And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” And immediately he went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.(Matthew 26:47-50 NASB)
Betrayal is evil and anyone who is breathing has felt the stab of pain that comes when all that they sought for and hope in turns to dust that blows away when a friend or beloved one turns their back on them. But what is a Christian to do? May I make the argument that though betrayal is evil, it is also good if considered in light of the gospel and with wisdom? Below are simply some thoughts that may help one who is betrayed grow and settle in the pain:
- Betrayal and such is good for the Christian because it reminds them that they have Jesus who shall never betray them. This alone is enough to bring joy to the soul, for all others may fail us but never shall our Lord and Savior. Let us sing therefore, even if it is with tears, let us sing!
- Betrayal is good for the Christian because it gives us a chance to contemplate the Cross more clearly. We were blasphemers and enemies of God. It was we who were helpless and ungodly. We are all betrayers at heart and in reality, yet Christ sought us and saved us. He, with the joy set before Him in His exaltation, took our betrayals upon His body and shed His blood to redeem us.
- Betrayal is one of the reasons that God has given us prayer. It is in prayer that we can sigh in full honesty before our Lord. We can pour out our complaints and our hurts to a Father who unendingly loves us. Because of Jesus we are able to be honest with God. There is nothing hidden from His sight. Because of Jesus we can run like children to our Father with boldness and confidence that He will welcome us, hear us, and give us grace.
- Betrayal is good because it helps us shake off the cloying aspects of this age that dull our senses and fools us into thinking that anything in this age will ultimately remain. We can lie on our tear-stained pillows and utter alongside King Solomon, “All is vanity under the sun.” And then we can give thanks to our Father and God who in His rich mercy made us alive together with Christ Jesus, which means we no longer belong under this sun.”
- Betrayal is good because we can use it as a tool to look beyond the hurt or discouragement and say with the Apostle John, “Yes Lord, come quickly.” For in betrayal we see the glory of the new heavens and earth where sorrow is turned to joy and our tears shall be wiped away by our Father Himself.
So, betrayal is evil, but it is also good.
I am reading a fascinating book entitled, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, where a woman who was a leader in the feminist lesbian community converted to Jesus Christ. I won’t give you the details, you can buy it and read it yourself. But prepare yourself for a book that opens your eyes to a community that has been harshly treated by the Christian Community and what it means to be missional. This is a woman who straddles those communities and has felt the judgment on both sides and comes out strong for a deep, vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. Oh, and she is now the wife of a conservative Presbyterian pastor. Good read.
Regardless, it was something I read in the book that shook the cobwebs out of my brain and woke me to the idea for a blog post. She writes of a relationship she developed as a Christian with a man who was a full-time drag queen (you really need to buy the book) and how they thought they should marry and even how he was thinking of becoming a pastor. It opened her eyes to a whole new aspect of life and vulnerability since for years her identity was defined by lesbianism and now was being defined by what she assumed would be Jesus Christ as a single woman. The engagement didn’t work and there was a deluge of mixed emotions that came upon her, mostly dealing with betrayal, pain and confusion.
This is where she used a term I had never heard before, “binary oppositions.” My eyebrows arched a bit when I read that (in fact they just did again) but I continued to read. The term simply means that you can have in events and people contradictory realities. Here is what she meant, A) you open your heart to a person who becomes a true blessing and joy to you in a difficult time in your life. B) that person later betrays you and abandons you. Sound familiar? It should, it happens all the time. As she worked through her betrayal event she came to see that God was still in the whole thing; He had not abandoned her, for Jesus is ever faithful. And this led to seeing that in these hurtful moments much good and blessing arises.
Beloved, if you endeavor to live out the actual commands of the Lord toward this dying world and toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, you will be betrayed. But usually you will first be kissed. Those you thought were there to the end will discard you like a dirty sock and give no thought to it. I think of one person who was instrumental to the faith of another, who is now rejecting everything holy and right and hurting that same person in the deepest of ways. I could give many examples but they are unimportant.
What is important is how do you view these moments of betrayal? You look to Jesus and you consider His word: The passage I go back to over and over is 1 Peter 2:20-25:
For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
Beloved, we will never walk down a path of righteous suffering that is new. We walk with the confidence that Jesus led the way, blazing that path. We are not called to be heroes and heroines, just faithful to the example set before us. We look to the day when God shall judge all things righteously and we remember that we, too, were the causes of much hurt to others. That is one of the reasons for the gospel.
