” has to end.

Because it really was only a ministry to the one supposedly ‘ministering’ and not a ministry to God anyway.

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Right Hand Publicity, Inc.

There is much to write about when discussing corruption in the American “church”. Big “churches” with big budgets operating like big businesses and occasionally like big mafia.

The gross sin is certainly important to expose, but usually when you attend a church, you don’t see a sign on the door that says, “Our pastor cheats on his wife with male prostitutes and has a meth problem”. What you may be able to see is that there is sin peppered all over the place, seemingly “lesser sin” that is not just tolerated, but encouraged and directed by the church leadership.

When really examining the health of a church, these are often more interesting, because they are closer to the moment of the spiritual death, if you will. You see the corruption at its early stages. No church is healthy Tuesday, and Wednesday the congregation finds out that the assistant pastor has taken off with the church’s money and it’s secretary. No, the corruption began long before that, as just a little sin that was tolerated, which became bigger sin that was unaddressed, and after a time, fully blossomed into systematic corruption.

But that corruption was born when someone (usually in a power position) stepped off the path that Christ had set, and the church didn’t make him either get back on or leave.

Since leaving a “church” where corruption was fully in bloom, I have become fascinated with the anatomy of how a church becomes corrupted. It happens much the way cancer happens.

It is estimated that 90% of the population has “cancer” at any given time. Cancer is merely cells that have divided incorrectly resulting in two dysfunctional cells. In those with healthy immune systems, those errant cells are recognized and destroyed. In those with broken immune systems, the cancer cells go unrecognized and unaddressed are allowed to keep dividing until they eventually form a tumor and metastasize, killing the body.

So by the time someone is diagnosed with cancer, they have actually had it for many months or even years, but the symptoms were not seen on the surface.

So too, when a church is discovered to be corrupt, it can be traced back months and years to a time when the actual break down in the system of accountability. When confronting sin and exercising church discipline stops, the cancer starts to grow, and it is only a matter of time before the body is dead, and just becomes a social club, civic organization or entertainment arena.

So while there are endless examples out there of full blown apostasy, let’s look at a more subtle example of outright sin that gets skipped over. Usually because this kind of thing is now ubiquitous in the “church” as it has become deaf to God’s wisdom and replaced it with the wisdom of the world.

One of the most obvious phenomenons, when you start paying attention, is how “churches” are promoting themselves.

Here is Christ’s direction for believers:

Matthew 6:2-4

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Spend an hour on you tube and see how many “churches” have disobeyed Christ in his direction to serve in secret, instead making videos of their good works and posting them on the internet for all to see. Missions trips, building projects, food drives, and on and on. Videos that serve no other purpose than to say, “Look what we did!”.

Here are two videos that inspired this post (in the interest of full disclosure, this our former “church”):

In this video the leader of a group video tapes himself going to donate blood at a drive that they held after the serious injury of a parishioner.

In this local CBS affiliate news story, the press is actually called in to video tape the Thanksgiving food drive and they have been provided with the exact dollar amount that was spent on food for the needy and how many needy it will feed.

Bel Air Presbyterian Donates $40,000 In Food
The Church is donating the food, just in time for Thanksgiving, to 115 needy families and 60 non-profit organizations. Mia Lee reports

These weren’t even videos that went out before or during the events so that others could be notified and participate, they were done after the fact, purely for publicity.

Let me be clear, in no way am I criticizing them for doing these good works, on the contrary. But they didn’t do them in secret.

In complete contradiction with “not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing”, the right hand has become a public relations firm for it’s own good works. Right Hand Publicity, Inc.

They have chosen the way of the world, issuing press releases that show them doing things that make them look good, and turned their back on the way of Christ, to do good in secret.

And this is not a people that didn’t know any better. In the case of both of these videos, the subjects have been completely briefed on Christs “press blackout” command. The guy in the first video I have known for two decades. He grew up in a Christian home, attended bible college and been in and out of church leadership positions since he was a teenager. He has read Matthew 6. In the second case, the pastor of the church has a Ph.D. in biblical studies and teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary, so it is fair to assume that he either is ignoring Matthew 6, or is an absentee shepherd who is not teaching his staff and doesn’t know what they are doing.

This is not a case where well meaning, over enthusiastic, newbie converts just didn’t know about the right hand/left hand policy.

