How to Correct Sinful Christians
I want you to raise your hands, all of those who have become Christians in the last two years. Raise your hands, raise them high. Okay, thanks. So we've got about more than a third of the people who are here that became Christians within the last two years. And some people who are ill and who are not here this morning also fall into that category. A lot of young Christians. Well, because we are a young congregation- young in the sense that a large part of our congregation are Christians who have been Christians less than two years, babes in Christ- we've heard a lot of lessons and a lot of sermons about how to become a Christian. I think we've heard a lot of lessons on the fact that we need to believe in Christ and we need to repent of our sins and be baptized. And we've heard a lot of lessons about baptism and what happens, and that's good. I mean, we need to preach the gospel. That's how people become Christians, when they hear the gospel.
And we also have talked a lot about the need to reach out to people on the outside, the need to reach out to people who are not in the church, and how we need to bring the message to them and how they can be forgiven. Let's face it, the problem in the world isn't politics, it's sin. Sin is the problem in the world. That's what causes problems in people's lives. And so we've talked a lot about how to deal with sin for people outside of the church. Well, today I want to do a little flip flop on that. I'd like to talk about how the church ought to deal with Christians who are having problems with sin.
I've been talking a lot about how people out in the world who are sinners need to be brought into the church. But now, this morning, I want to talk about people who are already in the church and who are struggling with sin, and what the church needs to do to help people who are Christians, maybe five years, 10, 20 years as Christians, but who are struggling and having problems with sin. Fortunately, the Bible provides a very beautiful passage, a whole chapter, that deals with this particular problem. All we have to do is open to First Corinthians chapter five. Our whole lesson is in First Corinthians chapter five, practically. I'm just going to read it to you, and then the whole lesson is there.
So we understand the premise, right? We're talking about Christians. We're not talking about non-Christians. We're talking about Christians in the church. What do we do with Christians who are having problems with sin? Now, let me just clue you into what's going on here. Paul, who is an apostle, is writing to a church that is in Corinth. Corinth was a Greek city, a lot of Greeks in that city, of course, pagans who had become Christians. He was writing to them from Ephesus. He's at Ephesus, and Ephesus is kind of just across the Aegean Sea, about 300 miles away. There was a lot of traffic between Ephesus and Corinth. You could get a letter there in about a couple of weeks. So in those days- I mean, it's almost like today, it only takes a couple of weeks to get a letter from here to Vancouver. Well, in those days it took only a couple of weeks to get from Ephesus to Corinth.
And so, there was a lot of contact, a lot of dialogue, between the church in Ephesus and the church in Corinth. And apparently people had come from Corinth and had come to Ephesus, and had told Paul about some of the problems that were going on in this church in Corinth. And so, Paul writes them a letter to try to teach them about how to deal with sin that was going on, not out in the world, but the sin that was going on right in the church. That's what's happening. Let's read first Corinthians chapter five, one, and see how Paul begins his dialogue. He says,
"It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind that does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife."
- I Corinthians 5:1
So Paul begins by saying, "Hey, there's a problem in your church. It has been reported that there is immorality." And this word here in the Greek is- because this was originally written in the Greek language- this word immorality is really sexual immorality. The problem is that there was a sex sin in the church, and the sex sin was fornication, sexual immorality. And this word in the Greek includes all forms of sexual activity not permitted by God. It's a very broad term: unchastity. It includes homosexuality, adultery, sex outside of marriage, unlawful marriages, incest, all forms of sexual impropriety, whatever it is, it comes under this, this big heading here of fornication. So Paul says, "There's fornication in the church. Somebody has told me about this." And then he goes on to specify. He says, "A kind of immorality that does not even exist outside among the pagans." He says "That someone has his father's wife."
In the case of the Corinthian church, the problem was that there was a man who was having sex with his own mother. Now, the way that he writes this, we believe that what he means is that there was a man who was- who had taken as his wife, or who was living with his father's second wife. In other words, his stepmother, because the way that he mentions it, that he doesn't say, "A man is having sex with his own mother." He was saying, "A man is having sex with his father's wife." So the way he says it, it seems as if it was his stepmother. And it also seems that she was not a Christian, because he does not include her in his rebuke. He doesn't include her in his chastisement, just the man. So apparently there was a Christian man, a member of the church, who had taken as his wife or as his cohabitant, his father's wife.
