In New Testament times, the most significant leaders in local churches were elders, men who displayed reliability and certain spiritual qualities. Elders were entitled to respect (I Tim. 5:1, 19). Christians were to heed their teaching and follow it. As in today, first-century Christians sometimes entertained critical feelings towards their elders. They were not to rebuke elders but at the same time they were free to speak openly with them about their failings, provided they did so in a proper manner (I Tim. 5:1; Matt. 18:15-17).
Elders can and do make mistakes, and we should humbly submit ourselves one to another in the true spirit of reconciliation. The ultimate goal of restoration is to restore the relationship that has been alienated, separated, and damaged because of sin. Note: If a person, after an attempt at reconciliation, says, “I have forgiven him but I cannot work with him,” then we must recognize that reconciliation undisputedly has not taken place. Instead, there is still alienation brought on by sin, which encompasses a spirit of deception, pride, bitterness and dishonesty.
Let us suppose an elder had committed, or was thought to have committed, an offense (we must remember that leaders are not only more vulnerable to temptation, but also more exposed to accusations, both true and false). The elder could then be accused, but the accusation was to be made in the presence of witnesses (I Tim. 5:19). In this way the elder would be protected against unjust or unsubstantiated accusations and subsequent inaccurate gossip.
Within the Christian community, gossip is the most damaging offense to leadership. If the leader does not yield to temptation, the likelihood is high that his or her ministry will become less effective or brought down by gossip. Gossip thrives on rumor and half-truths and is, in itself, a great evil. The presence of gossip within a local church is a sign of the absence of proper church discipline.
Nothing so poisons fellowship as gossip, alienating brother against brother and against God. The beauty of Christ’s instructions in Matt. 18:15-22 are that they prevent gossip and slander. This passage mandates that nothing is to be said against a person unless the accuser is willing to say it face-to-face where the real truth can be presented.
Brethren, in regards to reconciliation, we must counsel a person properly, with knowledge and discernment according to the Word, so that the relationship is sincerely restored both with God and his brother. If we fail to do this, then we have failed in our responsibilities toward God, the church and our brother, and subsequently Isa. 59:1-4 comes to pass. The person continues in his alienation and separation with his brother; the sinner, in turn, grows harder in his heart, and his ability to deceive himself and others increases. The dishonesty and deception bred by sin is infinitely more destructive and difficult to deal with than the initial sin itself. Indeed, the battle is for honestness and openness of heart.
Brethren, we often fail miserably in our understanding, knowledge, and obedience in corrective church discipline and restoration. It is because of this that, rather than true reconciliation occurring, alienation continues, gossip rules, and sin runs rampant in the church. The church bends over backward in its attempt to avoid conflict, opting for peace-at-any price, forgetting that (the absence of?)reconciliation has a cost. Sin, if there is sin, must be dealt with. Godly restoration of fellowship is based always and only on cancelled sin. If a person refuses to renew his fellowship, then true reconciliation has not taken place, and pseudo reconciliation dominates.
One reason for our lack of ability to deal with sin in others is because we have become so insensitive to sin. We have become selective about addressing sins that are specifically mentioned in scripture. We hold in contempt those Christians who commit adultery, homosexuality, murder, etc., but we cheerfully ignore sins like pride, gossip, lying, deception, unforgiveness, etc.
“There are six things which the Lord hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers” (Prov. 6:16-19).
Sexual sin does not appear on the list. Pride and lying, gossip and slander come first. The reason why God judged Ananias and Sapphira was because of sin. The sin was not over the withholding of money. The greater sin was lying and deceit caused by pride that alienated/separated them from God and the apostles.
Brethren, we do not take seriously enough sins in the body that alienate people from God in heaven, and man on earth. Sins of unforgiveness, deception, lying, gossip, slander, etc., are sins that damn the soul if allowed to continue. Providing godly preaching, teaching, conferences, special emphasis weeks, revival meetings, prayer, and then leaving it up to the Holy Spirit is not enough. God instructs us individually and corporately to get involved in corrective church discipline (Matt. 18:15-22).