And as both of these were posted last year, and are still up, (along with the many dozens of others you will find on You Tube) we can see that the accountability system that God set up to teach and hold his disciples accountable is broken. None one has gone to these people and reminded them of, and held them accountable to, Matthew 6.

So if the easy sin to address, self-promotion of good works, is being practiced openly, how likely is it that they will address the difficult sins of lying, adultery, spousal abuse, drug abuse, sexual harassment and assault, fraud, stealing and the like.

If this were a church I didn’t know anything about, I would chance that their immune system is broken and say that it is a pretty safe bet that there is a serious cancer growing there. But as I have reported elsewhere, we have already been witness to the fact that the cancer there has metastasized and the corruption is in full bloom.

But if you showed up to church there on Sunday, you will not see the big tumor (you don’t really get a good look at it until you get involved in leadership and see how problems are handled behind the curtain), but you can see the smaller symptoms, the sin like this that has risen to the surface and remains unaddressed.

So learn from this. Look for the smaller sin that is going unchecked and unaddressed both in your life and in your church. See if the immune system is functioning and attacking the individual cancer cells or the tiny tumors. If not, then it is only a matter of time until the Spirit is gone and the body is dead.

Revelation 3:1-6
Message to Sardis

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.

So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.

But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

And it may have already happened.

The Happy Clappy Church

The White Horse Inn is offering some of the best discussions out there on what is going on in the American Church today. This year they have been discussing the Christless Christianity and the Church as Entertainment phenomenons that has taken hold in our current mega church mentality. Get their podcast to hear some good observations on what we are doing wrong in the church and bringing things back around to what Scripture actually tells us to do.

This is a podcast from last December about the Happy Clappy Worship in the church that has little tolerance for grief, brokenness over sin, the fruits of injustice or real hardship.

“In this day and age people are so ill equipped to face suffering and death and sickness and trouble and tragedy, precisely because over the years the soil in which they been nurtured is so thin that they have not been prepared for what they are about to face.”

They talk about the psalms and the ‘blue note’ that entertainment driven, ‘be happy all the time’ churches just don’t know what to do with.

One of the most cogent points is made in a radio interview by Bono contained in this podcast in which he makes the point that “God is only interested in Truth” and observes how little truth exists in Christian music now. While one attached article notes that we are unclear on what Bono’s orthodoxy is, growing up in Ireland, he certainly has the perspective to see that addressing true suffering is pretty vital for the church to do, and that you can’t BS God.

Happy Clappy Worship

December 30, 2007

Happy Clappy Worship

Contemporary Christian worship is almost exclusively upbeat and “happy-clappy.” But is this the type of worship that is pictured for us in the book of Psalms?

RELATED ARTICLES

Singing the Blues with Jesus, Michael Horton

The Bible & The Blues, by U2’s Bono

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

A Better Way, by Michael Horton

Too Good To Be True, by Michael Horton

MUSIC SELECTION

Artist: Matthew Perryman Jones; Song: “Psalm 73”

Album: Indelible Grace II: Pilgrim Days
COMMENTARY
Happy-Clappy Worship

Hello and welcome back to the White Horse Inn today. Are churches too happy-clappy? Is the happy-clappy attitude the right fit for church? Think about the Psalms. The Psalter, the songbook, the hymnal of the church down through the ages and you have the whole range of emotions expressed there. Do we have that range of emotions expressed in the church today? What happens when one is suffering, and is forced to sit through a worship celebration, or as we talked about in the last program, a funeral that no longer can be a funeral anymore because Christians have been told that because we don’t mourn as those that don’t have no hope, we don’t mourn at all. Let’s just turn the funeral into another opportunity to just praise the Lord and celebrate. Times of tragedy, times of difficulty when they strike really to the degree that they are debilitating, to that degree you need to have a faith that can withstand it. And a lot of times what we find is that in this day and age people are so ill-equipped to face suffering, and death and sickness and trouble and tragedy precisely because over the years the soil in which they have been nurtured is so thin that they have not been prepared for what they are about to face.

In this program we will be looking at the psalms. We will be taking a look at some of the themes that we find there, that not only highlight the happy, bold, bright tones, but also give us that “blue note,” that broken note that is difficult to transpose on a sheet of paper, just as suffering is difficult to transpose and explain rationally. When we think about a good God and a God that is all powerful, but we live in brokenness, and that broken note in our music just has to be there to express the reality of our lives. Is our theology realistic? That is one of the things we are going to be talking about on this program. Is our church today so happy-clappy, so upbeat, that we don’t really face the music?

