Continued from part 1.
Bringing them back
It is worth pointing out the process which one is to go through in bringing someone wandering astray to salvation in Christ. The process is laid out in Matt 18:15-17.
The first step is to talk to them one on one – tell them their fault. This is to be done with gentleness (2 Tim 2:24-25), as a brother, rather than as an enemy (2 Thess 3:15).
If that fails – that is if they blow you off or simply fail to respond, in spite of your clear pleading to repent, then take along one or two other brothers or sisters who can aid you in your reasoning with the individual. This builds the pressure on the person to respond. A lack of response is rejection of the message that is being brought and this takes a hard heart for this to be the response.
Thus, the only course of action to take is to expose the state of this person (Eph 5:11) to the wider congregation. This is done to make it clear where this person stands with this particular sin so that the congregation can as a group work to move that individual to repentance. If the individual fails to respond to the whole church going after them exhorting them and encouraging them to turn to the Lord, then – and only when every attempt to convict them of their sin before the Lord has been done – they are to be regarded as an unbeliever (Matt 18:17).
Some personal prerequisites
Its easy to take this sort of process and apply a militant attitude to its exercise, however, it is worth considering the sort of attitude and ultimately person that should be doing this.
Firstly, considering the culture we are to have as a church, we should cannot take this sort of thing lightly. Firstly, we are dealing with their souls. There are plenty of warning about what happens to soul that sins – it shall die (Ezek 18:4). The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Thus when James says that the one who brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death – it means the eternal death that comes as a result of dying in sin without believing in Christ (John 8:24).
The fact that this person is facing a future in the wrath of the holy God is a good reason to be concerned. But when you consider the culture that we should have in the church – this person should be someone who is closer to us than many people who are in our workplaces. In short this person should be a much loved member of the congregation who has come into the mutual concern and charge of the assembly of believers.
If we have this sort of culture, then this person will not just be an attendee but a friend. Thus this first step of confronting them is to be done not as a person being managed but as a beloved brother in Christ. It should pain us to have to do this – much less to a beloved friend. However, we are driven not by the flesh but by the Spirit (Gal 5:17,24) and our love for Christ should be greater than our love even for our own family (Matt 10:37). As a friend we should be concerned for their soul. A real friend cares about the real issues a person faces – not just the superficial ones. This gives our case credibility as we are not doing it to be a problem, rather we are doing it out of a heart of genuine concern. Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Prov 27:5-6)…
Before we do this, not only should we have a depth of relationship with them that we have a heartfelt desire to see them saved, but we also need to have our own lives in order.
Luke 6:42 says that before we go and sort out our brothers (small) problem, we should have the (large) problems out of our own lives. Gal 6:1 says "you who are spiritual restore such a one". We must be people who demonstrate a real love the Lord ourselves – or our reasons for confronting the person will be based on a concern for the glory of Christ and a love for the soul of the person – not a self righteous judgement.
The church today is literally filled with goats. They are mixed with the sheep and have no idea that the real issue is how they relate to Christ no how moral they are or how they relate to others in the church. There is a real requirement today for discernment and a willingness to deal with conflict for the sake of purity and the salvation of unbelievers.
This should be taken seriously. Jesus said of the church in Sardis that "You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you have received and heard. keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you."
Our churches today are not in a good state, and many churches are dying out. I'm convinced that a large part of the problem is unsaved people taking positions of authority in the church, but having no passion for the truth they don't reach out to the lost and they don't care for much beyond their own family, friends and businesses. Christ is an afterthought for many, and it is killing churches everywhere.
May the Lord use us to make the difference in the church we are in, so that His name is lifted up in the lives of those who are saved by His grace.