It is not uncommon for people to take the Scripture out of context when they say, “I only have to ask God to forgive me.” That is not true! God says to leave your gift at the altar and make it right with your brother before God will forgive you (Matt. 5:23-24). He says to confess our faults one to another (Jas. 5:16). The whole message of the gospel is reconciliation or restoration of fellowship with God and our fellow man. If one portion of that fellowship is broken, both are broken. One cannot be right with God if he has unresolved sin or holds unforgiveness against his brother. That is a false doctrine made up by sinful man.
If someone does not care if he renews his fellowship with his brother, if he is not concerned over whether his brother forgives him, then there is not real repentance, restoration, or reconciliation between himself, God and his brethren. God has not forgiven, since true renewal of fellowship has not really been sought. Instead, a deception has been attempted. People who operate in this manner are like demons who say “I believe in God”; they neither want nor care whether they really renew their fellowship with God or their fellowmen. They just want to relieve their conscience and allow deception of themselves and others to continue.
One reason this type of person only wants to confess to God is they misinterpret the doctrine of grace which gives a believer a God-given ability to overcome, and to resist the temptation to continue in sin/alienation between God/man. Grace is not a license to sin, that the modern day apostate seem to state. They have forgotten that Calvary has made no difference in God’s attitude toward sin. He cannot bear to look on it. That which cost Him the death of His Holy One remains, and ever will remain, of utmost abhorrence to Him. They have subtly distanced themselves from this aspect of God’s nature, consciously or subconsciously, because they do not truly want to develop a relationship with Him. They don’t want to know His nature or seek Him at the level that a close relationship would demand, so they treat Him with unconscious contempt.
In the case of one who views God’s grace in this manner, it would shock them if a friend were displeased with them, but God’s grief and shock no longer affect them. They say they have reverence for God, but they do not even respect Him. They would experience more relief getting matters straightened out with an angry garbage collector than with an angry God. Their understanding of God’s grace has become devalued to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes as “cheap grace.” NOTE: If it fills you with deep shame to confess to a close friend what is easily confessed to God, then your confession to God is in some sense unreal. The shame validates the transaction.
Confession is not merely a verbal description of thoughts and actions. People who truly confess to God no longer care whether others learn about their secret sin. There is such a deep shame and horror over what they did that protecting their own pride and self is no longer of importance to them; they want to do anything to restore whatever damage that their sin has produced, whether it is in relationship or otherwise!
How are we supposed to deal with sin/alienation between people in the church? “Go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matt. 18:15).
People think of a million excuses, rationalizing why they should disobey God’s clear instructions. “I could be mistaken.” So why not find out according to God’s direction, and then set your mind at rest as God has said? Believers must quit disobeying God in this test of faithfulness and obedience by delaying, speculating and/or gossiping; their disobedience is not justified by their fear of rejection.
What most believers fear is that your brother might reject you and you would rather God reject you than your friend. You do not want to pick up your cross in obedience and represent Christ. “But perhaps I should ask someone’s advice first.” NO! That, above all else, must be avoided. “But shouldn’t I pray about it with someone first?” “Wouldn’t it be good if I had some prayer backing?” Prayer backing? Don’t you really want someone to take your side against this other person? You are subconsciously asking them to take your side against this other person. You are subconsciously alienating them because of sinning against God’s instructions, brother against brother. Be honest about whether you really want to reconcile with the intent of Scripture. If that were the case, you would not want to look better than your brother; you would want to protect your brother’s reputation if possible, so you would go first to him and him alone.
What you need to do is pray alone that you develop the courage/faith to obey God, and then go alone. Gossip is gossip, and prayer with another person in this instance is just another form of gossip. These actions can be a spiritual way of avoiding your duty to treat the matter with the utmost confidentiality. It is only too easy to deceive ourselves about our motives. Any attempt to break God’s clear instruction on keeping the matter solely between you and your brother is the first hint that obedience to Matthew 18:15 is suspect.
GOSSIP: “Do you mind if I ask your advice..?” Or, “will you pray with me over so and so?” “Please don’t tell anyone but I need some advice or I need some prayer.” “Pastor, will you give me some advice about so and so?” “He is setting a bad example the way he is doing that.” “I do not want you to tell my fellow missionary what I am going to tell you because then we will have a hard time working together.”