Confronting Sin in Yourself: Accepting Correction

Because Kathy responded so well to the last question in my previous post, “Are you ready to start loving correction?” I am posting the two chapters that follow on how to start accepting biblical correction. Have fun!

Wonder Women Accept Correction

If our goal is to be conformed to Christ, if we truly want to be Wonder Women, then we have to first decide that we want to change. Becoming a mature woman of God does not take place naturally. Our “nature” is to seek after ourselves. If we want to change, we have to actively decide to change and then oppose our selfish nature (in those moments when we are not filled with the Holy Spirit) when it tries to push us back into sin.

The place that we often see our selfish nature rear its ugly head is when we get corrected. Correction that comes at a time when we are connected to God and eager for his direction bears great fruit in our lives, but unfortunately many times it comes at a time when we are not prepared for it. When we are in the middle of worship time, the time when we are closest to God, filled with the Holy Spirit and the most teachable, is not always the time when people confront us with a problem. It often happens when times are stressful, and no one in the room is feeling or practicing God’s presence. We need to be ready to be teachable in these moments. To connect to Christ quickly in the moment so that we can have ears to hear His message for us. That is only achieved through a conscious decision to be teachable when you don’t want to be, and an act of the will to stop talking and listen when you ‘naturally’ want to defend yourself and shut down the criticism.

Key to this is the ability to pay attention to our own feelings in the midst of being confronted. Think back to a time when you were confronted and did not respond to it well. Undoubtedly you can remember the welling up and rush of emotions that immediately preceded your poor reaction. There is nothing wrong with those feelings, they occur quite naturally as a part of our biological fight or flight response and as a part of our sin nature. The trick is not to be ruled by them, but rather to use them as an indicator of just where we are. Recognize that your natural defenses are kicking in and CHOOSE to keep your mouth closed until they pass.

Here is a kind of physical visual to use. When the feelings start to rise up in your belly and start moving upward toward your mouth where they find their ‘natural’ release, stop them at your shoulders, send them down your arms and hand them to Christ. Physically open up your hands… ‘casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

This is an act of worship in the midst of the conflict and this allows His grace to enter in.

When we get to the place where we can drop our defenses and get out of fighting position when corrected, and actually look for the wisdom in what may be being offered to us, then we begin to become truly wise.

Isaiah 48:17-19

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.

“If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

“Your descendants would have been like the sand, and your offspring like its grains; Their name would never be cut off or destroyed from My presence.”

Israel would not accept correction from God or anyone else and because of it, their pride brought them down. Let us learn from this how dangerous our pride can be, and work to set it aside and accept correction.

Be careful to watch for the lies that we tell ourselves to defend against criticism. Scripture does not tell us to accept discipline only if the one offering it does it the way we like it, or does not have a big log in his own eye. Only that we accept the message if it is a biblical one. Because we are women who Search the Scriptures, we will know if the message is from God or not. If we are not sure, we will Search the Scriptures to find out.

Meditate on these verses. Remember them in the moment when correction comes in the form of an unkind attack so that even when correction is offered badly, you can still glean some wisdom from the message.

Proverbs 1:7-9

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

The will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.

Proverbs 3:11-18

My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves he reproves. Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver

And her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels’

And nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor.

Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.

Proverbs 4:20-23

My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings.

Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart.

For they are life to those who find them And health to all their body.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the spring of life.

Proverbs 13:18

Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored.

Proverbs 15:33

The fear of the Lord is instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.

Proverbs 16:18

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling.

Proverbs 17:10

A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding, than a hundred blows into a fool.

Proverbs 21:23

“Proud”, “Haughty”, “Scoffer” are his names, who acts with insolent pride.

Proverbs 28:9

He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

Proverbs 28:13

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

There is therefore now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus,
so what are you scared of?

Go on! Get corrected!

Its free training!

Wonder Women Think Critically

So you have decided to accept correction, good for you!

Now it is time to dig in and make sure it is biblical correction.

Lots of well meaning Christians offer lots of different advice. But unfortunately “well meaning” does not always equal “biblical”.

This is where our Searching the Scripture and Spotting the Lies comes in quite handy.

Once you have listened to the criticism that has been offered, spend some time going over it. Take notes if you need to and use it as your quiet time.

Then get alone with God and ask Him to show you if there is “any wicked way in you”. (Not to spoil the ending, but there usually is).

