09 January, 2007

Blind Watchmen

This is a repost from September of 2006 in honor of
Bellevue Baptist Church Open Forum for bloggers.

"His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge;

they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming,
lying down, loving to slumber. The dogs have a mighty appetite;

they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way,

each to his own gain, one and all. "Come," they say,
"let me get wine; let us fill ourselves with strong drink;
and tomorrow will be like this day, great beyond measure."
Isaiah 56:10-12


One of the most discouraging aspects of the church today is the refusal of shepherds to discipline sin within the church. One would think nothing but purified hearts are sitting in the pews or working in the offices. But we all know that is not true. Our hearts are deceitful. All of us. If the shepherds would just speak out on what is sin from the pulpit it would be nice but most of the time, they won't even point out sin in person to the sinner! If they do not do this, can they still be called shepherds? Or are they are hirelings? (John 10)

1 Peter 4:17
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

This verse it telling us that judgement must begin with us, the Body of Christ. But, it usually doesn't. Have you noticed this, too?

We are really good at judging the world. I know I was. I have judged homosexuals, those living together, drug addicts, abortionists and many others outside the Body of Christ. We are busy beavers doing this because the culture has become so rotten. We have all heard about how rotten the culture is from the pulpit for years. You know.....out there.

We are so busy judging those outside God’s House (Woe to you San Francisco, Las Vegas, etc.) that we fail to judge those inside the church. And, this is the exact opposite of what Scripture teaches us:

"I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES". (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

But what do we do? Usually, the total opposite. When is the last time anyone left church truly shamed by their sin? You know, those 'little sins' such as; lying, deception, phoniness, greed, sowing seeds of confusion and chaos, power mad, gossiping, etc., etc.

Yet we point fingers at those who make no ‘Christian claims’ as ruining our culture. Still, we MAY mention vaguely, in passing, sin from the pulpit, sometimes even making it sound more like a mistake than what it is: Sin that God hates and will judge us for at the Judgement Throne. (Revelations 21)

But wait, we don't just leave it at that...it actually gets worse. If someone actually points out sin or rebellion from somewhere inside the church they are considered a troll. They themselves are branded troublemakers for upsetting the false unity of the church and are condemned! (Yeah, how dare they do what scripture commands!)

You will hear things like this:"Well, sinners sin, you know" and "This is a hospital for sinners" and "You should not speak of a brother like that"! Or, "How dare you judge, let him without sin, cast the first stone". Or my personal favorite, "Judge not lest ye be judged". (Why do they always use the KJV for this one?)

How did we go from the biblical exhortations of 1 Peter 4 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 to spending our time judging those in the world? Perhaps we are not reading our bibles?

No wonder the world sees us as a bunch of hypocrites! We seem not to be able to deal with sin within our own assembly, yet we are quick to condemn homosexuals, atheists and the like. But will not confront the gossips, liars and deceivers and sexually immoral within our own congregations! Why are we quick to cut ourselves off from the greedy and immoral outside the church but not from the inside?

Paul told us to throw them out so they could be saved. That is described as an act of love in 1 Corinthians. Yet, we coddle them thinking if we do throw them out they are lost to the world. So everyone in the church acknowledges, in a vague sort of way, that...well... yes, we are all sinners but grace abounds! We never get real specific so there is no accountability or consequence for the infrequently mentioned sins of the heart. Pastors will tell you, "Well, we have counseling services for this" or "if we confront sin too heavy they will leave and then be lost forever".

Why is this? Well, I think it is because no one wants to be the bad guy anymore. The bold truth guy. The Watchman. The Shepherd. No one wants to obey scripture. It's hard. And with that, it is almost impossible to find two courageous witnesses willing to lose it all! The other reason is because rebuking causes dissention. And, we can't have that! Unity at all costs...and... that 'truth in love' thing...well, we know that never works.

So not only do we have no real way to deal with sin, we have pretty much forgotten what sin really is all about. Think about this scenerio: Loretta, in your Bible Study group at church, is a total phoney. She acts one way around the preacher's wife and totally different around the peons. What to do? Well, you can pray for her and you should. But what if we searched our own hearts. Do we love Loretta? Do we want to see her in heaven or burning in the Lake of Fire? (Warning: If you said yes to this because Loretta sounds just like 'Brenda' at your church, you better get on your knees...just like me...Now!)

