A sermon from October 16, 2011
Hebrews 3:12–13 (ESV)
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
(Here is the short version of an explanation of the Matthew 18 process, prepared for our local congregation):
Church Discipline — To Rescue and Restore
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:12–13 (ESV)
Consider this duty: we all must exhort one another continually or we will become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
As long as we live in this world, we will live within gunshot of sin and temptation. To protect us from sin, God has given us one another to encourage and exhort, to rebuke and uphold.
When I sin and I do not immediately see my sin, I need you to remind me of God’s goodness and mercy and to call me to repentance.
Yet, since we can easily rebuke in an unloving manner, our Lord gave us specific instructions on how we should go about exhorting our brother or sister about sin.
Matthew 18 contains the account of those instructions.
In the first section of that chapter, Jesus overturns the idea of “greatness.” It is the one who “humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4). Jesus then pronounces a dreadful warning upon one who causes another to sin (Matt. 18:7-10).
Immediately thereafter, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd who leaves all to rescue it. Note that the shepherd does not go after the straying sheep out of revenge for something it has done to offend him. He goes solely for the sheep’s own welfare.
Following the parable, we enter into the verses on confrontation. We come to them with the ideas of
the need for humility;
the horror of sin; and
the need to rescue the one who has sinned.
In those verses, Jesus doesn’t just teach about the need and process for confrontation, he warns with the gravest severity that we must also forgive our sinning brother (read Matt. 18:34-35 and understand that the warning is given to believers).
Confrontation, then, is the effort to “restore” the brother who has fallen into sin. The motivation is not to right a wrong you’ve suffered – it’s to love your brother. That is why Jesus also instructs us to first take the “log” from our own eye before we seek the speck in the eye of our brother (Matt. 7:3-5).
In the midst of an extended discussion of humility and forgiveness, then, Jesus teaches us the way to love a straying member of the flock.
First stage — personal confrontation. Go to your brother privately and disclose his sin. “If he listens to you, you have won your brother” (Matt. 18:16). Note that this is a matter between two, alone. Almost every instance of “church discipline” begins and ends here.
Second stage — you bring along another to join in the process. The purpose of bringing additional persons into the process is to (1) confirm the truth of the matter; and (2) bring additional help in seeking the repentance of the sinning brother.
In some circumstances, the erring brother will still refuse to repent. Only then do we “tell it to the church” (Matt. 18:17). The purpose of telling the church is not to humiliate or hurt the brother, but to involve more people in encouraging him to repent. Seeking the help of the entire church to bring about repentance is as loving as seeking its help to feed a poor family in the congregation.
You must understand that the goal of church discipline is to bring about reconciliation. Indeed, the entire congregation is asked to be involved only because the erring brother refuses to repent and be reconciled. The church confronts a brother because it seeks to rescue him from sin – just as the shepherd seeks to rescue the lost sheep.
Once having rescued our brother, we seek his restoration. By rescuing and restoring him, we protect his soul and give glory to God by living out our love.
The only time “discipline” occurs in “church discipline” is when a brother refuses to live in love with his brothers and sisters. Only a brother or sister who will not repent and be reconciled will be excluded from the congregation.
For a more detailed discussion of this subject, please see our pamphlet “Church Discipline,” which you can find at http://www.calvarybiblechurch.org/.
1 Peter 5:8-9, Accountability, Avoiding Temptation, Biblical Counseling, Brooks, Hebrews 10:24-25, Hebrews 3:12-13, John Owen, Matthew, Matthew 5:27–30, Memorization, Mortification, Prayer, Precious Remedies Against Satans Devices, Proverbs, Proverbs 7:6–13, Puritan, Repentance, temptation, Thomas Brooks
The first device is that sin allures with its promise, while concealing its true intention: our destruction. This device was discussed here:
The “remedies” to the device are two-fold in type: First, avoid the temptation. Second, realize the deceit of the temptation.
Avoid the temptation:
Anselm used to say, “That if he should see the shame of sin on the one hand, and the pains of hell on the other, and must of necessity choose one; he would rather be thrust into hell without sin; than to go into heaven with sin,” so great was his hatred and detestation of sin. It is our wisest and our safest course to stand at the farthest distance from sin; not to go near the house of the harlot—but to fly from all appearance of evil (Proverbs 5:8, 1 Thess. 5:22). The best course to prevent falling into the pit is to keep at the greatest distance from it; he who will be so bold as to attempt to dance upon the brink of the pit, may find by woeful experience that it is a righteous thing with God that he should fall into the pit. Joseph keeps at a distance from sin, and from playing with Satan’s golden baits, and stands. David draws near, and plays with the bait, and falls, and swallows bait and hook! David comes near the snare, and is taken in it, to the breaking of his bones, the wounding of his conscience, and the loss of fellowship with his God.