Start digging though scripture to see what God has to say about the matter. If the message that you got from your friend does not seem to be backed up by scripture, go back to them and ask them to offer you instruction from the bible on the lesson they believe you need to be working on. (Remember that many times people confront on what they don’t like rather than on what is actually sin. But if there is a confrontation going on, there is probably sin going on somewhere [possibly in your friend too], so go ahead and look everywhere).

This challenges both of you to dig into the word and find out what God really has really said. You both might find that you have been off about what is supposed to be going on in your lives and in this circumstance.

If it does take you both in a new direction, follow it and see where it goes. Find some good commentaries on the subject and get your lean on.

And if it turns out that even if you didn’t think they were right, they were, then don’t just stop at where they did, use it as a jumping off point to see where the character trait that sparked the criticism might be causing other problems in your life and see what idols you have that might be holding that poor character in place.

…and sacrifice that idol back to God.

It is not real any way and won’t last past this life. You don’t need it.

Confronting Sin in Your Christian Brother

… or sister as it were.

As I have mentioned previously, much of the impetus for starting this blog was to process and write about what I learned during the process of leaving a corrupt church.

Today David, a current member of said church commented on my other blog about what he was seeing there, and I am recommending that he consider moving through a Matthew 18 process of confronting the pastor of the sin of false teaching.

After leaving Bel Air Pres, I wrote a womens bible study, one of the chapters of which included almost all I had learned about confronting sin in a Christian brother, and the AMAZING wisdom of God that is weaved in and our of His instruction on this process.

I am posting it for David, and for you. I should go ahead and post the rest of the study too. It is written in outline form, as it is a track for a discussion and not a book to be read.

The study was entitled Wonder Women Fear God Only.

Wonder Women Sharpen One Another


Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

We are commanded to hold each other accountable and make each other stronger. God has given us a brilliant plan for this that keeps all close by his side.

Because we are fallen and sinful, we will have conflicts. God has given us a model for working out those conflicts, whether they are big or small. We are to confront sin and but work toward overlooking personal offenses.

Proverbs 19:11

A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger.
And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.

First make sure your friend has actually “sinned” and not just done something that you didn’t like. What scripture have they violated?.

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Matthew 18 is the instruction manual on how to confront sin. It should be studied and parsed and restudied. (For more on this read The Peacemakers by Ken Sande)

Matthew 18:15-22

If your brother sins go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.

But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as Gentile and a tax collector.

Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

We tend to confront things in people that we do not like, but to shy away from confronting on sin using scripture. Ironically, both of these can be sin in themselves.

Confrontation is to be for restoration into the body.

2 Timothy 2:24-25

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged.

With gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,

And they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

It is important to note that God is the one who grants repentance. We don’t correct only if we think that the person being corrected will respond well. God tells us just to do it and leave the results up to Him.

2 Timothy 4:2

Preach the world; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Galatians 6:1

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Temptation comes in many forms, but the biggest temptation when being in the position of confronting someone on sin is to be come arrogant. Tim Keller believes that in order to confront someone on sin correctly, you have to be as grieved over the sin being confronted as the one in sin should be. That you should bear the burden of their sin with them.

*(There is an exception to this ‘gentleness’ principle for religious leaders who will not repent and be accountable for their sin. Christ, Paul, John the Baptist and countless prophets both taught and practiced rebuking such “hidden reefs, false teachers, scribes, hypocrites, and Pharisees” both harshly and publicly, sometimes calling them out by name and even calling them insulting names. See Jeremiah 5, 8 and 23, Ezekiel 23, Matthew 3, Matthew 12:34, Matthew 23, 2 Peter 2, and 1 Tim. 5:20. This harshness may not have been to turn the hypocrite from his sin [as he would likely have done so during private confrontation or upon his own reading and teaching of scripture if he was a true believer with a repentant heart], as much as it was for the protection and teaching of the rest of God’s people who were being lead by, and being victims of, unrepentant, unconfessed sinners who propagated false teaching. This harsh, public rebuke is only for those who have been entrusted with God’s authority, and use it for their own purposes at the expense of the flock).

James 5:19-20

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Matthew 7:3-5

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Note that the passage does not tell us not to take the log out of our brother’s eye, but to first deal with our own sin. This process restores both the confronter and the confronted to Christ, pulling all back into unity in Him.