I am preaching through the book of 2 Timothy on Sundays. Currently I am working through ten convictions that must be present in the life of any Christian if they are to effectively live in this age. Now, a lot of sermons talk like this. “Five steps of heaven-storming prayers.” “Fourteen ways to bring yourself into the blessings of God.” “Three immutable truths to Christ-exalting holiness.” And the list goes on.
So are these convictions something that matter? Or are they just part of a long list of sermon titles that I shall continue to preach until I die? Are they something I think the people should attend their ears to with the mind-set of repentance and prayer or are they messages to keep the people coming back with checkbooks in hand? Are they to motivate and move people to true sanctification or enlarge the church’s attendance? In our cynical world of America these are not easily answered.
But to make my attempt at it, yes, convictions matter. At these specific convictions are essentially foundational for any Christian. As one who has followed Jesus Christ for decades now, I find that it reminds and encourages me to grow more and press on more in these very convictions that I preach on each Sunday. I have brand new Christians in the church who are establishing a heart that desires very different things then merely the “blessings” from God.
So I am going to blog those ten convictions here as well. Not the whole sermons, no body reads long articles in blogs. But the central points to each one. My hope is that as you read you might take stock of your position and relation to Jesus Christ. Introspection is good for the Christian, especially when it is done honestly and with Jesus by your side.
But first a word about convictions themselves. Convictions are interesting things. They are not something you develop quickly; rather it takes time, practice, thought and diligence. You don’t have a conviction because you heard something once or twice and it sounded good to you.Many who attend conferences come away with that wrong conclusion. It is something that seeps deep into your bones and does not let go of you easily, nor can you let go of it. Al Mohler said it this way in his book, The Conviction to Lead, “Convictions are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip. We would not know who we are but for these bedrock beliefs.” (p. 21)
However, there is a dirty little secret about convictions. Most people I have met think they have them, but most have none. At least not ones that are evident. Convictions drive you and ground you in the hard times. Convictions are there to keep you moving forward when you look around and watch everyone else fall back. Convictions are what Paul would call the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). Convictions define you so that people around you already have a sense on how you will respond to a situation. Therefore, convictions are precious and they are hard to hold onto.
Convictions are consistent with the character of God. I could do a whole series just on this, but suffice it to say that God’s ultimate conviction is that His Name shall be exalted and delighted in throughout the world. “ . . . that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” (Romans 9:17) And frankly, everything in this world is moving toward that very end.
Convictions are not contradictions to humility. Such a common charge in churches today. Somehow humility requires that a person not be filled with certainty, authority, or conviction. Silliness for a silly age. Suffice it to say that Jesus was a man of convictions during his time on earth. Yet He epitomizes humility. You cannot read the gospels and not walk away with the clear grasp that He knew Himself, the will of His Father, and His purpose. And never once did He shy from it. He always did the will of His Father. His conviction to honor and obey His Father was so deep that with the joy set before Him He endured the cross for our sakes.
The Apostles were men of conviction. So much so that when jailed for preaching the gospel, when they were then warned not to continue in this activity they declared that they must obey God rather than man. Then after they were flogged by the leadership and sent on their way they were foolish enough to rejoice that they were worthy to be able to suffer for the name of the Lord. This conviction allowed them to stand firm against the hellish assault upon the gospel as they planted and built up churches.
Convictions are critical for anyone. But even more critical are to have the right convictions. Those that honor the Lord and are fitting for a child of the eternal King. Lord willing I will be able to unpack some of them over the next few weeks.
The shooting is over, the dead are dead, the wounded are recovering and the nation is busy tweeting about things they really don’t understand. I am sure that there will be news coverage of the first few funerals and maybe when the last body is laid to rest. Then everyone will go back to the next pretty, or shocking, object that will pass before their eyes. Breathless posts, cries of denouncement, blustery replies of support and the ever present call for more legislation. So what?