Now, we don't know if his father is still alive or if his father's dead, but this was improper. I mean, this was forbidden by the Roman law. The Romans forbade any type of union with your mother or stepmother, this was not permitted, or with your father or stepfather. Even the Romans, who were a pretty godless bunch, considered this as improper. So Paul is saying, "Look, the pagans see this type of activity as disgraceful. And this is going on in the church of God. In the church of Jesus Christ, this is happening. This is terrible." He said, "This is intolerable, that this is going on." And it's also against God's law, Leviticus, chapter 18, verse eight, forbids incest, this type of a relationship. And so he says, "Even the pagans considered this as unnatural, this immoral type of behavior."
And so he goes on to explain or talk about the reaction of the church in verse two, he says,
"You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who has done this deed might be removed from your midst."
- I Corinthians 5:2
You see, the Corinthians were Greeks originally. I mean, before they became Christians, they were Greeks. I guess they stayed Greeks, even after they were Christians, but they came from a Greek background and they prided themselves on being spiritually minded. They were a dynamic church that had great preachers in this church. Apollos was there. He was a great preacher, a dynamic preacher. They had dynamic preachers and they had people in the church who could speak in tongues. And they had people who could do miracles. They had all kinds of- they were a church that was very dynamic, and they were proud of this idea.
But Paul says to them, "You people are so puffed up by the fact that you have dynamic preachers and that you can have spiritual gifts, that you fail to recognize the cancer that is within your midst. There's a cancer in your body. And you're so proud that you don't even see it." He says, "If you were truly spiritual, if you were truly mature, as soon as you would have known about the situation, you would have mourned. You would have mourned that Satan could have infiltrated, to such a degree, your congregation." And he says, "And they should have taken this guy and thrown him out as soon as they found out. But," he says, "You didn't do this. You Pride yourself on being so mature that you can just ignore this kind of behavior."
So Paul says, "That's your reaction? You're so puffed up with pride, you ignore this kind sin that's inside of your assembly." But now Paul says, "Here's my reaction," in verse three, four, and five, read along. He says,
"For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present."
- I Corinthians 5:3
He says, "I'm not there with you physically, but I know the situation. And I'm judging that situation as if I was there among you. This is what I would do."
And then in verse four, he says,
"In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled and I, with you in the spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus,"
- I Corinthians 5:4
Here, he's talking about his authority. Paul was an apostle. He's got authority. And he says, "By the authority of Jesus Christ, when I'm with you in spirit, my letter is with you in spirit, my authority is with you in spirit. When you are gathered together," he says, "here's what you're going to do." He says,
"I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord, Jesus Christ."
- I Corinthians 5:5
Well, you know, this is a complex passage here. There's a lot of confusion about this particular passage. What's happening here is that after reviewing the proof of this particular sin, and of course this man is not repenting. He's still with this woman. Paul makes a judgment and he applies a corrective measure.
Number one, he determines that the man is truly guilty of a serious sin. I mean, Paul is not angry just because the guy combs his hair differently or he happens to wear his robe the other way around. This is a serious sin here. This is fornication of the worst kind. So he determines that this is a sin. This is not just, your face bugs me type of problem. This is a real sin that you can actually substantiate with the word of God.
And then number two, he tells the church to put the man out of fellowship of the church. He says, "Put the man away, throw him out." Now, the way he says this is with a certain expression. He says, "I deliver to Satan." Now, what this means is that when a person is in the church, he is under the authority and the mercy of Jesus Christ. I mean, we're all sinners. All of you- I don't know a lot about you, but I know one thing about all of you, you're all sinners. And so am I. We're all guilty, and we continue to be guilty every day. However, when we are in Christ, when we are in the body of Christ, we have a wonderful thing that happens to us. We are under the authority and, thankfully, the mercy of Jesus Christ. He knows about our sins, but He continually forgives us, because we have a union with him, so we have protection. Well, Paul is saying this one here refuses to repent of this very serious sin. And so, therefore, put him out of the assembly. He no longer is under the mercy, he no longer is under the protection of Jesus Christ.
Well, let me ask you something. If you're not under the protection of Jesus Christ, who are you under? That's right, you're under Satan. Bob Dylan wrote a song a couple of years ago, probably one of his best songs, he says, "You've got to serve somebody. You've got to serve somebody." You're either going to serve Satan- whether you know it or not. A lot of people, unknowingly, they serve Satan. You're either going to serve Satan or you serve Christ. One of the two, but there's no middle ground. There's no, "I'd rather not. I think I'll be neutral on this one." If you're neutral, you're over here, you're with Satan.
