What better time to discover these issues, I thought, than walking with God? so I began, as has frequently been my practice, to search my soul with him, to unburden my soul, to find whatever was amiss and 'fess up and fix it.
I had been going at the search for a little while when I paused and recognized that Father wasn't joining in it with me. It was like he was just standing back, leaning against a tree, arms crossed over his chest, waiting for me to notice him.
I stopped my search for my dirty laundry and gave him my attention.
"Son, do you remember the counsel you give people about not treating your emotions as always truthful?"
"Yes...." I replied. "The feelings are real, but they may not be telling the truth."
"Yeah. You're not immune from that, you know."
And I realized that he was telling me that my feelings were lying to me, that I didn't have sin in my heart. What I had was an accuser telling me, lying to me, about sin in my heart. Oops.
We talked about it some more, about how hard I've had to work to get past that lie that says that God can't relate to people who sin. He reminded me that any time his kids sinned, he was always, always out there going after them.
"Sin doesn't scare me, Son. But I think it scares you. And sometimes, just the Accuser whispering about sin scares my children off.
"Come here, Son. Let me hug you."
Some among us are called by God to be prophets, and some are called to be apostles. Therefore this verse applies to these men and women.
Here’s a question for these folks: How are you doing at being foundational?
I sometimes wonder if this is one of maybe two key tests of the effectiveness of apostles & prophets: Are you being a foundation for others to build and grow on.
The other test, remembering Ephesians, chapter 4, is this: are saints being equipped, made more effective in their works of ministry after having been around you? Pretty similar work, wouldn't you say?
Observation: this seems to have little or nothing to do with how many conferences you speak at, how many people are in your network, or how many people greet you in the marketplace as Prophet Jered or Apostle Tiffany.
Success as a prophet or apostle doesn’t seem to be related to how many people you lead (not that it's insignificant), but what the nature of your influence is in their life.
I was part of a church one time, where
one of the leaders developed what was seen as an inappropriate
relationship with his female secretary.
He didn’t respond to counsel (he didn’t agree with their evaluation), and so Matthew 18 was brought out, along with 1 Corinthians 5:4&5 to bring him to repentance.
“...if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector....” [Matthew 18:17]
“...deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved....” [1Corinthians 5:5]
This was a difficult gathering, when we obeyed these scriptures. It was, however, done tenderly and lovingly (I have seen these verses wielded in less loving ways at other times).
Over time, the gentleman in question recognized that he had been in error and repented. (Later, he testified that when we talked about “delivering him to Satan,” that it wasn’t a metaphor.)
It’s my observation that this sort of church discipline is exercised from time to time, whether with love or with a cudgel, by churches who value obeying the Scriptures.
I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a church practicing the rest of that process.
“The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.” [2Corinthians 2:6-8]
It seems that pretty often, the church whose leader has failed morally is more focused on getting the stain off of their reputation than they are in restoring a fallen brother. And so “church discipline” when it goes this far, has come to mean that we’ll never see that brother again.
That’s not the plan.
The Matthew 18 passage instructs us to “treat him as a tax collector.” You might want to recall that the author of this passage, Matthew himself, was once a tax collector, until Jesus met him.
Or consider how Jesus dealt with the only other tax collector named in Scripture (“Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”). There was no shunning, no sweeping under the rug here.
The 1Corinthians passage goes on to say that the goal of that process is “that his spirit may be saved.” And if that weren’t enough, the apostle chews them out in his next letter for not going out of their way to restore the guy.
That’s how our Jesus does things: he restores folks. More specifically, he restores relationships with folks that the religious community has written off as embarrassing and inappropriate.
I’m thinking that Jesus is a good model to live up to.