Twelve people were killed in Aurora, but meanwhile in Chicago, just a short drive from where I live, twenty-seven humans were murdered in July and in July of 2011 fifty-five were murdered. How they were killed matters little. Some shot, some stabbed, some….whatever. The point is that they are dead, just as dead as those in Aurora. In fact all of them are as dead as the guy who died in the oncology ward of St. Luke’s last night.
Pretty harsh of me, right? Yep. Because death is harsh and real and happening in front of all of our lives every day. I keep waiting for that call that one of my parents has died. It hasn’t come yet, but that doesn’t change the harsh reality that it will, and when it comes it will be nasty punch to my gut.
We can wax on about whether this shooter was a criminal before he got the guns, or if the availability of guns made him a criminal. But who really cares. Our country sees the right to carry a gun as a basic right. We can mumble under our breath what we would have done if we were there, but that is only because we are sipping on our McCafe coffee checking for any new, unimportant updates on Facebook or pinning something to Pinterest or checking the latest baseball stats and not in a dark theater where people are dying.
My point is really basic. So basic that it can come across as unfeeling. But feeling one thing or another doesn’t change a dead body. It doesn’t make a person alive again. I think of Jesus weeping when Mary is so grieved about the death of her brother. But His feeling was not what she needed, not in the ultimate sense, she needed the One who alone possesses life and can conquer death. She needed the One who could casually command Lazarus to come forth from the grave. Fortunately, that is who stood with her weeping.
Listen, for I shall tell you all a dirty, little secret. You are going to die. You will die by a bullet, a heart attack, a nasty virus, a car wreck or perhaps because you had some young punks decide to play a “game” and punch you a bit until you fall and strike your head. Does it really matter? Really? For me, I try to keep the “after death” thought before me more than the “I hope I die in my sleep” thought.
If there is nothing beyond the now, then death of any type has no meaning, it is just part of our sad, pitiful existence in a machine that does not think and does not care. So we gnash our teeth at nothing and then descend into the grave to become dirt. All those swirling about above us with candles and crosses and notes of “I will never forget you” mean nothing, because you and they are nothing.
But, if this is not all, if you are truly an image bearer of the one true God. If you are truly an eternal being as the Bible says you are, then there is much more. And what matters after that bullet enters your brain is infinitely more important than anything else. We all shall die, and we all shall stand before our Creator. Without the One who conquered sin and death there is something far worse than merely a bullet or a virus. Instead you will have the eternal wrath of God upon you.
Luke 13:1-5 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
This event in Aurora will be like countless other ones that happen every day throughout this world. Will the brevity of life cause you to stop, consider eternal things, and seek after God? Shall you put away your vain efforts to prove yourself worthy of God’s favor and instead turn to the only one who conquered sin and death, Jesus Christ? Or, have you already begun to descend back into that fuzzy existence of the mundane? Let me recommend a simple book to read and real carefully.
I finished reading Memoirs of An Ordinary Pastor a week ago and decided to give one more post to it. In our celebrity pastor-crazed church society this is the kind of little book that comes as a wonderful glass of cold water on a hot, summer’s day. Well, Tom Carson went the way of every man, he died and he did it alone, sort of. Here is how Dr. Carson relates his final thoughts on his father’s passing:
When he died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcements on television, no mention in Parliament, no attention paid by the nation. In his hospital room there was no one by his bedside. There was only the quiet hiss of oxygen, vainly venting because he had stopped breathing and would never need it again.
But on the other side all the trumpets sounded. Dad won entrance to the only throne room that matters, not because he was a good man or a great man–he was, after all, a most ordinary pastor–but because he was a forgiven man. And he heard the voice of him whom he longed to hear saying, “We done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.”
There is the ever present threat to think more highly of myself than I ought, those two paragraphs help ground me yet again in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ alone.
I want to try to lay out a solid understanding of why a church must practice church discipline. In fact, I would argue that if a church does not practice this it is in sin and is not a church that is concerned with true purity nor a love for the people. I know that is rather strong but I believe it is completely defensible. Yesterday I wrote that I would give six reason for church discipline. Today I will give the first and foremost reason: it was the first thing our Lord commanded to be done when He first mentioned the Church. Yep, first thing out of His mouth when He references the Church and it is not a culturally relevant dress code, a cool band, or those neat microphones that hook on your ear. First thing He out of His mouth is what the Church is to do with those who hold onto their sin.