So he says, "If this man is put out of the church, he's away from the protection and the mercy of Jesus Christ." And if he's away from that, then he's under the power and the authority of Satan. The idea is that Paul, although not physically present, joins them in spirit and with the authority of the Lord, given to him by the word, corrects this man, by putting him out of the assembly. Now, the objective of this action is that once this man can see that he can no longer hide his sin and must live in his sin openly without the comfort of Christian fellowship, hopefully like the prodigal son, he will want to return and repent, in order to save his soul.
You see, he can continue in his sin, but he can no longer do it in secret. He can continue living openly in this shameful type of relationship, but he no longer has the comfort of Christian fellowship. He no longer has the assurance of the grace of God. Now, you know, we're sitting here in church and we're going, "So what?" You ask somebody who has been a Christian and who has had to live outside of accepted fellowship, how difficult that is. That's very difficult. If you don't know Christ, you don't know what you're missing. But if you do know Christ and you do know the mercy of God and have to live outside, then that becomes a very difficult thing.
Now in verses six, seven and eight- and we're only going to go to 13 this morning. In verses six, seven, and eight, we find out why this is necessary. You know, some people say, well, that's awfully harsh. Why don't they just keep the guy and hold his hand and so on and so forth? Well, it's like a child, sometimes with the child, you have to talk. And sometimes with the child you have to bend them over your knee and spank them.
My kids are a little too old now, but I used to say to my wife, when they were small, she used to spank- it was so funny. She used to go, "Paul, stop doing that." I said, "What was that all about? If you're going to spank, there's only one rule: Make sure it hurts." There's got to be pain involved, lots of pain. If there's no pain- I mean, you mustn't cripple them- but there's got to be pain. That's why I don't believe in using sticks and whips and all that, because you figure, if it's hurting you a lot, it must be hurting them a lot. You know, Leonard, boy, he's really getting into it back there. He's laughing away. He's having a good time.
But that's the rule of punishment. If punishment doesn't hurt, what's the point? Well, that's the point of this. You might think, well, that's awfully harsh. You know, that's right. It's awfully harsh. And those words are awfully harsh. Imagine if you were the one who was told, "I am putting your flesh to Satan, for your flesh to be destroyed." And it's an apostle who's saying that to you, that hurts. It's got to hurt. If punishment doesn't hurt, it doesn't provide anything. It's not corrective. It's not medicinal, if it doesn't hurt. So it's not fun to do this, but it's necessary. And here's why it's necessary. In verse six, he says,
"Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?"
- I Corinthians 5:6
A little bit of impurity, not taken care of, can eventually contaminate the entire assembly. When your child has a little splinter, an infection on the finger, don't you go to it right away? Don't you get that disinfecting cream? Don't you try to get that splinter out? If you see it getting green and red, and blown up, you're off to the doctor's, emergency. Why? Because a little bit of infection left untreated can eventually spread and you can lose the finger or the hand, or you could die.
Paul is using the idea of leaven, a little bit of leaven in the lump of dough will make the entire dough rise up, will affect every part of the dough. Well, in the same way in the church, a little bit of impurity over here, can spread over here and over there, and eventually everyone is contaminated by it.
When we tolerate sin, instead of judging sin and correcting sin, we lower the standard of Christian life to which we all strive. We all are striving to a high ideal, and we must never let anyone bring the standard down for their own satisfaction and for their own ease.
And so, the promise of Jesus Christ is that we can overcome sin. You see, that's the idea. We don't give in to sin, and we don't tolerate it among ourselves, because we've been promised that we can overcome sin. In Romans- just keep your finger there and go back to Romans chapter six, verse 12. Paul says,
"Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, you are under grace."
- Romans 6:12-14
All of us here who are Christians, sin will never master us. We're not under law, we're not under death. We're under grace. And grace motivates us to overcome sin. We mustn't give in to sin. Yes, we fail. Yes, we fall. Yes, it's difficult. But the final victory is always ours. We must never, ever give in. Sin can never dominate us. And so, whenever we excuse sin or tolerate it, instead of judging it and correcting it, what we're saying is that Christ died for nothing. That the word has no affect. That the spirit in us has no power. The minute you say, "I cannot overcome this sin." What you're saying is, "The spirit of God has no power. That Christ died for nothing." That's what you're saying. It may take you 20 years to overcome a particular problem, but the minute you throw in the towel and say, "I can't." What you're saying- of course you can't, but what you're saying at the same time is that the spirit that's within you can't.