There are a variety of forms and faces to gossip in the church today, but all of them break God’s clear mode of avoiding gossip and slander and, instead of bringing true reconciliation, bring alienation wherein people refuse to work with each other. It creates an atmosphere where missionaries, etc., no longer trust one another and their own leadership.
Unfortunately, today’s church is often times more interested in keeping the confidentiality of the person that gossips, who is breaking the mode of God’s instructions. We, the church, by listening to gossips and keeping their confidentiality instead of forcing them to talk to the person they are slandering, and to seek the truth and reconciliation, are breaking God’s way of reconciliation and prevention of gossip. Thus alienation continues in the church and among the leadership.
The beauty of Christ’s instruction is that it avoids gossip which always brings alienation. It forces the person who was going to gossip to develop faith by meditating on God’s Word and praying. Thus, the Spirit will force him to examine his own heart in the process, as one must do when they are in God’s presence. This will ensure that one’s intent is pure, that they do not hold sin in their life in this issue, and that they start the process for true reconciliation brought on by truth. This is accomplished by following God’s method for healing. Restoration of broken relations, forgiveness and true renewal of fellowship between God and brethren can then take place.
NOTE: The entire purpose and message of the gospel is to restore the fellowship that was broken between God and man by sin. If we settle for mere words of forgiveness without a real renewal of fellowship then we have been deceived and are deceived about the purpose and reason for reconciliation and we have discerned falsely that real confession and reconciliation were made.
NOTE: The beauty of Christ’s method is that it alone ensures true reconciliation (confession, repentance, forgiveness, renewal of fellowship) has an opportunity to take place and it protects the innocent against gossip and slander.
The first step is to go alone without anyone aware of the issue, reason, or purpose of the meeting. Publicity hinders reconciliation. Suppose before going to your brother you first consult with a pastor, and then go talk with the person you have a grievance with. You discover you were wrong about your thoughts. Already you have done your brother the injustice of spreading a wrong impression about him - a wrong impression that might remain in the confused memory of the person whose advice you sought, even though later you sought to correct it. You might get a smile and a comment “Oh, I am glad you were wrong,” but SLANDER sticks in the memory of the person more easily than correction of SLANDER.
Slander is one of the devil’s primary tools for stopping the effectiveness of a man of God! Too many times in religious circles (staff meetings, etc.) people are “prayerfully” discussed (gossiped), “prayerfully” judged and “prayerfully” condemned long before they might get an opportunity to present the truth.
After you have exhausted seeking restoration during the course of the first step (possibly going many, many times to the party alone and spending much time in prayer, etc.) then you go now to the party with witnesses. Again, the witnesses are there for redemptive purposes which include a continuation of confidentiality and a lack of gossip and slander.
If the issue can be solved without the case being known to any further number of people, then reconciliation between God and brethren has been achieved at a minimum expense of public awareness and personal shame. The witnesses are there to insure that truth is arrived at, true guilt and sin is confessed and relieved, and restoration of fellowship is renewed. The witnesses also can pray and counsel in a attempt to bring the guilty party to true repentance.
If this second step fails, then the witnesses will be in a position to testify in front of the proper forum. The person will be able to speak the truth without criticizing or judging falsely.
Finally, the third step is to bring the rebellious party in front of the proper forum once again for the redemptive purpose of trying to restore the brother (rebel). At this point you are dealing with a stubborn and proud person with an independent spirit/will. These are the same conditions that separated both Lucifer and Adam and Eve from God. Many people allow human sympathy and human love to stop them from taking this final step; but we must trust our God who made man, and understands that only divine love can possibly restore this fallen brother. God understands the psychology of man and realizes what it takes to restore a rebellious one back to God. Man’s will is what either identifies or separates a person with or from God.
God said that if this rebellious person will not repent then we are to treat him as a separated person since in heaven he is already separated from God. Thus, we are to turn him over to the devil by removing him formally and collectively from the fellowship, both in the church and socially. Through his isolation, humiliation and shame he can possibly examine himself and truly repent. At this point his human feelings and suffering are not the primary concern. His eternal soul is what truly matters.