The key passage is Matthew 18:15-17, “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him 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. And 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 a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.”
First let me give a very broad introduction to this text by fitting it into its greater context. In vss 12-14 He speaks of how the Father’s desire is to bring any of His sheep who are astray back into the fold. That is His will, His desire; but the question is, how does He do this? Jesus then answers that unspoken question in vss 18-20–He uses other believers. Verses 18-20 are not a separate section related to separate issues, but it is vitally connected to the power Jesus vests upon His church to remain pure.
I will ask five questions related to this passage and then answer them.
Who Receives It (15a)? The answer is clear it is a professing Christian (Brother) who has sinned. Both elements must be present for anyone to initiate church discipline. This means that we are not out looking for those who are unsaved to be like those saved. Now there are some who would say that you only deal with those who are habitually sinning, but that is not found in this text. The term, “sins” simply is a statement. It does not indicate a habit of sinning in and of itself. In fact, it is better to be stopped early on in a sin, then to allow it to take root.
This means also that we are to confront on actual sin. Now, the one confronting might be wrong on their perception of what the sin was (that is why there is the second stage) but at this point they believe their brother/sister has sinned. They cannot confront on personal points of disapproval nor on issues of liberty; rather only on those things that are clearly sinful.
Who Initiates It (15b)? It is “your” brother who has sinned, therefore, it is your responsibility to go to him. Any believer who becomes aware of another brother’s sin is now commanded to go to him and confront him. It is not your job to go tell someone else and hope they go. And this is where church discipline too often breaks down, you see the sin, you are afraid of confrontation (I mean, everybody sins, right?), you look the other way until this brother is caught up in a habitual sin that traps him. Let me explain a bit more. This ought to be done as soon as possible for two reasons: First, it turns the brother from his sin quickly, not letting it take root. Second, it does not let the sin begin to “leaven” the Body. Let sin go unaddressed and soon it is throughout the church and you are wondering what happened.
What is it that you are doing when you go to that brother? You are to literally “show him the sin for what it is.” This involves gentle, but clear rebuke, calling him to forsake the sin. It also involves trying to convince him if he does not see what is wrong with the action. This is why you need to only deal with real sin in these situations and you need to know about what you are talking. This is important for it is too easy to begin to rationalize our sin away.
What Is The Goal Of It (15)? “If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” This is the goal. Always, every time. The winning of your brother. It is not to get your pound of flesh. It is not to shame him. It is not to show your spiritual maturity. It is a sincere love of your brother and a desire to see him walk in a manner worthy of his calling. There is nothing better than to be used by God to turn another Christian away from sin and into a proper, healthy walk with God, as Proverbs 11:30 says, “he who wins souls is wise.”
What Is The Process? We have seen the first step, one on one confrontation. The second step is in verse 16–You take witnesses. The purpose of this is so that the witnesses can determine the factual nature of the claims. Is he really guilty? Are your facts valid? If he is guilty, then they are able to note if he properly repents. This again is not a time to pile on the poor guy, but it is also not a time to be vague. Clear, penetrating questions need to be asked. The pathway of repentance needs to be described. And all of this settled on the gospel.
The third and fourth steps are then given in verse 17. Notice the progression, the first time is private, the second is semi-private, but now the sin is entrenched and the confrontation becomes public. The sinning brother’s situation is brought up before the entire church to be rebuked and encouraged to repent. The congregation is not to be determining that validity of the charges, that has already been done. Note, however, that the entire congregation is responsible for this. That means you must let them know the people involved, the sin that is taking place. Let me make a point here. When you describe the sin(s) you need to use biblical words, “unfaithfulness,” “lying,” or “immorality.” You don’t need to describe details, there is no value in that and again, the motive is always to win your brother to repentance. However, if the person still holds to his sin, then he is sent out of the body of believers.
Who Authorizes It (18-20)? This passage has been often misunderstood and mistreated through the centuries. The Roman Catholic church uses it to teach that the church has the power to forgive sin. Many within charismatic churches and also what is called the “word of faith” churches use it to teach that we possess some divine ability to demand and prevent certain things from happening.