Well, let me tell you something. If you don't believe that you can conquer sin while you're alive, how will you conquer death from the grave? Because the same thing that's working in you now: the spirit, the word, and the cross of Christ; those three things are working in your lives to help you overcome sin now. Well, it's those three things that are going to raise you up from the dead. Well, if while you are alive, those things cannot conquer sin in your life, how will those things be able to conquer death from the grave? Do you understand what you're doing when you give into sin, you are saying, "I don't believe anymore that I can be raised from the dead." Satan's very sneaky, in the way he gets us to throw in the towel before it's time. And so, if the cross, and the word, and the spirit cannot conquer sin in your life now, you have to ask yourself, "What power do they have later on?" You might as well just give it all up.
So, Paul gives the example in verse seven and eight, he gives the example to them. He says,
"Clean out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, just as you are, in fact, unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
- I Corinthians 5:7-8
Here, he makes kind of a wordplay. It's like a little imagery play. The unleavened bread was the bread that the Jews ate at the Passover season. It had no leaven in it. That's what we use. That's unleavened bread. And he makes a parallel: The church, he says, "We're the unleavened bread. We don't have any leaven in us anymore. No sin in us anymore. We have the Holy spirit. We live under grace. We're going to an eternal abode in heaven with God. The church is pure, because Christ has died to cleanse it from all impurity."
Now, here's the point: because the church is pure, let us not act like we used to act, not like unleavened bread. Let's not be unleavened bread. Let's be leaven bread. Before they were Christians they didn't care about immorality and they didn't care about the immorality of their associates. The rule of life was live and let live.
And it's still that way. Here in Canada, that is our model. We are the great mosaic. Look at this church building: black, white, European, English, Canadian, French Canadian, all kinds- live and let live. And that's good to tolerate racially and culturally, we need to be patient, because we are all different, and it's easy to have misunderstandings. And that's good. This country was built on that kind of tolerance, although it is slowly being fractured at the moment. And do you know why it's being fractured? Because it isn't done in the spirit of Christ. The only thing that will unify this country is Jesus Christ. Not language laws, not parliaments, and not politicians, no way, never.
You see, the problem with live and let live is that there is no norm. In religion, it isn't live and let live. In religion, the only ones that live are those who are faithful to Jesus Christ. All others die.
You need to not get confused between politics and religion. In politics, that's okay- live and let live. But in religion, only those who are faithful to Jesus Christ will live. If you're a Christian, I've told you this many times, Christianity is an exclusive religion. If Jesus Christ is the son of God, then Buddha isn't, and Mohammed isn't. Only Jesus is. If you read carefully your New Testament, you'll find out that Jesus was very, very clear on this matter. Only those who follow Him will enter in to be with the Father.
And so now, this church he's talking about, these people, he says, "There's one bread, one lump. And if one part begins to be impure, all of them are at risk." He encourages them to continue to celebrate their new life, but not to do it as pagans. To do it as Christians. You're a new lump, there's no yeast in you, continue this way. Don't let the yeast of impurity get into the flock. That's this whole passage.
And then, in verses nine to 11, he finishes up and he says, "I wrote you-" and he talks about the relationship with immoral people. How can we avoid being with immoral people? It's tough.
So he says,
"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous or swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote you not to associate with any so-called brother, if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, reviler, drunkard or swindler- not even to eat with such a one."
- I Corinthians 5:9-11
So he says, in another letter, and we don't have this- historically, this is a letter that has been lost. But apparently in another letter, Paul had told them not to associate with immoral people to protect their purity, but they got the wrong idea. They thought that to associate with immoral people meant that you weren't allowed to associate with anybody who was a sinner. Well, what was happening to them? They were going nuts because everywhere they went, there were sinners. They would have to go to the moon, not to be with sinners.
And so, he writes this other letter here and he clarifies what he tried to explain to them. He explains that Christians have to live in the world, and naturally they come into contact with ungodly people. You can't avoid that. I mean, you can't avoid coming into contact with sinners because everybody's a sinner. But in verse 11, Paul specifies that they are to break off relationships with those Christians who deny the faith by immoral practices.
