The Tougher Side of Spiritual Community
Intro: To start this off, I came across a story of a fellow was eating down in the south. (Being from a little further south than some of you I could relate to this.) He hadn’t traveled much to the south, and as he looked at the menu he was surprised to see everything was served with grits. No matter what is was it all came with grits. So he said to the waitress: “Excuse me ma’am, what exactly is a grit! She said, “A grit? Honey, they don’t come alone, they come in community!” We are a lot like a grit! We are made by God for community. That’s why we are a part of the church. Through our study on the Vintage Jesus we are looking at what Jesus says about community, and what he says to us today is that living in community is sometimes tough.
(Illus.) “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” Here’s the deal: The church consist of people who are forgiven by Christ to become like the Christ that has forgiven them. This is a messy and
difficult process at times. How effective we are in that journey depends on how we help people in the midst of spiritual failure move to a greater level of spiritual maturity and freedom.
--Has someone really disappointed you?
--Is someone making it hard for you to serve in the church?
Target: Let’s look at what Jesus shares in dealing with the tougher side of spiritual community.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come…,
2. We are in a fallen world. There is a gravitational pull toward sin. That is our default
setting—selfishness. In fact we do a bit of disservice to a biblical worldview when we are shocked when non-believers act like non-believers. Things that cause people to sin are bound to come…,
but woe to that person through whom they come. 2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
(Illus.) Millstone swimming was not a Jewish sport! This was the concrete shoes of Jesus’ day.
3. In strong terms Jesus is saying that if we cause the destruction of people who are newer and more vulnerable in the faith then it is very serious business. Look at what he says…
3 So watch yourselves. (This verb is in the present plural form and part of our fellowship is being watchful of each other.)
What do you need to know?
1. We cannot know the truth about ourselves by ourselves.
a. He is saying this to juvenile delinquents or people on probation. He is saying “watch
yourselves” to the men who are called as the foundational leaders of the church,
the apostles. We need community because we are not capable of walking in obedience and growing in the way we need to without one another.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
(Appl.) Here is the deal: All of us have moral and spiritual blind spots that we are not capable of
seeing by ourselves. And if they are not lovingly exposed by others who see them they will continue to stunt our growth in our walk with God.
(Appl.) We cannot move to the place God is calling us in our journey with close fellowship and
that requires being open to having the blind spots in our lives exposed by others who love
us and committed to our well being in Christ.
2. The church needs a built in system of accountability and restoration.
“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
a. There has to be a built in system of accountability—rebuke (clear correction). Jesus
words means we have saturated our correction with love and grace that that comes from our identification with the cross. Seven means that we pour upon people the fullness of love as we confront them. What we are talking about here is the ministry of “admonishment.” (Let me give you a few scriptures)
Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 1 Thessalonains 5:12 (Whatever admonishment is it is a key practice of those in spiritual leadership.)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom... Col 3:16 (Admonishment is something that we do for one another out of commitment to God’s Word.)
Now I myself am confident concerning you... that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. Romans 15:14 (NKJV) (A church that admonishes is a mark of a church with spiritual maturity.)
Definition of admonishment: The appropriate person speaking appropriate truth in the appropriate way in the appropriate time to correct error.
(Illus.) I’m coaching my daughter’s basketball team—without loving admonishment the game
would descend into chaos.
(Illus.) 1) As a parent: You teach your kids but what kind of parent would you be if you never
brought correction or rebuke to your kids? A poor one and a heart broken one. Kids who never receive direction do not turn out well.
2) Conductor of a symphony? What type of leader would that conductor be who never spoke truth to an off key instrumentalist. For the good of the orchestra for the good of the audience and for the good of the person he should bring correction.
3) What about a manager who did not speak truth to an employee. “You are not getting the job done.”
(Appl.) So it is with the church.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. Proverbs 27:6
1. Friends, this is a vital but a selective process. Just because a person is irritating! Just because a person is a jerk (and we all tend to be that way on certain days) does not mean we admonish. This is an ongoing and repeated behavior problem.
A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
What do you need to do?
1. Go privately and humbly.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. (Matthew 18:15)
a. It does not say talk to five other people. (Maybe there is a confident you need wisdom from.) Protect the dignity of the person, protect the unity of the church. Go to that person and deal with privately.
b. Not only are we to go privately but humbly.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
(Appl.) If you go off with guns a blazing and communicate, “Let me smart tell you dumb how to
get smart like me…then you take the problem and make it worse.”
(Appl.) When people blow it or they get off course I’d say 85% of the time we often do not realize that they are doing it! When you come in with guns loaded with the idea that I am going to set you straight they will undoubtedly respond in a counterproductive way. “I thought everything was ok and they just nailed me.”
(Appl.) Paul is quite clear: When you admonish you come as a fellow struggler.
2. State your concern clearly and carefully.
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Proverbs 27:5
(Appl.) Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church says that in admonishment: we often violate the law of the last 10%. We speak in generalities, beat around the bush, but we don’t get to the point of the truth. We don’t share the last 10% because it is the hardest.
a. When we beat around the bush we nowhere. How have your relationships been? Have people seemed distant from you? How are things going with your family? How has your personal health been?
b. Can I talk to you and tell you something I see, then I’d like your feedback. I am concerned about the way you speak to your children. This is what I specifically have in mind. I’m concerned about your declining health. And then you give a
for instance…Do you remember last week when you corrected Johnny, do you
remember a few days ago when you were having trouble breathing?
(Appl.) It has got to be in recent memory that can be accurately recalled, if not then you have
failed to correct a situation in proper time. Memories get too cloudy to have meaningful
conversation and people will feel like you are harboring an offense. What they did three
years ago or three months is too late to bring up as a meaningful point of correction.
3. Work on understanding.
a. Make sure they have understood your concern and correction. Give people space and do not force them to change. Your job is to share truth not compel change. Don't demand people to change on your time table and in your way. Don't come with the attitude that I’m not letting you out of the hot seat until you hit your knees. If you do it will go badly.
(Appl.) Other persons, other people may bring insights that you do not have. You may simply begin the first stage of multiple surgery process. We may be called to admonish but it is the Holy Spirit who effects change.
b. If there is emergency change that is needed—if there is real spiritual danger and the
person is not open to change--then that may be a matter for those in spiritual
authority in the church.
4. Seek a course of reconciliation.
a. Our goal is to help people in their journey with Christ and with us.
Max Lucado writes about a big, muscle-bound man named Daniel who was swindled by his own brother. He vowed that if he ever saw him again, he would break his neck. A few months later, Daniel became a Christian. Even so, he couldn't forgive his brother. One day, the inevitable encounter took place on a busy avenue. This is how Daniel described what happened:
I saw him, but he didn't see me. I felt my fists clench and my face get hot. My initial impulse was to grab him around the throat and choke the life out of him. But as I looked into his face, my anger began to melt. For as I saw him, I saw the image of my father. I saw my father's eyes. I saw my father's look. I saw my father's expression. And as I saw my father in his face, my enemy once again became my brother.
(Appl.) Remember that when you confront, you are dealing with someone who has the very same
father you do.