This verse is also important to keep in mind as you examine your motives if you decide not to confront someone on their sin. Are you choosing not to confront them because you do not want to deal with your own sin? Do you love your log?

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,

Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;

One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift….

…He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

As a result, we are not longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Unity as believers is a natural by product of unity with Christ. It does not require anyone to be forced or coerced. If we have the same love, the same obedience and the same purpose in life, we will be headed toward the same goal and offering one another grace when we can’t agree on one means of getting there as opposed to another.

I am not really a fan of McManus, but he gives a good illustration of the principle here:

The Cause Driven Church
by Erwin McManus

The early church existed with a dynamic tension; it was both expanding and consolidating – growing and unifying. The Bible tells us that first century believers “shared everything in common” and that “the church was being added to day by day.’ We want our church to live in this same tension.

This tension is illustrated by two biblical images – the body of Christ and the army of God. The body of Christ is centered on community; the army of God is centered on cause.

Healthy community flows out of a unified cause – not the other way around. Jesus called his disciples and said, “Follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.” This was not an offer of community. “Follow me and I will give you something worthy of giving your life to” is a statement of cause. But the neat thing is, when they came to the cause, they found community like they never knew could exist. That’s the power of the church.

One danger of the American church is that we often try to offer people community with out cause. Without cause, you’re just another civic organization. You don’t have life transformation.

Jesus said, “I have come to the world to seek and to save that which is lost.” The cause of Christ is accomplished by expanding the kingdom of God…

If Wonder Women is just an excuse to get together and talk, unity will be transient, because we are worshiping Community and not Christ. But if it is truly a means for us to submit ourselves to Christ, to worship Him and to refine ourselves for His service, unity will be unbreakable.

Philippians 2:1-11

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,

make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,

So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

And that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus was God. Although He and He alone had the right to judge and condemn us, He chose to walk among us and even put Himself beneath us, so that we might have a chance at redemption. We, being sinful, certainly have the duty to place ourselves beneath our others so that they might have a chance at redemption. Confrontation of sin in their lives is to be done in such a position of service.

Colossians 3:12-17

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in y our hearts to God.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

When we became repentant of our sins, God forgave us fully and threw our sins ‘as far as the east is from the west’. When others repent of their sins, and ‘bear fruit in keeping with repentance’, we are to do the same and wipe the slate clean for them.

(A common misconception that arises from this verse and that can result in spiritual abuse in the church, is the idea that we as Christians must forgive all sins against us. Not so. We are required to forgive the repentant as Christ forgives us when we are repentant, and may forgive the unrepentant if we so choose, but forgiveness of unrepentant sin is not required of us, as it is not required of Jesus [who does not forgive all sin]. If one chooses not to forgive, and hold someone’s sin against them as they walk through church discipline with them, one must take GREAT care not to become bitter, proud or to hypocritical themselves.)

As you can see, before we confront a sister on her sin, we have a LOT of work to do on ourselves.

Confrontation is not to be done as a reaction to being injured out of selfish anger, but as a proactive act of service to the one being confronted. We are not to elevate ourselves above others, bur follow Christ’s example and consider one another more important than ourselves.

Remember, you are just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.

If when confronted your sister repents:

2 Corinthians 2:7-8

So that on the contrary, you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.

Matthew 18:23-35 tells us the story of a man who begged for mercy and was offered it, but would not offer mercy to a repentant man who begged him for it. The end of the story was not pleasant for him. Search your heart. When your sister (or your husband for that matter) has shown repentance, do you still hold a grudge?

If when confronted your sister does not repent after going through the Matthew 18 process:

Titus 3:10-11

Reject a fractious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Even this is for restoration, so that the person can not be in denial about their broken relationship with God and can be convicted into repentance.

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Even if fellowship with a believer is broken, we are to continue loving them and encouraging them to come back to Christ, as we would any unbeliever. Time can be spent with them if it is talking about their potential repentance and restoration to Christ, but that should be the extend of the relationship.

Be wise in recognizing who is your “brother” in Christ and who is not:

Matthew 7:15-23

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree product good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?”

And I will declare to them, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.”

If Jesus said that there would be those who even cast out demons and performed miracles in His name, and yet were not his followers, we need to be careful not to assume just because someone attends church, or even pastors a church, that they know Christ. We are called to look closely at a person’s works to find evidence of their union with Christ.