Proverbs makes much use of this principle. The young man who falls into adultery has been wandering in the adulteress’s neighborhood:
6 For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, 7 and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, 8 passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house 9 in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. 10 And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. 11 She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; 12 now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait. 13 She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, Proverbs 7:6–13 (ESV)
Therefore, Solomon lays great stress upon avoiding the opportunity for sin:
20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. 22 For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. 23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. 24 Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. 25 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. Proverbs 4:20–27 (ESV)
The Christian must make every effort to cut off the opportunity for temptation. Jesus illustrates this with the hyperbole of cutting off parts of one’s own body:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5:27–30 (ESV)
How does one turn this into practical counseling instruction? First, learn the nature and time of temptation. A temptation journal can be quite helpful in this instance: all that is necessary is that one records the times of greatest temptation. Time, place, thought. Interestingly, the mere fact of actually considering the time and place of temptation will have a deterrent effect: temptation acts like a kind of fog, an intoxication – a splash of cold water may bring on his senses.
Now, the goal here is not behavior modification, but rather living in wisdom. We are to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). The flesh takes strength from sin’s opportunity:
And herein lies no small part of its power, which we are inquiring after,—it can admit of no terms of peace, of no composition. There may be a composition where there is no reconciliation,—there may be a truce where there is no peace; but with this enemy we can obtain neither the one nor the other. It is never quiet, conquering nor conquered; which was the only kind of enemy that the famous warrior complained of of old. It is in vain for a man to have any expectation of rest from his lust but by its death; of absolute freedom but by his own. Some, in the tumultuating of their corruptions, seek for quietness by labouring to satisfy them, “making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof,” as the apostle speaks, Rom. 13:14. This is to aslake fire by wood and oil. As all the fuel in the world, all the fabric of the creation that is combustible, being cast into the fire, will not at all satisfy it, but increase it; so is it with satisfaction given to sin by sinning,—it doth but inflame and increase. If a man will part with some of his goods unto an enemy, it may satisfy him; but enmity will have all, and is not one whit the more satisfied than if he had received nothing at all,—like the lean cattle that were never the less hungry for having devoured the fat. You cannot bargain with the fire to take but so much of your houses; ye have no way but to quench it. It is in this case as it is in the contest between a wise man and a fool: Prov. 29:9, “Whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest.” Whatever frame or temper he be in, his importunate folly makes him troublesome. It is so with this indwelling sin: whether it violently tumultuate, as it will do on provocations and temptations, it will be outrageous in the soul; or whether it seem to be pleased and contented, to be satisfied, all is one, there is no peace, no rest to be had with it or by it. Had it, then, been of any other nature, some other way might have been fixed on; but seeing it consists in enmity, all the relief the soul hath must lie in its ruin.
John Owen, vol. 6, The Works of John Owen., ed. William H. Goold (Edinburg: T&T Clark), 177-78.
And so, avoiding temptation will not make one holy; but, it is a necessary element in wisdom and growth in holiness.
Second, memorize, meditate, pray to avoid temptation. Verses such as those quoted above, or other similar texts such as 1 Peter 5:8-9 can be used. Drawing a store of these verses into the heart can be of great benefit to become one who avoids temptation.
Third, bring other men or women into your life who will exhort and encourage you to avoid temptation. The congregation is to be a store of such exhortation (Hebrews 3:12-13, 10:24-25).
Fourth, read secondary materials (something in addition to Scripture) to encourage you in this work.
To Make Disciples: Exhortation/Encouragement
Hebrews 3:12-13. Bill Hull writes:
Community makes discipling possible by creating a warm environment. When people feel except they’re safe, that proper defenses, set aside excuses, and begin to move spiritually. The Jerusalem Christians have gotten beyond coffee and donuts; the conversation had bridged the treacherous chasm between the world, the weather, and work, and cares, conflicts, and concerns. Because he spent large volumes of time together eating, working, and playing together, they could make this crucial transition.
The body of Christ needs to have enough fun together to set the stage for accountability and of mediums. One parent takes time to have fun with the child, he builds up relational equity that makes it easier for the child to a pavement friction occurs….