James 5:1 (KJV) Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

Friday, February 5, 2010

MIA: Church Discipline & Correction

Perhaps the lack of the most essential ministry in today's church is the primary cause of the almost complete lack of effectiveness that American Christianity has on our culture.

And that would be correction and discipline in the church. I haven't seen any sign of it in a long time.

Of course, the reason for this is that the church has been infected with political correctness - which it has picked up from the secular culture. Dare to mention church discipline and it is guaranteed that you will immediately hear a misapplication of Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Never mind that it is taken stunningly out of context. We like to quote out of context because it lets us off whatever hook we're about to be caught by, and we can usually get away with it since hardly anyone knows enough of what the Bible says to contradict us. The same Jesus who spoke those words also warned to "judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24), told us to judge the fruit of prophets (Mt 7:16) and told the disciples that they would judge Israel (Mt 19:28). Obviously in Matthew 7:1 Christ is warning not to judge motives, which we cannot know, since only God knows the heart. On the other hand we have a duty to judge doctrine and deeds.

The result of all this largesse in the area of tolerance is that the church has lost its salt and light. It has less and less impact on the lives of people and thus on society since its very leaders are often baby Christians who are not interested in growth.

We immediately hear cries of divisiveness and disunity if correction is ever brought up - and it never is, come to think of it. There is also much talk of love, except it is not the love of which we are taught in scripture, which speaks the truth ... always inconvenient, because it is so negative.

Let's see, so that boils down to a 'love' that never divides, never causes a hint of disunity, is never negative, and never speaks inconvenient truth. Seems to me that kind of 'love' sends Jesus and His message packing. Yes, it does. That's why we see a decimated and totally ineffective Christianity all around us.

But we have unity - of error.

Paul found it proper and necessary to publicly name Philerus and Hymenaeus because of the false doctrine they were teaching (2 Timothy 2). He did not protect their reputations. He called them out. Should we not be more concerned about the people who are being influenced rather than the position of the Christian leader (or how much he contributes, perhaps)? And look at the false doctrine being perpetrated on TV or by best selling authors, leading thousands or millions astray.

"Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine," is what Timothy was told by Paul. He also told him, "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." (I Tim 5:20). Public teaching of false doctrine and publicly known sin must both be rebuked publicly - "that others also may fear." Public teaching, whether it be in songs, gifts, sermons, Sunday School or in whatever form must be judged as to its accuracy and authenticity in representing God's Word.

What if it causes division? Listen to Jesus, "Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division." Luke 12:51. This type of division is essential, because it separates truth from error. Hear Romans 16:17: "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them." We must not have truth threatened in order to avoid controversy. The result is to protect those who are thin-skinned, selfish, conceited or all of the above to the detriment of the souls of men.

One of the first recorded words of Jesus was, "Repent." Imagine how that would go over today. He also referred to people as hypocrites and 'whited sepulchres,' 'blind leaders of the blind,' and 'fools and slow of heart' -- all of which could be said today with just as much accuracy. Not only do church leaders today not give correction, but are not willing to take it, and doctrine be damned.

What we need is real love, the love which cares enough to correct error. A wise man welcomes correction and cherishes the one who corrects. The problem is we are in a vicious circle. We have few wise men because few love enough to correct.

If given in the true spirit of Christ, in all humility inspired of the Holy Spirit, correction is the utmost act of kindness and loving leadership.

That, my friends, is real Christian love.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Proverbs 1:7.

A Royal Heir
(Subject to correction and discipline)

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