Don't break off relationships with all immoral people, then you'd have to leave the Earth. No, he says, "Break off relationships with immoral people who are in the church and who are pretending that they're okay." He says, "Immoral, like sexual misconduct, and covetous- those who are controlled by a desire to posses." You know, people who make the dollar their God and not God, their God; people who make their career the idol that they worship, and not Jesus Christ, "people who are revilers." In other words, those who abuse others: gossips, malicious tongues. "People who are drunkards," those who abuse alcohol and drugs. "People who are swindlers," people who cheat and withhold goods from other people." I mean, this is not a whole list, but he just names a few.
When people like this call themselves Christians and sit in the church day after day, he said, these are the people that you have to withdraw from, not the ones in the world. And then he explains why. He explains why, in verses 12 and 13, he says,
"For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves."
- I Corinthians 5:12-13
You see, it's not the job of the church to judge sinners outside the church. God will judge them. It's not your job to go around, "Oh, smoking's a sin. You know what, man, this is wrong. Oh, they're selling pornography magazines, did you know that that is a sin?" The church's job is not to judge the world. Did you know that? The church's job is to preach the gospel. That's our job.
Sure, in preaching the gospel, you have to talk about sin, but here's the point. This is important, especially for you people that like to evangelize in preaching the gospel, you have to tell people that one day, God will judge sin and you have to explain what sin is, but your job is not to march up and down- "Down with such and such a thing! That is a sin." I mean, you can do that as an individual, if you so desire, to march up and down against pornography, or stuff like that. But that's not our job as a corporate entity, as a church, that's not our job.
I get letters all the time from this association and that association, we want your church to come together as a group and picket against abortion. Well, I believe that abortion is wrong. Why? Because the Bible teaches that we shouldn't kill. Okay. But as a corporate entity, the church, the church's job is not to go up and down and judge the world and picket against abortion. You can do that as an individual, if you want, but we won't do it. Lachine church of Christ, picketing- that's not our job.
Our job is to preach the gospel. Our job is to proclaim the deity of Christ. Our job is to bring people to the knowledge that Jesus can forgive them. If they've had an abortion and they feel bad, and they recognize that they've sinned, our job is to bring them the wonderful news that God will forgive them. Even for this murder, He will forgive them. That's our job. Do you know why that's our job? Because God has given us this job,
"Go into all the world," He says, "and preach the gospel to all creation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy spirit."
- Matthew 28:19
That's our job. And you know what? No one else on earth has this job. Green Peace doesn't have this job. That coalition, Friends of the Earth, they don't have this job. Planned Parenthood, they don't have this job.
No other association in the world has the job of telling people that Jesus Christ is the Lord. That's our job. And a lot of times we get confused. We're not doing our job. We're doing somebody else's job. And that's what Paul is saying here. Our job is not to judge people outside the church. For the people outside the church, we need to point to the wonderful message of Jesus Christ. That's our job. But he says, in the church, in the church is different. In the church, yes, we should judge in the church. It's our job to judge in the church. It is our responsibility to judge sinners within the church, and to correct them before God comes to judge them and punishes all sinners.
So let me just summarize. So that's what he said here. Then he goes on to other things in other chapters. So I'm going to stop right here. And I'm just going to summarize and try to tie together these ideas and make an application for us. We've got five minutes left. So I want you to stay with me.
First of all, we need to judge sin within the church. And when I say, "Judge sin," I mean- the word judgment means to point it out. Okay? It doesn't mean a court. You know, you have been found guilty of not shaving. We judge that you ought to- you know, that's judging, that's the world judging. Judging biblically, here, means to point out to your brother or sister, like this guy here, what you're doing with your mother, your stepmother, this is fornication. This is wrong. That's what judging is.
We need to judge within the church, and do you know why? Because it is important to maintain the purity of the body. If we don't do this, the body will get sick and it will die. Do you ever wonder why, sometimes, the church goes through a spurt of growth, as we have been? There are two reasons: One, the gospel's being preached. The church is being fed the word. If the church isn't being fed the word, it will not grow. That's number one. And number two, the church is dealing with sin. Those are the two things.
I've been all over the place and talked about church growth, and it all boils down to those two things. There has to be the preaching of the word, and the people in the church need to be dealing with sin. And lots of times the guy up here is just preaching his brains out. Okay? But we're not dealing with sin. There is sin in the camp, there is sin in the church. And it's just eating us alive. So we've baptized 10, but we lose 20 out the back door. Why? Because of sin. People refuse to deal with their sins. So we need to judge it, number one.