Another reason why we do not correct our fallen brethren is because of fear. The modern quest is for unity within the church, the byproduct of which is hatred toward anything perceived as intolerance. The problem, however, has been that we have failed to distinguish between a right intolerance of sin and a wrong intolerance of spirit.
Many factors have contributed to this fallacy. First, we have a mistaken notion that such public discipline betokens pride, animosity or priggishness. Second, we have a misinterpretation of the parable of the wheat and tares as prohibiting all attempts to separate the bad from the good in the visible church. Third, in a society so heavily influenced by mass media, we have fear concerning the outbreak of public scandal. Finally, there is a fear that the biblical method of corrective church discipline with the purpose of cleansing the church/person of sin and restoring them back into fellowship with God and their fellow brethren as found in Matthew 18:15-22 will be seen legally as discrimination and as a violation of individual rights. That the church might be sued is no excuse to allow ourselves to be scared away from being faithful to our God-given and ordered responsibilities to minister to a brother through corrective church discipline, despite the political or financial cost. God’s method of restoration either restores the Christian sinner back to a spiritually healthy relationship with both God and man, or it protects the innocent believers by separating and exposing the sinner and sin. In so doing, further contamination brought about by the sinner’s deception or by the willful acceptance of both the rebel and his sin by immature members of the church is brought to an end. God expects us to pick up our cross to the death if necessary. Just as it was no excuse for the three Israelites to bow to Nebuchadnezzar by saying, “Let us use wisdom, we still love the Lord, let us bow instead of being thrown into the furnace,” (Dan. 3:17,18) so there is no excuse for us today.
Churches have always brought criticism upon their heads during the periods of their greatest faithfulness. Faith is obedience; without obedience/faith, one cannot please God. The church today is a church of disobedience and faithlessness, and is operating in fear. In light of this, God is going to allow the church to be chastised, tested and persecuted until its members grow in love (faith), and once again truly represents Jesus on earth. He does not compromise! Jesus (church) will please God through obedience to the death. This is why the church will go through much tribulation in order to become the pure, holy, obedient and faithful bride of Christ.
Today’s church calls compromise, disobedience, and faithlessness WISDOM. Today’s church hides its cowardliness and lack of faith under the cloak of “let us use wisdom.” The church faces a moral crisis within her ranks. Her failure to take a strong stand against evil (even in her own midst), and her tendency to be more concerned about what is expedient than what is right, has robbed the church of biblical integrity and power.
Another verse the church likes to take out of context and misinterpret is “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). The devil is truly wise in his knowledge of scriptures and will use them against us if we are not alert and vigilant. We should be meditating on the Word day and night, “a workman that needeth not be ashamed” (2 Tim. 2:15). In this manner we will be wiser (better prepared) than the devil since Jesus is also with us, and we will not expose ourselves to any unnecessary attacks and temptations by him. Also, the devil uses his knowledge to attempt to destroy us, but we have the ability to use our knowledge by the power of the Holy Spirit for good purposes, thus overcoming the evil one. The church likes to use this verse for an excuse to compromise out of fear instead of developing faith by spending time with the Lord. If Daniel took this view he would have closed his window to pray because it was “wiser.”
The whole study of Scripture in totality rejects this cowardly view of the backslidden modern church. In contrast, the very next verses in this same text of Matthew 10 talks about faithful Christians being arrested, etc., and reassures them to not fear, but to be faithful. Also, the modern church likes to use this verse to be dishonest in business practices, when the whole message of the gospel is one of restoring a dishonest heart and life with one of honesty and complicity with the Word. The gospel represents a lifestyle of purity, honesty, and holiness by which we truly represent Christ. We are not to be as unethical businessmen who operate in dishonesty and deception and are, therefore not Sons of God, but Satan, the father of all lies. There is a big difference between a wise Christian businessman who insures he is not cheated, but also treats others fairly, and a greedy, dishonest, deceptive man who selfishly wants the best for himself regardless of how unfair it is, or whether he breaks the law of the land. Again, the latter man goes against the Word in totality, which exhorts us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to be reconciled to God and man through purity and honesty in spirit and in deed. We are to rejoice when men say all evil against us falsely; we should not be living in such a way as to deserve such a reputation because of shady, dishonest and deceptive practices that offend both men and governments.