It is important to note that in a healthy Christian community where the Matthew 18 process is being practiced, such ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ are usually prevented from ever getting a foothold in the flock in the first place. When obedience and confession of sin is the norm, one who is unrepentant stands out like a sore thumb.

Scripture tells us that confronting such sheep in wolves clothing will result not in their repentance and restoration into the body but in retribution against the one who confronted them.

Proverbs 9:7-9

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself;
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.

Do not reprove a scoffer lest he hate you;
Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man, and he will increase his learning.

Matthew 7:6

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

1 John 2:3-6

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.

The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him”;

But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected by this we know that we are in Him:

The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

1 John 5:2-3

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

When trying to decide if someone is a true disciple of Christ, there are two areas to look at to see what their true character is:

1. What they do in a conflict when they have something to loose.

2. What they do when they think no one is watching

Have you ever corrected someone, only to be attacked for it? Were there any signs in their life in the first place that may have told you that they were not actually a teachable disciple of Jesus Christ?

Have you responded badly to someone’s correction of something that you did wrong? Are you a true and teachable disciple of Jesus Christ?

Are you ready to start LOVING correction????

Autism in God’s Economy: For All of Us Who Have Failed in Our Duty (Part 6)

There is no offense that you can commit that is outside of that which God will forgive.
Again:

There is no offense that you can commit that is outside of that which God will forgive.

When those of us with autistic people in our lives take a hard, honest look at ourselves, we realize the question is not have we failed them, it is how often and how big have we failed them.

I am in love with Chandler. It is difficult to describe well the feelings that I have for him because they are so powerful. I have changed my whole life around to make his better. Yet I fail him on a daily basis. Ten times a day he asks me for things that I don’t give him because I can’t understand him. Ten times a week he needs something that I don’t give him because I am fried from the 90 things I did give him. At least ten times since his regression I have completely lost my mind and collapsed into a pile of sobs or screams in front of him because I just couldn’t take it any more. Once I even locked myself in the bathroom to get away from him because I knew I was close to loosing it.

What was it that you did, that you know was wrong?

Are you short tempered with your child? Are you a parent who has mentally and emotionally checked out from their child because trying to connect is too painful and too hard? Are you a caregiver who ignores the autistic person entrusted to your care when no one is looking? Have you lied about someone with autism because you knew they couldn’t set the record straight? Are you an employer who is taking advantage of your autistic employee because you know you can get away with it? Are you a private school director who has gotten rid of an autistic student illegally because you knew their family wouldn’t have the resources to sue you? Are you a priest who has sexually assaulted a child who you knew could not tell?

God has seen it all.

What you have done to them, you have done to Jesus Christ himself.

What you have done was not just an offense against that autistic person, that was an offense against God and has earned you a death sentence.

But…

There is no offense that you can commit that is outside of that which God will forgive.

So then, in this black and white issue, where is the line? If failing the Least of These results in goathood, and if even the most well intentioned of us have failed them, then how in the world are any of us ever considered sheep? What is it that will allow those of us who have failed in our duty to gain forgiveness for it?

Repentance.

Good old fashioned repentance.

It is the only thing that stands between receiving God’s mercy and earning God’s justice.

So just what is repentance exactly? You don’t often hear a good definition of what God actually means for us to do in his command for us to “repent”. Is it feeling bad about what you did or didn’t do? Saying you are sorry? Both of those things are part of it, but that is not really what repentance is.

Here is how God defines repentance:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

“Speak to the sons of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the LORD, and that person is guilty,

then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his wrong and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged.

‘But if the man has no relative to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to the LORD for the priest, besides the ram of atonement, by which atonement is made for him.”

Repentance requires three things:

1. Guilt.

Internal conviction of legitimate wrong doing. In this, “I’m OK, Your OK” world, guilt has become a bad word. In God’s economy, guilt is a GOOD thing. It means your conscience works correctly. It motivates you to govern yourself appropriately. Guilt over the things you have done wrong is a gift granted to you by God.

If you did something wrong, and you don’t feel bad about it, worry. How did you get to the place that you can mistreat people, shirk your responsibility and feel fine about it? Once you ignore your feelings of guilt long enough, without addressing what you have done wrong, you begin to sere your conscience, and you can commit bigger and bigger offenses and feel no guilt at all.

2. Confession.

Saying out loud, to the person whom you have wronged, “I have wronged you and what I did wrong was _______________. What I should have done was ________________.”

One of the reasons that God requires this is because confession heals. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed”… Confession heals all involved.