Number two, we need to correct sinners within the church. We need to point out the sin and we need to correct. It's not enough to say, "Oh, you're bad, and I know you're bad." That's not enough. You need to correct the problem. If you go to the hospital, and your arm is like this, and you say, "Doc, my arm is like this." And the doctor looks at it, takes an x-ray, writes stuff down, has a conference with all the other doctors, and comes back to you six hours later and he says, "Well, your arm is like this, you can go home now." You'd want physiotherapy. You would want to do something, right? You would want something corrective.
Well, in the church, we need to correct sin according to the Bible, because without correction, the souls of these people will be lost. If you think just because you're sitting in the church building, you're going to Heaven, you're wrong. This needs to be a reflection of your faith in God. This needs to be a reflection of your commitment to purity. But if you're sitting here listening to this and you are impure and you're knowingly sinning, you need to deal with that sin. And if it's a big secret and nobody knows about it, you're in bad shape because it means you're responsible to go to God. Do you understand? We need to correct sin in our lives and in the lives of others, in order to save souls. Imagine having come this far, knowing the gospel, being baptized, coming to God, and then failing to reach our goal, because we've been tripped up by some sin that we're too stubborn or pigheaded to deal with?
As one church- you see, you notice here, Paul didn't do it alone. He didn't say, "I judge, I correct. I am doing this." No. He says, "When I am with you. And when you are all gathered together." All together, we're going to do this thing. We're going to take this brother, tell him he's wrong, and disfellowship him and put him out of the church until he repents. And all of us are going to close ranks. It has to be done together.
Have you ever noticed in a family, mama says, "Okay, you're grounded, no TV, go to your room- two weeks." And then daddy comes along and goes, "It's okay. You can just go to your friend's house and get a movie." Right? How does that work, folks? How does that work? Parents, what kind of a child do you raise when there's this? Parenting is teamwork. It's the same thing in the church. It's not effective, if judgment and correction is not done by the entire body. Actually the result is worse: there's division. There are people for this guy and the people who are against this guy. And it just splits the church all the way down the middle.
We must do all of this because it's God's command. We need to point out sin. We need to correct it, and we need to do this as a group, in unison. Since I've been here in August, we've not disfellowshipped anyone, thankfully. It's the most distasteful, difficult, heart-wrenching experience you can go through. But in Verdun, we had to do it, many times. We'd have to disfellowship some guy, who left his wife and walked in with his girlfriend at church - I won't mention any names- sit there and say, "Well, I'm trying to bring her to Christ." We had to take this guy in a room and say, "Look, you know, you may have a good intention, but you left your wife and you're living with this one. This is called adultery, and it's wrong. And if you don't repent, you cannot come back here anymore. We will not acknowledge you as one of our brothers, who is faithful in Christ."
Do you think that that's pleasant to do that? Do you think that guy wanted to hear that? And for 18 months he walked- I remember- I mean, I won't mention names. You don't know this person. He walked out the door, slammed that door. "Boy, you guys are a bunch of narrow-minded, pigheaded and stubborn-," all the names under the sun.
And we prayed and we prayed and we prayed. And we said, "Oh God, we hope we weren't-" But there was unity. Nobody in the assembly backed down, because we knew, I mean, it was so clear. You couldn't miss it. It was such a clear case of wrongdoing, and dangerous. Eighteen months later that fellow came back with tears in his eyes. And he said, "I cannot live. I cannot live anymore outside of Christ. I need to know that He accepts me." And he repented and he made his life right. And he came back and he was happy. And the church rejoiced to take him back. Do you think that would have happened if he would have had a team over here- A-Team for him, B-Team against him? No way at all.
So, let me make one final application here for Lachine, and the lesson is yours, and we're out before lunch. When dealing with Christians who openly refuse to repent of their sins and who are either put out of the church or they abandon it, the problem is always to balance mercy, right, and compromising what's right. You want to be merciful to this person, correcting them against their sin. But at the same time, you don't want to jeopardize what's right, what the Bible says. How do you find that balance? Well, I tell you this, if we're ever in that situation- and we will be, I guarantee you, we will be. I want you to remember this sermon. I'm glad we're taping.