You could spend the rest of your life not liking Loretta and doing nothing. But Loretta has some serious problems that could keep her from eternal life. Do we love her or not? Do we care about her eternal life? If we do not, we may not be saved. Ouch.

See, I think many Shepherds are just not loving their sheep anymore. They are too busy with building buildings, speaking engagements, writing books and launching yet...another program.

Besides, this rebuking business is messy. People get mad and it got the 'rebuker' (pastor-deacon-elder) in trouble because the 'rebukee' yelled 'foul' and those watching said, 'No way is that ever going to be me'! I mean, rebuking can really cause splits in churches…even when you do it by the Book.

Did it ever occur to us that cleaning house may be a good thing for the Body of Christ? If Loretta gets mad and leaves, then maybe she can be saved like Paul was teaching in 1 Corinthians. Or just maybe Loretta, told in sincerity, may fall on her face asking for forgiveness. But what are the chances she can be saved by staying there with no one ever saying a word to her?

Isn't it ironic that the root of all sin is pride? And pride is the ingredient that keeps us from rebuking and not wanting to be rebuked. Poetic irony, huh?

1 John 3
9No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

5 comments:

telos said...

Lindon,

Pastor Rogers use to say that if we read God's word we start to think like Him. When I read your writing Dr. Rogers expression comes to mind. I admire your walk with our Lord.

The Bible suggests that as we deal with our own sin we begin to understand how to gently rebuke one another. And this is important. We do want to call sin a sin. And it appears that in today's culture it is more acceptable to sin than it is to confront sin. Acceptance is now the outcry and the message has become truncated in order to appeal to the masses. In the end, a balance must be struck; we must not throw the word around like a rock; we must be gentle in our approach; most importantly, we cant water down the word.

In Acts 8 there is a story of an Ethiopian and a Chariot. The spirit commands Philip to sit along side this man and minister to him. I think this is a model for the Christian walk. It begins with relationship and it transitions into ministry. If we confront someone we have to invest in them. This takes time. I think this is the major problem. The modern church is looking for numbers and lacks the time for relationships.

Whether corrections are being made in the church or out, it seems that most dont have the time to form these relationships. The Mega Church would rather delegate this responsibility to another so the pastor can focus on the "Big Picture" - trickle down economics. The church has become a business and our dealings with each other have become impersonal. The church is becoming "a survival of the fittest" rather than a community of "the least of these." This explanation is a gross oversimplification, but it does give some insight.

The issues at Bellevue are tragic. The lack of transparency places the Christian discerner in an uncomfortable position. We are not allowed to ask questions, and if we do, we are labeled and threatened to destruction in sermons. One would find this last statement hard to believe if they sat solely in last weeks sermon. Last weeks sermon spoke of forgiveness and grace and interestingly left out the consequences of sin. This is like lecturing on the diatomic structure of water and speaking only of hydrogen. When we are left with limited transparency we are left only to assess sermons and the actions of leadership. This is the tragedy. We as believers are left with a minefield of discernment, with limited and skewed information, with consequences that are both temporal and eternal.

What is one to do when the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Paraclete, implores you to question what is going on? You are left with a process that gives further understanding of the walk of Christ and His experiences with some of the Pharisees. You are left to understand the confusion the disciples might of experienced as Christ challenged the status quo. You are left to challenge your own faith as others attempt to belittle, threaten, and excuse you from the church. You are left with this: What do you love? - your position in society or your place in God's heart?

It is a shame that the leadership will not meet those with questions half way.

Lin said...

Amen

Brenda said...

I've been browsing your archives, and I just have to tell you, this post really hit home with me. I was the Brenda you mentioned - Sunday school teacher, church secretary, choir member - faithful at church, but a miserable failure at home. When my work began to suffer, I admitted to my pastor that my life and my marriage were falling apart. He chose to treat me as an employee rather than a member of his flock. While the one was warranted, the other was absolutely necessary.

Thank God that even without human intervention, He delivered me from the pit of despair and the path of destruction.

I found your site through Gordan's incrediblog! and I'll be subscribing as soon as I publish this comment.

Blessings!

Lin said...

God Bless you, Brenda. I just prayed for you.

MICHAEL said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You
Micky