To understand this is simple, it merely requires an understanding of Jewish history. It simply means that when the church acts to send out a person who is in sin, that person is not just “bound” on earth, but in heaven. In other words, God is active in the sending out. All the church is doing is sending out a person who has already been sent out of the church by God. In the same way, when two or three agree, Christ is in their midst. Not speaking of the bare minimum for the presence of Christ to exist, or the definition of a church. Remember when we have two or three witnesses? It was in verse 16, verses 19-20 connects with verse 16 by saying that when I go to a sinning brother for the second time, along with witnesses, we are not going alone, Christ is with us.
To do or say something in the name of Christ simply means that they are doing or saying something that is in accordance to the known will of the Lord. This is very important to remember, when the church has faithfully administered church discipline it does so with the full assurance that the Lord has given it His energy, authority, and approval.
This process is NOT the only process described in the bible. I would say that it is the normative passage, but not the ONLY passage on discipline. I agree with Mark Dever who sees that this is the passage and process that is used with private sins and those committed against individuals. There are other passages that speak to unique sins.
When there is discipline taking place there is no need to for speed most of the time. If you have not let the brother continue in their sin until a crisis is upon him then there is the ability to move slowly and with care. Understand that it can be a quite lengthy process. In my church most every time has taken months as we seek to give ample room for repentance.
One of the marks of a true church is that of church discipline, and much misunderstood practice in today’s Evangelical church. In 1561 there was a document created, the Belgic Confession which pointed out that church discipline was one of three marks of the true church, the other two being the Word of God truly being preached and the sacraments truly being presented. Today however it is not uncommon to attend a church for years and never see anyone ever face public church discipline. One would think that in today’s society somehow sin no longer works within the heart of every man woman and child within any church. Of course it is hard to be seeker sensitive and relevant to the culture of today and yet also call people who claim to follow Jesus to truly follow Him. However in Matthew 28 part of the great commission was to teach those who were His disciples to obey everything that he commanded us. And one of those commands is to practice church discipline (cf. Matthew 18:15ff).
How does church discipline operate? When is it right to practice church discipline? Why should we practice church discipline? These are the types of questions I want to try to answer in this short series I am starting today.
By way of introduction my mind goes to a certain passage out of Hebrews which speaks about the hand of discipline from our Father in heaven. “For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10) It is easy for us to think about God disciplining us but never asking how He does it. It is not uncommon for Him to use others as His tool or instrument of discipline. And one of those instruments is His church. Being a child of God means that not one person in the church is exempt from the discipline of the Lord. It may be painful at times but it is good and necessary for our spiritual growth as well as purity within the church.
The purpose behind church discipline is not to denounce someone, shame someone, or even manipulate them; rather, it is to exhort them to repentance and restoration to both God and man. The purpose is to restore a person back to their original walk in Christ–to take a believer and get them to turn from their sin and back to a faithful, obedient walk with Christ in the church. Therefore, this discipline is corrective in nature. It is like taking a broken bone and setting it back in its right place. Therefore we can call this “corrective” or “restorative” discipline.
Over the next several days I want to give six reasons why the church must practice church discipline and try to give practical advice on how it is done. The Bible is not silent on the subject and in fact there are far more passages that discuss it then many people are aware.
This is a disturbing story that is shocking to many and yet will not to others. It is a sad, sick glimpse into the god of this age and how sin corrupts thoroughly.
A British citizen has been arrested in Thailand after the bodies of six babies thought to have been used in a black magic ritual were found in luggage in a Bangkok hotel room. . .
Wiwat Kumchumnan, of Bangkok police, told reporters the suspect planned to sell the remains to clients who believed they would become “lucky and rich”.
In Leviticus 20 YHWH warns that the children of Israel were not to offer their babies to Molech and if they did they would forfeit their own lives. By the time of Solomon temples were built under his direction to Molech all to keep his foreign wives happy. The prophet Jeremiah brought down condemnation for the nation was whole-heartedly offering their sons and daughters to Molech. Not too much later and the ten tribes of Israel went into captivity.
Paul warns the Church in Ephesus,
This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way. (Eph 4:17-20)
The god of this age is not dead. The dead values of this age press in against the Church and we cannot be quiet, nor can we merely cluck our tongues. Only the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can make dead hearts alive and blind eyes to see. Let us press on in the Great Commission.