The Word tells us clearly throughout the entirety of Scripture that we are our brother’s keeper. We are to go talk with him if he sins against us, if we have sinned against him, or if we see sin in his life.
Yet, there is another verse that people like to quote in confronting their brother. Again, they take it out of context and the holistic doctrine of the Word. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1). The meaning here definitely agrees with the rest of the Word that, indeed, we are supposed to judge, but we are to do it correctly without gossip or speculation. Verse 2 of Matthew 7 states, “for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, and what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.” I want to be judged correctly according to the Word, Matthew 18:15. I do not want to be a target of gossip, or speculated about in supposed “holy” circles. “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).
Jesus teaches again on judgment in Matthew 7:1. But in the first case we are being told, “Do not be critical of others. Do not look down on them and feel you are better than they are.” Again, we must do it in the correct spirit of reconciliation, truly wanting to restore the broken relationship as it were before, between God and fellow man, without any barriers of fellowship, work or play. If one makes a condition that “I have forgiven him but I will not work with him”, even though sincere repentance has taken place, then there is still alienation/sin and he is deceiving you and himself.
Naturally, if one party has not truly repented, then his sin has already alienated him from fellowship with God. His sin also keeps him from fellowship and working with his fellow man, whom he still holds bitterness against. God is telling us not to judge by appearances based on gossip and speculation but, rather, to be discerning. Do not jump to hasty conclusions, and be careful to judge by strictly following the mode in the Word. Attitude and spirit that is in compliance with Scripture is critical in reaching a correct judgment, both concerning whether sin exists in our brother, and then dealing with it strictly according to the Word. The sole goal must be reconciliation between God and their fellow brother.
Sin is what separates men from God and their fellow brethren. Sin separates men from their wives and it separates children from their parents. Sin brings a reproach upon the innocent by the guilty who want their own way. Sin is a violation of peace and the root of sin is selfishness, which breeds rebellion. Rebellion was first led by Lucifer in heaven out of his own heart when pride took root and manifested in the form of jealousy. Lucifer led a conspiracy through gossip and slander against God because he wanted his own way and was envious of Jesus. The result was a division amongst the angels as Lucifer allowed his vanity to rule him, and he orchestrated a revolt, driving a wedge between the angels who listened to him and those who followed God.
Today, Satan is doing the same thing; he is bringing division and separation amongst the brethren. Churches are constantly splitting because pastors, deacons, elders and laymen are not following Christ’s method of confronting one another. Instead they choose to listen to the gossip of men who do not follow God’s methodology for restoration and confrontation, and through their own pride conspire with the talebearers. Instead of forcing people to confront one another with their differences, they listen to their gossip and give them bad counsel. As Judas betrayed Jesus, so the guilty betray the innocent today.
...to be continued
Dear Saint, September 11, 2001 was no accident! Neither were the natural disasters of hurricane Katrina and Rita and the floods that hit New Orleans! God allowed these incidents as well as He allowed the December 26, 2004 Tsunami Crisis that hit twelve nations and killed by some estimates, over 250,000 people while displacing millions of others. The Asian Stock Market Crash was prophesied as well as the fall of Zaire and President Mobutu. The Kobe, Japan earthquake was no surprise to God neither was the Indonesian blood bath. All of this can be explained in “The Cup of Iniquity Principle.” In fact, New Orleans will be rebuilt and be destroyed again; the next time, however, it will not be only through a flood alone. There are reasons why God lifts his hand of protection off of a person, family, business, city, state or nation. You can read about them in my upcoming book, “The Science of Judgment.” Yes, there are reasons why God allows evil to happen; but, praise the Lord, Jesus will return at the battle of Armageddon to stop the insanity that has swept through the world due to man’s reign. There will be peace, happiness, healing and protection for all.
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Apostle Jonathan Hansen
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