What is sad today is that Jesus’ words startle the modern reader with the simplicity of His beginning. “If your brother sins.” In our age of tolerance and confusion we are not used to thinking of sin as that easily identifiable. Jesus assumes that the moral standards by which sin is to be identified are knowable and known. He further assumes that the offender and those who reprove him share a common moral yardstick. This shows the sad condition of the church today; that people no longer can identify or discern sin.
Lucifer led the first split through gossip, conspiracy and rebellion against authority. He talked to the other angels, questioning the Word of God, criticizing God’s policies and decisions. He was jealous of God’s position and wanted the others to give attention to his wisdom.
Judas betrayed Jesus and the other disciples out of pride. He was not pleased with Jesus leadership and His decisions. When the oil was poured over Jesus he became angry and said that the oil could have been sold and the money from it used for the poor when, in reality, Judas was jealous of the attention and blessing Jesus was receiving.
In the case of both Satan and Judas, jealously led them to verbally attack and frame Jesus to discredit His message and turn the attention away from Him and back onto themselves.
Proverbs 6:16-19, “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 the devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers.”
Homosexuality, adultery, fornication, etc., are not on the list. Pride and lying, gossip and slander come first. These are what God calls the sin of murder. God hates character assassination worse than murder because it stops His Word from being preached, heard and accepted.
Church politics today, as in the days when Jesus walked the earth, are just as sinful and destructive. In secular politics the heathen talk and belittle one another publicly where there can at least be open debate and rebuttal. But in church politics, the seven sins which are an abomination before God occur daily. Church leaders smile at you and hypocritically talk about you behind your back without the opportunity of the truth being presented from the innocent party. Thus they appear to be very “Christian” with a smile, whereas in reality they are very sinful, selfish and destructive. The smile should really reveal a dagger as their self-righteousness conceals their pride (weakness) and jealousy. Their cowardliness instead of faithfulness causes them to listen to other ungodly talebearers who also have a personal problem with the righteous but together they indulge in their vanities and lusts.
Without a trial the innocent are slandered, discredited and condemned. Next, counsel and strategy on how to separate, divide and destroy God’s righteous servant are discussed and carried through. Letters are sent, phone calls are made - all as they smile and shake your hand, yet the messenger and message are being discredited and discounted until God’s truth no longer can be spoken.
Just as Jesus was attacked for His righteousness, speaking truth which exposed the sins of others, so the innocent are villianized today. Nothing changes except the names of the guilty. Leaders today, out of jealousy, slander and try to discredit the faithful, anointed servants of God. They want to remain in control of the congregations instead of allowing God to lead His church. They use the people for personal gain and to build their personal dreams and visions.
In contrast, we must be faithful and follow God’s methods for fellowship with God and man. In this manner we walk in obedience, we please our Father, and we do nothing to hinder our brother’s walk or the advancement of God’s kingdom.
Church Restoration is an extremely important responsibility in the Body of Christ. I believe the reason why the church is so very weak in this area is because most congregations are not being taught how to confront sin or restore relationships through the Scriptures and neither do they watch personal role modeling by their pastors or other leaders in their lives. Proper confrontation is a mandate by God whereas improper discussion of the problem and subject is a sin often committed both by church leadership as well as their congregations. This is a primary tool of the enemy to cause a church split or create an ineffective body of believers. Proverbs 17:9 warns, “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends” (KJV). “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (NIV). Most people do not seem to care about the feelings of other people or the reputations of other leaders. They spread “hearsay information” without having the love or courage to go to the person in question first, and they give all the excuses which these two articles explained to justify their disobedience to the Scriptures. Once again, church leadership is as guilty if not more guilty than most of their parishioners and they wonder why there are problems in the church. They fail to understand the laws of “sowing and reaping.”
This is an apostolic ministry that is doing real warfare, not just talking about it. Our television and radio broadcasts, along with our newsletters, tapes and CDs, are not intended to tickle your ears, or put you into a spiritual slumber; instead, they will often challenge your carnal nature, and are designed to bring uncompromised truth. These teachings are based solely on the anointed, inspired Word of God. They should increase your conviction and motivation to join in this great battle.
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Apostle Jonathan Hansen
© 2005 World Ministries International