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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Wednesday, May 06, 2015
A Congregation of Repenting Sinners
One of the main differences between a healthy church and a dying or dead church is that the healthy church practices (biblical) church discipline. 

When the church at Corinth tolerated (in their midst) the unrepentant sin of a man had taken his father's wife, Paul judged the matter without needing to hear any more concerning it: they were to deliver that man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

In other words, they were to excommunicate the fellow. 

Interestingly enough, Paul qualifies what he said to this church in a former letter which history has fail to preserve for us, when Paul told this church not to associate with immoral people - he meant that they were not to associate with immoral people who were "in the church" - as opposed to immoral people in general - since if one was to attempt such a thing, one would hardly be able to associate with anyone outside the church.

The addendum is interesting because it shows that Paul isn't calling Christians to avoid associating with people who do not share their moral ideals - he is saying that they cannot associate with immoral people who claim to be believers.  Such as these are to either repent of their immorality, or be put outside the church.

I have evangelists describe the church with tongue-in-cheek as a sanctified sinner's club - trying to impress the notion that in a healthy church, people aren't going to look down their noses at a sinner who has just come to Christ - for we are all sinners.

But that only means that we are all tempted by sin daily.  It doesn't mean it is okay to sin if you're a Christian.

Paul makes it plain in his letter to the Romans that genuine believers continue to experience temptations to sin after having received Christ Jesus.  Having the mind of Christ means that you will desire to do the will of God as a believer, which you will experience as your own desires.  But you will continue to have the "default" sinful desires which spring from your sinful flesh (not the blood and bones, but the life-long self-reliant disposition that looks to self rather than to God for provision, and for the satisfaction of current desires).

As a Christian matures in their faith, they learn to overcome these sinful temptations more and more, by trusting and walking closer to/with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  No two believers are ever at exactly the same place - what may be a great temptation for one may not be much of a temptation for another, etc.

We depend upon our Lord to guide us into spiritual maturity through the process that scripture refers to as sanctification.  Sanctification is something that our "old man" or "flesh" or "default self" really wants to avoid, even as the "new man" or "Christ within us" wants us to pursue.  We are provoked by both our own flesh, and by the Lord Jesus within, to obey (or if you prefer, to follow through with) the desires they present.  Our flesh/old self desires pleasures, accolades, recognition, comfort, ease, etc. Christ desires our obedience to God - and we experience it all as a set of conflicting desires within ourselves.  We want one thing, but end up doing another.

Christians are imperfect - we fail to obey Jesus, even though we really want to (or to be precise, the life of Christ within us wants us to - though we experience this as personal desires, and may even believe that they originate in us) obey Him.  We feel like we're the fake-est, most inconsistent people there could be and wonder why the Lord would ever have saved someone like us - if we are able to even tell ourselves that this experience is "normal" - typically we mention it to no one, and pretend like everything is great with us - and we do this because everyone else in our church is doing this, so that we think we're the only ones who are struggling to obey.

But that is radically different than the person who professes to having a Christian faith, but nevertheless refuses to acknowledge the authority of scripture in determining what is and what is not sinful. 

The adulterer who claims that his or her carnal lusts are "natural" and that "God" wouldn't have given them such lusts if God didn't intend for them to act upon them - this "believer" is fooling (him/her)self.  Christ convicts His people of sin - He bears the punishment for those sins they have committed, but He does not absolve them of their sin.  They do not get a "sin all you want - it's okay!" card.

It is one thing to struggle against sin, and quite another to say that some sinful thing you want to do isn't really sin - or worse, to acknowledge something is sinful, but to refuse to repent of it.  That kind of hard-heartedness is called being unrepentant - and it is biblical grounds for being excommunicated.

When you're "caught" in a sin - that isn't describing being "caught in the act" like a thief - it is describing being caught in the sense of a "snare".  A loving person doesn't abandon a person caught in a snare, or judge them for being thus caught - the loving person does what can be done to help that person out of the snare.  This is the first purpose of church discipline - to help people out of those snares that they have fallen into.  The second purpose is to identify people who give no evidence of every having actually been in the church - that is, identifying counterfeit members of the body - people who claim to be Christian, but deny the Lord Christ in practice- these are the ones who find themselves in a snare, and either refuse to see the snare for what it is - or refuse to get out of the snare.  They are put outside the church, because they have given evidence to suggest they were never really a part of the church in the first place.

In any given "Church" we should expect to find some people (hopefully not many) on occasion, who have never really understood Christianity, but have jumped on the band wagon, and tried to make it work for themselves without ever having been truly born again, and thus without having actually received the Spirit of Christ from whom all our genuine obedience flows.  They don't have that soul deep desire to live a life that pleases God - they only have that other thing that every sinner has - a desire to avoid judgement, and to earn God's favor by doing more good than evil - purchasing for themselves, as it were, a "right" to escape judgment.

They may stay in a church depending on how spiritually shallow it is, for any number of years or even decades, without every coming to know that they were never saved in the first place.  If such a person were in a healthy church, and some inconsistency was discovered in their life, and those who would have helped them to overcome the sin that was besetting them find themselves ignored, so that discipline proceeds - these will either be forced to admit to themselves that they are not genuine believers (and hopefully come to Christ for real), or hold onto their false faith, and be set outside the church.

To protect the church, it is important to define church members as repenting believers.  Every dead and false church has this in common with the others of its ilk: they all believe "something".

Biblical churches are more than a collection of people who share a similar belief.  They are a collection of sinners who by God's grace, are repenting of all known sin.

That doesn't mean that they never sin - it just means they never tell themselves that it's okay to sin, and they never regard any sin as permissible - not in themselves, and not in others.  They don't judge one another as though everyone was supposed to be perfect, and the moment you show yourself to be normal, you're out.  They rather have Christ, and Christ has an interest in your sanctification.  He moves those who come alongside and moves the one whom they've come along side with, to the same place - restoration, and a path to overcoming a besetting sin, etc.

What do you do when someone joins your congregation for the express purpose of holding onto some immoral sin, in order to provoke the church to discipline them for their immorality, and in doing so give these people the platform they came to stand upon - the one where they paint the church as bigoted, medieval-minded hate-mongers whom they plan to sue for damages to their tender character.

Or what do you do if you refuse to marry two people whom you believe to be pursuing a marriage that isn't biblical? 

If your definition of church membership includes hard-hearted, unrepentant believers, then these things will be of no account.  But if you believe that someone who refuses to repent of their sin - that is, someone who outright denies that Jesus has any claim to their obedience, then you may want to have that in those articles that define what constitutes membership in your church.

You should also makes sure your congregation knows the difference between struggling with sin, as all believers do, and hard-hearted rebellion which really is the only grounds for excommunication in the church.
posted by Daniel @ 1:07 PM   0 comment(s)
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