If ever we're in this position, we need to remember that mercy towards a sinful brother or sister- real mercy, means that we gently, but honestly point out his sin. That's mercy. Brother, sister, this here, what you're doing, this is wrong. Let me show you right here, wrong. You need to change this attitude. You need to change this habit.
Mercy means that we pray for these brothers regularly and sincerely. Mercy means that we're ready to receive them back without judging or without a grudge. A lot of times people come back and others go, "Yeah, they're back. I bet they're just coming back for this-" You know, that's not mercy. Mercy means forgiving. When people actually repent, it means sharing the word with these people at every opportunity, it means that you are willing to help to overcome their sin, to fulfill their needs.
It's easy to point out somebody's sin, but it's tough to follow up and say, "Is there anything I can do to help you?" A guy is having problems with alcohol, it's easy to point out and say, "You know what? You're a drunk." It's quite another thing to be ready to run over to his house at two in the morning and help him through. If he stops drinking, it's another thing to try to find them a job and lend them money, and help them to find help, and so on. You know what I'm saying? It's easy to point out a sin. It's quite another thing to be there when times are tough. That's what mercy is all about. We have to be ready to put them out, in order to save their soul. That's mercy.
I'm merciful to my son when he does something wrong and I keep him in his room and he says, "Oh, but dad, it's the big birthday party. I've been looking forward to it for two weeks. Let's bargain." No bargaining. That's mercy.
Well, mercy does not mean, on the other hand, ignoring or excusing or defending people's right to sin without being corrected. If I hear one more time, somebody say, "Oh, we have to mind our own business," I think I will jump out of my skin. If I hear one more time, somebody defending somebody else's right to destroy their own souls, I think I'll go nuts. That's not mercy. That's not mercy.
Mercy does not mean welcoming rebellious Christians into your home without reference to their disobedience, so they feel no shame about their unfaithfulness or immorality. I've had many sinners into my home. I've had many rebellious Christians into my home, many times, and welcomed them, but never without reference to their sin. You can come over, I'll feed you, we'll talk, but we're going to talk about your problem. We're going to get into it. That's mercy.
Mercy is not being secret supporters and sympathetic without warning people of the judgment that God will bring. That's not mercy. You're not being helpful if you just ignore somebody's sin, and you don't keep telling them, "If you continue this way, you are lost."
When it comes to dealing with unrepentant sinners within the church, we must remember that if we don't judge, and if we don't succeed in correcting them, God will surely judge. And it will be too late for correction, when He judges. We're the advanced team, that's our job.
And so, we find out in Second Corinthians- an epilogue to this story- this is First Corinthians. In Second Corinthians, chapter two, verses five to nine, we find that- we don't have time to read it, but we find out that this guy here, repented. A happy ending. They put him out of the church. He was sorrowful. He was repentant. He came back.
And you know what their problem was? They were begrudging him and they were still holding the grudge. And Paul had to write them another letter, "Look, the guy repented, give him a chance, he suffered enough. Let him come back." Did these guys- they were really extremists. They ignored him at first, and then they threw him out and they wanted him out. When the guy wanted to come back, they didn't want to take him back. Such is the mercy and the promise of God, that even a shameful public act was readily forgiven when the sinner acknowledged his sin and repented.
And so, whether we're the one being corrected or we're the one doing the correcting, let's remember that God is always ready and willing to forgive. Let us all be careful, therefore, not to let sin find a permanent place in our hearts or in our assembly. Let us, as a group, not tolerate sin among us and be ready to point it out lovingly, and be ready to correct those who have fallen and gone astray.
I encourage you, therefore, in my invitation this morning, that if anyone this morning, if he is not a Christian and wants to wipe away that sin- well, it isn't pointing out the sin, that does it. It's the water of baptism that does it. When we're baptized, God washes away all of our sins.
I said to you at the beginning, I was talking to Christians, not non-Christian, but if there are any who have not yet confessed the name of Jesus and want to wipe away sin, I encourage you to make the decision to repent and be baptized and confess the name of Jesus today, to wipe away your sins. And if there are any brothers or sisters in our congregation who need to repent of sins and have a need to be restored, let them know that God is merciful to forgive. And the brothers here are always eager to receive and encourage any and all who have fallen. If anyone needs prayer, if anyone needs to repent, if anyone needs to be restored, we're going to sing a song of invitation. If that's your need, raise your hand, come forward, let us know in some way how we can help you, as we stand and as we sing.