Remember a time when someone came to you in humility and finally admitted to treating you badly. Remember how much better you felt when they did?

Remember a time when you went to someone in humility and admitted to treating them badly. Remember how much lighter you felt afterward?

Speaking the truth heals. It frees you from secrets and lies.

3. Restitution.

Clean up your mess.

True conviction brings the desire to set things right. To tell the truth to the people you lied to. To give back the thing you stole. To heal the person that you hurt. To advocate for the person you have ignored.

It changes you from a taker into a giver. It turns you into someone who wants to serve the person you have wronged. It drives you to invest in them.

And restitution done right does not only bring things back for that person to the way they were before you made that selfish decision, it makes it 20% better. It is going over and above what you took!

Repentance that does not cost you, is not repentance.

Repentance that is forced on you is not repentance.

Repentance that requires conditions from the person that was wronged is not repentance.

Repentance that does not free you from guilt is not repentance.

Saying, “If I did anything to upset you, I am sorry,” or ,”Sorry if you are angry”, is not repentance.

If it does not include confession of sin and restitution and it does not heal, it is not repentance.

Repentance will cost you your pride. For some it will also cost you your social standing, your reputation and your friends. For some it will cost a lot of money. For some it will cost you your jobs and even your careers. For some it will cost you your family. For some it will cost you your freedom. For a few it will cost you your lives.

But what does a man profit if he gains the whole world but looses his soul?

So everything in this series leads up to this question:

Will you repent of what you have done to the Least of These… of what you have done to Jesus?

Some of you will not, because you don’t really believe Matthew 25 is true.

But for those of you who do believe:

Go back into the other room to your autistic child, who you don’t even believe can hear you, confess to him how you have wronged him and start to set things right. It does not matter if you think he understands the apology or even the offense.

Find that weird guy from high school that you picked on in the early 1960’s and tell him what you did was wrong and ask how you can make it right. If he can’t figure out a way, you think of something to make restitution. What did you take from him (friends, dignity, self-esteem) and how can you give it back to him?

Stand up in the staff meeting and admit to everyone that the mistake was yours, not the mistake of the geek in the IT department.

Publicly apologize for the rumors that you started to cover your ass.

Call the family that you denied services to and tell them that they had a right to things that you didn’t want to give them. Give them 20% more than they were legally entitled to.

Walk into the school board meeting and tell them that you lied about that child to get them out of that class, and send a written apology to the family. Give that child extra help that they didn’t have before you lied.

Call Child Protective Services, tell them what you did, tell them that you are at the end of your rope and demand help.

When the family in your church is ready to tell everyone about their child’s diagnosis, stand in the pulpit and preach Matthew 25 to the flock that God has entrusted to you. Apologize to them failing them in letting them ignore the disabled family in their community. Congratulate them on the chance they have to serve God directly and DARE them to out do each other in serving that family. Challenge the teachers in your congregation to offer them educational services, the lawyers to give them free advocacy, the wealthy to pay for their child’s treatment, the patient mothers to give respite care, the neat freaks to clean their house, those with culinary talents to deliver GFCF/SCD meals to them, the woman with the green thumb to cultivate their gardens, the book worm to research treatments for them, and on and on and on… Create competition to serve that child. Don’t stop until the families tell you that they don’t want any more help. Show up at their house every week, put your hands on that family and pray for them. Bring that church into God’s Economy.

Hold a press conference and give the media and the medical community the information that you have been withholding on the environmental causes and possible treatments of autism. No matter the fall out. Announce your plan to properly investigate those avenues, and then raise that budget by 20%.

Walk into a police station, tell them what you have done to disabled children, and tell them you don’t want to do it any more. Tell them who your victims are and demand that they get help.

If you can’t find the person that you have wronged to pay it back, repent to God by paying it forward. Find someone like them and give to them what you owe to the person you have wronged.

Repent. Do it no matter how big or how small the offense. Do it no matter how long ago the offense. Do it no matter what it costs you.

And repentance WILL cost you. It is hard. Confession of sin does not free us from the consequences of sin in this world. Often it sets them into high gear.

But true repentance to Christ always results in forgiveness. As a matter of fact repentance and forgiveness are inseparable in God’s economy. They are two sides of the same coin, and you will never find one with out the other.

There is no offense that you can commit that is outside of that which God will forgive.

There is no offense that you can commit that is outside of that which God will forgive.